Welcome to our first mobile device review! Here, I will take you through my opinion of the Moto X Pure from Motorola. This device was bought by J4G through Moto Maker for full price of $449. Please remember that this is a review, full of opinion as well as facts. That’s the point. If you want dry device specs look on the box.
That being said here we go!
The Moto X Pure, hereafter known as the Pure, is the 3rd generation of Motorola’s rejuvenation. Since Google bought the company it has strived to create devices that are simple and beautiful with a lot of customer control. The Lenovo buy-out doesn’t seem to have altered Motorola’s goals and the Pure is a peak in their evolution.
The Moto Maker website works to bring out the Pure’s individuality and in theory build quality. With 30 different options including leather and wood backings, coloured metal finishing and front plate colour, the choices are immense. We went for the champagne edge colour, with champagne camera finish, white front and a bamboo back. Overall the phone really is striking.
One issue with the customization is build quality can sometimes suffer. Our bamboo model looks the bees knees from afar but up close some 0f the wood cutting is a little off, slightly too big in some places. It’s subtle but I would be remiss if I didn’t point it out. Natural materials are harder to work with in any situation and thats the reason I like them so much.
The moving parts of the Pure are a little odd. While the power button has a nice texture to help you distinguish it from the volume button it, they both have a wobble that can be disconcerting, like they aren’t quite seated correctly in their slot. While this may not sound like a big deal, when you are shooting for “Flagship” status things like this matter.
The Base price for the Pure is $399.99 for the 16gb model and normal back. Ours cost us $449 for the 32Gb bamboo backed model.
The Gorilla Glass 3 from Corning is everything you expect it to be, clear smooth and tough. The LCD is a QHD panel, basically 2k, which looks really excellent. If you are one of those people who think 2k or 4k is too much for a phone or if you think Moar Rez! is the way to go you can’t deny this screen hits the mark. The viewing angles are fantastic and the colour representation is pretty accurate. The 2014 AMOLED version may be slightly richer in colour but not necessarily a truer representation. Having a 520 ppi pixel density means fonts and icons look smooth and silky while maintaining maximum sharpness. Watching videos on the 5.7″ display is good. At 1440p you get a great viewing experience when that is, you can find 1440p content. If you haven’t already, check out the Slow Mo Guys on YouTube for some seriously good looking videos.
Overall the display is a winning feature of this phone. The price of the Pure could give the impression of using low end materials but this display is up there with all the best in the market.
I love this display.
UX and UI
Motorola made the bold choice in the early days of its revamp to stick as close to the stock android experience as it could while adding a few touches it felt enhanced the experience.
The Launcher is pure stock Android, the same launcher you would get on a Nexus phone including the Google Now card at the far left. To me, this is the best launcher out there. It is responsive, intuitive and pure material sexiness. The addition of your 4 most used apps to the top of the app draw is a great touch too.
The biggest tweaks Motorola have added are built in to a single app called Moto. Let’s talk about it shall we?
The Moto app is essentially a tweaked version of Google Now that adds a layer of usability to make a lot of difference. At first Moto asks you to train it with a wake up command, I chose “OK Google” because I’m used to it but you can pick anything. “Hello Computer” is a big favourite and I do know someone who uses “Wake up you stupid thing”. The important thing is the app learns to recognise your voice and respond to it from any screen, even when the phone is off.
Speaking of screen off function, the Moto app brings a whole new dimension to notifications. By using motion sensors you can simply wave your hand over the screen to bring up “Active Display” this shows you a simple UI that allows you to interact with assorted notifications. If you receive a Hangout message for example, you can press on the icon and the message will appear. To reply simply drag the hangout icon up and it will open it. This works even with multiple apps using it. It has changed the way I interact with my phone by reducing the amount of time my full screen is active.
One caveat to Active Display on the Pure though. Because the pure is using LCD not AmoLED when waking the screen it uses all the power. This can reduce battery life if you use it al lot or if you accidently wave at it often.
The Pure uses the Snapdragon 808 from Qualcomm. There are a lot of numbers I could throw your way about this Chip, number of cores, Ghz, ambient temperature and even benchmarks but none of it is super important. The Pure is fast. Really fast. Every tap, swipe and button press is met with an immediate response and the absence of any type of bloated software keeps this thing running at top speed. It can get hot though. Playing Lara Croft GO and other games makes the Adreno 418 work really hard and that makes my bamboo back toasty.
The inclusion of dual front facing speakers means great quality listening for everyone involved. The volume is impressive and distortion is minimal, even on a speakerphone call. Call quality is excellent as you would expect at this point. I can’t remember the last time I used a smartphone that wasn’t excellent when it comes to voice and the inclusion of 5Ghz WiFi means calls over hangouts and messenger remain clear as well.
One area the Pure suffers slightly is battery life. It’s average at best. When you put a 3000 mAh in a phone you expect decent battery life but the 1440p screen coupled with the active display conspires to reduce the pures battery efficiency. My current battery is at 35% after 7 hours and 3 hours screen time. That means it won’t make it through my normal working day without a charge.
Happily the Pure uses Quick charge 2.0 which promises an increase of 35% in just 15 minutes. While this is impressive, and it really is when you are in a pinch, it does mean you have to have a quick charger at your desk and that’s really not a good place to be.
The Pure currently runs Android version 5.1 Lollipop nearly latest version. Android 6 Marshmallow has been promised by Motorola although no date has been set. You can find more details about Android 6 over at Android Central but the big selling point for me when it comes to the Pure is Doze.
Doze will use algorithms and math and fairy dust to increase your battery life, or so the Google Wizards say. Who am I to argue with that? We will let you know as soon as it is available for the Pure at any rate.
At this stage in the game a phone lives or dies on it’s picture taking ability. Not just the rear facing camera but selfies are so prevalent that a bad front facing camera can spell disaster. Happily the Pure has a good front facer and, possibly, a great rear one.
Quick Note: The Pure has certain gesture controls to speed actions up. The control for the camera is a quick double twist of your wrist. It works surprisingly well even when the screen is off and I use it a lot more than I thought I would.
The 5mp front facing camera on the Pure is really good. In bright light it takes really god shots and in low light it has a front facing flash to help illuminate you and your friends. The Flash is however too bright as you would expect from a bright light shining in your eyes from about 2 feet. I can’t believe I’m saying this but if you do want to use the flash try a selfie stick, you’ll get a much better shot. Here are some examples of the front camera in action. These were taken in daylight, lamplight, extreme lowlight and flash.
I’m sorry they are all of me but it’s a selfie! I can’t help it!
The rear facing camera on the Pure has a lot to commend it a few niggles to that bring it down.
The picture quality from the 21mp camera is great, I mean really great. In a shootout with the Galaxy 6 Edge and the LG G4 there is very little difference in the overall quality and colour reproduction between the 3. I try not to get too bogged down in specifics when it comes to camera quality. Most of the people who will read this review and buy the phone are not photographers. They are Facebook users who want the best photo they can take to put on their Facebook or Twitter so print quality pictures just aren’t warranted from a smartphone.
That said the simple controls for the Pure camera is both a blessing and a curse. the UI is so paired down it offers almost no control at all. This means in the state Motorolla gives it to you the pictures are often underexposed and very often blurry as the camera fights to figure out what the focus of your shot is. My advice is to turn the “Control Focus and Exposure” option on straight away if you want any type of decent shot.
I have included a gallery to show the camera in different light using the same subject. As you can see the overall quality of the pictures is really great and the more control you have the better your shots will be.
Overall I am impressed with cameras on the Pure. At the price you are paying for the phone the camera is up there with the very best and is certainly enough for daily use.
The Moto X Pure is great. Starting at $399 with no carrier restrictions, this phone blows away the competition. I love all the current crop of flagship phones with all the power and quality they possess but the price tag can be extreme. The Pure offers everything these flagships do at a fraction of the price. This alone is enough for me recommend it to anyone.
As long as Motorola sticks to the plan with it’s update path, I think the Moto X series will be a flagship contender for a long time.