I have had a month with both phones and in this review/face-off I want to highlight the differences between them, and I’ll even declare a winner, if possible. Check out below what my thoughts are.
First of all, I am specifically comparing the grey 64Gb model of the Nexus 6P and the white Moto X Style with an additional 64Gb of storage via SD Card. To set the following in perspective, the Nexus 6P costs 699 euros on the Google Store while the Moto X Style currently costs 499 euros on Amazon.
Design and build
These are both large phones, with their 5.7" size screens. As a result, neither are easily used one-handed. However, I feel that the Moto X Style is slightly more pleasant to hold. This is a mixture of the shape and materials. The Nexus 6P feels larger and heavier and while made out of beautiful metal, it is as a result extremely slippery without a case (and putting one on, makes the phone larger still). In that sense, the Nexus 6P reminds me a lot of the iPhone 6S Plus – beautiful but a bit unwieldy. The Moto X Style is more pleasant to hold, and I don’t feel I need a case to use it comfortably and confidently.
Although functionally the Moto X Style may win, in terms of sheer design, the Nexus 6P stands above the Moto X Style. It is thin, feels very premium and is beautiful. The Moto X is not bad looking, but there is a noticeable difference. I am sure this is a place where the cost difference came into play.
First of all, the screens on both phones are reasonably good. That being said, I certainly prefer the Nexus 6P screen as its colours pop a little more and it’s a little brighter. Also, the viewing angles on the Nexus 6P are much better. In fact, the viewing angles on the Moto X Style are quite poor: the screen turns dull and washed out rather quickly if you don’t look at it head-on.
Although the 6P screen is better, it is not the best screen I have tried. My current phone is the Galaxy Note 4, and that screen has much better outside legibility. In that sense, Samsung clearly still has the best screens and both Huawei and Motorola have a lot to learn.
Both phones have some sort of Active Display, i.e. showing content while the phone is not actually unlocked (and the screen is off). Motorola is the brand that popularised this with the first Moto X, and they have a really good thing going. It is terribly useful to quickly view and act on notifications as well as play/pause multimedia. The Active Display turns on when you wave your hand over it or pick up the phone. Fantastic feature!
The Nexus 6P has an Active Display lite of sorts. When a notification comes in, it will show it briefly on the screen with white text on a black screen, making perfect use of the AMOLED panel’s qualities. It is useful for what it is – you can quickly see what the notification was for – but it is not as useful as Motorola’s implementation.
Performance and battery life
They both have similar specs, but the Nexus 6P has a slightly more powerful CPU and GPU. I would personally argue that this should not be noticeable, unless you play heavy duty games or load very large web sites. In general operation, these chips should give a very similar experience. However, for whatever reason, the experience on both phones is different. Scrolling is buttery smooth on the Nexus 6P, but not on the Moto X Style (or the Note 4 for that matter). As is generally the case, the Nexus phones are in a league of their own (in the Android world) when it comes to performance.
Although the Nexus 6P is as smooth an Android experience as you will find right now, web browsing is still not a great experience. A colleague of mine that uses iOS asked how the phone was and I said it was great. She loaded a web site on the 6P and tried pinch to zoom and panning on the screen and it was painful to see. Safari on iOS is how browsing on a mobile device should be. I realise this is not the Nexus 6P’s problem, as it affects all Android phones, but it is something that needs to be addressed urgently!
Both phones have big batteries and will last you more than certainly a day of moderate to heavy use. The nexus 6P is particularly strong in this area. Most of the days, I could finish with 20-30% in the tank. Great stuff and almost iPhone xx Plus territory. Once the Moto X Style got Marshmallow, it performed similarly, in my experience.
Both of the phones have good speakers. They are stereo front-facing speakers, which is basically the ideal set-up. The Moto X Style speakers do get a bit louder which is nice, but the Nexus 6P is sufficient in my opinion, for car navigation, speaker calls and some podcast/music listening.
Motorola has a long track record of poor camera results. However, every year they make substantial improvements. This year’s camera is again a step above last year’s Moto X. It has a very high pixel count (21MP) when compared to previous year’s camera. Furthermore, it has a pretty unique camera interface, where you can move the focal point and exposure measurement by sliding it to the place you want with your finger. After that, by tapping on the screen in any place, the camera takes the picture. It hasn’t become second nature, as a tap to focus and then hitting the shutter button feels more intuitive, as just about all other cameras use that paradigm.
Under day light conditions the Moto X Style takes good pictures, although some HDR picture come out slightly blown out still. Where the camera falls down a little is in low-light shots, where it doesn’t manage to capture sufficient light and has quite a lot of noise in the pictures.
Nexus phones have a poor track record when it comes to camera quality. Arguably, this was often due to poor image processing algorithms. These are complicated/expensive to develop and often depend on work done by others (which means paying the necessary royalties to those folks). In order to avoid this, Huawei and Google, went with fewer, but larger, pixels so that the raw data captured is as rich and accurate as possible. Specifically, its camera has a 12MP sensor. From a specifications point of view, I would have liked to see OIS (particularly given the price point of the phone), but it does not have it (just like the Moto X Style).
The resulting pictures of the Nexus 6P are very nice I must say. The interface is plain, but works well enough for the regular person. It is reasonably fast in operation (launching, focussing, shot-to-shot time), with only the image processing taking up some time in the background (when you are shooting HDR). In day light it offers good results, although, similarly to the Moto X Style, it tends to blow out the high lights in outdoor HDR shots. This is a bit of a shame. In lower-light scenes, the pictures come out pretty good I find. It captures a lot of light and the photo is clear as long as the subjects were not moving around.
Finger print scanner
The Nexus 6P has a finger print scanner on the back of the phone. During the phone set-up, you are asked whether you want to set up the scanner. It takes very little time to do, and afterwards it is very fast in recognising the fingerprint and unlocking the phone. The fact that I can simply place the finger on the scanner and the phone unlocks is quite handy. However, I find the placement to be awkward. When you are out and about it is fine, however, whenever the phone is laying on the desk or placed in a cradle in my car, the finger print scanner on the back becomes a real nuisance. I have used both the iPhone’s and Samsung’s fingerprint scanners and I prefer the placement of the scanner on the home button on the front of the device (although I fully realise this a less natural location on a smartphone with a stock android interface that has on-screen buttons).
The Moto X Style does not have a finger print scanner at all. At this day and age, if you want the phone to compete with the flagships, I think it should have one. Personally, I find it to be an important omission on the part of Motorola. I realise it helps keep the cost down, but the OnePlus 2 is cheaper and does have a finger print scanner. I am pretty sure the next Moto X Style will have one, but that does not help with the omission on this one.
On an experience and specification level, the Nexus 6P wins over the Moto X Style. However, this is a must, given the price difference. The real question is, which phone offers better value for money. To answer that question, we will need to put the phones in their competitive land scape.
The Nexus 6P can compete with the likes of the Note 5/S6 Edge+ or iPhone 6s Plus or at least to a large extend. When compared to those phones, its unlocked price is actually pretty good. For that reason, if you have 699 euros to spend on a high end smartphone, I would say, look not further. It offers a great experience and saves you a couple hundred euros in the process (when compared to the before-mentioned smartphones).
The Moto X Style is a tougher sell, I feel. It competes in a market with the OnePlus 2 which is a similarly specified and performing smartphone for 399 euros. However, that phone is not readily available in the market yet and is also limited to online shops. The Moto X Style also competes with the LG G4, which is a bit cheaper and offers a better screen and camera, but with a poorer software experience than on the Moto X Style. All three of these phones are good phones and offer great value for money. However, if you want a large screen, good speakers, good performance, good battery life, stock android and the Motorola additions (like Active Display), then I do feel that the Moto X Style is great purchase.
Personally, though, I would go for the Nexus 6P. 🙂