They say people give their best when their backs are against the wall. We can bring several examples from the smartphone industry that have both proved and disproved this statement. However, the example of Motorola falls in the former category. After changing its owner’s hands several times, the company has managed to make a strong comeback in the market on the back of several excellent launches. And over the years, Motorola hasn’t been just sitting idle and enjoying its success, but has been giving solid products one after the other. The current hero phone from the company, the Moto Turbo (Droid Turbo in the US and Moto Maxx in the some regions) is a serious contender and has some solid specs to offer. Six months old, it still manages to stack up well against it’s competitors thanks to the solid hardware and a competitive price. We recently managed to get our hands on one and after using it as our primary driver for over two weeks, here are our thoughts.
Build and Design
Coming from my previous phone, Lumia 920 which sports a 4.7 inch screen, I was expecting this one to be difficult to pocket. Surprisingly it isn’t. Even with a 5.2 inch screen, the Moto Turbo manages to keep decent measures. The overall dimensions of the phone are only slightly bigger than those of Moto X or the Samsung Galaxy S6. The side bezels look acceptably thin, while the overall length of the phone is larger only due to the presence of capacitive buttons instead of on-screen ones. Considering that, I’d say Motorola has managed to keep an impressive profile. Turbo is packed with a massive 3,900mAh battery which adds to its waistline, which runs from 8.1-11.2mm along the length of the phone. Although, for such a huge battery, I am more than willing to make a sacrifice on the thickness front. With that battery (more on it later), the phone’s components add up to a weight of close to 176 grams, which is a good 30-40 grams more than the phones in its league. Again, coming from a Lumia 920, it doesn’t tend to bother me, as I find the weight to be well distributed along the body.
On the back, you’ll find a kevlar-woven back cover. Now, we’re not sure if it will protect you or your phone from bullets, but does look like a welcome change from the usual plastic and glass backs that we see on smartphones these days. However, not all of us will find this attractive. Opinions from other people have varied from the phone looking gorgeous to the Moto X looking much better. It comes down to your personal taste in the end. On the backside, you’ll also find the camera placed between two LED flashes in the center, which again looks neat according to us. On the front, you’ll find a speaker grille placed above the screen and a chrome grille that runs along the screen’s edge. On the top you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack, while on the lower side you’ll find a microUSB slot. The volume rocker houses a slot for the nano SIM and there’s only the power button besides this setup along the sides. Turbo is definitely a curvy phone, and chances are that you’ll either love it or hate it.
Besides the phone, the package comes with a rather large Turbo wall charger (that supports quick charge), a pair of earphones and a microUSB cable. I found the cable to be rather difficult to plug into the phone’s microUSB port and have been using my older cable without any trouble so far.
While not exactly the best by the current standards, Moto Turbo still offers pretty solid hardware. The first thing you’ll notice about the phone is the stunning 5.2 inch AMOLED display with an eye popping QHD (2560×1440) resolution. The setup translates into a staggering pixel density of 565ppi. There’s no question that the display looks fantastic. The colors are crisp and bright and the blacks looks deep thanks to that AMOLED display. It also assures a decent sunlight readability, something, you can’t say about IPS screens in general. Although you’d be wondering more than once if there’s any noticeable difference between this and an FHD display at all.
Under the hood, the Moto Turbo is no slacker. The phone packs a Snapdragon 805 running at 2.7GHz, paired with Adreno 420 graphics. You’ll also find 3GB RAM along with 64 gigs of internal storage and a massive 3,900mAh battery. While the current champion from Qualcomm in terms of performance is the Snapdragon 810, Snapdragon 805 manages to hold its ground. Since the phone sells for a price considerably lower than those of flagships from Samsung or LG, there’s no complaining. There’s no room for more memory, but we doubt an average user will need more than 64GB. Motorola claims a battery life of 48 hours under normal usage, but we’ll discuss that later. On the back you’ll find a 21 megapixel snapper, while the front boasts a 2MP shooter.
Given that Motorola packed everything it could from 2014, we’re more than happy with the overall package.
Software and performance
Moto Turbo/Maxx comes with Android 5.0.2 on board. The Verizon version of the phone is still on Android 4.4, but is expected to be upgraded directly to Android 5.1. Motorola has kept the Android experience close as close to stock as possible, giving a clean and responsive UI. Besides, Motorola has also packed some of its own goodies in the phone, including Moto Display and Moto Actions. Moto Actions gives you hands free access using voice commands. It’s not much different from Google Now, and Motorola claims it draws lesser juice compared to the latter. Moto Display allows you to see the time and notifications on your phones by simply waving your hand in front of the screen. It is a neat setup, but nothing new, as we’ve seen it on quite a few devices by now. As for Android updates, let’s hope Motorola continues to impress us with its timely updates and we get to see Android M on the phone before the end of the year.
We won’t be going in depth into Android Lollipop’s review, but in general the phone is quick and responsive. However, it does have it’s moments where it lags or freezes temporarily, which makes you wonder if Android still has hiccups running on even the best of hardware.
The call reception quality is good, however, the speaker on the phone could have been louder. Also, the presence of only a single speaker leaves you wanting for stereo sound in the speaker mode.
One area that leaves a lot to be desired is the heat management on the phone. If you’re using the stock charger, expect the phone to heat up like anything while charging. It tends to also heat when using it for browsing or chatting on IMs. There have also been instances when the phone was left idle for a few minutes and it was still hot as anything. We can only imagine what the situation would be like when playing some intensive games.
The battery is one of Moto Turbo’s biggest USP. However, with that QHD display, don’t expect out of the world performance. Initially, we were getting less than 24 hours of battery back up, which seemed appaling. A quick lookup in the Internet advised to drain the battery completely and charge it to full while keeping the phone switched off to re-calibrate the battery. Fortunately, the trick did its part and we now get anywhere between 36-48 hours of battery backup on the phone. It’s still not as high as some of the other phones out there, but is definitely better than some of the well known phones with QHD display.
It takes anywhere between two-three hours for the phone to charge from zero to full using the Turbo charger, and that’s understandable given the battery size. However, quick charge allows you to charge the phone for up to eight hours of use in just 20 minutes. Oh, and the phone supports Qi wireless charging standard as well.
We had huge expectations with the Turbo’s 21 megapixel camera, and to be honest it disappoints. Don’t get us wrong, but it fails to live up to the expectations. Outdoor shots are mediocre to decent, while indoor shots are terrible. We weren’t expecting DSLR level performance of course, but some of the other phones in this range simply have better cameras. The only thing that really impressed from the camera department were the close up shots.
The 2 megapixel front camera is not star performer either, but we didn’t have too many expectations from it to begin with. The phone can shoot videos in 4K, which are comparatively decent. The Moto Camera app also allows you to shoot HDR photos, along with setting the exposure and a few more settings, but nothing very pro level. That’s not a big issue given you can find plenty of third party apps in the Play Store. Then, there’s this handy feature that allows you to open the default camera app on the phone by twisting your wrist. It sounds like a gimmick, but is pretty useful. Twisting your wrist while the camera is on toggles between front and back cameras.
At Rs 42,000 (approximately $600), Moto Turbo is a decent offering. However, you can get a Samsung Galaxy S6 in the same budget, which is a better phone overall (except for the battery). Also, adding Rs 3,000 ($50) more will get you an iPhone 6. Both these propositions seem better than the Moto Turbo, but that doesn’t mean that the Moto Turbo is not an excellent phone in itself. On paper, the phone has got everything that makes it flagship material, while the real life performance is also decent. At Rs 42,000, it will still give you the biggest battery and on-board storage. Had only it’s camera been a little better, we would have recommended the phone to anyone in a heartbeat. Still, if you can get your hands on the phone in a sale or for a lower price, it is worth every penny and much better than last year’s flagships.