Lenovo, the parent company of Motorola, launched its latest device the Moto X4 on 13 November in the Indian market. This launch comes right after the company launched Moto G5S Plus.
During the launch event, the company emphasised on how it wants to focus on the design of the smartphone in addition to optimised user experience to stand apart from the crowd. Lenovo has priced the base model of the Moto X4 with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage at Rs 20,999 and the top end model with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage at Rs 22,999. But, competition like Xiaomi Mi A1 and its own Moto G5S Plus and Z2 Play will give the device a tough competition.
We reviewed the Xiaomi Mi A1 and concluded that Android One and respectable mid-range specifications make for and great value proposition, especially in a price conscious market like India. We reviewed the Moto G5S Plus and stated that the device is a winning combination of good internal specifications, optimised software with competitive pricing. However, the camera needed improvements. With the launch of Moto X4, the company sent us a review unit with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage, the premium of the two variants.
The smartphone looks brilliant and similar to the Moto G5S Plus, it packs a dual camera setup on the back of the device. I have used it as my daily driver for last 10 days, pushing the smartphone to its limits in terms of usage. After extensive tests and usage, the Moto X4 has left me quite impressed. Here’s why!
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The highlight of the Moto X4 is the design and it is the first thing you will notice when you take the device out of the box. I loved the design when I first took it out of the box regardless some doubts about the fingerprints on the glass back of the device. However, my concerns about the design have been unfounded as even though the back of the phone catches fingerprints, they can be easily wiped off without leaving a smudge.
The device looks premium and it was a common thing for friends and people around to inquire about phone everytime I took it out of my pocket. Lenovo has opted for a new design which refreshed the old X-series with full glass panels on the front as well as back with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. One should note that glass front and back means that the device is more vulnerable to breaking despite the Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Lenovo has stated that it would be better to use a case with the device, to ensure that the back of the device has additional protection.
Moto X4 feels sturdy and rigid in hand without any squeaking parts except probably stiff hardware buttons on the side of the device. The company has changed a number of things when it comes to the design to ensure that this is different than the current Moto G and Moto Z series. Some smaller changes include the change in shape of the fingerprint scanner on the front of the smartphone to ensure that users can easily use the ‘One-key navigation’, a ‘Moto’ experience feature.
The device features a camera bump on the back, but Moto has turned that into a design opportunity. It has paid attention with the glass design around the camera bump to make it resemble a premium watch face like aesthetic. This does not mean that the bump and all the problems like unevenness, when put on a flat surface and risk of scratching the device, go away.
Moto X4 comes with a Type-C reversible USB port on the bottom of the device along with the 3.5-mm headphone jack. The SIM-tray is located towards the left side on the top of the device. The SIM tray is not rigid plastic or metal from the inside. Instead, it is a flexible plastic which is a nice touch.
You will find the volume buttons and the power button a little towards the top on the right-hand side of the device. Looking at the device from the front, you will find the 16 MP camera module at the top-right corner of the device along with the LED-flash on the top-left side of the device. There are no buttons on the left. Little details with antenna bands neatly running along the borders to integrate with the design and polished metal finish make a huge difference.
The company has also stated that the device comes with IP68-rating which means that the device remains protected from spills and dust.
Moto X4 features a 5.2-inch FHD display panel. Lenovo has packed a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 SoC with an octa-core CPU clocked at up to 2.2 GHz along with Adreno 508 GPU to handle graphics-intensive tasks. The phone comes in two variants, the first with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage and the second variant with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage. Both the variants get the option to expand storage up to 2 TB using an external microSD card.
There is a dual camera setup with a 12 MP and an 8 MP camera sensor on the back of the smartphone. Moto X4 comes with a 16 MP camera module on the front of the device for good selfies. The device also packs a 3,000 mAh battery with TurboCharge.
It will come with Android Nougat 7.1.1 out of the box along with Moto experiences that include the newly introduced Moto Key, existing Moto Actions, Moto Display and Moto Voice. Lenovo has added accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass and fingerprint on the front as sensors to enhance the user experience of the smartphone.
Lenovo has added Type-C USB port, GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v5 with A2DP, LE, aptX, and EDR support, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and Dual nano-SIM slots for connectivity.
The Moto X4 features a 5.2-inch full-HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) LTPS IPS LCD display panel with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for added protection. The LCD panel comes with a 424 PPI pixel density and a 68.4 percent screen-to-body ratio. These things seem to be improved when compared to previous Moto G devices or the Moto devices launched earlier this year.
The display looks bright and vibrant with good viewing angles. The brightness level does take a hit when viewed from extreme angles. The display is sharp and one can see all the details of the contents of the screen without any ghosting or haze. The screen is reflective so you will end up searching for shade when trying to view the screen and try to read the contents on the screen under direct sunlight. This is not to say that the brightness is the problem. Instead, the amount of light reflected back is the problem. The video viewing experience on the X4 is good as well.
Moto has brought back the usual bunch of tweaks to the stock Android experience in the form of Moto app along with interesting additions such as the Moto Key and Object Detection. The device packs Android Nougat 7.1.1 out of the box along with 1 September 2017 Android security patch and we can expect Android 8.0 Oreo-based update in early 2018. The software is fast and zippy out of the box and did not show any signs of slowing down despite pushing it to its limits.
I felt that the speed on system animations was sped up out of the box making it somewhat jarring in terms of transition animations. The UI seemed to skip frames because of the speed of the transition and animations. Android gives users the option to change the animation speed as part of the Developer Options in the operating system.
One needs to enable these options. I enabled them and changed the animation speed to normal and found out that it solved the issue with sped up animations that gave a feeling that the UI was skipping frames. This change turned the UI experience across the system to buttery smooth as one would expect from a well optimised operating system.
Similar to the last offering, the Moto G5S Plus, the X4 comes with a minimal amount of bloatware where users get stock Android with ‘Moto’, ‘Device Help’, and ‘Files’ apps along with standard Google apps. Lenovo has added ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘Outlook’ in the device that can count as bloatware. The ‘Moto’ app comes with ‘Moto Actions’, ‘Moto Display’, ‘Moto Voice’, and the newly introduced ‘Moto Key’ feature to add to the functionality of the device. Lenovo has added the Google Assistant navigation bar animation, circular app icons and app shortcuts that we've only seen on the Pixel and other Moto devices like the Moto Z2 Play and Moto G5S Plus.
The new ‘Moto Key’ feature is Lenovo’s attempt to make multi-device authentication easy. To clarify, ‘Moto Key’ in the ‘Moto’ app on the device is only a part of the entire software package which includes a full-fledged ‘Moto Key’ companion app for the desktop and a Google Chrome extension. The software package as a whole allows users to log into their Windows-powered devices using the fingerprint sensor on you Moto X4 for the login authentication. This functionality extends to logging in on websites on your Windows-powered device when you are using Google Chrome. This means that if you want to log in to Facebook on your desktop, you can login without the need to type in the password by just using the fingerprint on your X4.
The entire software solution worked fine without any hiccups. However, the ‘Moto Key’ software for Windows created a separate login ‘user’ account for authentication to work to access my Windows account. Moto has also added a new ‘Object and Monument’ detection in its camera software which I’ll talk more about in the camera section.
Last but not the least, Lenovo had already launched the Moto X4 in other markets like the United States. However, the X4 in the United States is powered by Google’s Android One program which enables faster updates rolled directly from Google. It would have been great to see an Android One-powered Moto device in the Indian market as a competition to Xiaomi Mi A1 but the company clarified that it did not feel the need to launch it in India because of the already-present near stock Android experience. The reason for Lenovo to launch one in the United States is because it wanted to get on the Google Project Fi network. Moto X4 also supports Amazon Alexa out of the box in the US. In India, it wasn't available at the time of testing. In essence, it is expected to function like the Google Assistant on the X4.
Moto X4 performs admirably well when it comes to day-to-day usage. It handled my regular use without any problems and left me impressed as a daily driver device. I did not encounter any lags during my extended session while playing heavy duty games like Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 8: Airborne, Dead Trigger 2 and Gear Club.
It did get mildly warm around the upper left area on the back of the device, on the left of the camera bump, during the extended gaming sessions. But the heat dissipation was quick to bring the surface temperature back to normal. All the everyday apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, music streaming on Google Play Music and using Adobe Photoshop Express to edit images ran without a hitch.
I did not encounter any issue while placing cellular or internet calls on the X4 and the connectivity and voice clarity was spot on. The bundled earphones with the device were decent with a good audio quality for any pair of bundled earphones.
Talking about the benchmark scores, Moto X4 is one of the first smartphones with Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 SoC that packs an octa-core CPU clocked at up to 2.2 GHz along with Adreno 508 GPU in the Indian market. The scores were definitely higher than those of Snapdragon 625 and Snapdragon 626 and lower from Snapdragon 650 and 652 but there is no other smartphone in the Indian market that comes with Snapdragon 630 at the time of writing.
Moto X4 comes with a dual camera setup. It has changed the type of setup that comes with the X4 when compared with the Moto G5S Plus. This time in addition to a 12 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, the device comes with a wide-angle 8 MP camera sensor with f/2.2 aperture. It comes with phase detection autofocus along with a dual tone flash unit on the back of the device. Moto has added a 16 MP camera module on the front of the device along with f/2.0 aperture and a LED flash unit.
Users can shoot 4K videos from the rear camera while the front camera can shoot 1080p videos. Lenovo has brought back the usual features in the camera department like ‘Selective Focus’, ‘Replace background’ options in the ‘Depth Editor app’ from the Moto G5S Plus. There's a new feature called the ‘Adaptive low light’ on the front camera for better selfies in dimly lit conditions. The software combines the pixels captured by the camera and then outputs a smaller resolution image with lower noise and better image quality. The software also comes with a new feature called ‘Spot Color’ where users can tap on any colour in the live view-finder to keep that colour while turning the rest of the image into black and white. You can also increase or decrease the intensity of the colour using a slider on the screen.
The software also added an on-screen button to switch between the regular and the wide-angle lens on the back. However, the speed of the switching mechanism is slow with noticeable lag. The company can optimise the switching time in future software updates. Another problem with the button is the fact that sometimes it was hard to stop it in highly reflective situations like direct sunlight or abundance of light from the surroundings, with the on-device view-finder pointing at a light background.
Moving on to the quality of images, the ones shot in decent lighting conditions are good with fair amount of details. The camera tends to overexpose images at times but nothing that can’t be fixed using a software patch. However, the quality of images takes a hit when we try to zoom in to find the finer details in the images. There is no texture in the image despite good lighting conditions and some images look like a painting.
The situation takes a turn for the worse at night when a lot of noise is noticed in the images. The problems with the lack of texture are not limited to certain situations as it extends across the board including for HDR images as well. The company needs to improve the low light performance of the X4. The adaptive low light mode is not of much help when it comes to performance in dimly lit conditions. The images turn blotchy and grainy while shooting dark scenes. Moto has added a professional mode allowing users to tinker with shutter speed, white balance, ISO and focus of the camera and it does help with the noise reduction while experimenting with settings. The wide-angle lens on the back camera provides a great field of view allowing users to take those group selfies by flipping the phone around. The images are distorted around the corner but the field of view makes them interesting. The image quality using the wide-angle lens does take a hit because of distortion and slower aperture but the quality is good and it allows users to experiment with some unique framing opportunities. Lenovo has also added a new feature called the ‘Object’ detection or Monument detection mode with Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 SoC. Qualcomm announced the details about the onboard neural engine that is backed with the Snapdragon 630. Users will need to enable it in the camera settings and then download a database that can help the device detect the 1200 monuments.
The feature is powered by the Neural Processing Engine (NPE) on the chip that has been designed to bring artificial intelligence (AI) experiences on the device. The feature allows the camera to identify the landmarks in near real-time and also provides additional information about the landmarks. The Object detection feature is powered by CloudSight where the images clicked are sent to the CloudSight server and the system runs image recognition, text recognition and other things to extrapolate the object in the image.
Lenovo has managed to ensure that the X4 is optimised to provide good battery life. The device easily lasted a normal work day for me that included heavy usage comprising of three email accounts on sync, constant emailing, WhatsApp messages, 10-15 photos, listening to musing for 1-1.5 hours, 1-1.5 hour of YouTube videos, and an hour of gaming. The X4 scored 10 hours and 3 minutes in the PCMark for Android Work 2.0 battery test reaffirming that the battery performance in the device is respectable.
Users will get 3,000 mAh non-removable Lithium-Ion battery along with a 15W Turbo-Charger. The device supports Turbocharging to charge the device from 0 to 100 percent in 1 hour and 48 minutes.
Verdict and Price in India
Moto X4 is another impressive device by Lenovo that offers great near-stock Android software experience along with optimised battery performance. The device could handle anything that I threw at it. However, the primary highlight of the device is how premium and classy it looks without compromising on the performance front. The device does need some polishing when it comes to the camera department, but that is similar to previous Moto devices. Moto has priced the lower variant of the X4 at Rs 20,999 and the high-end variant is priced at Rs 22,999.
Even though the price may look a tad bit expensive, the company has provided a compelling package. The device wins hands down in the design department as well as the performance department considering there is no other device with Snapdragon 630 SoC in the Indian smartphone market at this price point.
The Moto X4 triumphs over two of the only devices that could challenge the X4 in this price segment, Oppo F3 Plus and Huawei Honor 9i. Other competing devices around the price segment can be the Moto G5S Plus and the Moto Z2 Play.
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