The Moto X Pure Edition is Motorola’s flagship phone. Its price and feature set, however, place it in the premium mid-range category with phones such as the OnePlus 2 and LG G4. This is a difficult category to compete in, but there’s more to the Moto X Pure Edition than a long name.
For starters, it has an excellent display. The 5.7-inch IPS panel’s QHD resolution makes objects and text look very sharp. It’s also very bright, reaching a maximum of 550 nits. The well-calibrated sRGB panel also boasts some of the most accurate looking colors of any phone we’ve tested. The displays in the Moto E (2nd gen) and Moto G (3rd gen) were impressive given their price point, but Motorola’s attention to detail gives the Pure Edition the best display in its class.
The camera is another piece of hardware that sees a major upgrade over the previous generation. The Sony-sourced 21 MP rear camera takes nicely detailed photos in good lighting. A large aperture lens lets in a lot of light, but the lack of OIS limits exposure time, bounding brightness in dark scenes. Overly aggressive noise reduction processing wipes away detail, further reducing low-light image quality.
The Pure Edition’s Snapdragon 808 SoC is technically a step down from the 810; however, with two fewer A57 CPU cores, the 808 is better able to stay within its thermal envelope, allowing it to keep its six cores online at higher frequencies. This gives the Pure Edition a small performance edge over the OnePlus 2.
In general use, the Pure Edition feels plenty fast, especially after the update to Android 6.0. The UI is fluid, with fewer dropped frames than the LG G4, and the phone does not seem to struggle when browsing the web or running apps. Driving the high-resolution QHD display is a bit much for the Adreno 418 GPU and LPDDR3 RAM, but this is usually not a problem since most games do not render at the panel’s native dimensions. The Pure Edition also does not suffer from thermal throttling when gaming. While the Snapdragon 810 and Samsung Galaxy devices deliver better peak frame rates, the Pure Edition’s excellent performance stability means its gaming experience will not be that much different after about 15 minutes of gameplay.
This performance, when combined with a battery that’s below average size for a phablet, leads to mediocre battery life. Under moderate, continuous use its battery life is similar to the LG G4 and Asus ZenFone 2 but less than the OnePlus 2 and both new Nexus phones, the 5X and 6P.
Up to this point we’ve talked a lot about hardware but have not discussed why Motorola calls this phone the “Pure Edition.” What makes this phone “pure” is its nearly stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. There’s no custom OEM launcher, duplicate OEM apps, or reimagined notification shade. The Pure Edition uses the Google Now launcher and Motorola leaves the stock Android UI intact. It also relies exclusively on Google’s apps—the lone exceptions being the previously discussed Camera app, which Motorola replaces with its own version, and the open source Gallery app, which sits alongside Google’s Photos app. It’s also worth noting that unlike Motorola’s less-expensive phones there’s no FM radio support.
As clean as it is, this is not a Nexus phone. Motorola adds a few features of its own that are accessible through two of its apps: Connect and Moto. The Connect app allows you to interact with other Motorola products such as headsets and smart watches. The Moto app, shown in the screenshots below, is the gateway to enabling Motorola’s extra features.
We already covered the Quick Capture action in the camera section. The other interesting action is Lift for Moto Voice, which provides discrete answers to questions after raising the phone to your ear without having to say the launch phrase. Speaking of the launch phrase, it’s customizeable. Instead of the typical “OK Google,” you can train it to respond to “Heads up Jarvis” or “Wake up HAL.” The Moto X can also read incoming calls and messages out loud when it notices you’re in a specific environment, like your car.
If you want to see notifications appear on the lock screen, the Pure Edition offers a choice between Google’s Ambient Display or Motorola’s Moto Display. Details about the latter are shown in the screenshots below.
The Moto X Pure Edition is an all-around solid phone, and we cannot find much to complain about. A bigger battery would be nice, especially considering it’s thicker than its peers. It also does not have a fingerprint scanner, which Android Marshmallow and the latest Nexus phones turned into a standard feature months after the Pure Edition launched. But unlike many phones in this price range whose impressive sounding hardware disappoints, or whose feature-packed software just seems to get in the way, the Pure Edition’s simplicity and performance make it enjoyable to use.