Friday, August 23, 2013

Motorola Moto X hands-on: First look

Introduction

It's been a while since Google bought Motorola but it's only now that we finally see the fruits of that cooperation. By this point, we were already overly excited because we couldn't wait to see what rabbit would come out of Google's and Motorola's proverbial hat.
After weeks and weeks of rumors, leaks, assumptions we're now finally here, looking at the Motorola Moto X and taking in its quality finish, sleek display and seamless construction, the colorful interchangeable back cover and the whole shebang.
The Motorola Moto X doesn't premiere with promises to be the most powerful device on the market. Instead, it strives to attract the most attention, relying on several intriguing assets. First off, it comes with nearly completely stock software on board. Unfortunately, it's not the latest Android Jelly Bean 4.3. The Motorola Moto X has Jelly Bean 4.2.2 on tap instead.
Beyond everything else, our inner (and outer!) geeks find the camera the most interesting. The camera uses a clever technology, dubbed Clear Pixel, which lets up to 75% more light to the camera sensor, compared to regular smartophone cameras. But more on that later.
The device is powered by a custom-built Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, which is based on a Snapdragon S4 Pro chip with two Krait cores, clocked at 1.7 GHz each, but adds extra processors for various specialized tasks. The Adreno 320 handles graphics and there are 2 gigs of RAM to carry out the heaviest of loads.

Motorola Moto X at a glance

  • General: Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, quad-band UMTS/HSPA, 100 Mbps LTE with a second LTE antenna
  • Form factor: Touchscreen bar phone
  • Dimensions: 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4, 130 g
  • Display: 4.7" 16M-color 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) capacitive touchscreen RGB AMOLED display with curved Gorilla Glass and ~316 ppi
  • CPU: Dual-core 1.7 GHz Krait
  • GPU: Adreno 320
  • Chipset: A custom-built Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, based on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset
  • RAM: 2GB
  • OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • Memory: 16/32GB storage
  • Cameras: Primary 10 megapixel auto-focus Clear Pixel camera with 1.4 ┬Ám-sized pixels, f/2.4 aperture, native 16:9 aspect ratio, face detection, HDR mode, panorama, geo-tagging; Full HD (1080p) video recording at 30fps with HDR, Secondary 2MP front-facing camera with FullHD video capture; Quick capture allows you to activate the camera with a double twist of your wrist;
  • Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, standard microUSB port with MHL and USB host, GPS receiver with A-GPS, GLONASS, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC, wireless screen sharing (Miracast protocol)
  • Misc: Composite plastic materials - surrounding back panel and curved edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass front; dual-mic setup for noise cancellation; water-repellent coating on electrical components for trouble-free operation in the rain; some 50 GB worth of extra free Google Drive storage for 2 years (on top of the usual 15GB); Active Display system, showing notifications on a fraction of the screen size when the screen is off; Touchless control - voice control capabilities in standby (with the screen off).
  • Battery capacity: 2200mAh.
The Motorola Moto X is more than camera prowess and software trickery, though. The housing is just as appealing as the innards. For one, there's a new type Gorilla Glass on board, which is curved towards the edges and covers the whole front.
 Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On
Moto X by Motorola
The back panel is made out of high-quality plastic and is available in 18 color options. The primary Moto X variants, which you will be able to buy in store are the Woven Black and the Woven White colors.
But more on the hardware in the second chapter. Follow us to get the full scoop.

Motorola Moto X hands-on

The first thing that hit us when we walked on the showroom floor was color - so much color, everywhere! This is the thing about the Motorola Moto X - it's highly customizable, to a degree we haven't seen in phones ever before (not counting overly expensive third-party services).
Motorola is promising to deliver your fully customized phone in under four days, the company is leveraging on its US-based manufacturing to do that. You've probably guess there's a "but" coming - the Moto X will be available in the US only for now.
Sigh. If you're in the US you can read on and see what the phone is like, if not - read on to see what you're missing.
 Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On
The Moto X in hand
Motorola has chosen a 4.7" AMOLED display with a 720p resolution. It's not only gorgeous to look at with the deep blacks and punchy colors, but it's also great to touch. That's thanks to the Magic Glass layer on top that's been designed in cooperation with Corning for extra protection, as well as the tapered edges of the display.
 Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On
The 4.7" AMOLED display is a sight to behold
As a result of the choice of display size and the minimal bezels, the Motorola Moto X is very pocket-friendly and a dream to handle. Unlike the RAZR HD display, this has an RGB matrix, so the 316ppi pixel density makes the display quite sharp. True, it's only as sharp as last year's flagships, but while this year's competition does slightly better, the difference isn't too easy to spot.
The AMOLED not only has beautiful colors and contrast, but it also enables the Active Display feature, which shows you notifications on the Moto X screen even when it's off. Active display uses a fraction of the screen's surface to display the clock and and any pending notifications. You can slide a notification icon to go directly to the app that produced it.
Also, Active Display does not operate while the phone is in your pocket or purse (or face down), but it senses your motion of picking it up and displays the clock automatically.
 Moto X Hands On
The Active Display feature takes full advantage of the AMOLED
Motorola has spent quite a lot of effort to make the back cover fit perfectly in your palm, studying the human hand quite extensively during the design process. As a result the smartphone packs quite a curve, but really does the job it's meant to.
The back covers are made of plastic and appear to feature a pattern. That's not an actual texture of the plastic, though - it's simply cleverly applied paint. A cool design trait is the embossed circle around the Motorola logo right below the camera LED.
 Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On
The Motorola Moto X in black and white from different angles
The comparison with the HTC One is imminent as both share a 4.7" display and are quite similarly sized. The Motorola Moto X footprint compares quite favorably to the aluminum-clad HTC One, although we have to note this one doesn't have front-mounted stereo speakers. A drawback of the comfortable to hold curvy body design is the added thickness. It's more than what we expected at 10.4mm and while the curve does play it down, it's still thicker than, say, the HTC One (9.3mm).
 Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On

Hands-on video with the Moto X and Moto Maker

We got an up close and personal demo of some of the features that set the Moto X apart. Motorola says the X was designed to respond to you, even when you're not holding it - you can always trigger a voice command, you can get a glimpse of missed notifications and even launch the camera quickly with a shaking gesture.
Here's how that works (and keep in mind we were shooting in a busy, noisy showroom but the Moto X was undeterred).
There's another way the Moto X adapts to you - if you go to Motorola's site you can use Moto Maker to fully customize the phone before purchase. "Designed by you and assembled in the US," says Motorola proudly.
Here's how it works. You can buy the phone is either black or white in store, but if you would like to make use of the customization service, you can go online and order your phone. You have a choice of black or white for the front and up to 18 colors for the back panel and 7 colors different accents. There are two types of cases in different colors and Motorola is also offering a choice of Sol Republic Tracks or JAX headphones, matching the color of the back of the Moto X.
Here's a walkthrough of the Maker that shows the variety of options you can choose. There really is a ton of options, so to keep them from overwhelming you Moto organized everything into neat categories. You can view your creation from many angles before you hit "buy". Once you do, Moto will deliver your device in under four days (in the US where it's assembled).

Hands-on video with the Moto X and Moto Maker

We got an up close and personal demo of some of the features that set the Moto X apart. Motorola says the X was designed to respond to you, even when you're not holding it - you can always trigger a voice command, you can get a glimpse of missed notifications and even launch the camera quickly with a shaking gesture.
Here's how that works (and keep in mind we were shooting in a busy, noisy showroom but the Moto X was undeterred).
There's another way the Moto X adapts to you - if you go to Motorola's site you can use Moto Maker to fully customize the phone before purchase. "Designed by you and assembled in the US," says Motorola proudly.
Here's how it works. You can buy the phone is either black or white in store, but if you would like to make use of the customization service, you can go online and order your phone. You have a choice of black or white for the front and up to 18 colors for the back panel and 7 colors different accents. There are two types of cases in different colors and Motorola is also offering a choice of Sol Republic Tracks or JAX headphones, matching the color of the back of the Moto X.
Here's a walkthrough of the Maker that shows the variety of options you can choose. There really is a ton of options, so to keep them from overwhelming you Moto organized everything into neat categories. You can view your creation from many angles before you hit "buy". Once you do, Moto will deliver your device in under four days (in the US where it's assembled).

ClearPixel camera overview

Perhaps the most interesting bit about the Motorola Moto X is its unique 10MP image sensor, which makes use of what Motorola calls "ClearPixel" technology. It uses 1.4-micron pixels (same size as 8MP cameras), but instead of an RGBG matrix it uses a RGBC matrix, which should capture "75% more light". Also, the sensor has a native 16:9 aspect ratio. This will be interesting to put against the HTC One and its UltraPixels.
 Moto X Hands On  Moto X Hands On
The camera unit and the LED accompanying it on both the white and black Moto X
Regular camera sensors employ a filter grid layer in front of the image sensor pixels. The filters' job is to single out the individual colors of light (RGB - red, green, blue) and allow for only one color of light to reach any given pixel on the sensor.
The most widely used type of filter arrangement in modern-day cameras is the Bayer filter arrangement, which follows a filter pattern of 2 green pixel filters, 1 red pixel filter and 1 blue pixel filter.
The Moto X camera, however, replaces one of the two green filters with clear, transparent one. This results into more light reaching the sensor - up to 75%, as Moto claims.
Since the conventional image sensor still needs the green light information, the image processor has the task of providing it. It supplies it by subtracting the red and blue light information from the full spectrum light, captured by pixels under the clear filters.
On the software side, the camera offers HDR, burst shots and panorama. The Moto X can also shoot full HD videos at 30fps - par for the course for high-end smartphones these days. There are also features like face detection and geo-tagging that we've grown accustomed to in most phones nowadays.
At the front of the Moto X, there's a 2MP camera capable of 1080p video recording that serves for video-chatting purposes.
Now that we got some nicer weather we were able to take the Motorola Moto X we 10 MP ClearPixel camera out for a walk and snap some photos with it.
The stills are in 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the native aspect of the sensor. The images turned out pretty nice with decent detail levels and noise kept under control. We did notice quite a lot of purple fringing, though, suggesting less than perfect optics.
Macro seems to work like a charm (note the flowers) and colors turn out punchy and nicely saturated.
  
  
Motorola Moto X 10 MP camera samples
Next up we have a comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Motorola Moto X in low-light conditions. The Moto X did get better exposure and produce an image with significantly less noise, but the detail levels on the two devices are basically on par. Still less noise at equal sharpness is quite the commendable achievement.
 
Motorola Moto X vs Samsung Galaxy S4 room light
In the next two we enabled the flash units on the two smartphones. The Moto X loses its advantage here, as the seemingly brighter flash of the Galaxy S4 helps it match the output of the Moto X.
 
Motorola Moto X vs Samsung Galaxy S4 low light
Finally here's a video sample we captured with the Motorola Moto X on a busy street. Everything flows fluidly and there's plenty of detail to go around. Colors are accurate and focus never seems to miss and is quick to lock.

First impressions

The Motorola Moto X is certainly an interesting device. Unlike most other Android flagships, this one is built more around experiences than specs. It doesn't even come close to the CPU performance of the current top dogs, let alone match those Snapdragon 800 monsters that are in the pipeline.
However, the Active Display and the always on voice commands leveraging on the always-improving Google Now really take the user experience up a notch. Motorola chose to spend more effort there than on fitting a beastly chipset or a 1080p screen inside the Moto X and these are not gimmicks, they work great. Only time will tell whether or not the gamble will pay off.
And it's a similar story with the customization service - it's never been done before so no one can predict how the market will react to it. The idea of making a smartphone exactly to your liking sounds great and is something none of the other flagships on the market can offer. The iPhone for example is only available in a pair of colors, the HTC One has three and even the Galaxy S4 is far from matching the choice, offered by the Moto X.
However, with the kind of asking price that Motorola has set on the Moto X, those gambles better pay off. Charging $100 more than its main rivals, while offering inferior chipset and screen, is a risky strategy that will only succeed if both the unique software features and the customization options get great market reception. Here's hoping, for the sake of variety and healthy competition, that this is exactly what is going to happen.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Moto X uses the custom X8 chipset that Motorola used in the DROID Maxx, Ultra and Mini. It's a Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset with two Krait cores at 1.7GHz, 2GB RAM and Adreno 320GPU, plus some extra hardware to handle some proprietary features.
Single-core performance as measured by benchmarks is about what you can expect – it's the same as the Sony Xperia SP (which uses the same chipset) and slightly slower than Snapdragon 600-powered smartphones at the same clockspeed.
Multi-threaded performance is a little over a half of the Snapdragon 600 performance, according to Linpack or about the same, according to Geekbench 2 (we're willing to side with Linpack on this one).

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)132
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)132
  • LG Optimus G Pro147
  • HTC One151
  • Sony Xperia SP184
  • Motorola Moto X192
  • Sony Xperia Z264
  • HTC Butterfly266
  • Oppo Find 5267
  • HTC One X+280
  • LG Optimus G285
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II305
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)330
  • LG Optimus 4X HD350
  • Samsung Galaxy S III359
  • Meizu MX 4-core362
  • Nexus 4431

Linpack

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)791
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)788
  • LG Optimus G Pro743
  • HTC One646
  • Sony Xperia Z630
  • HTC Butterfly624
  • LG Optimus G608
  • Oppo Find 5593
  • Motorola Moto X391
  • Sony Xperia SP348
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II214.3
  • Nexus 4213.5
  • Meizu MX 4-core189.1
  • HTC One X+177.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S III175.5
  • HTC One X160.9
  • LG Optimus 4X HD141.5

Geekbench 2

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)3324
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)3227
  • LG Optimus G Pro3040
  • HTC One2708
  • Sony Xperia Z2173
  • Motorola Moto X2123
  • Sony Xperia SP2105
  • HTC Butterfly2143
  • Samsung Galaxy S III1845
  • LG Optimus G1723
  • LG Optimus 4X HD1661
  • iPhone 51601
However, compound benchmarks like AnTuTu and Quadrant also report blazing fast performance, close to quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chipsets and very close to even Snapdragon 600 chipsets.

AnTuTu

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)26275
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)24716
  • HTC One22678
  • Sony Xperia Z20794
  • LG Optimus G Pro20056
  • HTC Butterfly19513
  • Motorola Moto X19031
  • Sony Xperia SP15874
  • Samsung Galaxy S III15547
  • Oppo Find 515167

Quadrant

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)12446
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)12376
  • LG Optimus G Pro12105
  • HTC One11746
  • Motorola Moto X9018
  • Sony Xperia Z8075
  • Sony Xperia SP7897
  • HTC One X+7632
  • LG Optimus G7439
  • Oppo Find 57111
  • HTC One X5952
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II5916
  • Samsung Galaxy S III5450
  • Meizu MX 4-core5170
  • Nexus 44567
3D performance is a strong suit for the Moto X – it has a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, same as the current 1080p flagships and it only has to push 720p resolution to the screen. 1080p offscreen performance is good too, so 720p games can push the quality even higher without degrading the performance too much.

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (1080p off-screen)

Higher is better
  • Motorola Moto X43
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)43
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)41
  • HTC One37
  • Oppo Find 532
  • Google Nexus 432
  • Sony Xperia SP31
  • Sony Xperia Z31
  • Sony Xperia ZL31
  • Sony Xperia SP31
  • Apple iPhone 530
  • LG Optimus G Pro30
  • LG Optimus G21
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II17
  • HTC One X11

GLBenchmark 2.7 T-Rex (1080p off-screen)

Higher is better
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S417.1
  • Samsung I9500 Galaxy S417.1
  • Apple iPad 416.8
  • Motorola Moto X16
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Active16
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 GPE15
  • HTC One GPE13.9
  • LG Optimus G13.9
  • Sony Xperia Z13.5
  • Sony Xperia Tablet Z13
  • Sony Xperia ZR13
  • Sony Xperia ZL12.8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II4.9

Epic Citadel

Higher is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)59.8
  • Motorola Moto X59.6
  • Sony Xperia SP58.0
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)57.1
  • HTC One56.4
  • Sony Xperia Z55.6
  • LG Optimus G Pro54.2
  • Nexus 453.9
  • Asus Padfone 253.4
  • LG Optimus G52.6
  • Samsung Galaxy S III41.3
  • Oppo Find 538.6
Web browser performance turned out excellent too. JavaScript performance is about average (when compared against 2013 flagships), but overall browsing performance is top notch (helped in part by the sub-1080p resolution).

SunSpider

Lower is better
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)804
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)810
  • Samsung Ativ S891
  • Apple iPhone 5915
  • Nokia Lumia 920910
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II972
  • HTC One X+1001
  • LG Optimus G Pro1011
  • Motorola Moto X1050
  • Motorola RAZR i XT8901059
  • Sony Xperia SP1116
  • HTC One1124
  • Samsung Galaxy S III1192
  • Meizu MX 4-core1312
  • Sony Xperia Z1336
  • LG Optimus G1353
  • HTC Butterfly1433
  • Nexus 41971
  • Oppo Find 52045

Vellamo

Higher is better
  • Sony Xperia SP2497
  • Motorola Moto X2446
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II2418
  • HTC One2382
  • Sony Xperia Z2189
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)2078
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)2060
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)2056
  • HTC Butterfly1866
  • Oppo Find 51658
  • Samsung Galaxy S III1641
  • LG Optimus 4X HD1568
  • LG Optimus G1522
  • Meizu MX 4-core1468
  • Nexus 41310

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