If you thought Motorola was out for the count in the phone world, think again. After buying up the phone manufacturer last year, the Moto X is the first smartphone developed from the ground up since Google acquired Motorola Mobility last year.
Galaxy S4 vs Moto X – Design
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Plastic rear, 7.9mm thick, Gorilla Glass 3
Motorola Moto X – Carbon fibre-reinforced rear, 8.7mm thick, Sapphire
If the Moto X has a design USP, it is customisation. The phone can be pretty much completely tailored to your desires, with over 2,000 combinations possible.
What that actually means is that you can pick between 18 different back covers, two front covers, and can tweak things such as the look of the volume buttons and camera surround. The plastic-backed Galaxy S4 comes in a few different colours, but the basic look remains the same whether you have a red, black or white one.
Both phones are a pretty thin, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 is thinner. It’s 7.9mm thick, where the Moto X is 8.7mm. That at its thickest point, though, and it’s possible that the Motorola will be thinner in certain areas. There’s not much in it, either way.
The Moto X also uses Sapphire glass instead of the more common toughened Gorilla Glass from Corning, as used in the Galaxy S4.
Both are toughened forms of glass designed to avoid scratches and smashing under pressure.
According to tests held by Corning, Gorilla Glass 3 is stronger than Sapphire. But then it would find that, wouldn’t it?
Galaxy S4 vs Moto X – Screen
Samsung Galaxy S4 – 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED
Motorola Moto X – 4.7-inch 720p OLED
Taking a closer look at these phones’ screens is where we start to see that these mobiles really aren’t in the same class – and they aren’t meant to be.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a slightly larger screen than the Moto X, at five inches instead of 4.7, but the more significant difference is in resolution. Samsung’s phone has a Full HD display, where the Moto X uses a 720p panel.
Both are capable displays, but 720p resolution ensures the Moto X can’t become anything more than an upper-mid range phone among its Android peers.
They both have OLED-type screens, which will only serve to highlight the difference in resolution. OLED displays appear less sharp than their LCD alternatives because of their underlying pixel structure.
It’s a clear victory for the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Galaxy S4 vs Moto X – CPU and RAM
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Quad-core 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600, Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB RAM
Motorola Moto X – Dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, Adreno 320, 2GB RAM
The CPU is yet another clue that the Moto X is not meant to be a top-end phone – it’s really competing more closely with the Galaxy S4 Mini than the Galaxy S4.
It has a dual-core processor rather than a quad-core one like the Galaxy S4’s Snapdragon 600. The processor family of the Moto X is ever so slightly less advanced too – the S4 Pro is a tiny bit slower, GHz to GHz, but they use the same Krait processor cores so the difference is minimal.
However, with twice the number of cores and a slightly higher clock speed, the Galaxy S4 is a significantly more powerful phone.
For the most part, though, you won’t notice the difference. Both have 2GB RAM, which is important for greasing the cogs of a fully-loaded smartphone and both have the Adreno 320 GPU. This is more of an indicator of gaming performance than CPU speed.
Galaxy S4 vs Moto X – Camera
Samsung Galaxy S4 – 13-megapixel camera with LED flash, 2-megapixel rear sensor
Motorola Moto X – 10-megapixel camera with LED flash ‘Clear Pixel’, 2-megapixel rear sensor
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a higher-resolution main camera sensor than the Moto X, but – surprise, surprise – Motorola has tried to cast this as a good thing.
Motorola has come up with the term Clear Pixel camera, nicking a cue or two from the HTC One and its UltraPixel camera. Clear Pixel rests on the idea that as the Moto X has slightly larger camera sensor pixels than phones like the Galaxy S4 – because most phone sensors are round the same size (tiny), the more megapixels you fit in, the smaller the sensor pixels have to be.
The Moto X is going back to go forward – geddit?
The Clear Pixel argument is spoilt a little by the truth that the Moto X’s sensor pixels aren’t all that big. They’re 1.4 microns across, where the HTC One’s are 2 microns, and the Galaxy S4’s around 1.1 microns.
Before you get too excited, the iPhone 4S has 1.4-micron pixels, and wasn’t particularly renowned for its incredible low-light photo abilities. However, it's sensor it's larger than average, in order to fit in those larger-than-average sensor pixels. It has a 1/2.6-inch sensor, where most phones have 1/3.2 to 1/4-inch sensors. It's larger than the S4's, and also uses an additional clear pixel in its sensor pixel arrangement, alongside the red, blue and green ones, to improve low-light performance.
The output of the clear pixel is combined with that of the colour pixels to improve picture accuracy, but we'll have to wait to get our hands on a Moto X to see how it fares. In theory it should be able to offer superior low-light performance to the Galaxy S4.
The Moto X's approach to video does sound quite interesting, too. It lets you group up pixels into teams of four, for better-quality 1080p video. A 3-megapixel camera can theoretically capture 1080p video, so this makes good use of the Moto X’s megapixel count.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t make such tech claims, but does know how to pack in the additional software features. We’ll perform a more direct comparison when we get to spend more time with the Moto X.
The Motorola Moto X is not, as we expected, a super high-end phone like Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s a solid mid-range phone that provides high-end specs for many people not to notice the difference between it and the top phones out there. However, as the price isn't much lower - not to mention that we're not sure if it'll ever reach the UK - the Galaxy S4 doesn't have too much to worry about.