(Pocket-lint) - When Motorola announced there wouldn't be just one Moto X in its latest update, but two, it was a time for celebration. Two models from a family that's been generally solid, giving more of that Moto magic and a new option for Android fans.
The Moto X Play fills in the affordable side of things, while the Moto X Style arriving as the new top-of-the-line handset. We say it's a top-tier handset, but the Moto X has always sat in that sub-flagship space just beneath its rivals, aggressively priced to make it attractive, while still delivering on the specs.
That continues with the 2015 Moto X handsets. The Moto X Play fits nicely into its role as the more affordable handset, offering outstanding battery life. But how does the larger Moto X Style fare?
Moto X Style review: Design
The Moto X Style is instantly recognisable, following a design that Motorola has been pushing for a few years. It's close in style to the Moto X Play, as well as the 2014 Nexus 6. It is, in many senses, a scaled-down version of the Nexus 6, offering a similar arrangement of front-facing speakers and 2.5D glass, for lovely rounded edges to the display.
The Moto X Style has a metal frame with the back inserted into it. The default is a great soft grip "resin" finish, although the Moto X Style can also have the full Moto Maker treatment, giving you the option to fully customise your device - from colours, to accents and so forth. In many cases these customisations can be done for free too.
There are more Maker options for the Style than you get for the Play, with the choice of wood or leather, although these come with an additional £20 cost. We think the leathers are great and if you're speccing-up your phone for the next year or two, this adds a personal touch you don't really get elsewhere (aside, perhaps, from the LG G4 with leather back).
The Moto X Style exhibits the good build quality we've come to expect from Motorola, and the shape of its rear is designed to fit nicely into the hand. At this size, however, you need pretty big hands to grapple with it. Like we said of the Nexus 6, at this size you lose the advantage of being able to lay it down on a table for interaction without it wobbling around.
The Moto X Style measures 153.9 x 76.2, with a curved rear between 6.1-11.06mm. And it's that greater-than 11mm thickness that you feel when you grip it. The phone weighs 179g, which is pretty hefty, but there's a reassuring solidity that comes with that weight. There's also a nano coating to protect your phone from accidental spillage, although it's not waterproof like some other models out there, Sony being the obvious brand in this area.
Overall we think the Moto X Style is a good looking device. Thanks to Moto Maker you can opt to completely personalise the phone too, which helps to set it apart from the competition.
Moto X Style review: Hardware and display
Sitting on the front of the Moto X Style is a 5.7-inch IPS display with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, delivering a 520ppi density. As we mentioned, it has lovely curves to the edges so it's slick to swipe across, and it's topped with Gorilla Glass 3.
It's a sharp display, capable of resolving fine detail with its headline resolution specs. There's plenty of brightness so that it remains visible in bright conditions and the viewing angles are great too.
There's plenty of punch, although it's not as vibrant as some displays, most notably the sort of AMOLED display you'll find on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+. At this size, the Moto is great for gaming and movies, boosted by those front-facing speakers, making it an apt multimedia device.
On the hardware front, the Moto X Style is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset, with 3GB of RAM. That's a powerful loadout for flagship-rivalling performance, and we've found the phone to be plenty fast enough in all the tasks we've thrown at it.
There is the option of 32GB or 64GB of internal storage (the 64GB option will cost you an extra £35 through Moto Maker), and there's a microSD card slot to expand further. We like how Motorola has combined the SIM and microSD into the same tray, making for tidier overall design.
The Moto X Style might be a step down from some of the top-rung devices with more powerful hardware, but in terms of real-world performance that makes little difference. It feels like a snappier device than the Moto X Play and we noticed it warmed up a little during more intensive tasks, but nothing like some of the other devices we've seen this year (the Sony Xperia Z3+ being the prime culprit).
One piece of hardware that's missing on the Style is a fingerprint scanner. With many rivals offer this feature (even at a more budget price point, such as the OnePlus 2), and support in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, launching the Moto X Style without a fingerprint scanner makes this phone feel a little dated from the off.
Moto X Style review: Battery life
But there's one other area where the Moto X Style really takes a hit and that's in battery life. That might come as something of a surprise, seeing as there's a 3,000mAh cell inside. That's a pretty high capacity, but yet you don't get the same kind of endurance you'll get from the Moto X Play.
We found that the Moto X Style battery would drain pretty quickly in normal use. On light days you'll get to the end of the day, but on busier days we found ourselves needing to recharge in the middle of the afternoon. That's not too dissimilar to some rival devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 for example, but we can't help feeling that this higher-end Moto X is shown up by its lower-spec brother.
The Moto X Style does support quick charging, although you don't get a Turbo Charger in the box (in the UK version at least). If you're a power user, investing in a Turbo Charger is definitely worth considering.
Moto X Style review: Camera
One of the big aims of the new Moto X models appears to be addressing the camera quality criticisms of previous devices. There's a new 21-megapixel sensor on the rear with phase-detection autofocusing set to this task.
The thing we don't like about the camera on the Moto X Style is the app. It offers one-tap capture which is designed to be faster, but the problem with that is focusing. As with the Moto X Play, you're at the mercy of the app's focusing, which isn't necessarily going to focus on what you want. You can't just tap to refocus as you can on the majority of other smartphones, instead to get manual control of focus you have to open the settings and select the manual mode, which is a bit of a faff. You might want to use a different app to get more compliant performance.
The camera is capable in good light, however, offering plenty of detail - but as the light dips it lacks the vibrancy that rivals offer. There's a useful HDR (high dynamic range) mode that will balance out highlights and shadows for a more even result, and it works very well. It's automatic and does sometimes need a prompt to get it going, but it's not as aggressive as some we've seen, delivering balanced results.
The low-light performance of the Style's camera sensor isn't great however, with detail and colour dropping out so images lack sharpness - we suspect through processing to remove image noise. However, we found it faster than the Moto X Play and we've get better low-light shots from it too. Certainly the boosted display makes for a better looking preview when taking photos.
Video offers capture at Full HD, UHD (4K), as well as slow-motion 720p, so you're covered on all fronts there.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera on the Moto X Style is joined by a flash, allowing you to cast a little more light on yourself for those darker selfies. It does the job of illuminating you, but it's rather dazzling, so you'll be left blinking away those bright spots. The front camera isn't the sharpest out there, but it does a good enough job, and you get HDR mode for the front too, which is less common.
Overall, the cameras on the Moto X Style are pretty good, but feel a step behind the likes of the Samsung and LG that have really pushed things forward in recent models. That said, apart from the focusing of the app, you'll probably find the performance good enough.
Moto X Style review: Software
One of the appealing things about Motorola's Android devices is that they are very close to stock Android. There's very little in the way of modification that's been added, save for a few apps. Some of those apps, or "enhancements" as Motorola calls them, will be removed when the Moto X Style is updated to Android Marshmallow, as they duplicate tasks handled by the operating system in the next build of Android.
That makes the Moto X Style as close as you'll get to a Nexus device without it actually being one, and Motorola is usually pretty fast to update devices too.
We found the Moto X Style to be slick and fast in all things. We like this Android experience, although some might say that there isn't the sophistication that HTC or Samsung might give you through their respective skins. That's true: there's limited customisation options for the homepages and you don't get a super-connected media experience from the off. You also don't get anything that really uses the screen size on offer - there's no split-screen fun like you get from Samsung or LG. But in return, the phone is also free from clutter that you probably don't want.
There are some Moto additions, like the glance screen for notifications, as well as a gallery that will give you highlight videos to share with friends. Motorola also enables a range of gestures for faster launch for things like the camera, which in lieu of a camera button works out well.
The Motorola Moto X Style is a good flagship alternative and, priced at £399, you're getting a lot of phone for your money. That price sets this handset at almost £200 less than top-flight Samsung devices at this size and there's no doubting the appeal in that.
However, as far as handsets go, there's something of an incremental feeling about the Moto X Style. Depending on your perspective, it's either a larger version of last year's Moto X, or a smaller version of the Nexus 6. While we like the form factor on the smaller Moto X Play, we feel that the larger-scale Style is less usable than some big-screen rivals, because of the curve of the back - but there's a strong degree of personal preference to be considered there.
But what the Moto X Style really lacks is a stand-out feature. While the Moto X Play wins on battery life, the Style ticks off the check boxes without venturing into the realms of the exciting. Sure, there's a great display, Moto Maker customisation, capable camera and it's bloatware free, but it's lacking in battery and doesn't jump up to offering a fingerprint scanner.
That really leaves the price to be the most appealing point. So if you're looking for a phablet on a budget then the Moto X Style has plenty to offer, but it's just not the most exciting phone out there.