Sturdy glass/metal build
Easy one-handed use
Fast fingerprint reader
Stock-like Android experience
Project Fi compatibility
Camera is slow and weak in low light
Battery life is average
The Moto X4 revives the Moto X name, but it’s no longer the Moto X we once knew. It now comes in the form of an Android One device and it joins Google’s short list of Project Fi-compatible devices. If we’re being perfectly honest here, the only thing the Moto X4 shares with the Moto X’s of yesteryear is it’s name. Otherwise, this is a completely different device with a new direction.
Being under the Android One program, the Moto X4 becomes a great affordable entry point into Google’s Project Fi. But can the rest of the phone live up expectations? Find out in our full review!
Unlike previous Moto Xs that were highly customizable with different backing materials and accent colors, you don’t get any of that here with the Moto X4. Instead, the design of the X4 falls in line with Moto’s Z series of flagship devices, minus the Moto Mods. It’s made predominantly of glass, like most phones seem to be nowadays, with glass on the front and rear and a smooth metal frame wrapping around the perimeter. The corners are nicely rounded and the backside is ever so slightly tapered along the edges allowing the phone to rest comfortably in the hand.
The phone’s overall footprint isn’t that big either so it’s much easier to use in one hand compared to most other phones out on the market. The glass backing of course does mean that fingerprints are not easy to hide, so if you care about keeping your device looking pristine at all times I’d recommend carrying a cleaning cloth with this one.
Otherwise, there’s nothing too flashy about the Moto X4’s design, as it looks pretty standard in other aspects. The bezels are average in size and the camera on the rear protrudes like other Moto devices, except it’s merely an aesthetic choice here and serves no purpose like it does on the Moto Z line.
The screen of the Moto X4 doesn’t go edge-to-edge, nor does it have curved glass or rounded corners. It’s just a normal smartphone display without any frills. It’s an LCD display that measures in at 5.2 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 or Full HD. It’s not a display that will blow your socks off, but it’s perfectly serviceable and I didn’t have any major complaints with this screen during my testing.
The colors are quite pleasant for an LCD, viewing angles are nice, and outdoor visibility was not a problem even under harsh sunlight. Black levels however, are not quite as good as an AMOLED screen. That’s just to be expected, but the screen didn’t exhibit common LCD issues like any noticeable light bleed or uneven lighting around the edges of the screen, at least not on my unit.
The Moto X4 falls squarely in the mid-range category, so the X4 is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor and 3 GB of RAM for running apps and multitasking. On paper it may not be the most powerful phone, but just like the display, it’s more than enough. Through everyday use, the X4 performed admirably with no noticeable stutters or lag.
Apps were fast to launch, multitasking proved to handle itself well despite the relatively paltry amount of RAM, and graphically demanding game titles like Need For Speed: No Limits or Marvel’s Contest of Champions ran well without any hiccups. Of course, the X4’s smooth performance also has plenty to do with its lean software experience that Motorola offers, but we’ll get more into that in the software section.
In terms of hardware, the X4 offers the standard slew of Android features. There’s 32 GB of onboard storage, but the microSD card slot allows for up to 256 GB of additional space. The fingerprint reader is in Motorola’s typical location on the bottom chin, and it works extremely well in terms of unlocking the phone with reliability and speed. I also enjoy that it can be used to put the phone to sleep like Motorola has done with many of its current devices.
Unlike Motorola’s Z series of smartphones, the X4 does come with a headphone jack located on the bottom side of the phone, so no adapter is needed in order to use your favorite headphones. You may be surprised to know that the X4 is also IP 68 certified against dust and water for up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. Considering that most flagships in 2017 carry some sort of water and dust protection, this is fantastic feature to have on a phone at this price point.
The X4 comes with a fairly respectable battery inside, at 3,000 mAh, and while battery life is not phenomenal, it has been enough for a full day’s worth of casual use. This includes checking emails, browsing the web, social media, and some light viewing on YouTube. Just don’t expect screen-on times to be incredibly high, as I never managed to get anything more than four hours and these numbers will most likely be lower if you do plenty of intense gaming or video watching.
Dual cameras are all the rage on smartphones right now and with the Moto X4, Motorola is bringing that dual camera experience in a more affordable package. We’ve already seen a dual-camera smartphone from Motorola with the Z2 Force, but, unlike the Z2 Force, the X4 features a secondary wide angle lens, whereas the Z2 Force has a monochrome sensor.
The main sensor is 12 megapixels with an aperture of f/2.0 and the secondary is 8 megapixels at f/2.2 with phase detection autofocus. Unfortunately, there’s no optical image stabilization on either lens. The secondary wide angle lens being lower resolution is also rather unfortunate as the difference in quality is easily noticeable, but this wide angle lens does allow for more breathtaking landscape shots and for easily fitting larger groups of people into the frame.
The wide angle lens of the X4 does have quite a bit of distortion along the edges, giving images a GoPro-esque look that could be a positive or negative depending on who you are; I personally do not mind it.
The X4 also leverages the secondary camera for a depth effect or portrait mode as it’s known on other competing smartphones and I like that Motorola’s software allows for some interesting effects such as cropping out the foreground and replacing the background or turning the background black and white to put more emphasis on the subject.
The depth effect however, does not work quite as effectively as it does on many other smartphones that I’ve tested. On the X4 the results have been very unconvincing, with the blurring effect bleeding onto the subjects. Even subjects with sharp and distinct edges posed a problem. You can alter the blur after the fact, but this only mildly mitigates the problem.
The biggest issue with the X4’s camera is that it’s slow. It’s slow to capture photos and it takes a good couple of seconds to switch between the two cameras. This problem is only further accentuated when shooting in low light. The other feature that I’m personally not a fan of is that Motorola still uses tap to expose which can result in a lot of wild exposure swings depending on where you tap on the screen.
Picture quality on the X4 is underwhelming at best. In good lighting, you can achieve some nice results, with accurate color reproduction. But the camera does struggle with dynamic range, with the tendency to crush shadows. Without OIS, the photos captured in low light lack sharpness, and white balance can be problematic, with images being overly yellow on either lens.
Highlights however are handled surprisingly well on the main sensor without any weird lens flares or blooming, but that same thing can’t be said for the wide angle lens. As expected, the wide angle lens performs much worse than the main sensor in low light, as photos are typically noisier, softer and lower quality in general. That’s due to wide angle camera’s lower megapixel count and smaller aperture.
Motorola has always been great about offering a lean and clean software experience, with little to no bloatware to get in the way, and the X4 is no exception. It’s running an essentially stock build of Android Nougat 7.1.1 with the typical Motorola suite of software tweaks such as the ambient display, the double chop to turn on the flashlight, wrist twist to launch the camera, and many others. All of which provide some nice utility on top of the stock-like experience.
Because this is an Android One device, the Moto X4 will receive timely software updates, so it’s highly likely that Oreo will be landing on the X4 relatively soon.
Pricing & Final Thoughts
The Moto X4 starts at $399 and is available now through Google’s Project Fi. If you were holding off on getting into Project Fi due to the lack of affordable options, the Moto X4 provides a much more inexpensive entry point that will make Fi more accessible for many people. You do not however have to use the X4 on Project Fi if that isn’t your network of choice, as my testing was done on the T-Mobile network.
The phone itself isn’t flashy or over the top, but Android One devices aren’t meant to be that. They’re meant to offer great experiences that are simple, reliable, and affordable with extra flourishes kept to a minimum. The Moto X4 accomplishes these objectives very well, and you won’t find many smartphones at this price that give you a dual camera experience, overall great hardware, and speedy software updates. It may be a big departure from previous Moto X phones, but the Moto X4 certainly still hits all the right marks.