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Moto X4 review

RETRO PHONE FIRM Motorola released its first Moto X handset over two years ago. Since then, we’ve spin-offs in the form of the Moto X Play, Moto X Style and Moto X Force, all of which launched in 2015.

After a short hiatus, the Lenovo-owned smartphone maker has decided it’s time to bring back its more affordable, feature-filled X range with the Moto X (4th-gen), or Moto X4.

Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 CPU paired with 4GB RAM and featuring a 5.2in Full HD IPS LCD display, all while costing just £350 SIM free, the fourth-gen Moto X touts some serious horse power for the money. But does this translate well in real life experience? Read on to find out.

Design
The Moto X4 is quite the looker. The firm has given it a rather striking cobalt blue finish meaning it stands out in the crowd of black or silver smartphones. It’s also quite well put together, with a nice density that makes it feel like a premium product despite costing half the price of most flagship handsets.

Measuring 8mm thin, it not only feels slim in hand, but it’s thinner than its more expensive Moto G5 sibling. Pick it up, though, and it’s a different story. At 163g, it’s almost 20g heavier than the G5, and also heavier than the similarly priced Moto Z2 Play. However, this extra weight does make the device feel more robust. and it feels solid in hand – like a pack of frozen chicken breats from Iceland.

This density is a result of the phone’s construction. Alongside its metal frame, the rear of the Moto X4 is made of glass, and while this might add extra weight to the phone, it makes it look a lot sexier. Well, until you realise it attracts every finger smudge in the world and will have you constantly reaching for a microfibre cloth.

It’s a decent looking phone, but like many mid-range devices, you’re not going to be screaming from the rooftops as soon as you take it out of the box. 

All-in-all, the design is nice. But if it wasn’t for its flashy colour, we’d probably think it was boring to look at. It’s nothing special, really, and like we mentioned earlier, is a little heavy. At least it’s not offensive looking though. That would be something worth complaining about. 

Display
The Moto X4 boasts a 5.2in Full HD IPS LCD, which is a decent size for the dosh. It’s almost like you’re getting an inch of screen real estate for every £67.30 of the RRP. Actually, that makes it sound expensive, so ignore that, but you get the idea.

However, it’s a little disappointing that the firm has opted for an LCD screen over an AMOLED one. Obviously, this is to cut costs but it shows and makes the handset feel a little cheap compared to other similarly-priced phones on the market.

In general use the X4’s panel does feel nice in hand, however. And while the 5.2in display doesn’t live up to Moto’s usual 5.5in smartphone panels, even those with large hands will struggle to stretch their thumb from the fingerprint sensor at the bottom to the opposite top corner of the display. It is however possible to use the Moto X4 single-handed for typing out a message or scrolling through the app tray, which is an advantage for those serious multi-taskers out there.

Overall, the X4’s screen is crisp and vibrant and responds well to touch commands. Best of all, it doesn’t give us many excuses to complain. Well, apart from the lack of AMOLED, but for £350, what can you expect?

Performance and software
The Moto X4 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 chip alongside 4GB of RAM. Nothing too wow-worthy, but still a decent internals considering its price.

In terms of day to day performance, we found the device is fast and responsive, with no lag even when we ran power-demanding apps with augmented reality features.

On the software side, you won’t be surprised to learn that the Moto X4 runs Google’s Android 7.1.1 Nougat mobile operating system (OS). The good news here is that it hasn’t been skinned much at all, meaning that Lenovo’s custom user interface is very similar to Google’s original, unskinned OS, making it lighter and less clunky than on some other devices,

If we had to compare the Moto X4’s OS experience to that of another smartphone, we’d probably say the Google Pixel.

Battery, connectivity and storage
Using the phone to send messages from time to time and check social media notifications, we found that the battery lasted on average about a full day and a half (or so) before running out of juice.

Obviously, battery life depends on how you use the phone over the course of a day. With the Moto X4, using it almost constantly on full brightness, watching videos, browsing the web and listening to music, for example, its 3,000mAh battery lasted until the late evening, as expected, before needing a re-juice, after being unplugged early morning around 7 am.

Connectivity options consist of your bog standard Type-C USB charge connector alognside a 3.5mm jack (hurrah!), 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC for that lazy tap-and-go connectivity. 

In terms of storage, the Moto X4 has either 32GB or 64GB built in options, but also comes with a microSD slot for expandable storage up to 256GB, perfect for those who cannot stop taking pictures of themselves, or their cats.

Camera
Speaking of taking pictures, the Moto X4 has a 12MP and 8MP wide-angle rear dual camera setup, and a 16MP front-facing snapper.

Motorola refers to the Moto X4’s camera setup as the bee’s knees in all of its marketing material, but in practice, however, it’s not all that.

It boasts the dual-lens system that many manufacturers are adopting for their flagship phones these days, from Apple to Samsung. However, while most of those manufacturers tend to pair a standard lens with a telephoto lens for a optical zoom effect, Motorola, erm, doesn’t. 

The firm uses the two cameras to achieve an enhanced bokeh effect, called “Depth-enabled” in the camera UI. While you can adjust the strength of the effect with a manual slider, the results can usually mean overly-blurred images of both the subject and background, which is annoying. 

In general, though, the quality of the shots achieved from the main camera are pretty decent. In evenly-lit situations, the X4 is capable of taking detailed photos. Nevertheless, in low-lit conditions, it didn’t prove as reliable, with some shots seeming quite grainy thanks to noise.

In short
All-in-all, we’d have to say the Moto X4 is a worthy contender in the budget smartphone market. You get quite the bang for your buck when you consider how much the phone retails for SIM-free. 

It might not be the most exciting device out there, nor does it scream luxury or sell itself in terms of looks, but it does the job, and at more than half the price of some of the flagship rivals out there, it’s definitely worth consideration if you’re wanting an Android phone that will tackle your every day needs without breaking the bank.  

The Good
Great price, good performance, slim design.

The Bad
The design is lacklustre, a little heavy, the camera could be better.

The Ugly
Nothing particularly.

Bartender’s Score
7/10

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