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Moto X (2014) deep-dive review: Android done right -- again

JR Raphael | Sept. 22, 2014
With a distinctive and customisable design, superb software and exceptional features, the new Moto X shows just how good an Android phone can be.

I've been testing the Moto X on AT&T's network and have had no issues whatsoever with reception or call quality. People with whom I've spoken have sounded loud and clear, and have reported being able to hear me just fine. Data speeds have also been good and typical of what I expect to see from AT&T's LTE network in my area.

The camera question
One of the most common gripes with the original Moto X was the underwhelming quality of the phone's camera. Motorola may not be known for excelling at smartphone imaging, but I'm happy to report that the new model delivers some significant improvements.

First of all, the Moto X's camera setup is the easiest and most pleasant to use of any Android device out there. You can open the Camera app at a moment's notice by twisting the phone twice in your hand -- a clever gesture that can be a real lifesaver when a photogenic moment occurs.

The app itself is also delightfully simple: The whole screen acts as a viewfinder; you just touch anywhere on the display to focus and take a photo.

You can access a handful of settings by swiping in from the left of the screen -- options for adjusting the image resolution, taking panoramic photos and enabling a more precise method of controlling focus. There are also separate buttons for recording video and switching to the phone's 2-megapixel front-facing camera. But the app favors simplicity and ease of use over advanced controls, and for the vast majority of smartphone photography, I think that's a very good thing.

As for the photos themselves, the new Moto X's 13-megapixel camera is capable of capturing some really great-looking images. In general, the phone's photos tend to be more vibrant, detailed and true-to-life in coloring than what its predecessor produced.

That said, the phone's photos certainly aren't perfect: I've seen occasional instances of overexposure, for example, and when I zoom into images at their full size on a computer, I can detect some areas of quality loss (which, to be fair, is the case with pretty much every smartphone camera I've tested). The camera also frequently struggles in low-light situations. All in all, I'd say the device's imaging quality has progressed from okay in its first generation to good -- though not excellent -- in its second.

(Want to judge for yourself? Check out my gallery of camera samples for a side-by-side look at images captured with the new Moto X and the original model.)

On the plus side, the new Moto X is satisfyingly speedy at snapping pictures -- noticeably faster than its predecessor, with little to no lag between photos. It has a handy burst mode, too, in which you can hold down your finger anywhere on the viewfinder to take multiple rapid-fire photos.

 

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