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Review: Motorola Moto X Pure Edition

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  2  

Oct 6, 2015, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Motorola's 2015 flagship smartphone is a pleasing upgrade to last year's device, thanks to the bigger screen, better battery life, and improved camera. This handset offers a pure version of Google's Android platform with truly useful additions from Motorola. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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Is It Your Type?

The Moto X Pure Edition (AKA Moto X Style in some places) is for people who want a flagship smartphone, but perhaps don't want to part with the cash to get one. The Moto X may not play in quite the same space as the high-end Samsung Galaxy S6 or Apple iPhone, but the Moto X's lower price point and solid spec sheet makes it just as appealing, if not more so.

Body

The Moto X Pure Edition is an evolutionary product that refines the design of the 2014 model while also adding girth and an updated set of capabilities.

This year's Moto X is decidedly bigger than last year's, but at least it is not as large as the Motorola Nexus 6. It weighs in at 6.31 ounces, which is a 1.23-ounce increase over the 2014 model. (The 2015 Moto X absolutely dwarfs the 2013 Moto X.) Thankfully, Motorola carried over some of the best characteristics, such as the rounded rear surface, tapered edges, and customizable designs.

Via Moto Maker, people can design their own Moto X Pure Edition. The front face and aluminum frame combinations are available in three pairs: white/silver, white/champagne, and black/dark gray. The rear shell can be made of plastic, wood, or leather, with multiple options available for each material. The accents (camera module on the back, speaker bars on the front) can be given one of seven colors. Lastly, users can opt to engrave the rear shell and select a custom boot-screen greeting. Motorola allowed us to design our own review unit, so we went with a white face with silver frame, black leather rear shell, and silver accents to match the frame.

(Unlike the original Moto X — which was customized at a plant in Texas in just four days — the Moto X Pure Edition is assembled-to-order in China and requires at least 7-10 days turnaround time.)

The color schemes may vary, but the shape of the phone is the same no matter how you choose to customize the Moto X. The corners are nicely rounded and the phone is significantly thinner at the side edges than it is in the middle. These help the phone sit better in your hand and in your pocket. I found the X was far more comfortable to carry around and use on a daily basis than similar-sized handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and iPhone 6s Plus. It's still a big-ish phone, and some people may find it to be too big for daily use, but I was pleased with the phone's usability.

Body  

The glass surface fits into the frame snugly on the front, as does the leather skin on the rear. Honestly, I'm not all that impressed with the leather. It feels plastic-y, thin, and delicate. Don't be surprised if the leather becomes marred easily. The plastic and wooden models I handled at the phone's launch event felt a bit sturdier to me. Moreover, the leather rear shell on LG's G4 is thicker and has a more appealing texture. Overall manufacturing quality is high, but your mileage with the various materials will vary.

There's a lot going on with the face of the X. To start, the 5.7-inch screen fills a significant portion of the glass. The side bezels are relatively thin, but there's plenty of real estate above and below the screen. Above, you'll see two sensors, the user-facing camera, and a user-facing flash. The stereo speakers stand out above and below thanks to the accent bar. We chose chrome, but the speakers can stand out even more if you go with a lively color.

I really like the aluminum frame that forms a band around the entire outer edge of the phone. The chamfered metal has a pleasing look to it. There are no controls on the left edge of the phone, but the right edge holds the volume toggle and screen lock button. The buttons have great profiles and excellent travel/feedback. It is easy to find and use them. I do wish, however, that the screen lock button and volume toggle were reversed; the volume toggle is in the middle of the side edge while the screen lock is close to the top. The headphone jack is on the top and the micro-USB port is on the bottom.

Motorola created a single tray for the Moto X that holds both the SIM card and memory card. The tray is positioned on top and requires a tool to remove. The SIM card actually clicks in tightly, which I appreciate. The memory card doesn't fit as snugly, but isn't going to fall out when you pop out the tray. The battery is sealed inside.

The camera is now integrated into a metal strip on the back surface that measures perhaps two inches long. The camera is at the top of the strip, with the two-tone flash and indented "M" logo below it.

Overall, I dig the Moto X Pure Edition design. The hardware is good, if not great. It may not have the high-end appeal of some competing phones, but the comfortable feel and flexible design options give it something others don't offer.

Screen

The Moto X Pure Edition has a 5.7-inch LCD display with quad HD (2560 x 1440p) resolution. This is a great size/pixel ratio. You can't ask for a (much) sharper display. Everything pops on the screen; it's truly impressive how clear text, pictures, and other content renders on the panel. Colors are accurate. Brightness is good when cranked all the way up, though I found the auto-brightness setting a bit fussy (read: it wasn't quick enough to make the screen brighter when outdoors.) My biggest complaint concerns the poor viewing angles. The panel has a pretty steep brightness drop when tilted even just a little bit. This could be an issue when showing a friend a funny video, for example. The Moto X has a really good screen, but it doesn't match that of the Galaxy Note 5, which has the same size/resolution and better brightness/viewing angles.

Signal

The Moto X Pure Edition comes in a single variant. It supports a wide range of LTE bands, in addition to GSM, EDGE, WCDMA, and CDMA. It's compatible with the networks run by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and others in the U.S. I tested it on AT&T's network.

The Moto X latched onto AT&T's 4G LTE service everywhere I took it in the greater New York City area. The phone dipped to 3G (HSPA+) a couple of times, but only in poor coverage areas. The Moto X Pure Edition was always able to make and receive calls and never missed any — even when speeding down the highway. I was pleased with data speeds across the board. They were more than adequate for streaming tunes via Spotify, catching up on YouTube videos, and of course sending email, updating Facebook, and downloading apps.

Sound

Like so many handsets, the Moto X Pure Edition is a good voice phone, but not a great one. The majority of calls I took through the phone exhibited solid quality and reasonably good volume. The earpiece doesn't go quite as loud as I'd like, and when you turn it all the way up you may notice some distortion in the speaker. I was able to hear calls at home and in the car with the volume set at about 75%, but I needed to turn it all the way up when walking around Manhattan or working in crowded coffee shops.

The speakerphone was somewhat disappointing. Quality and volume are mediocre at best. It might suffice in an office with the door closed, but it wasn't loud enough for the car. Moreover, turning up the volume definitely distorts the speaker.

Ringers and alerts are loud enough to get your attention as long as you have the volume maxed out. The vibrate alert is strong.

The Moto X Pure Edition has stereo speakers. When used for music, the speakers can crank out some serious volume — much more than they do for the speakerphone. They also produce less clipping when blasting tunes. You're not going to be able to fill a large room with sound, but the Moto X is loud enough for sharing videos and listening to music in a smaller, quieter space.

Battery

Motorola increased the Moto X's battery from 2,470 mAh in last year's handset to 3,000 mAh in the 2015 edition. Motorola boldly claims the battery is able to deliver about two full days of life, but that was not my experience. There's no question the battery lasted a full day no matter how little or how intensely I used the phone. Most days, it had some power to spare at bedtime (~30%) so I knew I could use the phone the following morning without plugging it in overnight. It definitely outlasts the Note 5/S6 Edge+, but not the iPhone 6s Plus.

The Quick Charge technology worked great. The battery could charge from 0% to 100% in about two hours. Motorola says it should gain 10 hours of uptime after only 15 minutes of charging time. It's a bummer that the phone doesn't support wireless charging.

The phone includes the basic Lollipop battery saver tool and it worked well with the Moto X. It can be set to come on automatically at 5% or 15%, or you can toggle it on/off manually. It reduces performance and limits vibrations, location services, and background data syncing to push the battery a bit more. Honestly, I don't think most people will need it.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

The Moto X includes Bluetooth 4.1 and the most common set of profiles. I paired it with a handful of other devices, such as headsets, my car, wearables, and speakers. I thought the quality of phone calls via my car's hands-free system was passable; volume was solid, but clarity wasn't impressive. Music pushed through my best set of stereo headphones was pretty good, but not as impressive as I was hoping it would be.

The GPS radio worked perfectly. The Moto X consistently pinpointed me to within about 25 feet in mere seconds. The GPS radio had no trouble interacting with Google Maps, which showed my exact position on the map.

The 2015 Moto X adds NFC, which I found helpful in pairing the device with NFC accessories, such as Bluetooth speakers. More to the point, the Moto X supports Android Pay via NFC. As long as you have a compatible bank card, the Moto X can serve for tap-and-go payments at participating retailers.

Wi-Fi worked without issue. For example, I was able to use the Moto X Pure Edition to set up and connect to a new Chromecast over the weekend for watching YouTube and listening to Spotify.

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Comments

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en102

Jan 23, 2016, 6:36 PM

Awesome device!

After my Nexus 6 grew legs, I needed a replacement - and quick.
T-Mo only had LG/Samsung/Apple devices (ugh), which were either expensive or older.
Best Buy had the MotoX Pure in their unlocked section, and at $450 it was a better deal than anything T-Mo was peddling.

Pros: Awesome 1440x2560 screen (gorilla glass) and VERY bright
Fast - much faster than my Nexus 6
Camera - very nice
Supports T-Mo HD voice (even though not listed on here)
Turbo Charging
Loud speakers

Cons: Motorola still around ?
Not many accessories
Not sold for any carrier directly
Easpar

Oct 17, 2015, 2:24 PM

Moto x pure - terrible tech support

Terrible experience.The new Moto x pure would not synch properly, would not connect to web while on a phone call, was missing option to remove accounts, etc. Spent hours mostly on hold with tech support which is in el Salvador. Spoke to half a dozen reps, they are illiterate technologically (for example: suggested that the best way to back up photos is to email them to myself), don't know basic phone functions, have bad attitude, lied promising to send email with instructions to correct issues, or to call in an hour, didn't have any answers so intentionally lowered voice when were asked to speak up, told me that they are just making the phones and if applications are not working I need to talk to Google or Verizon.
After doing my own resea...
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