Motorola’s second-generation Moto X (2014) reviewed

Motorola was last to the table for 2014 flagship phones, with the handsets arriving mere weeks before the year ended. Now that 2015 is here, let’s see what all the fuss is about with Motorola’s all new Moto X.

Features

The second generation of Motorola’s reinvented flagship is here, and while it’s a little late to Australia, it’s here all the same, updating the X series Motorola with a new screen, new innards, and possibly a new reason to update.

First things first, the screen, and for that, you’ll find a 5.2 inch Full HD In-Plane Switching touchscreen relying on AMOLED technology and providing a pixel clarity of roughly 424 pixels per inch, higher than the screen clarity found on both the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Scratch-resistance has been applied here, too, thanks to Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 sitting on top of the display.

Under this screen is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5GHz, working alongside the Adreno 330 graphics chip and 16GB storage, 2GB RAM, and running Google’s Android 4.4 “KitKat” out of the box, with an update to Android 5.0 “Lollipop” available shortly after opening the box.

Multimedia for this smartphone is handled with two cameras, with a 13 megapixel camera on the back with the lens surrounded by a dual-LED flash that appears to be a ring flash, with Ultra HD video capture also possible from this camera. A front camera is included, too, and this is a 2 megapixel camera.

Connections are fairly strong here, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi supported, as well as DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 with LE, GPS with GLONASS, Near-Field Communication, and of course, support for 4G LTE, which in this phone is rated for Category 4 download speeds of up to 150Mbps.

Wired connections are possible too, though you’ll only find a microUSB port here on the Moto X, found at the bottom of the handset.

A nanoSIM slot can be found, too, ejectable from the phone using a pin eject tool at the top of the handset.

There is no microSD slot on the 2014 edition of the Motorola Moto X.

The handset includes a non-removable battery rated at 2300mAh, and the smartphone is made from a combination of materials, with a metal frame surrounding it all, the typically glass front, and a back made from either leather, wood, or soft-touch plastic.

Performance

In the hands, we have to say we’re fans of the design Motorola is pushing out in the latest X, with a feeling that just works really well.

This design relies on a metal frame to bring together the glass front and soft plastic back, and what really helps is the circular Motorola logo, which provides a perfect indicator for where you should put your finger, making for a very comfy hold without any dramas. You don’t have to hold it like this, mind you, and your forefinger can sit anywhere else, but if you’re having troubles holding the 5.2 inch phone, this is a good place to start.

In the hands, it’s comfy, and the Moto X 2014 slides in and out of our pockets with ease, something the soft touch plastic assists with, we suspect.

Switch it on with the power button on the right side and you’ll see a lovely screen light up in from of your eyes.

For this phone, Motorola has used an AMOLED display running the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080, and it works a treat, with fantastic viewing angles that show vibrant colour from pretty much every viewpoint you can find, reminding us of the practically perfect screen Apple achieved on the iPhone 6.

Google’s Android is the next thing you’ll see, and out of the box, that will be running version 4.4 “KitKat”, but not for long. No, we only had the Moto X out of its packaging for a good ten minutes or so when Motorola informed us that an update was ready to bring this handset into version 5.0, also known as “Lollipop”.

Ten minutes or so later, we had the very latest Google operating system ready to go, providing us with Google’s “Material Design” language, white background app menu, and a multitask function that now split up Chrome tabs into their very own app windows that you can slide out like you’re closing an application.

Android 4.4 "KitKat" on the left two images, and Android 5.0 "Lollipop" in the right two images.

It’s worth noting that Lollipop is here because Motorola’s version of Android is very minimalist, with practically no overlay applied.

This isn’t like Sony’s PlayStation-inspired look, nor is it like HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz. It’s just Google’s operating system plain and simple, complete with home screens, app menus, drop down notification bars, and the left most screen for Google Now exactly the way you can experience it if you download the Google Now launcher for your phone or tablet today.

In fact, Motorola is pretty clear about this, keeping things mostly stock and loading its extra stuff on top, downloading as apps from the Google Play Store and only working if you have a Motorola device.

As such, this is Android without any real interface changes outside what Google normally does, and you’ll find a drop down bar that can show your notifications and time with a further swipe down revealing power control shortcuts, three new icons for the back home and multitask buttons (triangle, circle, and square), and a white app menu with an equally white app dock icon.

Your lock screen will also show your notifications, and you can double tap them to go straight to the application in question, which makes it easy to see everything happening to your phone when you need it. Awesome.

Notifications on the lockscreen slide out on the left and right screens, while Chrome tabs are treated like individual apps on the middle image.

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