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Motorola Moto X (2014) review: it's still got it

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 1 month ago

The Moto X (2014) has established itself as one of the best flagship smartphones of last year. With its impressive design, strong specs and near-stock Android experience, Motorola has taken the groundbreaking success of first Moto X to a new level. The original Moto X ushered in the era of hands-free control, “breathing” lock screen notifications and the brilliant Moto Maker program for endless personalization. But is the 2nd generation Moto X still a worthy purchase in 2015? Read our Moto X (2014) review to find out.

Rating

Good

  • Excellent build quality
  • Endless customizations with Moto Maker
  • Very fast stock Android interface
  • Rapid updates, no bloatware
  • Excellent hands-free voice controls

Bad

  • Small battery
  • Mediocre camera
  • Display is just OK
  • No stereo speakers or microSD

Motorola Moto X (2014) design and build quality

Design and build quality are easily the standout features of the Moto X (2014). This thing looks great. The curved back of the original is black, but you can add an awesome leather plate or opt for a wood panel. We tested the black leather Moto X (2nd gen.) and it is a thing of beauty - more so than perhaps any other phone of 2014.

motorola moto x logo
The Moto X (2014) is easily the best-looking Android of last year. / © ANDROIDPIT

The edges of the Moto X (2014) are a gorgeous metal with sectioned corners for the antennas and a smooth curve for a sexy feel in the hand. The sides are a little slippery though and the leather doesn’t exactly help in that regard either. I repeatedly found myself almost dropping the Moto X (in the heat the leather tends to get a little moist). If you have the wood or resin back cover then this won't be such an issue.

motorola moto x power button
The metallic design of the Moto X is beautiful and feels great. / © ANDROIDPIT

There is a dimple on the Moto X (2014) which houses the Motorola logo but, unlike on the original Moto X, it has swelled into a quite a large indentation. You might mistake it for a button at first, but it is actually nothing more than a finger groove and visual counterbalance to the large LED ring flash surrounding the camera lens.

motorola moto x headphone jack
The curved back and smooth aluminum frame look and feel lovely. / © ANDROIDPIT

Everything is nicely centered on the new Moto X, with a top-mounted headphone jack and microUSB port at the bottom. The speaker grills sit above and below the screen (and are strangely raised), but only the bottom one emits sound of any considerable volume – there’s no stereo speaker action here, unlike in the new Moto G (2014).

The power button has a nice texture and you can tell that design was at the forefront of Motorola’s mind with the Moto X (2nd gen). You can customize it with the Moto Maker program to include custom trim colors, engraving, front panel color choices and more.

Motorola Moto X (2014) display

The original Moto X suffered slightly from its HD display. Sure, it was decent enough, but its quality wasn't truly impressive. The new Moto X ups the ante by packing a Full HD display, bringing a very respectable 424 pixels per inch to its 5.2-inch AMOLED screen. Colors are bright and saturated with great contrast.

The display offers a good balance of size, resolution and output to deliver what you want from your smartphone screen without destroying your battery. However, it's nothing exceptional.

motorola moto x screen
The Moto X (2014) display is worth a look, but it won't blow you away. / © ANDROIDPIT

The AMOLED display technology of the Moto X (2014) also means you get great “breathing” notifications. The device's various motion sensors will activate your notifications from a screen-off state when you simply reach for your phone. That's a much more battery-friendly way to get notifications than to turn the entire display on. AMOLED also means on-screen blacks are pitch black, but outside readability is not quite as great as with an LCD screen.

The notification benefits brought to the Moto X by AMOLED clearly outweigh readability in direct sunlight or the minor failings of the screen itself. You can also set the screen to dim more quickly, if you stop looking at it, with Attentive Display.

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The Moto X (2014) runs a slightly tweaked version of stock Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X (2014) software

The Moto X (2014) runs near-stock Android with a light sprinkling of Motorola features on top. The basic interface is pure stock, so you won’t get any flashy interface elements, just bare bones Android 5.1. This, of course, means that the Moto X gets Android updates quickly and is also one of the fastest interfaces around because it is not weighed down with a manufacturer skin.

androidpit moto x 2014 02
It's all stock Android with a few Moto additions like Connect, Migrate and Moto. / © ANDROIDPIT

When looking at Moto X (2014) features, the Motorola additions are minimal but useful. The settings menu gets a Motorola Privacy section and Moto ID for syncing across devices, or with the cloud, and you can set Trusted Devices (like a smartwatch) to keep your phone unlocked when they are connected.

motorola moto x android lollipop
Our test model was running Android 5.0 Lollipop. / © ANDROIDPIT

Everything else is contained in a section called Moto which holds the four cornerstones of the Moto X’s uniqueness: Assist, which handles profiles that can apply themselves automatically, like when, for example, you are driving. Actions let you manage the Moto X’s gesture based controls, including the camera shortcut wrist-flick and wave to silence.

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Hands-free controls are the strongest point of the Moto X (2014). / © ANDROIDPIT

The two major software features of the Moto X (2014) are voice commands and the intelligent display. Display options include “breathing” notifications, blocking notification content for specific apps and app blocking.

You can now name your Moto X anything you like so you don’t have to endlessly say “OK Google” too. This allows for some pretty unique and also hilarious hotword phrases. 

androidpit moto x 2014 04
There's a lot you can do with just your voice on the Moto X (2014) / © ANDROIDPIT

Getting used to the Moto X’s voice commands takes a little while, and between hotword detection, voice command recognition and spoken results, it’s not the fastest process on the block. But for controlling your phone from across the room it’s incredibly useful.

You can send hands-free WhatsApp messages, listen to emails, perform web searches, have your Moto X read out new notifications, make calls and check voicemail when your phone is locked, take a photo, dictate text messages, set reminders, activate profiles, post to Facebook and more. 

androidpit moto x 2014 05
There's a few nice little additions in the new Moto X (2014) like Attentive Display. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola made a conscious decision to keep the Moto range minimal, with near-stock Android and very little bloatware, if you can even call it that. Motorola Connect syncs your devices in the cloud via your Motorola ID, Moto Migrate helps you transition from one device to another, Spotlight Stories is a 360-degree immersive experience from Motorola, and Moto Assist (now called Help) gives you 24-7 access to help from Motorola Customer Support as well as handy tips and tricks for your Moto X.

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Motorola Help is always ready to assist you, either through FAQs, chat or on the phone. / © ANDROIDPIT

The greatest part of it all is that Motorola simply loads updates to core Moto X features via the Play Store, so as new sensor services, Moto Display options or Moto Actions controls are made available they can be updated in the Play Store, rather than through waiting for a slow OTA firmware update. This is one of the great lessons Motorola learned under the tutelage of Google, before Chinese manufacturer Lenovo bought the company. 

Motorola Moto X (2014) performance

The Moto X (2014) packs quite standard internals for a 2014 device in its class: a quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset clocked at 2.5 GHz with an Adreno 330 GPU. There are 16 GB or 32 GB models but there are no options for microSD expansion.

motorola moto x speaker
The Moto X (2014) packs good hardware for solid performance. / © ANDROIDPIT

Moto X (2014) performance is backed up with 2 GB of RAM to run the latest version of Android, which is Android Lollipop 5.1 at this stage, with an upgrade to Android M expected down the line. Due to the stock interface and very few system apps, the Moto X is super-fast and responsive, standing up well to other flagships of its cohort, outperforming both the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) in benchmarks. 

motorola moto x back
The Moto X (2nd generation) has maintained its speed after all these months. / © ANDROIDPIT

Worthy of mention is that our AnTuTu benchmark scoring has actually increased since our original review of last year. Last time around, we scored 43,714 running KitKat. This time around we scored 46,363 running Lollipop 5.0. This puts it almost on-par with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

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Moto X (2014) performance is still right up there. / © ANDROIDPIT

Motorola Moto X (2014) camera

The Moto X (2014) camera is an interesting point: a 13 MP camera with 4K video recording, slow-motion capture, panorama and HDR. You can tap anywhere to shoot a picture, or launch the camera app through the slightly gimmicky wrist flick, which does actually work well. It’s one of the fastest ways to launch and shoot I’ve seen, but newer camera launching features, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 quick launch, have superseded its speed.

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Despite being fast to access and shoot, the camera interface is a little clumsy. / © ANDROIDPIT

The results of the camera are less impressive, however. There’s no manual mode on the new Moto X and the camera doesn’t quite live up to the premium look of the phone as a whole. It performs acceptably, but not brilliantly. When compared to many of the other flagships of last year, is just not good enough. It often struggles to focus up close and doesn’t produce particularly rich colors.

motorola moto x camera
The Moto X (2014) has a 13 MP camera with dual-LED ring flash, but it's not a standout.  / © ANDROIDPIT

There are only two resolution options, no timer, no manual mode, no optical image stabilization and a slightly awkward camera interface. Definitely the weakest part of the Moto X so far. That being said, there are plenty of camera shooting and editing apps to get around the limitations of the software. The hardware isn't terrible - but you're stuck with it. 

Motorola Moto X (2014) battery

Perhaps I spoke too soon. The Moto X (2014) comes with a very mediocre 2,300 mAh battery. This is a much smaller capacity than many competitors, which tend to sit around the 3,000 mAh mark with similarly sized displays and resolution.

While part of this decision is clearly due to the battery-saving possibilities of active notifications on an AMOLED screen, the reliance on voice commands still demands more power and the increase in screen size and display resolution really needed a larger capacity (the original Moto X had a 2,200 mAh battery that was equally weak).

motorola moto x screen capacitive buttons
Motorola has delivered some useful gesture controls with its new Moto X. / © ANDROIDPIT

Price and availability

The Moto X (2014) release date was September, 5 of 2014. You can purchase it from the Motorola website, as well as many online providers and mobile carriers. Amazon has it on sale as well. It started at 699.99 USD and has since dropped to 649.99 USD, though the price could sink as time goes on.

Motorola Moto X (2014) technical specifications

  Motorola Moto X Tech Specs
System Android 5.1 Lollipop
Display

5.2 inches, Full HD AMOLED (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 423 ppi)

CPU Quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor (MSM8974-AC), 2.5 GHz
GPU Adreno 330 GPU (578 MHz)
RAM 2 GB
Internal storage

16/32 GB 

Battery 2,300 mAh (8 hours of battery charge in 15 minutes with turbo charging)
Camera 13 MP (f/2.25) with dual-LED Ring Flash, HDR, UHD (4K) video capture, 4X digital zoom
Connectivity GSM, HSDPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
Dimensions 

72.4 x 140.8 x 3.8-9.9 mm

Weight 144 g
Extras Aluminum metal frame, optional wood or leather battery cover, custom voice prompt

Final verdict

The 2014 Moto X has made a lasting impression thanks to its stylish appearance and fast interface. However, two critical elements have held it back from greatness - the camera and battery. Is this a case of putting style before substance? Maybe. The battery may be a big letdown, but the camera is still an improvement over the original Moto X. The issue is that the original Moto X introduced so many innovative features that made up for its shortcomings - but the Moto X (2014) simply doesn’t.

motorola moto x corner
The Moto X (2014)...still a great (and now cheaper) purchase in 2015. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Moto X (2014) updates a successful recipe but doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table. Unless metal edges or naming your phone are features you’ve been waiting for, it seems clear that Motorola could have done more for this flagship. Not necessarily with new software features or gimmicky add-ons, but instead of making the new Moto X look so great, it would have been more wise to invest in a larger battery or better camera software.

Still, these are things which can be tweaked by software updates, so if you’re searching for a great-looking flagship from last year with a fast interface, barely-there bloatware, speedy updates and fantastic hands-free capabilities, then the Moto X is a great choice.

The new Moto X is easily the best looking, best feeling, and most premium-styled device within its price range. But if a better-than-average camera and all-day battery life are key factors for you - perhaps you should wait for the Moto X (2015) release.

What do you think of our Moto X (2014) review? Let us know in the comments below.

Motorola Moto X (2014) - where to buy?

Please note: only the lowest tariffs and main networks are shown. Cheaper deals may be found with resellers:

UK

Off-contract, the Moto X (2014) £229 from the official Motorola website. At Clove you can get the Moto X for £285 including VAT. There are other cheap deals out there too.

US

Verizon, $20.83 per-month with a Verizon EDGE subscription, $0.99 on a two-year contract, or $499.99 outright.

U.S. Cellular has zero down and $19 per-month as the installment price, or $0.01 on a two-year contract, or $480 prepaid.

AT&T has a regular price of $566.99, or zero down at $18.90 for 30 months with AT&T Next, or $119.99 on a two-year contract.

All information correct at the time of writing.  

Kris Carlon comes to the AndroidPIT Editorial Team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He joined the Android community while resurfacing in civilization back in 2010 and has never looked back, using technology to replace his actual presence in other people's lives ever since. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.

6 comments

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  • Jake Belder 1 month ago Link to comment

    With the recent price drop, I decided to buy the Moto X. But I've had nothing but hassle with Motorola (at least here in the UK). They put my order on hold, and keep telling me there is some kind of 'security issue' with my purchase, and that they are investigating. I can't imagine what the problem is – I purchased an iPhone for my wife the other week with no problem. Anyone else had issues like this with Motorola? It's really sucking the fun out of a new phone purchase.

  • CalypsoSir 10 months ago Link to comment

    I'm a fan of Motorola, but the poor cameras are just no longer acceptable. At least my Droid MAXX had a great battery. With a poor camera and weak battery, I guess I won't be going back to Moto from my LG G2 any time soon. Too bad.

    • Kris Carlon
      • Admin
      • Staff
      10 months ago Link to comment

      Let's just hope Moto learned from Google's efforts to fix the Nexus 5 camera. It went from barely usable to a very decent shooter after only a few firmware updates. Still, that was a pretty extreme case. Let's cross our fingers Moto can make better use of the Sony sensor with better software.

  • Bojan M. 10 months ago Link to comment

    Now, while G is nothing, this one is quite interesting. What really turns me off though, is that triangular shape. It may lie well in the hand, but I don't care about that. To me, it's downright ugly.

    • Scott Adam Gordon
      • Admin
      • Staff
      10 months ago Link to comment

      It's not the best looking device, true. But for the price and the specs I'm not arguing.

      Also, the Moto G is nothing? NOTHING?? Harsh :/

      • Bojan M. 10 months ago Link to comment

        Ha ha, sorry, I went overboard :D. I tend to be harsh when criticizing, not the best trait of mine. Sure, Motorolas, all of them, are very refreshing devices and very much needed as well, since it seems that everyone only cares about releasing overpriced flagships. Anyway, Moto devices are very nice, nice looking, nice specs, early updates. Not my cup of tea, but otherwise very interesting. In the end, it's all good for us customers.