Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • Android 4.4.2 Jelly Bean
  • 4.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen
  • 1.7 GHz dual core processor
  • 16-32GB internal storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • 4G LTE, 3G, 2G
  • 10-megapixel rear camera
  • CMOS image sensor
  • LED flash
  • Built-in GPS (geotagging)
  • Touch screen focus
  • Face detection
  • HDR
  • 1080p HD video recording (30 fps)
  • 2-megapixel front camera
  • Front camera records 1080p HD video
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • Micro USB port

  • Editing effects are attractive
  • Image quality is good in bright light
  • Auto focus is fairly quick
  • Touchscreen operation is smooth
  • Body is compact
  • Burst mode shoots without limit
  • HDR brings out shadow detail
  • Gesture wake-up is convenient
  • Tap subject on-screen for auto focus
  • Video quality is good in bright light
  • Image quality is sub par in moderately dim light
  • Videos look noisy in low light
  • LED flash is weak
  • No adjustable camera settings
  • No shooting modes (only Auto)
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 41 seconds
  • Awake from sleep with gesture to first image captured = 3.5 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.2 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.3 second
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 3.5 seconds
  • Burst = 3.3 fps @ 10M

All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise. No image review mode is available.

Bottom Line
If you don't want to carry a gargantuan smartphone, you'll like this compact offering. You get decent image quality and fairly quick auto focus, though you won't get a top-of-the-line touch screen or the quickest burst mode. The gesture wake-up feature is handy, and the photo filters are well done.

Pick This Up If...
...You are looking for a compact smartphone with quick auto focus that can wake in a few seconds to take shots, and you don't need the fastest burst mode or sharpest screen on the market.

The Motorola Moto X is a compact smartphone with an on-board 10-megapixel camera. With a 4.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen, it offers a slightly smaller form factor than smartphones with larger screens (the Moto X is also a slender 0.31 inch thick). The back of the body is textured to help you keep a firm grip on the slender device. That's not to say the Moto X is any easier to handle one-handed as a camera. The form factor pretty much makes one-handed shooting impossible, in part because you have to tap the screen to trip the shutter. You can't program a button (say, a volume button) to trip the shutter (a feature found on the Samsung Galaxy S4).

What you can do is wake up the smartphone quickly. If it has fallen into sleep mode and is locked, two twists of your wrist will awaken it in camera mode. In my testing, I could wake the phone and take a shot in about 3.5 seconds, on average. Given that the Moto X has a dual core processor, you might be forgiven for thinking the camera would perform quickly, but it did quite well in my tests. For example, it can shoot continuously at a decent clip - capturing photos at 3.3fps. Also, it can continue in burst mode for some time, and shows no signs of conking out. It slows down slightly after a while - in my testing a total 53 shots were captured at 1.9fps (all at full 10MP resolution), compared to the initial 3.3fps. Conveniently, burst mode isn't something you have to turn on. You simply keep your fingertip on the touchscreen and the camera continues to shoot.

As for image quality, the Moto X delivers what you might expect from a smart frown camera with a tiny lens and minuscule LED flash. Though the camera captures 10-megapixel images, you will not find impressive quality in anything other than bright or even lighting. In my daytime shooting, I like the quality of the shots I got. Colors looked vivid and details look sharp. However, even mid-to-late afternoon shade begins to pose a problem for the camera, and shots begin to suffer from digital noise and blurry details due to the camera's inability to use a fast enough shutter speed, and thus use a higher ISO setting.

In addition to afternoon shots in the sun, I captured attractive portraits in ambient afternoon shade. By contrast, though HDR can counteract dark shadows in the afternoon, the LED flash is too weak to serve as a fill flash in such instances.

This quality is on par with the most basic point-and-shoot camera, but for the Moto X's flash, which can only scatter enough light to illuminate subjects within a very short range (say, 5 to 8 feet). This tends to produce shots with people in the foreground brightly lit and a very dark background. You can try to avoid this by turning off the flash, but my indoor shots often looked blurry and marred by unattractive digital noise. Backlighting in particular tended to flummox both the autofocus and exposure, delivering an underexposed and noisy shot. Plus, the auto white balance tended to not accurately counter for the lighting source, and many images looked quite yellow-orange. For those taken with flash, they tended to skew an unattractive green shade.

The auto focus tends to be fairly quick to lock onto a subject. You move the focus box by dragging it across the screen to rest on your subject. The camera can focus at a very close distance for macro photography, and at this close proximity the auto focus was occasionally a little iffy. I found that if I got too close, I could not sometimes simply back up to where the camera could achieve focus - I had to pull back the camera significantly and then approach again to get my close-up.

One plus the Moto X offers is HDR (high dynamic range). This feature helps adjust the exposure when there is high contrast between highlights and shadows, such as in bright afternoon sun. This brings out a little bit of detail that can get lost in dark shadows. But beyond that, there are hardly any settings to adjust in shooting mode. There are no scene modes, only Auto mode. You can turn HDR and the flash on or off, or set them to auto. Beyond that, the Moto X offers no settings you can adjust for different shooting conditions.

The Moto X does not offer a ridiculous number of photo effects and adjustments, but that is a welcome thing in my opinion. The menus are not cluttered up with a bunch of gimmicky tweaks that turn your photos into cartoony-looking images. For example, there are none of those "beautifying" effects that enlarge your eyes and lips, or reshape your face and slim your body. The effects that are included stick to photographic norms and produce attractive results. These are split into two menus: One set of nine effects that mimic film processes and 15 others that adjust the color and exposure. The first set create a fixed effect; the others can have their intensity adjusted, which you tweak by dragging a slide bar across the screen.

I liked all of these edits, preferring their subtly over what can sometimes be ham-fisted alterations to photos. And, you can apply multiple filters and effects to an image, creating your own combinations and look.

For easier skimming through your photos, you tap the top left arrow on the playback screen. This brings you to a gallery view of thumbnails that you can whisk across the screen. When you first settle on the screen, the month and year of the photos appears briefly in an overlaid text bubble.

Movie quality was on a par with the still image quality. In daytime sunlight, video footage looked acceptably sharp. However, in afternoon shade auto focus became a little less reliable, details looked a little soft, and digital noise appeared.

The Moto X's touchscreen operates well, and images look sharp and colorful. However, with a resolution of 1280x720, it's not quite as crisp as screens offering 1920x1080 resolution. The trade-off here, of course, is that the Moto X offers a more compact and pocketable form than those larger smartphones.

One disappointment with the screen's operation is that when entering edit mode, the screen has to be in portrait mode. So, if you're looking at a landscape shot, holding the screen horizontally, you will have to flip it upright to read the icons and menu options below the photo (see Features & Controls page). This makes it more difficult to see the edits you are applying because the image is, of course, smaller than it would be across the entire screen.

Also, though I liked how swiping rightward brought a virtual dial of camera settings on screen, it displayed five of the eight options, so I had to "turn" it to reach one of the other three. It seems that having icons appear for all eight settings would be more user-friendly.

The Moto X offers the usual list of wireless capabilities: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS for geo-tagging your images. The share menu offers quick access for blasting your latest creations out via text message, email, Google Drive, Skype, etc.

The battery is rated to last up to 24 hours with mixed use, which should not hamper a day's shooting (and talking, texting, etc.) The Moto X comes with a charger, USB cable, and a tool for removing the SIM card, which pops out of a side tray. If the battery does go kaput, however, replacing it won't be a simple matter. The back is glued on and does not simply slide off.

Bottom line - The Moto X's compact form might be its greatest attraction. Its not-quite-top-of-the-line AMOLED resolution and lack of shooting modes may put off some potential buyers. However, image quality is on a par with comparable smartphone cameras, burst mode is adequately fast, and auto focus is relatively quick. While the gesture wake-up feature is a nice touch, I think the solid assortment of photo filters and color adjustments are a bigger draw.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.