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Motorola Moto X Style Review

The Moto X Style is the third and final device from the August launch event, giving us the 2015 Moto G, and also the Moto X Play. Whilst not the highest end flagship any more (that’s been taken by the recently announced X Force) This is still the flagship device that Motorola fans should buy. Read on to find out more.

Disclaimer: This White and Gold Moto X Style was provided to us for review by Clove.co.uk, was completely up to date (trust me, we checked) and was used on the Three UK network for 2 weeks.

 Unboxing

As I usually do, I’ve done an unboxing Video of the Moto X Style on my Youtube Channel. I’ll embed it below for your viewing pleasure (possibly). The Style does something different from standard Motorola packaging. Not only does it come with a charger (and a great one at that) but it also comes with a bumper case (not so great). Watch to see my thoughts on the packaging.

Hardware

Let’s just get this out of the way, on most fronts, the X Style is pretty spec heavy, so I’ll just throw them in under this small paragraph so you spec junkies can get your fix

  • 5.7” QuadHD (2560×1440) IPS LCD screen
  • 6-Core Snapdragon 808 with Contextual Computing Core and Natural Language processor
  • Adreno 418 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 179g
  • 154 x 76 x 11mm
  • 32/64GB on board storage with a MicroSD card slot up to 128gb
  • 3000mAh sealed battery
  • 21mp Sony IMX230 camera with Dual tone LED Flash
  • 8mp front facing camera with LED flash
  • 720p60 slow motion video capture
  • 1080p30 Video capture
  • 2160p30 UltraHD (4K) video capture
  • NanoSIM
  • Motomaker support

If that doesn’t satisfy your spec cravings go grab the rest from GSMArena here

SAM_1119

The Hardware on the X Style is nothing short of amazing in my eyes when you consider what they’ve packed into this price. The 5.7” QuadHD IPS screen is lovely to look at, but until my last day with it, there wasn’t a single day that I didn’t wish it was an AMOLED display, like Moto X phones of years prior. The LCD display used isn’t bad; really quite the contrary. It is without a doubt the nicest LCD I have seen, 1440p or otherwise, this blows everything out of the water. That is until you look at an OLED screen and not even just great ones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 or S6 Edge+. Even compared to AMOLED displays that weren’t widely loved (such as the Nexus 6’s display) the X Styles starts to look a bit dull and boring in comparison. Again, the Style doesn’t have a terrible display, far from it, but the AMOLED displays used in years prior would have been welcomed with open arms. Even if it was a 2 gen old AMOLED display, such as the one on the Note 4, I would have preferred it over this.

SAM_1114The front of the Style is one of the most crowded on a modern phone (though look at the X Force if you want to see a worse one) with 3 IR cameras, 2 speaker grills, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, the 8mp Front facing camera, Front facing LED Flash and of course the screen. That’s a whole lot of stuff going on on the front of this phone. Now you can make it easier on yourself by going with a black frame and face which hides the IR camera punctures and the ambient light and proximity sensor holes, but on the silver and gold frames, they are very visible.

The back is thankfully rather more spartan, aside from two microphone punctures; one centre bottom and one on the upper right corner. In the middle of the back is what I’ve started tSAM_1116o refer to as the landing strip. A metal plate similar to that of those on the Lumia 920 but thankfully far more resilient.The landing strip on the X Style has seen the return of the normal sized ‘Motorola Dimple’, and although its normal sized its rather shallow, even more shallow that our first generation Moto G which is sad. It’s not a fingerprint sensor, which sucks, as this would have been the most optimal place to put it. Above the dimple we have the dual-tone LED flash used on all Motorola phones this year, and above that we have the showstopper. The 21mp camera provided by Sony, the IMX230, is actually really quite great and leaps and bounds ahead of what Motorola has put in a phone before.

SAM_1112The left side like all recent Moto phones is empty, and along the right we have the Power button above the volume rocker. These buttons are okay. They have a little bit of wiggle in them but nothing extreme. They’re very easy to depress and feel nice and clicky, and the power button has a nice ridged texture so you definitely know which button you’re pressing. Down below, the Style has its MicroUSB charging and data port. Sadly no USB-C here, but that’s not unexpected. Either side has some regulatory information usually reserved for the rear of phones. Up on top the Style sits the 3.5mm audio jack along with the NanoSIM tray, and just as with the X Play, the SIM tray also doubles as a MicroSD card tray. Instead of making it double length, the Style has its SD card on the rear, saving space.

Internally, Motorola stuffed the Style to the proverbial gills. We have the Hexa-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, which many find preferable to the Octa-Core of the Snapdragon 810. That is paired with 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM. In the UK the Style comes in either 32 or 64gb SKUs, though the American variant of this phone also comes with a 16gb SKU. All of this is powered by a 3000mAh Lithium-Ion battery that is not user replaceable. There were not many moments that the X Style felt slow or as if it was hesitating, but there were always two easily repeatable tests that always had the same hesitation. Firstly, opening the camera from the wrist gesture. As with the X Play it feels as if the vibrate motor is ramping up and the camera takes a split second longer than I’d like to open. Secondly, there was a hesitation when swiping between panes on the YouTube application. Again it didn’t feel like lag but more of a slight frame drop or hesitation. I’m confident that these can be fixed with software updates, as the rest of the experience is nice and snappy.

Another thing that’s nice and snappy? That battery. It’s longevity is not all that impressive, as I will speak more about in the battery section, but Motorola should be praised for the Turbopower charger they included with the X Style. It’s 12v at 2amps, making it a 25w charger, and it is able to get my Style from 3% to 75% in just over 35 minutes, and from flat to full at just over an hour. The phone does heat up, and it is noticeable, but Motorola did a great job in not letting it spread to the metal chassis which would make it uncomfortable to hold. Sadly, you aren’t able to buy the Turbopower 25w charger aftermarket, and trust me I’ve been trying. Nevertheless I’m very impressed that Motorola is including this in box.

There are no creaks, no bends, you can’t torque it and I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of someone throwing it at me, Motorola have made an impressively solid phone that far outstrips its price tag.

motomakerMotomaker is here yet again, and it is just as extensive. We have 10 options for the base model, which is now a ridged silicone rubber instead of the flat smooth polycarbonate of years’ prior, and in our opinion, it is a marked improvement. It has a nicer texture, is grippier and just plain looks nicer. If silicone rubber isn’t your thing, for £20 you get 4 choices of wood, Bamboo, Walnut, Ebony and Ash. These aren’t our favourite as the oils accumulated can make them feel a tad slippery, but this is the same reservation we have had about the wooden backs on Moto X’s since 2013. For the same cost penalty you can have leather, which is a carryover from last year, though the finish on this years is much nicer, the saffiano stamped leather on the Style is meant to hold up much better than the leather of years prior, it’s still real leather. The tradeoff is that when brand new, it doesn’t quite feel like the leather you are used to as it takes time to break in and get a little spongey, but in the good way.

SAM_1120There are three frame choices, up from the two of last year. The black option in reality is a nice dark grey with a black face, and the silver option with the white face. The newest option, and our review unit, is an incredibly subtle champagne gold. Before we were granted a review device we spent a lot of time on Motomaker making up potential models and we always first went to the gold and changed to black, thinking it would be too ostentatious. However after two weeks with the gold and white one, I wouldn’t hesitate buying it. The white face does allow for the IR sensors to be seen easier, and it is annoying, but much like the flat tyre on the Moto 360, I quickly found myself ignoring it and only noticing when someone else pointed out.

There are 7 accent colours, and you have to be careful with these (or not, it’s your choice) because not only is this the landing strip at the back, but it is also the speaker grills up front. Your electric blue might look awesome with your red leather back cover, but how does it fair with the champagne frame and the white front? This isn’t something you can change afterwards, so make sure you can live with it.

Motorola have always let you engrave the Moto X and set a boot message, so that’s not changed here, though the size of the engraving is different. Engraving rules still apply; if it is under 14 characters and not copy written or profane, you should be okay to engrave it although Android Central found out there were some oddities with that blacklist. The boot message is similar. No profanity or copy written text, though this time the character number gets bumped up to 18, and I would love to know the number of people who got “Hello, Moto” for their boot message, like I wanted to.

In Motomaker you also get the option to change the storage size, from 32GB to 64GB. If you’re in the US, there is also a 16GB SKU. As always, you probably shouldn’t buy the 16GB model, unless you are 100% sure you can live in the confines of the limited space and cannot afford the jump up to 32GB. There is also a MicroSD slot as mentioned previously, and you can throw a 128GB microSD card into there. However, until Android 6.0 Marshmallow and adoptable storage this won’t really be much use to most people. Nevertheless it is available and will appease those of you who insist on having one (although I am not one of you).

Connectivity

The Style is once again pretty muchScreenshot_2015-10-27-11-54-34 packed to the gills here with 802.11ac WiFi with 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radios, LTE Cat.6, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1 and more. The only thing I missed on the Moto X Style, whilst utterly unreasonable to want, is a USB-C port. Currently there is no IC on mobile capable of providing what I want which is the full USB3.1 Gen2 speeds, the proper power delivery spec, and at the very least, the DisplayPort alternate mode with the SuperMHL alternate mode accepted. Because those aren’t available yet, I’m content to stick with MicroUSB. This also means I do not have to buy a boat load of new cables to review a phone, so I can avoid the safety issues of current USB-C cables, so I can’t be too upset.

Speeds on LTE where nice and fast. They were on par with other Motorola phones, which is to say still ahead of pretty much everyone else. The same was true with radio reception. I was able to get signal in areas most devices could only dream of, and telephone performance (a rarity for some of you I’m sure) was really good. Whilst not VoLTE (our carrier hasn’t rolled it out yet) or WiFi calling, it still delivered very good calls; never sounding robotic. Motorola continues to put stellar radios and mics in its devices.

Software

If you’ve read a Motorola Android Phone review since the launch of the first Moto X in 2013, you know what to expect here. An essentially stock version of Android with acceptable and important Motorola tweaks on top. The version this time is slightly out of date, shipping with 5.1.1 when 6.0 is out, but in Motorola’s defence they announced this phone when we didn’t even know the proper name for Android 6.0, so I can give them a little slack. We do know that the Style is already having Marshmallow test driven in some areas on the world, so it won’t be too long before the masses get to enjoy the Marshmallow goodness. The list of what Motorola adds seems to get both smaller and more exciting each year.

Motorola’s additions to Android are nearly all updateable through the Google Play Store, so things like camera updates or boot animations can be changed without entire system OTAs, which is impressive and incredibly useful. In our testing of this we have received 2 camera updates and a gallery update. Motorola constantly updates their software through the Play Store, and they should be praised for leading the way, as more companies are following suit.

It’s hard to talk about software and not talk about the speed and updates. Motorola once again has done it better than anyone else. The X Style is seriously fast, and whilst it won’t benchmark particularly well, easily getting beaten by the Snapdragon 810, the Exynos 7420 and the Apple A9, and in some cases even older SoCs, benchmarks as we know, aren’t the full story. This thing felt incredibly responsive in everything but two things, and as I stated above, that was using the double twist gesture to open the camera, and swiping through lists and panes in YouTube.

Motorola adds some very important and useful tweaks to Android, and they are housed within the Moto app (also updateable through the play store). The Moto app has Moto Assist, Moto Actions, Moto Voice and Moto Display inside. Here is a quick rundown of what each do:

Moto Assist: Automatically assists you in everyday tasks. My main use is triggering “Do Not Disturb” mode at night and taking it out in the morning, but it has other, location aware triggers. For example if you go to the cinema a lot, it can use a geo-fence around the cinema to put everything into mute mode until you leave.

Moto Actions: The two main actions here are double chop to open the torch, and double twist to open the camera. Both work well but due to the size and weight I was hesitant to double chop the Style for fear of breaking someone or itself. The double twist has the same issue as the X Play in that the vibrate motor needs to ramp up instead of it being an instant vibration.

Moto Voice: Moto Voice isn’t as mind blowing as it might have been on the original Moto X in 2013 (originally called Touchless Controls) but it’s still impressive. Custom launch phrases (Help me Moto X, You’re my only hope, was mine) are still here, and there is a new feature that allows you to trigger Moto Voice just by lifting the phone to your ear. I got this to work 2 out of 10 times, so I just turned it off.

Moto Display: Moto Display, as I have said in my previous reviews is just amazing. It’s much better than Ambient display or any other implementation from another OEM and Motorola has this on lock and is constantly making it better. The screen is dimly lit with the time in the centre and any notifications in circles below them. Tapping on a circle displays a snippet of the notification whilst swiping up unlocks the device to that application. Swiping down just unlocks the device and a lateral swipe dismisses the action and turns the screen back off. Media Controls are now implemented with a swipe up from the media app showing play/pause, stop and skip controls.

Motorola really does do this best, and we are seeing others, such as Sony with its Android Concept, test the waters to see what their customers think of a much more pared down OEM customisation. What we can’t really say much about is updates. The first Moto X was great, quickly getting 4.3, then 4.4, but taking a complete age by waiting to jump up to 5.1 due to 5.0 being such a mess. The second generation Moto X (2014) launched with 4.4, jumped very quickly to 5.0, realising the bugs, halting the update, then eventually putting out a stable 5.1 build. Now the Moto X Style ships with 5.1.1. As previously mentioned, not the most recent Android version available, but we know Motorola is working on the Marshmallow firmware for the device as some users have let it slip that they are part of a test drive/soak test, so it really is just a matter of when.

Camera

Now, this is something you could have posted for Motorola phones all the way back to the Original Milestone (or DROID, for you US folk); “Cameras aren’t a very strong point for Motorola, but this year they tell us they’ve gotten it right”. Well, this year it’s the same thing, except I can very much live with every camera that Motorola has put out all this year (aside from the Moto E). Neither the Moto X Play or the Moto X Style quite live up to their “class leading” monikers bestowed upon them by Motorola (though objectively, the G does) but they come very close.

The Moto X Style has a nice amount of detail due to the high pixel count and due to the Phase detect autofocus mechanism (PDAF), in good lighting, the Moto X Style focuses incredibly fast and is often able to lock on to focus and exposure correctly first time. The application Motorola ships with the Moto X Style is an evolved version of the app they’ve shipped on every device since the 2013 Moto X. ~If you didn’t like it then, you won’t like it now.

The UI is very basic with little to no controls for the budding pro shutterbug in you. The closest you get is an exposure dial on the side of the focus ring, but that is very imprecise and I often left it on full auto to get a better shot. The application defaults to a 16:9 16mp image to give you a widescreen/full screen viewfinder experience, but if you’d rather have a 4:3 image, you can jump into the radial dial on the left and switch back, just get used to the black bars on either side.

Like with any phone (yes, any, even the iPhone and Galaxy S6 are able to take bad shots) you can take less than stellar shots, and it is easier on the Moto X Style to take a poor shot more often. Despite its relatively fast F2.0 aperture, fast moving subjects often came out blurry on the Moto X Style, and in lower light the lack of OIS meant that there was either noise or blur and mis-focused quite often, even inside a dark car late in the afternoon I was able to get this to misfire when taking photos of my niece.

Video was actually better than I was expecting. I’m not much of a shutterbug or videographer, but even I was able to get quite nice shots from the Moto X Style. In 1080p capture mode the Style puts out really nice shots, even without OIS. The shots were nicely stabilised, with lightning fast focus. The exposure took a little longer than I’d like to adjust, but if that’s my only real judgement on 1080p, then Motorola did a really good job here. Audio came out fine as well, with the multiple mics intelligently taking out as much wind noise as possible. All this changes when you switch the camera into 4K UHD mode though. The viewfinder becomes incredibly stuttery, dropping frames left and right trying to record all that data so fast. Remember UHD is 4x the total resolution of a standard 1080p video and that takes a lot of horsepower. It’s not only the viewfinder that struggles when you jump into UHD, stabilisation takes a noticeable hit too, looking stuttery and sometimes jelly-like compared to a 1080p shot in the same location.

Here is the 4K UHD test footage

And here is the 1080p test footage

 

Of note is the slow motion mode Motorola includes on the Moto X Style. To my knowledge it is the same implementation as on the last two Moto X’s and the last three Moto Gs, which is to say, a 720p60 video played back at 24fps or 30fps. Whilst that may have been acceptable in 2013, at the end of 2015 when some devices are doing 720p240 and 1080p120, Motorola has been shown up here. The slow motion option on the Moto X Style is underwhelming. It is worth noting that audio is not captured in slow motion also. Now I myself am happy with this, but there are many that are not, so a toggle in the settings would have appeased both ends of the spectrum.

Saving it for last, the front facing camera, affectionately known as the selfie cam nowadays, sits at an 8mp unit. It’s quite nice with enough detail captured, and a wide enough lens for everyday use (but not what I’d call wide angle). In low light it starts to struggle, and this is where Motorola is getting giddy. They included a flash on the front of the phone, and just like the flash on the back of your phone, it startles you and makes you look like a relative of Casper the friendly ghost. Playing a little Devil’s Advocate, at least you can see yourself though. I’m not a selfie junkie as you can see by my inability to pose in one, but I handed the Moto X Style to friends and my to my girlfriend, all who said despite the phone being very dense, it was good for selfies.

Battery

As with the camera, batteries haven’t been a strong point for Moto X’s over the last few generations (if you leave out the X Play and its monster battery). Actually, that’s being kind. For pretty much all but the most frugal user, you would either be dead by midday or limping to the charger near the end of school or the end of the work day on previous models. Now with the 3000mAh battery in the Moto X Style I was really hoping this was a thing of the past.

I obviously didn’t hope hard enough.

Let me get this out of the way straight up. I made it to the end of the day, every day within the two weeks of reviewing the Moto X Style, but not a single day was it above 10% by the time I was crawling back into bed. One time it struck 1% as I put it down on the bedside table before plugging it in (I was playing some Pink Floyd, so I plugged it back in fast). The Moto X Style is merely acceptable in this regard. I could have easily killed it in a day if I wanted to try, and I could probably kill it twice in a day if I tried really hard to. I was however only exercising what I believe is ‘normal’ phone use and I was able to get through each day with varying levels of “oh crap where is my charger” by the end of it. Let’s just say that by the end of the two weeks I pretty much always had a battery bank in my back pocket. An average of 3.5hours of screen on time isn’t bad, but it’s less than I was expecting given the sheer size of the battery.

Luckily as I said above, the Turbopower charger included is no joke. A beastly charger that makes me wish Motorola would sell the damn thing on its own. So it seems a QHD IPS screen is too much for even a 3000mAh battery. How much better would have the Moto X Style have fared with an AMOLED panel? We can only guess but I feel that it would have been a fair bit longer. Even the Moto display feature on an AMOLED panel might have improved the situation. Only lighting up the pixels you need is a fair bit more power efficient than lighting up the entire display and turning it “black”.

Conclusion

So here we are, my conclusion of this phone. Well if you can’t tell I really like it, despite being large and really rather heavy. Even though it’s got an IPS screen instead of an AMOLED one, I really like it. Would I buy one? No, it’s too big for me, but every single friend I showed it too loved it. My mother, who currently uses a 5.5” Idol 3, loved it and said it felt substantial, and she is not wrong. The metal chassis and Gorilla Glass 3 screen add a level of rigidity that is leaps and bound of what you expect from the price tag.

Motorola made a great phone, no, a fantastic phone in the Moto X Style, and I think it will appeal to a lot of consumers. The combination of a great screen, fast performance, a mostly great camera and a level of customisation that other devices can only dream of whilst keeping a relatively clean, stock feel, and at prices a lot lower than its competition is a winning formula. Although I wish they’d kept it small, I also wished they hadn’t enlarged last years, but that sold better than the first generation, and possibly this will sell better than the last one.

If you’re looking for a solidly built phone, with an all-round camera that doesn’t break the bank, Motorola has a phone you should look at that I think you’ll love. Tell them Dom sent you!

Motorola Moto X Style

9

Screen

9.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Camera

8.5/10

Build

9.0/10

Value

9.5/10

Pros

  • Screen really is pretty
  • Great performance
  • Built like a tank
  • Turbopower charger is amazing
  • Almost stock Android

Cons

  • It's very big
  • 4K makes it struggle
  • Battery life could be better

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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