Motorola Motoluxe

The Motorola Motoluxe is an entry-level device, despite Motorola positioning the handset as a fashionista accessory. As such, it lacks the high-end features and specs you'll find on many handsets, but in return it won't cost you an arm and a leg to buy.

But does the Motoluxe offer anything to justify that hint at a luxury tag? Is this a handset that will stand its ground against the likes of rivals from HTC or Sony? We've been living with the Motoluxe to size it up.

Design

The Motorola Motoluxe is a nice-looking phone. It owes some of its looks to the Motorola Defy, although this handset isn't rugged. There are also some hints of the Motorola Milestone of yesteryear - the back is a nice solid feeling metal plate and once in place, reveals the grill for the external speaker.

It is coated in a tactile rubber finish, so it's nice and grippy in the hand and avoids the worst of the fingerprints. The smallish size means it's a phone that's easy to use one-handed, unlike some of the larger models.

The defining feature of the Motoluxe is the notification light cum lanyard loop in the bottom left corner. This will light up in various colours to display the status of the phone: it will reflect the charge status when plugged in, or let you know if you have a message waiting or missed call.

It's a nice detail. Although notification LEDs aren't rare on Android devices, we like that you can place the phone face down on a table and still get that visible flash of colour when something happens. The downside is that when you are connected to the mains, lying in bed watching a film, that light will be shining in your eyes.

There is a conventional layout of buttons and controls. A standby button sits on the top, along with the 3.5mm headphone jack. Down the right-hand side you have the volume rocker and a dedicated camera button. The left-hand side sees the Micro-USB port.

Across the bottom of the display are the normal four touch controls offering you menu, home, back and search. Overall it's a compact handset, measuring 117.7 x 60.5 x 9.8mm and weighing 122g.

Hardware

The hardware specs don't read quite as well as the design, unfortunately. The selling point of the phone is the 4-inch display, which is a reasonable size for a device at this price point. The resolution of 854 x 480 pixels gives you a pixel density of 244ppi. This was typical of top rung phones over the past few years and is now welcomed lower down the affordability ladder.

Also hitting the high notes is the 8-megapixel camera around the back, which on paper at least looks competitive, even if the camera experience isn't anything to get excited about. A front-facing camera is in place for video chat or self-portraits.

But beyond these two headline stats, the budget face of this phone is revealed. The processor is clocked at 800MHz with 512MB of RAM and internal memory of just 300MB, which explains the price point. There is a microSD card slot however, and our sample Motoluxe arrived with a 2GB card in place.

The result is that the Motoluxe isn't the snappiest phone around and you'll quickly fill the internal memory, so some management is required.

The performance reflects these specs too, with navigation lacking the punch of more powerful devices. For example, dragging a website around in the browser and pinch zooming isn't silky smooth. Instead it seems to stutter and jerk across the screen as you interact.

Software

The phone runs Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread, so isn't the latest version of the Google OS, which sets it off to a bad start. Motorola has all but ditched Motoblur, but still customise the UI, so there are tweaks throughout the Motoluxe.

Motoblur's notion of social interaction is still present and reflected in some of the clever widgets that Motorola has included. One of these keeps track of the people you contact most frequently, so you can quickly touch a person and be taken to a contacts page for them. It's a nice touch, although it chose to ignore some of our pals. Perhaps Motorola knows something we don't.

Reflecting the oft-contacted people is a similar widget that keeps track of the apps you use. After setting up the phone you'll probably find that things like Twitter or Google Play rise to the surface: again, it's a convenient way of instantly returning to the things you've been doing.

Motorola has also changed its lock screen. Becoming a place that's integrating more and more functionality, a lock screen widget will give you a selection of tasks to unlock to: dialer, browser, email, messages, calendar and the option to mute the phone.

This is all useful, but we couldn't find any way to edit the selection. As we prefer the Gmail app to the Email client, that option renders itself redundant and we're sure that some of those who aren't always checking their calendar would rather put music or Twitter as an option instead.

Elsewhere the UI arrangement is fairly regular and hasn't evolved much from Motorola's previous devices. You can have up to seven home screens, although you can remove some if you don't feel you need them, and you get access to recent apps through the notification bar.

As we've said, things aren't exactly snappy to navigate on the Motoluxe. Moving between screens and opening the menus takes longer than we'd like, but these are things we can live with, as long as the phone will keep us entertained.

Media fun

With that in mind, the Motorola Motoluxe comes ready to stream your content around. You can share from the phone, or use it to collect media you might have on another device via the MediaSee app. It had no problem finding our media server and playing back music, although the process can be a little slow, and it refused to recognise any of our video content.

Video handling isn't especially good. The relatively low power and modest file format support means that out of the box this isn't the best choice for playing back your HD movies. But give it some common SD content and it will handle it well enough.

Likewise, the music player could be a little better, as there are no controls from the lock screen. You can access your music when playing from the notifications bar although, again, there are no direct controls, so you might be better with a third-party player if music is your thing.

Although the bundled headphones aren't great, if you connect a pair of decent third-party buds you'll get much more acceptable results and we were perfectly happy with the sound quality.

Outside of the native features, the Motoluxe has enough power on offer to be able to cope with many of the apps that Google Play has. We found it perfectly capable of steaming content from BBC iPlayer or playing Flash content on websites.

Camera performance

As we've mentioned, the 8-megapixel camera is something of a headline grabber on a device at this price, but the performance doesn't back this up.

The camera is launched with a long press on the camera button; it will also let you focus and grab your shot. But the application, tweaked by Motorola, misses the mark for us. There are a number of settings you can access, but things are hidden away from immediate use.

A sidebar will pop out on a tap, but before you've had a chance to digest what it contains, it has hidden itself away again, which is frustrating. It's here you'll find the switch to video capture and it's irritating that if you want to shoot video you have to fiddle around to get there, rather than just being able to change instantly via an on-screen button or icon.

To make matters worse, Motorola has another run of settings accessed via the menu button, then “camera settings”, followed by “advanced settings”. It's here you'll find things like focus mode, although disappointingly, once you've dug out the settings, you'll find them mostly ineffectual.

Focus is the biggest problem that the Motoluxe faces. Although it offers a central focusing reticule that turns green when focus is achieved, the results aren't always in focus. It seems opposed to focusing on anything close to the lens - even in macro mode - and doesn't seem to want to give you a sharp distance shot either.

The video capture is also a little under par, as it maxes out at 800 x 480 pixels at 24fps. We can't be too critical of the video limitation given this phone's affordable price point, but we're disappointed with the camera overall.

Battery, calling

One of the positive points about the Motorola Motoluxe is the quality of calling. We had no problem making or receiving calls. We also found that it had better reception in some areas than some top-end smartphones we've tested on the same network.

The battery is also a positive point. With restrained hardware, the battery will happily see you through an average day, so you needn't worry about losing power as the evening draws on. Of course, if you use the phone heavily it will suffer, but it easily outlasts its more expensive superphone brethren.

Motorola has also tweaked the power management, with various modes you can engage to try to preserve power. The battery is rated at a modest 1390mAh but it's still one of the better performers we've seen of late.

Verdict

If you are looking for an Android smartphone that won't break the bank, then the Motorola Motoluxe is well worth consideration. The screen size and impressive battery life do the phone credit, although the camera performance lets things down.

But before you rush out and buy the Motoluxe, it might be worth waiting to see what other new arrivals have in offer, like the HTC One V or Sony Xperia U, which have more power, a newer version of Android and will likely be priced competitively.

Thanks to clove.co.uk for lending us an additional handset for our review.



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