Motorola essentially invented the cell phone, but it stumbled coming into the smartphone era. It has been making some great phones in the last few years, though, and the new Moto X Pure is the latest example of that. With a competitive price and attractive features, this phone might offer a good alternative to the market leading (and more expensive) Samsung Galaxy S6. Let’s see how they compare.
The Galaxy S6 is sleek and very clean in design, but it also looks like a lot of other phones — particularly the iPhone 6. The Moto X is more distinctive, but still recognizable as a Motorola phone. It has the same curved back and prominent front-facing speakers, whereas the GS6 has a completely flat back that doesn’t fit as nicely in your hand. It also has just one speaker on the bottom edge.
The Pure is also mildly water and dust-resistant with an IP52 rating. The GS6 doesn’t have any liquid ingress protection. I bet it would survive a quick dip, though, as it lacks a removable back panel for battery access. The Moto X is also completely sealed, but it has a microSD card slot on the SIM tray, which the GS6 lacks.
Motorola offers a wide selection of plastic, wood, and leather back panels, along with tinted metal accents, so you can design a phone in the Moto Maker online tool that looks just the way you want. The Galaxy S6 is all metal and glass, but it only comes in a few colors. These are both beautiful phones in their own way, but the Moto Maker customizations really set the Moto X apart. This is definitely one of the main selling points. If you don’t mind the glass construction, the Galaxy S6 is a much lighter phone. It’s only 132g to the Moto X Pure’s 179g.
The Moto X is much heavier because it’s simply a bigger phone. The display is 5.7-inches on the Pure, a substantial increase compared to last year’s Moto X. The Galaxy S6 is a much more modest 5.1-inches, but the size isn’t the only thing that sets them apart. Samsung uses Super AMOLED panels, and this one is fantastic. The GS6 has a 2560×1600 resolution AMOLED with very high brightness, perfect viewing angles, and vibrant, yet accurate colors. The GS6 and Note 5 have the best displays you can get on a smartphone.
I don’t think anyone was expecting the Moto X Pure to match the Samsung Galaxy S6 in the display department, but the company did something odd this year. The last few Motorola flagships have had AMOLED panels, but this year they switched to 1440p LCDs. This might be a cost-saving measure, but the display still looks good, though not as good as the GS6 obviously. The brightness is good enough for use outdoors and the viewing angles are above average. It reminds me very much of the LG G4’s LCD, but a bit brighter and not curved. The Moto X’s screen is bigger than the GS6, so the pixel density is lower, but both are crisp enough that you’ll never notice any difference.
Part of the Moto X’s screen real estate is eaten up by the on-screen navigation buttons. I prefer this setup personally, but there are many who swear by the physical buttons you get on the Galaxy S6. There’s also a handy fingerprint scanner in the GS6’s home button. The Moto X doesn’t have one of those.
The Moto X and Galaxy S6 are both powerful phones, but when it comes to pure horsepower, the GS6 runs away with it. This device has an octa-core Samsung Exynos 7420 system-on-a-chip (SoC) with four (LITTLE) Cortex-A53 cores and four (big) Cortex-A57 in a big.LITTLE configuration. Unlike the similarly specced Snapdragon 810, this chip manages eight cores well without aggressive thermal throttling. Motorola went with a more modest SoC, the Snapdragon 808. This is a hexa-core chip with four Cortex-A53 cores and two Cortex-A57 in a big.LITTLE configuration. The two faster cores produce less heat, so the chip doesn’t have to throttle like the more powerful 810.
In daily use, the difference in SoC power is negligible, although the GPU on the Exynos chip is faster than the one on the 808. However, the Snapdragon 808 is less power-hungry than the Exynos. Both phones also have NFC chips. It used to be that you didn’t need to specify that, but we live in interesting times (looking at you, OnePlus).
The GS6 and the Moto X Pure both have 3GB of RAM, which is plenty to keep apps running in the background. The Motorola device has typical RAM usage for an Android device, but Samsung has insisted on tuning the system a bit differently. The GS6 will only keep a few apps in memory, then it ends the background process. It’s not the sort of thing everyone will notice, but if you’re hopping quickly between a number of apps, you might notice they need to reload too often. The Moto X doesn’t do that.
As mentioned above, both phones have sealed-in batteries, but the Motorola’s is a bit Larger at 3000mAh. The Galaxy S6 is only 2550mAh, but the screen is more efficient to make up for it. The Moto X will probably get slightly better battery life under mixed use, but screen time will be roughly the same. This is assuming the GS6 doesn’t have some sort of software glitch that screws up the battery life, which owners seem to complain about often. Both phones support quick charging, which can completely fill a drained battery in around an hour, but only the GS6 has wireless charging built-in.
Motorola’s previous Android phones have had bad cameras. They might have been okay in some circumstances, like bright outdoor light, but The Moto X had a lot of room for improvement. Luckily, the Pure has a vastly improved 21MP image sensor with an f2.0 aperture. It doesn’t have optical image stabilization (OIS), but the software stabilization is surprisingly good. A bit of jostling won’t screw up a photo taken in medium or bright light.