Motorola Moto X Style review: a big phablet with a lot to offer

Moto's latest flagship is a solid performer if you can handle the size

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For

  • Attractive price
  • Strong performance
  • Brilliant screen

Against

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Bulky heavy design

The Motorola Moto X Style is the new flagship phone from one of the oldest mobile manufacturers, and it rocks up with an appealing price tag, decent line up of specs and a supersized screen.

You're looking at £399 for the 32GB Moto X Style, or if you fancy more internal space the 64GB version can be hand for £434 SIM-free. That's a decent chunk cheaper than the flagship offerings from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Sony, but the X Style doesn't flake on features.

At the heart of the phone is a 5.7-inch display with an eye popping QHD resolution, ensuring everything looks pin sharp. That's backed up by a hexa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, while round the back you'll find a 21MP camera.

The Moto X Style isn't a true out and out flagship smartphone thanks to its larger dimensions which push it into phablet territory. Motorola does have a smaller offering in the Moto X Play, but its specs are more mid-range.

Your own Moto style

With its big screen, you also get a big body - and it's a bit of a beast in the hand. Our review unit had a soft touch black plastic rear, but head to Motorola's Moto Maker website and you'll be able to choose from 10 different colours.

If you fancy paying £20 extra you can pick up a wood or leather finish, with four colours of each to choose from. This customisation, along with the option for a rear engraving and an on-screen message during start up, is only available if you buy the X Style SIM-free direct from Motorola.

Head into your local phone store and you'll only have the stock white, black and light gold options to choose from.

At 11.1mm it's also thicker than most of the high-end handsets currently on the market, and we found a lot of the time we needed to employ both hands to use the X Style properly.

It's pretty heavy at 179g too, so you'll need to be prepared to tackle the size and weight hurdles if you do opt for the Moto X Style. If you've got small hands we'd say you're best off looking at smaller smartphones.

While it may not look or feel as premium as the iPhone 6S or HTC One A9, the Moto X Style is well made with a solid metal frame providing a sturdy structure all the way around the device.

The dual front facing speakers are a nice touch, directing sound directly into your face while avoiding muffling from your hands as you hold it.

Your eyes will love the QHD 5.7-inch display which is excellent for video playback. If you like catching up with your latest TV show during your commute, or fancy a portable movie player the X Style is a great choice.

It's also handy when it comes to gaming and web browsing, providing lots of additional space over smaller smartphones.

Android, pure and simple

Motorola likes to leave Android as Google intended, in its pure vanilla form, free from intrusive overlays and bloatware applications you can't uninstall.

That's not to say Motorola hasn't done anything to the Android 5.1.1 Lollipop operating system, putting three of its own apps on the X Style. The first two, Connect and Migrate, can be left to one side - but it's the third offering which is a really nice addition.

Simply called Moto, the application allows you to set up always-listening voice commands, gesture controls and handy notifications which can display smartly on screen when the display is off.

Gestures include a double karate chop to switch the rear LED torch on and off and a double twist to fire up the camera app.

You can also give yourself Jedi like controls. Wave and hand over the screen when it's off and it'll show you the time and new notifications you may have with Moto Display.

It's a smart feature, makes you feel like a kick-ass magician and helps by reducing battery drain from the otherwise power intensive display.

Moto Display is a low power mode which keeps the majority of the screen black, using white text and icons to show the time and notification logos in the centre of the screen. Hold down on a notification bubble and you can get an overview of the message without having to wake or unlock the handset.

It's really easy to use and we were utilising it all the time, and by utilising we mean showing off our Jedi skills to our mates down the pub.

The always-on voice command allows you to bark a set phrase at your X Style, even if the screen is off, to trigger a Google Now search. It's handy if you've forget to set your alarm after getting into bed and don't want to have the screen blaring in your face.

Stylish performance

The hexa-core processor and 3GB of RAM we mentioned at the start of this review is plenty for most tasks on the Moto X Style. Android is smooth, apps load quickly and you can game on the handset without interruption.

You don't get the zippyness of the Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6S, but the Moto X Style still provides a pleasing experience under finger and you won't be waiting around.

The graphically intensive Real Racing 3 runs well on the X Style, although load screens can take a second or so extra versus rival flagship handsets.

Gaming is great of the handset, with the stunning QHD display providing an excellent surface for your eyes to lock onto for an hour or so. We also liked the fact the screen was big enough for controls without our hands blocking the action. You will want to keep an eye on battery life though.

Simple snapper

On the back the 21MP camera is joined by a dual-LED flash and is capable of some rather lovely shots.

Motorola has tinkered with the camera app on the Moto X Style, removing the shutter button and making the whole screen a trigger. That mean it's super easy to snap a picture no matter how you're holding the handset, but it can also result in unwanted snaps. We got a few up-nose shots as we juggled the handset in our hands.

The X Style is also a little light when it comes to camera modes and features, although that works well for Apple so there's no reason that the 'less is more' mantra can't succeed here.

Outside in good light the Moto X Style performs well as a point and shoot alternative, capturing a good level of detail and producing bright, vibrant colours.

When the lights go down though it does struggle a little more, with a few of our shots sporting some noticeable graining.

Round the front the 5MP camera comes with its very own LED flash, allowing you to illuminate your and your buddy's faces for some serious selfie action. It can be a little blinding, but you'll be the talk of club with your well lit gurns.

Better battery?

A reasonable sounding 3000mAh battery resides inside the Moto X Style, but the truth of the matter is it can struggle to see out a whole day.

During our time with the handset we were regularly hitting 15% by early evening, triggering the power saving mode to switch on. If you're a consistently moderate user throughout the day the likelihood is you'll be needing a top up before the day is over.

The Moto X Style does have one saving grace in the form of quick charging however, allowing you to recover 10 hours battery life in just 15 minutes - perfect for a quick top up before you head off for a night out.

You can't use you current microUSB cable you've used to charge your previous Android (or Windows Phone or BlackBerry) handsets though, as the Moto X Style sports the new USB-C port.

The benefit of USB-C is the fact you can plug the charging cable in either way round - just like Apple's lightning cable - making late night bedside fumbles less frustrating.

Verdict

If you're looking for a big screened smartphone with a decent slug or power, capable camera and reasonable price tag then look no further - the Moto X Style is the phone for you.

It may not have the glitz and glam of more expensive phablets such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, but it's not exactly lacking in terms of features.

The Moto X Style isn't for everyone, it is big and heavy, but it manages to deliver flagship performance a budget and for that it should be applauded.

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