The Moto X Pure Edition sports a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor (1.8GHz), which includes a 600Mhz Adreno 418 GPU, and various cores dubbed the Motorola Computing System dedicated to natural voice processing and motion-based controls and triggers. It also has 3GB of RAM to help when multitasking with apps.
The hardware is in line with some of the flagships from earlier in the year, including the LG G4. The Snapdragon 808 is not the most powerful in the current Qualcomm lineup. As of this writing, that would be the Snapdragon 810, which is found on the HTC One M9, in addition to a few other handsets, though had some overheating issues earlier in 2015.
In terms of RAM, smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note5 and S6 edge+ have 4GB, and are more powerful both on paper and in benchmarks. This disparity won’t make much of a difference in late 2015, and we expect the Moto X Pure Edition to age well. Just be aware that the 4GB smartphones will likely be a tick swifter dealing with future Android updates.
Looking at the aforementioned benchmarks, the Moto X Pure Edition scored 1256 on the Geekbench 2 single-core score, and 3558 on the multi-core score. That’s good, but the Note5 tops it with a score of 1465 and 4610, respectively.
The Moto X Pure Edition lives up to its name by shipping with a mostly pure version of Android 5.1.1. There is no custom skin outside of Motorola’s Moto app, along with its thoughtful tweaks. That includes Moto Assist for dynamic adjustments (notifications turn off during a meeting for instance, or the phone goes hands-free when driving), Moto Actions for motion controls (twist to open the camera app, among others), Moto Voice (a voice-powered virtual assistant), and Moto Display (notifications appear on the lockscreen when a hand is detected).
With Google Now, Moto Voice is redundant, but the others are fine additions that Google should consider baking directly into Android. Otherwise, you’re left with Android Lollipop and all its standard goodies.
What’s great about the Moto X Pure Edition is that it’s available directly from Motorola, so it’s just about free of bloatware (In addition to Moto, there are three other preloaded apps: Connect for managing connected devices, Help, and Migrate). This is the first Verizon smartphone we’ve tested or owned that hasn’t been littered with Verizon Navigator or NFL Mobile. As a result, our 32GB review unit came with about 24GB of free space. Migrating over from another Android smartphone was also very easy thanks to the Migrate app, which moves over contacts, calendar info, media, and the like. It even partially works with iPhones.
The Moto X Pure Edition supports all major US carrier LTE bands (Cat 6 capable), and should work with Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, at the very least. Some Verizon customers complained at launch that while existing and active SIM cards worked with the device, new SIM cards did not. Verizon seems to have since fixed the issue.
Samsung made a point of its new smartphones supporting LTE Cat 9, which also brings tri-band carrier aggregation that is capable of absurdly fast speeds and bandwidth by combining smaller bands into one bigger and faster band. For users in the US, this is a moot point as the carriers here are slow to upgrade the networks.
The phone also supports 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE. Both performed as well as to be expected in day-to-day use.
Motorola promises “all day” life out of the Moto X’s non-removable, 3000mAh battery. We were able to barely manage that with typical work usage. This is on the low end of mediocre.
The Moto X lasted 5 hours streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi with the screen brightness maxed out, which is about the bare minimum a user can expect from it. The Note5, which has the same-sized battery, lasted for 7 hours and 10 minutes from the same test. Others have gone much longer than that.
Thankfully, the Moto X Pure Edition charges very fast via the included adapter. It took only 20 minutes of charging to get the battery to 50%, and it took less than an hour to fully charge. This is the fastest charging smartphone we’ve tested to date.
Motorola significantly upgraded the camera from last year’s model, going from 13 to 21 megapixels on the rear shooter, and 2 to 5 megapixels on the front. The aperture has also been bumped to f/2.0. This means the Moto X Pure Edition should have noticeably better low-light performance.
And it does. In fact, the Moto X Pure Edition has a fine camera that is much better than the barely acceptable camera on previous Motorola flagships. As mentioned, low-light performance is a strength, and colors pop in ideal light, featuring just the right amount of saturation.
Other smartphone cameras we’ve tested seem better at handling details and exposure, but the strengths and weaknesses balance out to make this reliable for day-to-day picture taking.
That it’s easy to use also factors into this. The camera can be quick launched from even the lock screen with two quick wrist flicks, and it’s quick to focus and shoot with a tap. It isn’t bogged down with too many shooting options. HDR is set to automatic by default, and there is a night mode and panorama as well. Other controls are limited to focus and exposure.
Some users may pine for more granular controls, on-screen guides (and indeed, a focus guide would be great for macro shots), and RAW image support, but we’re pleased with Motorola’s simple approach here.
On the video front, the Moto X is capable of shooting 4K, as well as 720p “SloMo” and 1080p HD. All video matches other flagship smartphone output, with the 4K being the kind of overkill we like to see in a smartphone: the fun to check out, but easy to ignore kind.
The selfie cam has all of the same software features as the rear camera. Once again, we love the inclusion of the front-facing flash. All smartphones should have one.
The spider photo shows the limits when it comes to image detail. It’s still good for a smartphone, but other flagship smartphones are much better.
The sign shows how well the Moto X handles color. The green and yellow really pop, though the whites are overexposed and lacking detail.
The train yard also picture shows the limits of the exposure. Notice how the whites are again overexposed.
The Moto X does well in low light. There is minimal blur and noise considering the circumstances. Some colors are visible around the dog’s eye and ear.