The Moto X4 brings back Motorola’s X series of smartphones. While it’s no longer the company’s flagship lineup, the X4 is quite an interesting smartphone with features not typically found on a mid-range device. Unfortunately, the X4 isn’t truly outstanding – even if it’s a solid product.
Most of the Moto X4’s hardware are what you’d expect from a capable mid-ranger. Its Snapdragon 630 chipset is par for the course, it has a bright and vibrant 5.2-inch Full HD display, and its 3,000mAh battery provides enough juice for a comfortable day of use.
There are also a couple of features that set the Moto X4 apart from its competition, such as an IP68 rating as well as a dual-camera system. We’ll explore the latter further down this review.
Personally, I think the Moto X4 is Motorola’s sleekest-looking smartphone in 2017. The glass back is mesmerising to look at, the aluminium frame feels great to the touch, and the phone as a whole feels really solid.
But there is one design element of the Moto X4 that sticks out – literally. Yep, the huge, circular camera bump on the back. While I quite like the design of the camera itself, the sheer size of the module is quite jarring to look at.
Aside from the odd camera design, there’s also the conventional front design of the Moto X4. Unlike other phones released recently, the X4 doesn’t have an 18:9 display or minimal bezels, giving it a rather dated-looking aesthetic. However, I do like the slightly curved glass back – it’s an ergonomically sound design.
Beyond the conventional design, the Moto X4’s front-facing fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate. The sensor is also used for Motorola’s one-button navigation, and much like how it was on the Moto G5 Plus, it’s quite intuitive to use after spending some time with it.
Although it doesn’t look quite as sleek as other 18:9 smartphones with tiny bezels, the Moto X4 – to me – is still quite a looker. I love how the phone feels in my hands, and I really dig the phone’s glossy finish.
But yeah, you’ll have to live with the huge camera bump.
Let’s start with one of the best aspects of the Moto X4: its near-stock version of Android. The phone feels fast and zippy, I can switch between apps without much hiccups, and Motorola’s no-nonsense software approach feels very polished and utilitarian – bloatware isn’t something you’d have to worry with the X4.
Speaking of utility, Moto Display is available on the Moto X4 too. I’ve mentioned it before a couple of times, but I really do think Moto Display is one of the best lock screen notification systems around. Whenever I receive a notification, an icon of the app that is sending said notification will pop up on the lock screen – I can then tap and hold on the icon to expand it. From there, I can either swipe up to go directly to the app, or swipe down to dismiss it. How convenient is that?
There are also the various Moto Actions, which uses gestures to activate certain features. I can “chop” the Moto X4 to activate the flashlight, twist the phone to launch the camera app, or even tap and hold anywhere on the screen with three fingers to capture a screenshot.
Moto Actions also include the Moto X4’s one-finger navigation, which utilises the fingerprint sensor. Swipe left on the sensor to go back, right to open the Recent Apps page, or tap to go to the home screen. It takes some time to get used to these gestures, but once you’re familiar with it, it’s actually quite intuitive. It also saves precious screen real estate.
And that brings us to the Moto X4’s 5.2-inch LTPS IPS display. The 1080p resolution is more than adequate for a display this size, and it’s really quite a good panel. Colours are vibrant, it can get bright enough to use comfortably under the sun, and viewing angles are good too.
In the performance side of things, the Moto X4 performs pretty admirably. The Snapdragon 630 chipset – while not quite as powerful as Qualcomm’s higher-end offering – lends a reasonably smooth user experience, and playing games like Hearthstone is quite pleasant on the X4.
Equipped with a 3,000mAh battery, the Moto X4 can return relatively good battery life – I can consistently get about four hours of screen on time with the device. Not great, but certainly not inadequate either. The X4’s TurboPower fast charging is pretty good too; I can charge the phone to about 55% in 30 minutes.
The Moto X4’s near-stock version of Android, Motorola’s very useful software features, and reasonably fast performance make the X4 one of the most fun mid-range phones I’ve used in the last six months. It would’ve been great if it had even better battery life, but it’s still a reasonably long-lasting phone.
Unlike most dual-camera smartphones, the Moto X4 comes with a standard 12MP primary shooter paired with a secondary 8MP 120-degree wide-angle camera, which allows for more flexible shooting options. I wasn’t quite sure I like the option of a wide-angle shooter – in comparison to a telephoto one – but after spending some time with it, I really like the flexibility of shooting wider-angle shots.
While the 8MP wide-angle camera has quite noticeable distortion, resulting in a fisheye-like effect in images,, the fact that I can frame even more subjects in a single picture came into handy quite a lot of times. I had a ball photographing with it.
Image quality, on the other hand, is…actually pretty good. The 12MP camera can take bright images even in low-light, and naturally, it’s equally good in daytime conditions too. However, the 8MP wide-angle shooter isn’t quite as capable. It’s still good under ideal lighting, of course, but low-light shots are noticeably grainier.
Another gripe I have with the Moto X4’s camera is the fact that the camera interface isn’t as responsive as it should be. There is a very noticeable pause in between shots, and the camera feels sluggish regardless of lighting condition. On top of that, the lack of optical image stabilisation can result in blurry shots at times.
The camera isn’t the Moto X4’s strongest suit, but I love the flexibility of shooting in standard or wide-angle view. Given time and patience, the X4 can take good-looking images too – just don’t expect it to be effortless.
Retailing at RM1,899, the Moto X4 is not nearly on the “affordable mid-range phone” segment. At this price point, the X4 has to contend with a number of really good phones too, such as Samsung’s new Galaxy A8 (2018).
Although its Malaysian price tag has not been revealed yet, the Galaxy A8 should be priced around the same ballpark as the Moto X4. In comparison to the X4, the A8 features a much sleeker and modern design, a superior 5.6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display, as well as better battery life despite packing a similar capacity 3,000mAh battery.
But to the Moto X4’s credit, it does have double the internal storage at 64GB, not to mention a near-stock version of Android – this alone may be worth it to some consumers.
And then we have none other than the Xiaomi Mi 6. Not only is it a higher-end smartphone, it also retails at the same price point as the Moto X4 at RM1,899. For the same price, the Mi 6 offers a Snapdragon 835 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM – a class above the Moto X4’s offering. It has better battery life thanks to the larger 3,350mAh battery, and the Mi 6 arguably sports a sleeker design, too.
However, unlike the Moto X4, the Mi 6 lacks support for expandable storage and even a 3.5mm headphone jack. To top it off, the Mi 6 is not IP68-rated like the Moto X4 either.
The Moto X4 is a good smartphone – great, even. It falls short in the camera department, but overall, it’s really a capable mid-range smartphone with very polished software experience – getting the right balance of good hardware and software is a task not many phone makers do well.
But in comparison to its competition – especially the Galaxy A8 (2018) – the Moto X4 doesn’t look quite as sleek or modern. It’s still quite a good-looking smartphone, in my opinion, but the thick bezels and conventional 16:9 display aren’t exactly desirable, especially for a smartphone at this price point.
If you can overlook these elements and want a mid-range smartphone with a refined software – that is also water-resistant – the Moto X4 is definitely worth considering. It’s even better if you can get it at a more affordable price tag.
Photography by Leon Lam.