Conclusion

Conclusion - The Good

  • Good detail in bright light, good sharpness across the frame
  • Balanced noise reduction and good edge definition at higher ISOs
  • Very good detail in 4K video mode, 1080p slow-motion
  • Intuitive camera app design
  • Snappy and responsive operation
  • Attractive design and solid build-quality
  • Very bright and vibrant screen
  • Uncluttered almost "pure" version of Android
  • Quick Capture allows for quick access to camera app
  • Comprehensive editing options in gallery app
  • Attractive MSRP compared to direct rivals

Conclusion - The Bad

  • Occasional slight overexposure in sunny scenes leads to clipping
  • Occasionally white balance and exposure instabilities when shooting with flash
  • ISO 1000 and 1/15 sec exposure limits not enough for very dark scenes
  • No control over ISO or other shooting parameters in camera app
  • Limited imaging feature set compared to some rivals 
  • Panorama mode limited to 180 degrees and small output size
  • No microSD storage expansion
  • Battery life not quite on par with direct competition

Overall Conclusion

The 2014 version of the Motorola Moto X is a significant upgrade to its predecessor and with its vibrant screen, thin bezels, metal frame and elegantly curvy design looks and feels like a real premium device. Those who like their smartphone to look a little different can order through the Moto Maker website and customize the body colors or get their Moto X with a wooden or leather back.

The camera with its 13MP 1/3-inch sensor and F2.25 aperture is a step up from the original Moto X as well. The lack of an optical image stabilization means that camera shake can be an issue in low light, and image results in flash mode are not quite on par with the best in class. But overall, the new Moto X delivers images that are sharp across the frame, free of artifacts and show a decent balance between detail and noise reduction across the ISO range. We also liked the Motorola's video mode that captures good quality 4K-footage and is capable of recording 1080p slow-motion video at 120 frames per second.

Compared to some of its rivals the Moto X's imaging feature set is a little limited but can easily be expanded by installing the right apps from the Google Play Store. At an MRSP of $499/£420 for an unlocked device, the new Moto X is a real bargain in the high-end bracket of the smartphone market.

Features & Operation

Thanks to high-end hardware and an Android operating system that is free of any kind of manufacturer bloatware the new Moto X always feels responsive in use. And while the phone does not feature a dedicated camera button Motorola's Quick Capture gesture allows for easy access to the camera app. In comparison to some of its Android rivals the Motorola's still imaging feature set is a little limited though. HDR and panorama functions are on board but, with small image sizes and a 180 degree maximum capture angle, the latter is not up to par with the excellent panorama modes in Apple's and Samsung's top-end devices.

On the plus side the limited feature set means the camera app is uncluttered and very intuitive in use. It does not offer any manual control over shooting parameters and is mostly suited for point-and-shoot operation but allows for some control over exposure and focus by moving an on-screen target. If you want more manual control and features there are plenty of options to choose from in the Google Play Store. Google's Camera App is free and offers a good variety of panorama modes and a background blur function. For extended manual control over shooting parameters and more features check out Camera FV-5 or Camera Awesome.

Image Quality

In good light the new Moto X delivers images that show good detail and sharpness across the frame but in terms of pixel-level image quality just stop a touch short of the best in class. In line with most of the smartphone competition colors are pretty vibrant but don't show any color casts or shading. They are also free of chromatic aberrations, moire patterns or other artifacts. Exposure generally works reliably, even in difficult high-contrast situations. However, in very bright sunshine the camera occasionally captures images that are just a touch bright, leading to some clipping. It's not a major problem and can easily be avoided by moving the exposure target to a brighter area but worth keeping an eye on when shooting in bright sunshine.

When shooting in low light the Moto X shows the luminance noise and diminished fine detail, caused by noise reduction, which is typical for the small image sensors that can be found in most smartphones. However, the new Moto X finds a good balance between noise reduction and detail and the high-ISO output shows good edge-definition and low chroma noise levels up to the highest sensitivities. The lack of an optical image stabilization system and slow shutter speeds in dim conditions mean that there is an increased risk of image blur through camera shake and/or subject motion. It's therefore a good idea to capture a couple of safety shots when light levels get low and you want to make sure to get at least one totally sharp image.

Flash capture is arguably not the Moto X's strong point. The dual-LED ring flash produces a softer than usual illumination but in flash mode the Motorola defaults to higher ISOs than most competitors and shows occasional white balance and exposure inconsistencies. Video output shows good detail in both 1080p and 4K modes. As you would expect footage gets noisier in low light but overall the Motorola video mode performs well.

The Final Word

The new Moto X is a stylish and well-built smartphone with a large and vibrant screen that is great for image composition and review alike. Flash capture and camera shake in low light can be an issue but overall the 2014 Moto X delivers good still image and video quality across the board, making it an affordable Android alternative that should only get better with the imminent update to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Motorola Moto X (2014)
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Screen Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
Video Quality
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The new Moto X is an upgrade over it predecessor in almost every respect and combines snappy performance and a vibrant 5.2-inch screen with an attractive design and solid build-quality. The 13MP camera occasionally struggles in flash mode and the lack of optical image stabilization means you need a steady hand when shooting in low light, but overall the 2014 Motorola Moto X captures good video and image quality in most shooting situations. It's also more affordable than most of its rivals in the high-end Android bracket of the market, making it a very interesting option for budget-conscious mobile photographers who don't want to compromise on performance.
80%
Overall score

Sample Gallery

There are 30 images in our Motorola Moto X (2014) samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.