In Depth: Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

In Depth: Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

It’s a good time to buy Android phones. With the likes of the Nexus 5, Moto X and HTC One, it’s really hard to go wrong. The question is, which phone should you buy?

We’re going to compare two of our favorite Android devices – the Nexus 5 and Moto X – because if we had to spend our own cash on an Android smartphone today, it would boil down to those two devices.

Although the phones have their differences, they’re also alike in some ways. This might make the decision-making process harder, especially when they’re both great devices.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

The Nexus 5 is a solid machine with some of the best specs you can find on an Android phone today. It has a sharp, 5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 800 with a 2.26GHz CPU, Adreno 330, 2GB RAM and all for a starting price of just $350 unlocked. That is incredible.

On the other hand, the Moto X has a rich 4.7-inch -720p AMOLED display, excellent curvature and customizable design, active notifications and Touchless Control. The latter allows you to speak commands to your phone even if it’s asleep, which means the microphone is always on.

Let’s take a look at the big features and see how they compare between the two devices.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X: Display

The Nexus 5 has a 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display, which gives us a density of 445 PPI. Compared to other smartphones, its colors and contrast tend to look more washed out, and the display doesn’t get nearly as bright as the HTC One or iPhone 5S, for example.

However, whites look white without having too much of a bluish or cool tint. And the display is very sharp, which makes watching movies and looking at photos a real pleasure.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

The Moto X has a 4.7-inch 1280 x 720 AMOLED display, which offers deep blacks, rich colors and contrast and generally warmer hues. It has a density of 316 PPI, so it looks sharp enough when you’re holding it at normal viewing distances.

Which display is better? Well, it all becomes a matter of preference. The Moto X’s AMOLED display is very rich when it comes to color and contrast, and it also draws less power, which helps the Moto X with its great battery life.

However, we also like the Nexus 5’s larger, razor-sharp display. Without another smartphone to compare it to, the colors and brightness are just fine. It’s only when you compare it directly with the Moto X or HTC One that you begin to notice its slightly washed out colors and contrast.

It’s a toss-up between the two, but many seem to prefer the Moto X’s display even though it’s not as large or sharp as the Nexus 5’s screen.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X: Camera

At the moment, and until Google fixes the camera on the Nexus 5, we can easily give this one to the Moto X.

The Moto X has a 10MP rear camera, while the Nexus 5 has an 8MP shooter. Of course, megapixel count isn’t everything, but it’s the way each camera performs along with the native camera interface.

We found that the Moto X had a much easier time focusing in situations where the Nexus 5 struggled to find focus. In fact, the Nexus 5 would sometimes take seconds to focus even in bright, high-contrast scenes.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

Moreover, there is a considerable amount of shutter lag on the Nexus 5’s camera, whereas the Moto X was quick to start up and take shots and go from shot to shot.

Motorola also updated its camera software recently to allow you to drag its focus indicator to select your focus and metering point.

The Nexus 5’s native camera software can be frustrating and confusing, especially for first-time Nexus users. There aren’t many settings available, and they’re hidden or buried in certain actions that first-time Nexus or Android owners might not find.

One thing we do like about the Nexus 5 camera is PhotoSphere, or the ability to take 360-degree panorama images. The stitching could use some improvement, and generally it’s more of a user issue than a software one, but it’s a neat trick to have.

When it comes to image quality, we will give the edge to the Nexus 5 despite its huge shortcomings in the actual shooting department. Images just seem less noisy and not oversharpened on the Nexus 5.

Another thing the Nexus 5 does better than the Moto X is HDR, or what’s called HDR+ on the Nexus 5. It does a good job of retaining details in highlights and in shadows without making them look too cartoony, or giving a halo effect around edges. The Moto X tends to overdo the HDR effect, especially in scenes where the dark and light areas are extreme.

In the end, getting the shot, and preferably in a timely manner, is what matters to us. The Moto X does that a little better than the Nexus 5, and the X’s camera software is a little more manageable, too.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X: Battery life

Initial reviews of the Nexus 5 weren’t so forgiving when it came to assessing its battery performance. However, we’ve found that over time, the Nexus 5’s batter isn’t bad at all, and it’s very much comparable to other high-end Android devices like the HTC One.

However, it still doesn’t quite keep up with the Moto X, whose battery can easily last an entire day and then some depending on your usage.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

If we had to estimate just how much more life, on average, the Moto X gets over the Nexus 5 in terms of juice, we’d say that the Moto X can get up to 4-8 hours more on a single charge than the Nexus 5.

At the low end, it might not sound like a huge difference, but those few hours between getting home from work and going to sleep is big – especially if you’re going to spend those hours being out on the town.

If you’re considering either phone and battery life is a dealbreaker for you, we’d highly recommend getting the Moto X.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X: Performance

In day to day use, performance differences between the two devices are surprisingly negligible. One would imagine that the Nexus 5, with a 2.26 GHz Snapdragon 800, would easily blaze by the Moto X’s 1.7 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro.

Numbers and specs don’t tell the whole story, as we’ve learned over time. There were some cases when the Moto X was just slightly faster than the Nexus 5, and vice versa. In the end, it’s a toss up between the two for most uses.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

Similarities in performance can also be attributed to the device’s displays, where the Moto X has fewer pixels to push than the Nexus 5.

When we opened and ran apps side by side, they were both roughly the same. In situations where the Moto X was faster, we were slightly surprised. A few examples are within Chrome and YouTube: in Chrome, some web pages loaded up faster than on the Moto X, and in YouTube some videos were ready to play on the Moto X, too.

The Nexus 5 was definitely faster in some cases, like when we we loaded up Asphalt 8 and played through one round of the game.

One would think that the Nexus 5 would have the clear edge in performance because of its spec sheet, but real-life daily use tells another story. Between the two, it’s honestly a toss-up.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X: Perks and features

One of the nice things about both phones is having voice control options. For the Moto X, you simply have to train it to recognize your voice via Touchless Control. Its microphone is always on, so whenever you say "OK Google Now," the phone will be ready for your next command.

The downside is that it will require you to unlock your phone if you have a passcode PIN or pattern, which we always recommend, so its usefulness is hampered.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

The Nexus 5 will recognize the phrase "OK Google" when you’re already in Google Now, and from there you can give it similar commands to ones you’d make for the Moto X.

When it comes to being touchless, we would give the Moto X the edge for its ability to hear your voice even when the phone isn’t active. It also has a feature that knows when you’re driving, so you can have your messages read to you.

Another huge feature, at least for us, is the Moto X’s Active Notifications. Without having to touch your phone, the Moto X will display your notifications if it detects sound or movement, so you can glance at the time and all of your missed notifications without having to unlock your phone.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

You can also attend to certain notifications right away, and the difference is simply between swiping up or down from the lock screen.

It might sound like Active Notifications are for the lazy, but it certainly helps manage distractions. When the Nexus 5 buzzes, you have to reach for your phone and unlock it to see whether you have to attend to something or not.

With the Moto X, when you get a notification, they all remain on your Active Notifications display, so you can decide when to get to them.

For the Nexus 5, having Google Now always on and just a swipe to the left is convenient if you like Google Now. You’ll always have real-time info when it comes to weather, your calendar events, travel and transit times and options, sports scores and more. Of course, the Moto X has Google Now, too, but the Nexus 5 gets a dedicated home screen for it.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X: Which should you buy?

After comparing a few of the big differences and features between the two devices, it’s time to decide which one to buy.

Of course, this is only a decision you can make for yourself. We’re hoping that we’ve provided you with enough info to know which one is right for you.

The Nexus 5 will likely be one step ahead when it comes to getting Android updates from Google. Its specs make it future proof, the display is gorgeous, and it’s the cheapest high-end smartphone you can buy unlocked and off contract.

Nexus 5 vs. Moto X

The Moto X has a little more soul, something other powerful smartphones like the LG G2 lacks, and its physical design seems a little more human-friendly. Its UI still makes it feel like a Google-y phone, and its battery life is excellent.

You can also customize the Moto X to your liking, with many color, name and engraving options. The Nexus 5, on the other hand, comes in only black or white.

We’re always left feeling unsatisfied when we read or write comparisons that end in, "It’s so hard to decide, they’re both great," but that’s exactly how we’re going to end this. You really can’t go wrong with either device, and both have their perks and faults.

In the end, what matters to you is what’s going to guide your decision. Need great battery life? Get the Moto X. Want a big display? Get the Nexus 5. That can go on and on, so good luck with your purchase decision and try not to sweat it so much!