This year, Motorola decided that two variants of the Moto X would be better than one—the mid-range Moto X Play and the more powerful Moto X Style. And Google, which usually unwraps one Nexus smartphone for Android enthusiasts, has the smaller Nexus 5X (made by LG) and the premium Nexus 6P (made by Huawei) this time around.

We pit the Moto X Style and the Nexus 5X against each other, to see which is worth your money.

Design

The design of the Moto X Style is a subtle improvement over its predecessor, and it feels surprisingly handy for a big-screen smartphone. The material used is good, but not everyone will appreciate that it weighs a comparatively heavy 179g. A water-repellent coating allows splashes to slide off the panels quicker, but this doesn’t mean it is waterproof.

In terms of form factor, the Nexus 5X is the logical successor to the Nexus 5 (also made by LG) from 2013. The 5X has a 5.2-inch screen, yet feels incredibly compact. There is a fingerprint sensor sitting just below the camera, and it falls perfectly in the range of the index finger as you hold the phone. The design and visual appeal of the Nexus 5X, however, are underwhelming. The volume rocker on the right-side spine, for example, feels clunky.

Display

The Moto X Style’s 5.7-inch AMOLED screen (2,560x1,440 resolution) is a definite improvement over the previous generation. It is sharper, the colours and the viewing angles are better, and it no longer has a yellowish tinge when the brightness is turned down.

The Nexus 5X’s display has Full HD (1,920x1,080) resolution. It is less saturated than last year’s Nexus 6 screen, which means the colours look more realistic. The brightness levels are adequate, the text looks sharp, and visibility in sunlight is quite good. The black levels aren’t very deep (compared to AMOLED screens, for example), but that one shortcoming isn’t a deal-breaker.

Performance

Motorola and LG have done the smart thing by skipping the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor (which had well-documented heating issues) and opting for the Snapdragon 808, which is quite powerful in itself. Moto pairs this with 3 GB RAM. We did notice that the phone’s back panel becomes a bit warm when using the camera or playing a game. LG has paired the 808 with 2 GB RAM. The Nexus 5X runs a completely plain Android interface, and there aren’t any extra features or apps bogging it down. The performance of both phones is smooth for the most part, and there is no sluggishness even during gaming.

Battery

The Moto X Style’s 3,000 mAh battery capacity lasts a day and a half, and if you are careful with screen brightness, you can get another hour or so. In comparison, the Nexus 5X has a 2,700 mAh battery that lasts a day, on a par with most rivals. Also, the 5X has a USB type-C port (also seen in the OnePlus 2) for charging.

Software

The Moto X Style runs the latest Android 5.1 (Lollipop) version, with minor customizations to the standard Android software—it’s the most appealing thing about Moto phones if you compare them with what other Android phone makers offer. There is also the entire suite of features we have also seen on other Motorola Android phones (such as Assist, Voice, Display and Gestures); these come pre-installed.

This is where the Nexus 5X has the biggest advantage—it runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), and brings with it all the performance, battery and security improvements that Google has added to the new software. The biggest addition is the ability to manage what data the apps installed in the phone can access—for example, if you don’t want to give Facebook access to your phone’s contacts, go right ahead and block it.

Camera

The Moto X Style gets a 21-megapixel camera. Fantastic on paper, but, for some reason, Motorola has still gone with autofocus—we were routinely frustrated by the slow and inconsistent focus. You really need steady hands to get the best out of this camera, and sometimes may need to click the same scene in quick succession to get the best photograph. When you are able to wring the best out of it, the results are impressive—rich images with considerable detailing.

The Nexus 5X has a 12.3-megapixel camera. Megapixels don’t matter as much as the quality of the camera sensor and the image processing. This camera, unfortunately, is quite inconsistent in terms of focus, and needs really steady hands to deliver crisp photographs. Daytime images are quite vivid, but the colour and detailing is not always accurate in low light. Yet again, a Nexus camera that just isn’t up to the mark.

Which one to buy

The Moto X Style is overall a better option—solid battery life and smooth performance are the highlights.

 The Nexus 5X will most certainly appeal to Android enthusiasts who want the latest Android operating system. The compact form factor too has its appeal, but the boring look and lack of a memory card slot (the 32 GB version is much more expensive than the Moto X Style) ensure the appeal wears off quickly.

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