Moto X Pure Edition Hero

As you guys know, I’m a fan of the Moto G—Motorola’s off-contract budget phone that packs in a surprising amount of good features for a super-cheap price. As I stated in my review, the Moto G is a good choice for anyone wishing to dip their toes into the Android waters, or for anyone who needs a cheap second smartphone.

The Moto X Pure Edition ($399.99 on Amazon), is a whole different beast altogether. It looks similar to the Moto G in build material, but it’s way bigger, has a 5.7″ QHD screen at 1440p, a 21 megapixel rear-facing shooter, a front-facing flash, captures 4K video, and features extremely fast charging.

Unlike the budget Moto G, the Moto X Pure Edition is Motorola’s de facto flagship offering for 2015. At $399 for the base model, it’s more than double the price of Motorola’s popular Moto G, yet much cheaper than major “flagship” models from big named Android OEMs.

How does it stack up with the competition? How does it compare with the iPhone 6 Plus—its closest iOS competitor? Check out our full video review for all of the details.

Specs

Here are some of the major specs associated with the Moto X Pure Edition:

  • 1.8GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon 808 with hexa-core CPU
  • 600Mhz Adreno 418 GPU
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16GB of flash storage (base model)
  • Micro SD Card support (up to 128GB)
  • 5.7″ QuadHD display (1440×2560) with 520ppi
  • 4G LTE cellular radio
  • 3000 mAh battery with “all day” battery life
  • TurboPower charger
  • Water repellent coating
  • 21 megapixel f/2.0 aperture rear-facing camera
  • Phase Detect Auto-Focus
  • 1080p HD video (60 fps)
  • 4K video (30fps)
  • 5 megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture
  • Nano SIM card slot
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • NFC
  • Front facing Stereo speakers

As you can see, that’s a pretty good offering for $399 unlocked. But the sum of the parts is what really matters. Let’s see if all of these pieces can mesh together for a complete package.

Unboxing & first impressions

If you’ve unboxed the aforementioned Moto G, then you know that its packaging leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality. The Moto G comes packed in economy cardboard that seems appropriate enough for a pre-paid phone that’s sold on the shelves of your local gas station or Walmart.

The Moto X’s packaging feels more premium. Its box is quite a bit larger than the Moto G’s box as well.

Moto X Pure Box

Inside the package, you’ll find the Moto X Pure Edition, a micro USB TurboPower charger, a bumper, SIM eject tool, and plenty of documentation. Oddly enough, Motorola continues to pack in an all-in-one power charger solution, meaning that the USB micro cable doesn’t separate from the power brick itself. You’ll need an extra cable if you’d like to connect to a computer or another USB device.

The inclusion of the free bumper is nice. I have a feeling that the Moto X’s anodized outer edge is extremely easy to scratch and scar. Motorola probably thought the extra cost for the bumper was minimal compared to the amount of complaints that they’d have about the outer edge getting banged up.

Needless to say, I immediately placed the Moto X into the bumper. While it isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, I really want to keep this device looking nice.

Customizations

Although you can buy the Moto X from Amazon, you benefit from more customization options if you opt to use Motorola’s in-house Moto Maker tool. Moto Maker allows you to customize the following things:

Ultimately, I decided to go the Amazon route, because Amazon provides faster shipping time. Keep in mind that if you choose to order from Amazon, you don’t have nearly the amount of options that you’ll find on Moto Maker.

Moto Make Customization

Although the Moto X starts at $399.99, the price can substantially rise when you take advantage of customization options like increased storage and leather back covers. The most expensive Moto X comes in around $524.99. That’s quickly approaching upper-tier flagship smartphone levels.

Moto Make Customization

Build quality

The first word that came to my mind when holding the Moto X is “solid”. Like the Moto G, the build quality benefits a lot from its aluminum underpinnings.

I opted for an “off the shelf” Moto X, so I didn’t go through Motorola’s Moto Maker program to customize the look of my device. Instead, I received a black Moto X with dark aluminum accent with a black rubberized back cover. Despite the fact that the cover is replaceable, it sits flush with the aluminum trim at the edge of the device and thus maintains a high quality feel.

The external buttons on the side of the device can easily be distinguished from one another thanks to the indentions on the outside of the power button. The buttons also have a responsive click, and don’t feel jiggly or lose in their positions.

The budget model Moto G was remarkable, because it had good build quality for a super-cheap price. The Moto X costs more than the Moto G, and as such, you can tell that the build quality has been turned up a few notches.

Screen

The Moto X boasts a 5.7″ QHD screen with 520ppi and its screen is crisper than the Moto G. That said, I had a hard time telling any difference between it and the iPhone 6 Plus’ screen, even though the iPhone 6 Plus’ screen has less pixels.

I also noticed that the Moto X screen runs a little warm with regard to color temperature. When browsing the web via Chrome, there’s a noticeable yellow tinge, especially when compared with the iPhone 6 Plus’ screen.

Moto X Pure Edition Screen

Although the Moto X’s display is technically larger than the 5.5″ iPhone 6 Plus, because of the on-screen Android buttons, you can actually get more text on screen at once when browsing the web on the iPhone.

It’s worth mentioning that, despite the difference in screen size, the Moto X has a smaller vertical footprint than the iPhone 6 Plus. Even with the supplied bumper on the device, the Moto X is still shorter and therefore a bit more pocketable. That said, the Moto X is also noticeably thicker, due to its tapered edge that curves outwardly and non-unibody design.

Sound

Sound is one of the best features found on the Moto X—at the same time, it’s also at the center of one of the device’s biggest flaws.

This device has true sterero front facing speakers. The Moto G fooled me at first, and appeared to have stereo speakers, but only one of its front-facing grills featured audio output. With the Moto X, there is no such tomfoolery; you get sound out of both speakers simultaneously.

The Moto X’s speakers are…well…incredibly loud. These are some of the loudest speakers that I’ve heard from a smartphone.

Moto X Pure Speakers

Sadly, distortion and sound glitches occur when the Moto X’s screen is rotated. The distortion also occurs when unlocking the device, or when simply adjusting the volume of the device. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but it’s there, and it’s definitely noticeable. To be honest, I don’t see how Motorola felt it was okay to ship a device with such an issue, especially a mid-tier device like the Moto X.

I found it even odder that the Moto X lacks a pair of earbuds. Even a pair of cheap headphones would have been better than nothing.

Performance

The Moto X comes with the same system on a chip that’s contained in the LG G4—the Snapdragon 808. It’s a slightly lesser version of Qualcomm’s top of the heap Snapdragon 810 processor, but that chip suffers from overheating issues.

The 808 doesn’t scream, but it drives the Moto X competently. Here are the Geekbench 3 benchmark results for the Moto X vs the iPhone 6 Plus:

Moto X vs iPhone 6 Plus Geekbench

Moto X Pure Edition on the left, iPhone 6 Plus on the right

Although the benchmarks speak to the Moto X’s ability to perform better at multi-threaded tasks and the iPhone’s ability to perform better and single-threaded tasks, in real world usage I wasn’t able to discern outright huge differences.

In some games, like Asphalt 8, textures and particle effects seemed more pronounced on the iPhone, while the frame rate felt more solid on the Moto X. I think it’s safe to say that both of these phones can perform well when it comes to gaming.

The Moto X has 2GB more of memory than the iPhone 6 Plus, yet I felt that multitasking and other RAM intensive tasks were a wash. I found my Chrome tabs refreshing on the Moto X just as much as my Safari tabs on the iPhone 6 Plus. Having 3GB of RAM is nice, but I didn’t feel like it made a noticeable difference when it came to real world usage.

Battery Charging

Motorola packs in the latest generation of its TurboPower charger. The included TurboPower 25 charger promises to provide a charge that lasts up to 10 hours in just 15 minutes.

TurboPower Charger

The TurboPower 25 charger is capable of Turbo 2: 12v/2.5A or Turbo 1: 9V/2.85A charger for 25Watts of power output. That’s substantially more than your typical phone charger, and allows for the Moto X Pure to have ridiculously fast charging times while the device is depleted. Charging will slow as charging progresses.

I tested out the TurboPower charger on a Moto X Pure that was almost completely depleted of battery, and it worked fairly close to the claims set out by Motorola. If you’re someone who always finds themselves low on battery at the most inopportune times, then the TurboPower 25 charger could be a big help to you.

Camera

Here is one of the Moto X’s big claims to fame—picture quality. Thanks to the Snapdragon 808, the Moto X can support 21 megapixel photos for extra large photos. It also supports 4K video at 30fps out of the box.

Moto X Pure Edition Untouched Photo

The Moto X performs fairly well in low light conditions. The following photos were taken with just a single overhead CFL bulb in a fairly dark kitchen setting. All camera settings were set to automatic.

Moto X Cat

Moto X Cookbook

Autofocus with the Moto X is really fast in both still picture mode and while shooting video. I also found it easy to achieve the depth of field look that most shooters want while focusing on up close subjects.

4K video is another big draw for the Moto X. It’s a feature that’s beginning to trickle down to lesser hardware, but it’s still not as pervasive as you might think it’d be at this point.

4K videos on the Moto X are shot at about 6.3MB/second. That’s highly comparable to the iPhone 6s Plus 6.25MB/second rate. Both devices are using H.264 compression, so that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. One big bonus for the Moto X over the iPhone is that it comes with expandable storage via its SD Card slot. You could easily slap a cheap sub $20 64GB card in this thing and have plenty of space for your 4K videos.

Software

The Moto X is a “Pure Android” device in that it’s not inundated with unnecessary skins, duplicate apps, or third-party bloatware. It’s about as close as you can get to a stock Android experience without buying a Nexus-branded phone.

Moto X Pure Edition Home screen

This fact, in and of itself, makes the Moto X worth your consideration. If you’re looking for a mid-tier device with decent specs and a stock Android experience, it deserves a look.

Motorola does add a few thoughtful additions to the Moto X, so it’s not 100% stock Android. But like the Moto G, Motorola’s additions are simple and even useful. Additional features include hands-free voice control, gesture-based activation for the flashlight or quick camera app launching, and more.

Moto App Moto X Pure Edition

The bottom line is that the lightweight customizations found on the Moto X are a far cry from the heavy-handed and often overbearing UI and skins present on flagships like the HTC One M9 and the Galaxy S6.

Conclusion

The Moto X isn’t perfect. Its glitchy sound is probably the most noticeable flaw found in an otherwise solid offering. At $399 and up, it’s firmly in the mid-tier range as far as price is concerned. It comes with awesome features like front facing stereo speakers, a front facing flash, and a near stock Android experience.

The build quality lives up to the Moto X’s price point, and the screen is very large at 5.7″. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial than the Moto G, and your main device is an Android device, then the Moto X is worthy of your consideration.

If you’re looking for a secondary Android phone to go along with your iPhone, then I still pick the Moto G over this device, unless you absolutely need the larger screen or the mid-tier specifications.

All of that said, I wouldn’t feel ashamed if the Moto X was my primary daily driver. It has great build quality, a couple of headlining features, and puts it all together in an attractive package both looks-wise and price-wise.

Still, the flaw with the sound when rotating the screen is a pretty significant flaw in my opinion. Hopefully it’s one that Motorola will fix in short order.

Again, you can purchase the Moto X Pure Edition from Amazon for $399. It may be out of stock now, as it’s proving to be popular. You can always go to Motorola.com to order one that way, especially if you want custom colors.

  • That_Fruitarian

    Cool!

  • JQ2

    Good review. The sound distortion on rotation is just a nit picky thing. For the price, look and specs this is actually a good device. Biggest plus is a vanilla AndroidOS. That I love. I’m looking to pick this up for my daughter now.

    • Thank you. To be honest, though, I don’t think the sound glitch is a nitpicky thing when you’re paying anywhere from $400-$525. If this would have been the Moto G, then I might agree, but still, seems like such an obvious thing to fix before shipping. Hopefully Moto will issue an update.

      • Guy

        Maybe a software update can fix the sound issues for this unit.

  • Bronson

    Super article Jeff. Could you clear one thing up for me though about the sound glitch issue…the glitches are audible during actions such as unlocking while rotating the device from portrait to landscape? or when the device is already in landscape mode and been unlocked/vol is adjusted…?

    • George

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it because it all sounds software related and Motorola is known for issuing updates quickly.

    • Lee McLaurin

      It has to be something running in the background. No other review has mentioned this, and I’m unable to reproduce it on mine.

  • Dan

    Great review Jeff. I had been wondering about this phone. If I wanted to be off contract, I would seriously think about this one. Imo, it’s a great product for the price, Moto did good.

  • iPhoneWINS

    lol @ 4K video (30fps)

    • rockdude094

      Does so many other thing right… I would buy it if they actually made the phone look professional not like a plastic toy.

  • Guy

    I think anyone looking for a unlock pure Android phone with near flagship specs should buy this phone.

  • Fardeen Beharry

    great review jeff, are the photos and videos better than the iphone? and how much battery life did you get, screen on time etc? i am really thinking about going the android route, either this or an iphone 6s plus, please advise. i love my iphone but the over expensive iphone in my country , moto x is cheaper. but all my fav photography apps are on the iphone

  • David Pomerleau

    Biggest drawback for me is lack of quick reply from the lock screen…NATIVELY. I don’t want to have to download some janky add on from the Play store to achieve this. Also google maps turn by turn directions on lock screen

  • Tommy

    Love the review. But why do u keep comparing it to a Moto G? This sounds more like a Moto X versus Moto G post where two products from two very different segments are being compared.

  • JGaLaXY

    these reviews have been messing me up lately, “mid-tier” vs “high-end” I think with the wood back itll look like like a high end, but there’s not any “high-end” phones with 2 front facing speakers AND sd card slot…I think this will be my next phone from s4

  • QuarterSwede

    Great cook book.

  • I hope you’re happy. Motorola did “fix” the audio by disabling the ability to have the mix rotate with the device. Starting with the Marshmallow software release, the audio mix is permanently in primary landscape, which severely limits the angles at which multimedia can be properly consumed. Highly disappointed by this change.