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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.

Hardware Design

The Moto X Pure Edition is Motorola’s flagship device, and the phone certainly looks and feels high-end; its build quality is excellent, and its aluminum frame makes it feel sturdy, adding just enough mass to convey quality without being heavy. The corners and back are nicely rounded too, making it comfortable to hold.

The Moto X uses the same design language as other recent Motorola phones, with obvious similarities to the Nexus 6 and the current Moto G, giving it a distinct look that helps it stand out from all of the other rounded rectangles. What really sets the Moto X apart from other phones, however, is the ability to personalize the phone. Using the Moto Maker website you can mix and match a variety of colors and materials to make something that’s uniquely yours. The front bezel comes in either black or white depending on the aluminum frame’s finish, and the metal accent pieces (speaker grilles on the front and strip around camera on the back) come in a number of different colors. The back cover comes in three different materials. Genuine wood options include Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified Bamboo, Ebony, Walnut, and Charcoal Ash. There’s also genuine Saffiano leathers sourced from the Horween Leather Company that come in Natural, Cognac, Black, and Red. The finish of each leather is unique and will age over time as any leather would. For those not into wood or leather, there’s also Coated Silicone Rubber (CSR) available in multiple colors. While not as premium looking as the natural materials, it resists fingerprints, fading, and discoloration. The CSR backs have a diagonal pattern of raised ridges that combine with the rubber’s inherent grippiness to make the Moto X easy to hang on to. The downside is that dust and crumbs tend to collect in the valleys between ridges.

Motorola allowed us to use Moto Maker to configure our review unit, and it was an experience we thoroughly enjoyed. After cycling through various color and material options, some of which are more humorous than stylish, we settled on a light silver frame with white front paired with matching silver accents and a bamboo back cover. Wood is hardly the first material that springs to mind when you think about smartphones and cutting-edge technology, but when combined with the aluminum frame, it just works.

Taking a closer look at the removable back shows the new metal accent strip surrounding the camera at one end and incorporating the Motorola logo into a concave dimple—which is a convenient place to rest your index finger—at the other end, with the dual-color LED flash in between. This design element is the biggest departure from the Moto X (2nd Gen), but is consistent with the current Moto G (3rd gen). The only other feature on the curved back is a small pinhole near the bottom for a microphone.

The aluminum frame has a light satin finish and a chamfered edge that sits flush with the back. The metal buttons are located on the right edge, leaving the left edge smooth. The power button, which has a ridged pattern to help locate it by feel, sits just above the single-piece volume rocker. Our only complaint is that it’s difficult to pick up or handle the phone without inadvertently pressing either the volume or power buttons because of how close they are to the midpoint. Sliding the buttons up a little closer to the top, or relocating the volume rocker to the left edge, would definitely help.

There’s a microUSB 2.0 port centered on the bottom edge flanked by two plastic antenna bands. The 3.5mm headphone jack is centered on the top edge, with the access door for the combination Nano SIM/microSD card tray sitting to one side.

A plastic frame surrounds the 5.7-inch display, but the entire front is covered over with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The side and lower bezels are just as narrow as the LG G4’s, giving the Moto X Pure Edition an excellent 76% screen-to-body ratio. The small bezels above and below the screen each contain a speaker grille with a raised metal bar that’s color-matched to the accent strip on the back. These metal bars are more than just pieces of flair, though; they help protect the screen when the phone is sitting face down and both speakers are functional, meaning the Pure Edition has front-facing stereo speakers.

The bezel area above the screen is a bit more cluttered than usual. Ambient light and proximity sensors flank the speaker on the left, while an infrared sensor—which activates Moto Display when it senses movement—flanks it on the right. The front-facing camera and LED flash sit in the upper-right corner.

The second speaker and microphone are centered below the screen, with two additional infrared sensors in each corner.

While most phones look more and more alike with each iteration, Motorola’s phones stand out in a good way. The front-facing speakers and metal accent strip on the back are unique design features, as are the myriad ways to personalize the phone’s appearance. The Moto X Pure Edition’s materials, construction, and smooth lines give it a premium look and feel, with button placement our only quibble.

  • 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).