Motorola Moto X (2014) review: Motorola's new Moto X far surpasses the original

Similar to its predecessor, users can flick their wrists with the device in hand, to launch the camera. Though this isn't the most natural motion, it's pretty effective and useful. To activate the 4x digital zoom, you'll need to swipe up and down on the left side of the viewfinder; and to call up the menu wheel, you can swipe inward from the edges of the screen.

There's also a feature called "control focus and exposure." This lets you lock in the lighting exposure or focus of certain areas and objects inside the picture. The tool is signified with an encircled bracket that appears directly on the viewfinder, and you can drag it around the screen to select your area of focus.

The 13-megapixel camera lens is encircled by the flash. Josh Miller/CNET

For me, this tool took some time to get used to. Before I got the hang of it, I took many disappointing, out-of-focus pictures that had randomly blurry objects in the middle or edges of my photos. The fact that directly tapping the viewfinder also activates the shutter didn't help either. But after a while, I was able to learn the difference between "hard tapping the screen to take a picture" and "gently pressing my finger against the screen to start operating the control focus." Other users may get the hang of this much quicker than me, but it's important to note that some learning is required nonetheless.

Again, the camera isn't as feature-rich like the GS5, and with HDR turned off, light sources can be blown out easily. But I was impressed by how true-to-life colors were (especially with indoor lighting and white hues) and how fast it operated. For more on handset's photo quality, check out the images below. And be sure to click on them to see them at their full resolution.

In this well-light outdoor picture, the buildings and people are in focus and colors are accurate. Lynn La/CNET

Here, details in the moving water and water droplets are discernible and clear. Lynn La/CNET

I used the control focus feature to lock into this bell pepper, which looks sharp and bright. Lynn La/CNET

In this indoor photo, the white balance is accurate, though the darker hues at the bottom are hard to distinguish. Lynn La/CNET

A few bottles in this line are out of focus, and you can see how without HDR activated, lighting is overblown. Lynn La/CNET

In our standard studio picture, objects are clear with well-defined edges. Lynn La/CNET


I tested the Moto X in our San Francisco offices and call quality on AT&T was great. Although I could hear a slight amount of static every now and then when my calling partner spoke, it was very subtle and wasn't overly distracting or irritating. Other than that, none of my calls dropped, volume range was appropriate, audio remained continuous, and there weren't any other buzzing or extraneous noise going on in the background. In addition, speaker quality was particularly notable. Although audio didn't quite have the same depth as it does on the One M8, the dual front-facing speakers rendered conversations louder and clearer than most devices.

Likewise, my partner said my voice sounded clear as well. Although she could tell I was speaking from a mobile handset, she said that audio on her line sounded clean with no distortion or static.

Motorola Moto X (AT&T) call quality sample

Data speeds on the carrier's 4G LTE network was fast, and I was most impressed with the phone's average download and upload rate, which according to Ookla's speed test app was 33.92Mbps down and 12.29Mbps up. As usual when I browsed the web on AT&T, I experienced some load time hiccups, with some sites stalling to display after several seconds passed by.

On this device, however, it occurred quite rarely, happening only two or three times total. On average, sites loaded very fast. For example, both of CNET's mobile and desktop pages loaded in 6 seconds. The New York Times mobile and desktop sites took 10 and 8 seconds, respectively. The mobile for ESPN clocked in at 4 seconds and its full page loaded in 6. Downloading and installing the 45.80MB game Temple Run 2 was also quick, taking only 25 seconds.

Motorola Moto X (2014) performance times

Average 4G LTE download speed 33.92Mbps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 12.29Mbps
Temple Run 2 app download (45.80MB) 25 seconds
CNET mobile site load 6 seconds
CNET desktop site load 6 seconds
Restart time 35 seconds
Camera boot time 1.76 seconds

The Moto X's processor is incredibly zippy -- apps launch and close with ease; graphics intensive games like Riptide GP 2 show high frame rates and play smoothly; and the camera is nimble, readying itself instantaneously for the next shot. Benchmark tests also mirrored my real-world findings. Its best multithread Linpack score was 591.813MFLOPs in 0.28 seconds, and though its highest 21,936 Quadrant result falls just below its competitors, the score is still fast.

Save for the One M8 (which has a 2.3GHz clock speed) all the devices including the Moto X, Galaxy S5, and LG G3 have a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. The One M8 scored the highest with 24,593, with the GS5 and G3 coming right after with their scores of 23,707 and 23,103, respectively. On average, it took Motorola's handset to power off and restart in 35 seconds and it took 1.76 seconds for the camera to launch.

Some of the handsets data times (left) and its best Quadrant result. Lynn La/CNET

Powered by a 2,300mAh battery, the phone has a reported talk time of 17 hours and a standby time of 10.4 days. Anecdotal observation shows that the battery is decent, but not significantly impressive. With mild usage, it can survive a work day without a charge, but expect to plug in if you're a high-powered user. We'll know more when official lab test results come in, so check back with this review for our final battery analysis. According to FCC radiation measurements, the device has a SAR rating of 1.08W/kg.


The Motorola Moto X is not without its faults. Compared to other flagship competitors, its camera has few editing features, and storage hogs will find its lack of external memory disappointing.

But for all its benefits, it's easy to look past its drawbacks. Its starting price, both on- and off-contract ($100 and $500, respectively) is lower than the Galaxy S5 and LG G3. But it delivers the same high-speed processor as the other two, and has a brilliant screen. In addition, with software features like the Moto Voice and Display, the user experience feels personal and seamless.

If you want to stand out, the Moto X has you covered. Sarah Tew/CNET

And most importantly, in a sea of black slabs and few color options, the device achieves what no other handset has yet to do: it can look and feel like it truly belongs to you. With Moto Maker, you can design a phone that's unique and personal. Even if that's not a high priority for you, the fact is that you're already starting off with a premium device in your hands. But add the ability to customize it to reflect your personal style? Well, that's just big, gigantic cherry on top.

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