Motorola Moto X4 hands-on

Key Features

  • 5.2-inch FHD screen
  • 12-megapixel standard lens with an 8-megapixel 120 degree wide angle sensor rear camera
  • 16-megapixel front camera
  • Snapdragon 630 CP
  • 4GB RAM, 64GB storage (microSD)
  • 3000mAh battery
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Moto X4 hands-on: Another mid-range offering from Motorola

Moto X4 release date: September

Moto X4 price: €399

Months ago, Motorola claimed it was simplifying its smartphone offering by cutting the Lenovo branding out of the UK and sticking to its established Moto E, G and Z family names. But mere months on that hasn’t stopped in unveiling a new mid-range handset, the Moto X4.

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On paper, the X4 looks a little pointless; its €399 price tag places it awkwardly close to its similarly priced sibling, the Moto Z2 Play. But having had a go with the X4, I’ve found some things to like.

For starters, the design is far more attractive than the Moto Z2 Play, which felt a little sharp and awkward to hold, especially with Moto Mod attachments. The X4 has a mixed metal and glass design that looks swish by comparison.

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The 3D Gorilla Glass front and rear, plus contoured sides, make it noticeably more comfortable to hold – and although the platinum model was an outright smudge magnet, it felt suitably rugged. The IP68 water-resistance rating also means that it will survive accidental aquatic encounters unscathed.

Some users may bemoan the fact that it doesn’t support Motorola’s line of attachable “Mod” peripherals – but being blunt, I don’t view that as a huge loss. Despite enlisting big names such as Hasselblad to create Mods, to date I’m yet to find any Moto Mod useful – outside of the basic battery pack, which was pretty much essential for the Z2 Play that came with a dinky cell by default.

Under the hood, Motorola has made a few important updates to the X4. The CPU has been upgraded to Qualcomm’s newer, more efficient 630 model. Combined with 4GB of RAM, the CPU should result in smoother performance and improve the phone’s power efficiency. During my hands-on I only had the opportunity to enact basic tasks, but in general I was pleased with the phone’s performance. Navigating menus was a smooth, chug-free experience, and the X4 dealt with multi-tab web browsing without issue.

The more important changes focus on the X4’s camera. Unlike the Z2 Play, the X4 has a custom dual-camera setup that pairs a 12-megapixel standard lens with an 8-megapixel 120-degree wide-angle sensor. Motorola claims the setup will improve overall photo quality and the camera’s performance in low-light conditions.

Until I get to take the phone out into the real world and see photos blown up on a proper monitor, I can’t sensibly comment on the X4’s photographic prowess. But snapping shots around the demo room I found the combo was fairly impressive, and photos taken on the X4 displayed decent colour balance and looked suitably sharp. The fake bokeh effect also didn’t look completely terrible, as it does on most smartphones.

My only quibble is that the pre-release custom camera app was prone to crashing and felt a bit on the slow side. The app froze five times during my 20-minute demo session. A Motorola spokesman at the event promised these issues will be fixed when the phone is released in September, though.

The app’s temperamental nature was particularly odd since the X4’s software is otherwise pretty decent. On board you’ll find a an almost untouched version of Android Nougat, which is blissfully free of duplicate apps.

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The few additions Motorola has made are pretty useful. The Moto Display feature intelligently pushes alerts and information while the phone is in sleep mode, and there’s Amazon Alexa support alongside a few new gems, the best of which are its Moto Key and landmark-recognition features.

Moto Key is a cool-sounding safety feature that will let you lock your Windows Computer to the X4’s fingerprint scanner. This means you could set the laptop to only unlock or approve specific actions – in-app payments, for example – with the scanner. This will be a welcome addition for families that share PCs and laptops.

The landmark-recognition feature, meanwhile, intelligently recognises and pulls information on famous objects and landmarks at which you point the camera. I didn’t get a chance to test it during the demo, but I can see it being a great feature for avid travellers.

First impressions

Although the X4 doesn’t sit neatly in Motorola’s established E, G, Z smartphone lines, it feels like a decent mid-range handset. Outside of some bugs with its pre-release camera app, I struggled to find any significant shortcomings with the phone; its lack of support for Moto Mods, maybe – although, being honest, I’ve never been completely sold on these so can’t see the omission being a real sticking point for the majority of buyers. Hopefully, the X4’ll make good on its opening promise when it’s released in September.