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Moto X Pure Edition review: A clever phone with a killer price

JR Raphael | Sept. 18, 2015
It isn't perfect, but Motorola's latest flagship has a lot of compelling qualities -- and considerable bang for the buck.

Personally, I'd lean more toward one of the leather or wood options to get a more premium and distinctive appearance. This year's leather features a new "Saffiano" finish, described by one leather-maker as being a highly durable and scratch-resistant material. The wood finishes, meanwhile, are mostly the same as last year's -- though a new dark "charcoal ash" option replaces the lighter "teak" style from 2014.

All the models can be custom engraved at no extra cost, and all give you a choice of seven different accent colors that'll appear on a new metallic strip on the phone's back as well as on the metallic grilles on the front.

Speaking of those grilles, they both hold functioning speakers this year -- a welcome change from last year's phone, where only one actually produced external sound. Music played from the device is noticeably louder and fuller sounding as a result. It's still a little light on bass and not quite at the level of quality you'd get from an audio-focused phone like the HTC One, but that outlier aside, it's easily one of the best speaker setups you'll find on a smartphone today.

The size factor

The big question surrounding the new Moto X is just how big the phone really is -- and whether its enlarged footprint makes it too difficult to use. It's something you'll definitely want to think about carefully, especially if you're coming from a previous Moto X device.

There's no way around it: At 6.1 x 3 in., the Moto X Pure Edition is no small phone. For perspective, it's about the same size as Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 -- 0.03 in. taller and 0.004 in. wider, if you want to get down to decimals. That's quite a boost in size from the 5.5-x-2.9-in. frame on last year's Moto X, particularly when it comes to height. And if you remember, last year's phone was already a significant bump up in size from the previous year's model.

03 moto x generations
Side-by-side:  The first-gen Moto X (left), the 2014 Moto X (in wood) and the Moto X Pure Edition.

In other words, while the 2014 Moto X took Motorola's flagship from being compact to being at the upper limit of the standard-sized smartphone domain, this year's device goes boldly into the land of plus-sized ("please-don't-call-them-phablets") phones.

Like Samsung did with the Note 5, though, Motorola has managed to slim down the bezels and keep the device's width in check -- which makes a world of difference for what the phone is like to hold. As I noted in my Note review, it's the width that typically makes plus-sized smartphones hard to wrap your hands around -- and both the latest Note and the new Moto X are only minimally wider than most current standard-sized alternatives.


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