Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software and apps
Camera
Audio and video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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Motorola Moto X Style Review

A bigger, more powerful Moto X
By Ershad Kaleebullah on 2015-11-05
Key Features
  • 5.7-inch 1440p display
  • TurboPower Charging
  • Dual front-facing speakers
  • 21-megapixel rear camera
What we like
  • Big, bright display
  • Superb loudspeaker
  • Guaranteed Android Marshmallow update
  • Sturdy build
What we don't like
  • Below average battery life
  • Unwieldy design
  • Camera performs poorly in low light
8.2
Our Score
Introduction

Did you know that Motorola was the first manufacturer of the modern day mobile phone back in 1973? A company with such a glorious legacy is today on the path to fight back its reputation, and to make up for it, the company has now streamlined its smartphone offerings. Now, instead of having multiple devices, Motorola’s portfolio consists of the budget Moto E and Moto G, the mid-range flagship Moto X, and the Droid series (specific to the U.S). This year, the Moto X series saw the introduction of two different phones - the Moto X Play and the Moto X Style. Both these devices were the first to be manufactured after Lenovo took over Motorola Mobility. 

Of the two phones, the Moto X Style (or the Moto X Pure Edition in the U.S) is the more powerful one, which makes it the spiritual successor to last year’s fairly competent Moto X (2nd Gen.). It is also larger, more powerful, and comes with a few new software tweaks. Quite honestly, we were really stoked about using this phone even before its launch in India only because it held a lot of promise. Let’s find out if the Moto X Style managed to live up to our expectations.

moto x style full

Design
8

Unlike the Moto X Play which has a distinctive design, the Moto X Style looks a lot like the lovechild of the Moto G (3rd Gen) and last year’s Nexus 6 (also manufactured by Motorola). This is not necessarily a bad thing. The design is more functional this year rather than being flashy.

Also, do note that Motorola hasn't introduced the Moto Maker option in India and that the buyer is limited to just two colour choices for the Moto X Style - black and white with champagne colour accents. We got the black variant for review which does cut a smart figure.

The rear side of the black variant has a textured rubber back, which makes gripping the phone really easy. Therefore, despite its massive size, the Moto X Style is ergonomically one of the most comfortable large phones to use. Talking about size, the Moto X Style has dimensions of 153.9x76.2x11.1mm and weighs 179g. However, at its slimmest, the Moto X Style measures 6.1mm thanks to its curved design. Also, the weight is distributed evenly across the body and as a result this device doesn’t feel top heavy like its predecessor. Having said that, this is by far the biggest Moto X phone ever and feels ungainly to use at times.



Furthermore, Motorola has built the phone in such a way that it is protected from splashes and spills of water. A metal strip on the rear encloses the camera, dual-LED flash, and Motorola’s trademark dimple. Since the phone has a unibody design, the rear cover is non-removable and hence the battery is not accessible.

A metal frame runs along the edges of the phone which adds to its solidarity. There are two plastic strips on the top and the bottom edges for receiving cellphone network signals. Also present on the bottom edge is the Micro-USB port for charging and data transfers. The SIM card tray and the 3.5mm audio port lie on the top. The SIM card tray accepts two Nano-SIMs and one of the slots also doubles up as a microSD card slot. The power button and the volume rocker are placed conveniently on the right edge of the phone. The power button has a prominent texture, which makes it easy to distinguish it from the loudspeaker.

The front facia of the phone is taken up by a huge 5.7-inch display and it almost feels as if the phone has no bezels. Above and below this display, one can find the dual front-facing stereo speakers. The front camera and flash are placed above the display. If you observe closely, you will find four sensors under the all-glass front of the phone which is used for sensing your hand movements. This setup is similar to what we saw last year on the Moto X (2nd Gen.). The phone uses on-screen capacitive buttons for navigating through the operating system.


 

Display
9

The 5.7-inch screen has a display resolution of 1440x2560p, which translates into a pixel density of 520PPI. With such dense concentration of pixels, it is really difficult to spot individual ones. Motorola has decided to go with an IPS LCD panel instead of a Super AMOLED one. This means that the colours are not going to pop and be as saturated as on the display of the Moto X (2nd Gen.). However, we really like the more natural colour gamut of the display on the Moto X Style.

Having an IPS LCD panel on the device also means that the entire screen lights up to display notifications in Motorola’s Active Display mode. In the Super AMOLED display of the Moto X (2nd Gen.), only individual pixels light up, which looks much more impressive thanks to its deeper blacks. Having said that, the brightness and the viewing angles are much better on the IPS LCD panel of the Moto X Style. Motorola has also used Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 for screen protection.


 

Hardware
9

Internally, the phone uses Qualcomm’s hexa-core Snapdragon 808 SoC. This SoC uses a CPU setup which uses a dual-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A57 and a quad-core 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53. It also includes an Adreno 418 GPU for graphic intensive applications. In addition, Motorola also uses its proprietary X8 mobile computing system which has two processors - one for processing Natural Language and the other for Contextual Computing processing. Additionally, there is 3GB of RAM available for apps and services. The Moto X Style comes in two storage variants 16GB and 32GB, which can also be further expanded by up to 128GB using a microSD card.

Motorola has upped the ante with the phone’s camera sensor on the Moto X Style. It now uses a Sony IMX230 unit which has a 21-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor with F2.0 aperture. It has a dual-LED flash for support in low light conditions. It can also shoot videos in 4K resolution as well as slow-motion videos at a resolution of 720p. The 5-megapixel front facing camera is coupled with an LED flash. The phone accepts two SIM cards and both can connect to 4G networks. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.1, and NFC. It has a 3,000mAh battery under the hood which provides the juice to run the phone. This is considerably lower than the 3,630mAh on the Moto X Play. We shall find out how it affects the battery life in the subsequent sections.


 

Software and apps
7

The biggest advantage of using Motorola phones is that you get a fairly stock Android experience. The Moto X Style runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop (an upgrade to Marshmallow will be available soon) and there are only a few embellishments in the form of Motorola-branded apps: Moto Voice (which is plainly called Moto) and Migrate. The only third-party app preloaded on this phone is Flipkart, because it is the official seller of the phone. Do note that this app cannot be uninstalled, which may irk a few users.

Moving on, Migrate, is a supremely useful app especially if you are moving from another Android smartphone or an iPhone. Moto Voice is an alternative to Google Now and can be used for voice commands. It works well when it does, but is not as effective as Siri or Google Now. In fact, we’ve noticed that Moto Voice has become a little slow over the years, and that both Siri and Google Now are much more responsive.



Motorola's Notifications at a Glance is similar to Lumia's Glance screen. We think it is a really cool feature as it allows you to look at notifications on the active display as the moment you take your phone out of the pocket, the display lights up to show the notifications. You can also wave your hand above the display to activate the Notifications at a Glance feature. These notifications respond to actions and you can head directly into the app from the glance screen itself. You can also twist your wrist twice to quickly open the camera app. This feature is called Quick Capture. There is also a new feature which allows you to perform a karate chop to switch on the torch.

Camera
7

For all the glory surrounding the new camera sensor, Motorola’s default camera has an unintuitive design, one that eschews functionality in favour of simplicity. For example, by default, the camera app expects you to shoot without a dedicated shutter button. A semicircular carousel can be pulled from the sides which includes all the settings, which are very few to begin with. You can switch on HDR mode, switch on the flash, choose a special night mode, trigger control of focus on or off, set a timer, shoot a panorama, and trigger Quick Capture. There are absolutely no manual settings or filters available, and what makes this worse is the fact that Motorola doesn’t allow third-party apps to use the camera API.  Furthermore, by default, the control of focus and exposure setting is off and we recommend that you switch it on. Once you do that, you can achieve granular control over depth instead of focussing on the entire canvas.



The 21-megapixel camera on the Moto X Style is definitely leagues ahead of the sensors we’ve used on the previous generation Moto X devices as well as the Nexus 6. It can focus really fast and shoot faster than most mid-range phones out there. Our daylight shots, once we adjusted the focus accurately, produced some fairly accurate colours and the details in the image were intact too. Even the dynamic range was fairly good, and it managed to bring out the highlights and shadows accurately. The HDR mode wasn’t really required on most occasions, but when used in extremely bright environments the HDR mode managed to bring out subtle changes without changing the overall tonality of the original image. The camera started to struggle when we shot indoors and in low light. The noise compression algorithm starts working overtime and you start getting smudged details in indoor settings. In darker conditions though, the noise in images starts becoming fairly visible and pronounced. The F2.0 aperture doesn’t really do justice.




Out of the box, the Moto X Style shoots 1080p video, but the resolution can be bumped up to 4K. The details were really impressive and the colour accuracy was also spot on. It shoots both 4K and 1080p at 30fps and we didn’t notice any frame drops. However, since the camera lacks image stabilisation of any sort, we ended up with slightly shaky and blurred imagery often. The 720p slow-motion video was far from impressive and we’ve seen better on devices like Samsung Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6.



On paper, the 5-megapixel front facing camera also includes an F2.0 aperture for better shots in low light, but unfortunately this didn’t translate in real life. Our test shots were quite muddy and lacked details. You need adequate light for decent looking self portraits. The flash helps bring out some of the lost details, but ends up casting a harsh light on the face. In daylight though, selfies do look impressive.
 

Audio and video
9.5

The Moto X Style’s loudspeaker is probably its best feature. It is loud, sounds crisp, and the sound quality doesn’t deteriorate at maximum volume. The bundled earphones are fairly good and most users will be satisfied with its performance. That said, we’d also like to report that the phone could drive our reference headphones and IEMs with ease.

The phone doesn’t have FM radio, which might be a letdown for a few users. The phone depends on Google’s default Play Music app for playing audio files. All our test files worked fine. We also tested a few videos and even 4K ones played back without any hiccup. We believe that the Moto X Style is one of the best phones to buy, if multimedia is going to be your major use case.

Performance
9

The Moto X Style runs flawlessly, and in our time with the device we didn’t face a single stutter. Apps opened fast, heavy webpages opened and scrolled without any lag, and games ran at their full graphical glory without any frame drops. That said, we noticed a perceptible lag when scrolling through our contacts. This issue was also present on the Moto G (3rd Gen).

In our AnTuTu test, the phone scored a healthy 51,463 points. For a phone with a Quad-HD display, even the graphics benchmark scores were pretty good. The phone managed to score 24fps in GFXBench and 19,400 in Ice Storm Unlimited benchmarks. These numbers are great and we have absolutely no complaints.

True to Motorola’s legacy, the sound quality in calls is impeccable and we didn’t face a single call drop in our time with the phone. Even in areas with heavy congestion, the phone latched on to the network without any issue.

Battery life
6

The battery life is the achilles heel of the Moto X Style. On a single charge, it lasted us around 10 hours with around four hours of screen-on time. Though we must say that we pushed it to its limits by taking calls for around an hour, constantly chatting on messaging apps such as Messenger, Whatsapp, and Telegram, playing music for about half an hour, watching videos for about a half a hour, and playing games for a few minutes.

The only redeeming factor in the battery life, is that Motorola bundles a bigger charger for Turbo charging and it takes only an hour and fifteen minutes to charge from zero to 100 percent, which is probably the fastest we’ve seen on any phone.

Conclusion

As an overall package, the Moto X Style is a great device. It is bigger, faster, and can capture better images. The only problem is that the battery life takes a hit because of the high-resolution display and poor optimisation. Having said that, for some odd reason, we can’t seem to think of the Moto X Style as a perfect fit in the Moto X series of smartphones. 

The beauty of the Moto X range of devices was the fact that everything had some sort of coherence, from the phone’s perfect size to the wonderfully optimised software. The Moto X Style feels a lot like a bigger Moto G (3rd Gen) and doesn’t do many things differently either. There is no distinctive characteristic that sets it apart. However, there is no taking away from the fact that the Moto X Style is a powerhouse and can do a lot of things right. 

It costs Rs. 30,000 for the 16GB variant and Rs. 32,000 for the 32GB one. At this price, it goes up directly against really good phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Nexus 6. At this price, the Galaxy S6 is in many ways better than the Moto X Style, although the Moto X Style has the advantage of timely updates, which puts it ahead of the rest.

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