Motorola Moto X Pure Edition Review

The Moto X Pure Edition’s software is purely Android, its attractive styling is purely Motorola, and its customization options make it purely yours.

Early Verdict

If you're looking for a nearly stock Android experience, the Moto X Pure Edition is a good choice. Its unique styling and customizable appearance make it stand out from the crowd. The well-calibrated QHD display is crisp and bright, with excellent colors and viewing angles. Camera performance is significantly improved over the previous generation, capturing excellent photos in good light, but its aggressive noise reduction reduces quality in low light. While sufficiently fast, battery life is only average. It also lacks a fingerprint reader, which is now a standard feature.


  • +

    Build quality • Camera • Display • Customizable design


  • -

    Average battery life • No fingerprint reader

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As the constant stream of sequels arriving in movie theaters shows, it’s much easier to sell a product built around an existing franchise than trying to build brand recognition for a new product from scratch. Perhaps this is why Motorola released two different versions of its premier Moto X this generation: the Moto X Play and the Moto X Style. The Moto X Play is the additional cast member, a midrange device situated between the Moto G and the Moto X Style. There’s one additional twist, however; in the U.S., the Moto X Style uses the stage name Moto X Pure Edition.

Motorola Mobility released the original Moto X more than two years ago after the company was acquired by Google. It included several features that proved popular with mainstream users, including the ability to customize the appearance of the phone through the Moto Maker website. It also offered a close-to-stock Android experience, something that was previously only available on Google’s own Nexus phones, with a few unique features such as voice recognition and Active Notifications on the lock screen.

Similar to how “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” closely followed the original trilogy’s blueprint (maybe a little too closely) despite changing ownership from George Lucas to Walt Disney, the latest X sequel, the Moto X Pure Edition, avoids a “Star Trek” inspired reboot under new parent company Lenovo. All of its signature features remain intact. It still runs “pure” Android, and its Nexus 6 derived appearance can still be customized using Moto Maker.

Technical Specifications

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The Moto X Pure Edition comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 SoC. We discussed the pros and cons of using the 808 instead of the top-tier Snapdragon 810 in our LG G4 review, but we feel the 808 is the better choice considering it matches or exceeds the performance of the 810 in most cases while largely avoiding the 810’s power and thermal problems. The 808’s Adreno 418 GPU cannot match the peak performance of the Adreno 430 in the 810, or even the Adreno 420 GPU found in the older Snapdragon 805 SoC powering the Nexus 6, but its better frame rate stability makes it suitable for Android gaming.

The 16GB base storage option is a bit weak, but the Moto X offers both 32GB and 64GB options, along with a microSD card slot for storage expansion. It also comes with 3GB of RAM, which is the sweet spot for speedy multitasking and web browsing when running stock Android.

In a play to boost camera performance, Motorola equips the Moto X Pure Edition with Sony’s new 21MP Exmor RS IMX230 sensor, which supports advanced features such as phase detect autofocus (PDAF) and high dynamic range (HDR) when shooting both 1080p and 4K video. The front-facing 5MP camera has its own LED flash, a rarity for front shooters.

The new Moto X comes with a larger 5.7-inch QHD IPS display. The bigger screen results in a bigger and heavier phone overall compared to the previous version, but it’s still smaller than the Nexus 6P that has the same size display. The Moto X is not too much bigger than most 5.5-inch phones, with the notable exception being the LG G4, which is significantly shorter and lighter. The tapered back is thicker than most phones at its midpoint, but this does not present any comfort or usability issues.

The Moto X Pure Edition comes unlocked and works with all of the major U.S. networks, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon. Buying an unlocked phone from a retailer rather than through your wireless provider is becoming more palatable thanks to bring your own device (BYOD) plans. AT&T, for example, offers a $25/month credit if you already own a compatible phone. That’s a $600 savings after 24 months, which tends to be the typical upgrade cycle. Starting at $399.99, the Moto X Pure Edition is a real value proposition, especially considering that flagship phones generally cost more than $600.

With a solid spec sheet, some tantalizing features, and a reasonable price, the Pure Edition could be a real X factor; however, it faces some stiff competition. Any odd behavior and it could end up an X-File.

  • jojesa
    Wow! It took you a while to get your hands on a Moto X PE.
  • ummduh
    Wow! It took you a while to get your hands on a Moto X PE.
    No kidding! I've been looking for info on the next version of this thing already!
  • abbadon_34
    I love the Star Wars / Star Trek reboot analogies, I've been struggling to find a way to described them, and this is perfect!
  • abbadon_34
    Shouldn't the battery test show how long it take to RECHARGE the battery? With standard 1A and QC chargers, simple graph, or just 50%, 90% 100%
  • bluelady1960
    I have this phone love everything about it but..the battery would get hot ..make sure that you turn on the cooler .I used Motorola product c in the TV business for years ...damm fine products...
  • Arcendus
    Next year on Tom's Hardware: our review of the Samsung Galaxy S4!
  • sosofm
    I love the 3900Mah battery on my Droid Turbo. Motorola make verry good phones.
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    You forgot to mention that this phone doesn't support Camera2 API, and that SUCKS. Stock Moto Camera is garbage, barely anything is adjustable manually. Also, LG G4 can shoot 1080p60 videos with the same SoC while this thing can't. (2160p30, 1080p30 or slo-mo 720p120 played in 30 fps)

    Disregard all battery life tests, all you need to know is that this phone dies after 3-4 hours of browsing on Wi-Fi, not gaming. Turbo Charging offsets that to an extent, but it annoys me because more charging cycles = shortened battery lifespan. BTW @abbadon_34: about 1 hour 15 minutes from 5 to 100% and 30 minutes from 5 to 50% on bundled Turbo charger; I used a normal 5 V charger a few times but didn't record how long it took :(

    Still love this phone though. There might be worthy alternatives this year but I was looking for Qualcomm SoC (so I can get CyanogenMod later - which, annoyingly, is still not there fully), decent camera, stock Android, large and at least FHD display and full support for less-than-obvious features such as USB OTG (works fine) and Miracast (works great, who even needs Chromecast?), and all that for a reasonable price. And on that front, this phone delivers like no other. Ideally, though, I'd rather it have FHD AMOLED, larger battery (like on Moto X Force - I think it's known as Droid Turbo 2 or something in the US, the one with shatterproof display) and full support for Camera2 (and 1080p60 recording, since both the SoC and the sensor can do it). Not inflating the price just for lulz in some regions would also be greatly appreciated...
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    I've had the Moto X Pure Edition since launch. It's an awesome phone. Especially considering that I went from a Google Galaxy Nexus -> Moto X Pure Edition. It's definitely best to get the phone that you want.
  • NeatOman
    I wanted to get the Moto X Pure but i really wanted to wait for a new generation of SoC's and the 820 seems to be it. I think I'm going to get the LG G5 after having only Nexus phones for the last 3 1/2 years (Nexus 4, Nexus 5.. still).