Moto X (2014) review: Bigger display, metal frame, and fabulous Motorola experiences make it the best Android
If you love the way the current Moto X disappears in your front pocket, you may not like the new Moto X.
However, if you are willing to compromise a bit on the size then you will love what Motorola did with the new Moto X where everything else has been improved to the point that this is the best Android smartphone available today.
The first generation Moto X did not have the highest end specs, yet the software experiences made it a compelling device that I continue to use today. Thankfully, the new Moto X has specs comparable to the other flagships while also offering fantastic software experiences.
The first thing you will notice is that the new Moto X grew up in size and now sports a 5.2 inch 1080p display. Motorola did an excellent job in keeping the bezels small so this 5.2 inch display comes with a width the same as the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S5. Motorola also has reasonable top and bottom bezels so that the length is 140.8 mm, 2 mm shorter than the S5 and about 6 mm shorter than the One M8.
If you pick up a white version of the Moto X you will likely notice three small openings around the display, reminiscent of the IR sensors on the Kindle Fire phone. There is also a fourth in the upper-left corner that is located within an existing opening for other sensors. Don't worry, they're not gimmicky sensors to allow for 3D effects, but are IR sensors used to recognize your hand as you approach or wave over the Moto X (and your face as you look at the display) so it won't go to sleep if you are actively using the phone.
Also on the front are two long, narrow raised grille sections that look like what you find with the front-facing stereo speakers on the Moto G or HTC One M8. Unfortunately, these are not front-facing speakers. The speaker is on bottom and the headset speaker is on the top. However, like the speaker on the original Moto X, the single bottom speaker on the new Moto X is very loud and clear. Even if a manufacturer simply moves back speakers to the front, there is a benefit to the consumer.
The next design element I noticed was the aluminum metal frame that extends around the entire phone. The power and volume buttons on the upper right are made of aluminum with the power button textured so it is easy for you to find and press the button in the dark. The first gen Moto X had an obvious seam and discontinuity between the plastic front and soft touch back. The aluminum edges taper into the glass front and back piece. The aluminum has a soft smooth finish and definitely gives the new Moto X a premium feel.
The frame on the Moto X is part of its new external antenna system with dynamic tuning. This technology is designed so that you get strong cellular connectivity no matter how you hold your phone. I have seen that the signal indicator rarely goes down on the Moto X and cannot wait to test out a T-Mobile version of the Moto X.
Speaking of the back, I am testing out a Verizon LTE model with a bamboo back. The wood backs used on the new Moto X are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and both look and feel fantastic. Motorola will also offer four leather back options on the Moto X bugt, while the back options also feel great, I do worry a bit about their long term wear. The leather comes from the Horween tannery also located in Chicago. You will still be able to order various color soft-touch backs via Moto Maker.
Also on the back side, the camera has been upgraded to a 13 megapixel model with 4K video capture capability. I took the Moto X on a weekend beach trip and it captured some awesome photos. Unlike the original Moto X that struggles at times, I have had great success with the new Moto X and wouldn't hesitate to use this as my primary phone camera. Around the camera lens, you will find their new ring flash where the LEDs are integrated into the ring. LED flash on phones doesn't add as much as Xenon flash, but is acceptable for some indoor situations.
Below the camera lens and flash, you will find a pronounced dimple on the new Moto X. Last year's Moto X had a subtle dimple that was formed into the back design, much the way the dimple is on this year's Moto G. On the Moto X there is a concave metal area which reminds me of a dime, that has the Motorola logo, but serves no other purpose than to be a place to rest your finger. This is one area that I would have been fine with bringing over directly from the original Moto X.
The new 5.2 inch Moto X is only 5 grams heavier than the 4.7 inch Moto X, which is pretty amazing when you consider all of the bumped up specifications. It flies with the Snapdragon 801 processor and also appears to provide a fantastic cellular signal in places where I have seen the signal deteriorate.