Moto's new devices

New Moto X vs. the original: Worth the upgrade?

To upgrade or not to upgrade? This detailed guide, based on months of real-world usage, will help you decide.

New Moto X vs. Original
JR Raphael, IDG

Moto's new devices

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So, the new Moto X is a mighty fine phone. That much we've established. But for those of us who own the first-generation model, is it a significant enough step forward to be worth the upgrade?

It's a tough question -- and one I'm closely considering myself. (The original Moto X has been my personal phone for the past year, in case you're new to these parts.)

Now that my new Moto X review is complete, I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk specifically about how the phone compares with its predecessor in real-world terms. Armed with that knowledge, you'll be better prepared to decide if the various changes add up to make the upgrade worthwhile for you.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to think carefully about the following six areas and how much they matter to you:

1. The size

This is the first and most critical thing you need to consider in determining if the new Moto X is right for you. As you've probably heard, this year's device is meaningfully bigger than the original -- and that makes a big difference in what it's like to hold and use.

I won't beat around the bush: The new Moto X is less ergonomic than its predecessor. It's by no means a huge device; it's just more in line with the size of most current flagships. It's a tad bit narrower than the , in fact, and significantly smaller than the One (M8).

But compared to last year's Moto X -- a phone that was fairly small by current flagship standards -- it fits less naturally and comfortably into your hand. So if you really love the size of the original Moto X, you might not be thrilled with how the line has evolved.

If, on the other hand, you like the idea of a larger device or don't have a strong feeling either way, the new model might be right up your alley.

New Moto X vs. Original: Size

I'll tell you this: When I first started using the new Moto X, I was very down on the increased size. I'm among those who loved the ergonomic form of the original, and I was annoyed that Motorola didn't stick closer to those dimensions.

After living with it for a while, though, my feelings have evolved. Sure, given the opportunity, I'd happily shrink the new model down to last year's size -- but the bigger screen does have its benefits, as we'll discuss in a moment. And even though the new phone is nearly half an inch taller and a third of an inch wider than the first-gen model, it's thinner than the old device and almost the same weight. For a phone of its class, it's actually quite sleek and comfortable.

Give it some thought -- or better yet, head to a retail store and spend some time holding one for yourself -- and see how you feel.

2. The screen

About that screen: The new Moto X has a 5.2-in. display, up from 4.7 in. on the previous model. 

Tradeoffs, right? You carry a bigger phone, you get a bigger display. Setting aside all thoughts on device size for a moment, there's no denying that more screen space is nice to have. You win some, you lose some.

New Moto X vs. Original: Display

As for the resolution, the new Moto X bumps things up from 720p to 1080p. It really is a lovely-looking screen -- but is it meaningfully better in appearance than the first-gen model's? You might think the answer would be "yes," but personally, I find the perceptible difference to be pretty negligible. 

The original Moto X's display took a lot of flak for being "only" 720p, but I never found it to be any cause for complaint. Yes, it was "only" 720p, but it was also only 4.7 inches. At that size, 720p makes for a perfectly crisp, sharp, and fine-looking screen.

So unless you're obsessed with specs or have superhuman vision, I'd think more about the size than the resolution of the display when mulling over this upgrade. The new phone's screen is spacious and superb, by all means -- but in terms of visible quality alone, it's not as much of a night-and-day difference from the previous model's as the numbers might seem to suggest.

3. The style

The new Moto X steps things up in the design department with the addition of a metal frame around the phone's perimeter. As I noted in my review, that really does make for a more sophisticated and premium vibe.

The new frame and redesigned "super-dimple" also go a long way in making wood feel like a more natural part of the design, if you pick that for your device's back. The wood-backed versions of the new Moto X are downright gorgeous and quite possibly my favorite phones in terms of appearance right now.

New Moto X vs. Original: Style

Speaking of materials, the new Moto X also comes with the ability to get a real leather back. I'm a little skeptical about how well it'll hold up over time, but it's certainly a cool and unique option.

4. The camera

The new Moto X's camera -- while still not the best in the world -- is markedly better than its predecessor's. It's a pretty striking difference; check out my head-to-head shootout to see for yourself.

5. The speed

As you'd expect, the new Moto X is a bit more advanced than the first-gen model in the realm of performance. In day-to-day use, it's honestly not an enormous difference -- and the original Moto X is still plenty speedy -- but the new model is a touch snappier, for sure.

6. The battery life

I'm coming close to hitting empty less quickly with the new Moto X than I did with my first-gen model. Battery life could stand to be a bit better yet, but based on my real-world use, at least, I'd say this year's phone packs a modest but noticeable stamina boost.

7. The bells and whistles

Big stuff aside, the new Moto X has a few new features that are worth weighing into any upgrade decision:

  • The sensors. Thanks to a series of new sensors on the phone's face, you can see the current time and any pending notifications simply by waving your hand over the phone -- as high as 10 inches above it. You can wave to silence incoming calls or alarms, too, and the phone also uses the sensors to keep its display on longer when you're looking at it (a feature that works delightfully well). Nothing transformative, of course, but some useful little tricks you'll probably appreciate.
  • The charging. The new Moto X supports "turbo charging," which allows you to get an extra eight hours of use with just 15 minutes plugged in. You'll have to pony up an extra 35 bucks for a special charger in order to take advantage of it, but it might be worth it -- especially if you spend much time in airports.
  • The speaker. The new Moto X moves the speaker to the front of the phone, and boy, does that sucker sound good. Even though the original Moto X had surprisingly impressive audio, the new phone undoubtedly one-ups it: It's louder and fuller-sounding, and the fact that it comes from the phone's front makes a big difference when you're watching videos.

This year's Moto X has some neat new software elements, too (see my review for the full rundown), but most of those will probably reach the first-gen phone eventually -- so they aren't really reasons to upgrade in and of themselves.

To upgrade or not to upgrade?

All considered, I'd say this: The new Moto X is a significant step up from its predecessor in a lot of ways -- but it isn't a "must-have" upgrade.

If you're content with your current phone, there's no huge reason not to stick with it. The first-gen Moto X remains an excellent device with an outstanding overall user experience, and the arrival of this new model does nothing to change that (especially considering how committed Motorola is to providing timely ongoing software upgrades).

If any of the aforementioned areas tickle your fancy, though, or if you're just itching for something new -- and, critically, if you're okay with the idea of moving to a larger phone -- the new Moto X will be a really nice improvement from what you have now. You absolutely don't need it, but you'll almost certainly enjoy it.

Just make sure you're ready for one more difficult decision.

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