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Moto X (2013) review

Google and Moto almost made a truly standout Android phone

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Our Verdict

With its swoopy, curvy looks, the Moto X has a thoughtful design both inside and out that is full of charm and power, backed up by great software that is let down only by its endurance and camera.


  • Great design and feel
  • Excellent performance
  • Near stock Android
  • Useful software enhancements


  • Poor battery life
  • Weak camera
  • No expandable storage
  • Slow charging

Motorola made a big deal about the Moto X camera at launch, especially its use of RGBC. The C in RGBC stands for Clear Pixel, which in essence is part of the color filter sitting on top of the sensor.

The theory here is that with part of the filter being clear rather than filtering to a specific color, one of red, green or blue, Motorola can claim a 75% increase in light sensitivity.

This unusual filter sits atop a 10MP sensor which has 1.4µm sized pixels – relatively large, especially compared to the 13MP sensors found in many high-end cameras today.

Motorola Moto X review

Larger pixels means that more light can be captured and therefore better pictures produced in a wider range of settings.

There is a relatively fast F/2.4 lens sitting on top of the sensor with a 4.5mm focal length – equivalent to 30mm on a full-frame camera.

Despite an impressive array of imaging hardware, the Moto X struggles to take consistently high quality pictures. When the conditions offer any sort of challenge, the camera will typically disappoint and even in perfect conditions it is a little inconsistent.

This is not a camera that can compete with other flagship devices and it comes nowhere near the likes of the iPhone 5S or Sony Xperia Z1.

On the front of the Moto X is a perfectly serviceable and simple 2MP camera, which will take as good a selfie as you might expect. This front-facing unit is actually pretty decent, and shows that a simpler approach can bring bigger benefits.

Motorola Moto X review

Motorola has given us a unique way of accessing the camera on the Moto X. Even with the screen switched off, a double flick of the wrist will cause the phone to vibrate and the screen to come on straight to the camera app.

It is a neat gesture that only sometimes makes you think the phone will fly out of your hand and across the room. In practice, I managed to hold on to it every time.

Once the camera interface is loaded, it is immediately clear how simple it is. Even tap to focus is something that needs to be switched on.

You swipe in from the left to view the settings which are limited to HDR mode (on, off, auto), flash settings, manual focus selection, slo-mo video, a panorama mode, location tagging, shutter sound and a setting for the flick gesture. Swiping from the right takes you to the gallery.

Motorola Moto X review

To take a picture, tap anywhere on the screen and the camera will choose where to focus. But if you activate the manual focus selection, then you can move a square around the screen to choose the focus point and then tap it to take the shot.

In practice, it is nice and quick and simple to use, but in reality, a bit more control would be nice.

Zooming is performed by dragging up and down on the screen, which is rather odd, pinch to zoom would seem to fit a little better.

Tapping the video icon in the top right starts video recording with no options at all. This can be quite frustrating but it does the job most of the time.

So while the hardware sounds great, the output is generally a little disappointing.

Image samples

Motorola Moto X
In bright daylight with a lot of detail in the frame it does capture the colours and brick outlines, but it's over-exposed and a little washed out.

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Motorola Moto X
At closer range on a sunny day, there is a lot of haze and the picture looks a little washed out even if focus is excellent.

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Motorola Moto X
With mixed levels of natural light in an underground car park, the Moto X does well to capture the details on the lighter areas of the shot.

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Motorola Moto X
With HDR on though, the Moto X does a great job but it is too slow to capture and the picture becomes a little blurry in the end.

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Motorola Moto X
In lowlight indoors, the pictures are very noisy with no real detail. The shutter cannot stay open long enough highlighting how much the Moto X could benefit from OIS.

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Motorola Moto X
The flash on the Moto X is quite bright, but the colours come out too cold and there is still a high level of noise and low level of detail

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Motorola Moto X
Under the harsh conditions of artificial lights, the Moto X struggles to focus cleanly and to resolve shadows properly. Noise remains a problem too.

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