There's more to Android than high-end devices, as we take a look at Motorola's entry-level Motoluxe

Motorola Motoluxe

On the European side of the Android world, Motorola hasn't really made the same impact as it has in the US. Moto brings good hardware to the table, yet we live in a Samsung and HTC dominated world. That said, Motorola has been pushing its latest entry-level offering, the Motoluxe, quite hard in the UK.

As the weeks since the device’s launch have passed, we've seen press release after press release detailing yet more European mobile markets receiving it. It even made release in Canada these past few weeks. Motorola is promoting this as a style focused device, starting with a swanky London launch party. Truth be told, though, we're more interested in the device beneath the style. We've spent some time getting to know the Motoluxe over the past couple of weeks, and in our honest opinion, it isn’t all that bad. The important thing to remember is the market that this device is aimed at, and for those people it’ll do just nicely.

We'll take you through it after the break. 


The Good

Excellent build quality, especially for an entry level device. Surprisingly competent 8MP camera, with the dedicated camera button a nice touch. Screen is bright and colorful.

The Bad

The Motorola software isn't that good, with some pretty bad lag when scrolling between home screens. The activity widget is prone to constant re-drawing. Sound when recording video is poor.

Conclusion

For an entry level device, the Motoluxe has a lot to offer. Excellent build quality, coupled with a decent camera and a surprisingly nice screen leave plenty to like. The software leaves it feeling under-powered in places though, and the launcher in particular makes for a less than pleasant experience. 

 

The Hardware

Motorola makes good hardware, and the Motoluxe is no exception. Its thin, without being overly thin, and we get a bit of metal in there too. It feels very similar in construction to the old Milestone (OG Droid). In a world of polycarbonate and MAO treatments, it actually feels nice to have some metal on a new phone. With metal of course comes weight, and for its relatively small size, it's a pretty heavy little thing. It feels really nice in the hand though, and for someone who uses a much larger device on a daily basis, it made me realize that sometimes smaller devices can be just as pleasant to use. 

    Motorola Motoluxe  Android Central

As this is a Gingerbread device, we're treated to the traditional capacitive buttons on the front. Until playing about with this, I didn't realize I missed having a search button over the ICS style search bar. Kind of like a comfort blanket, it feels safe and familiar. The screen itself is 4 inches diagonally, which compared to many higher-end devices is pretty small. There is still a market for a device of this size though, and I enjoyed not having to two-hand the phone just to pull down the notification tray. 

  Android Central Android Central

Elsewhere, we have an 8MP camera on the back a VGA camera on the front, and a dedicated camera button on the right hand side. This is a great addition, and is down to personal choice but I much prefer a dedicated physical button. The camera itself isn’t anything overly special, but that said, it doesn't take bad photographs, and we'll look at that later on. 

Android Central  Android Central

We also get the standard Micro USB charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack, volume rocker and power switch on the top, which completes the switchgear. On the rear of the phone is a pretty sizeable speaker, again reminiscent of previous Motorola phones. You're never going to get great quality sound from a phone speaker, but this one at least gives decent volume. Never once did during testing did I miss a notification tone.

Android Central  Android Central

So what about battery life? With its diminutive size comes a smaller battery than many of us would feel comfortable living with day-to-day. The 1390 mAh battery is actually pretty good though, and using it much like any other phone -- i.e. fairly heavily -- it never struggled to get through the day. As for those inevitable times that it didn’t get plugged in at night, they’re no problem either. The Motoluxe seemed to have the staying power, and that will definitely please the type of user who could well pick up this device.

Under the hood is an 800MHz processor, backed up by 512MB of RAM. It isn’t a powerhouse, far from it, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like it struggles with the majority of tasks. It had enough guts to plough through some serious Angry Birds and Temple Run sessions, after all. But if you’re a processor nerd, you won’t be buying this phone. So we’ll not dwell on it any longer. 

Software

Motoluxe Homescreens

There’s no pretty way to say it, so I’ll just come out with it. The stock Motorola software just isn’t that great. Let me explain.

The vast majority of the user experience, the menus, the app drawer, even the UI, isn’t bad. It looks pretty good, it’s colorful, and it’s easy to use. But the problem is lag, and there's some pretty horrendous lag in Moto's launcher. That said, it's the only time the Motoluxe feels under-powered. A custom launcher made a slight improvement, but in 2012 it isn’t right that even an entry-level device should suffer in this way. Casual consumers who may pick this up as a first smartphone, or a first entry into the Android world, aren’t going to be overly impressed. Flicking between the home screens isn’t fluid, it’s jerky, real jerky, and then we get to the coup-de-grace -- Motorola’s Widgets.

As you’ll no doubt have seen in many promo shots, Motorola's loaded a few custom widgets onto the 'luxe, including  the social graph and the activity graph. The activity graph charts your 10 most used applications -- in principle a really useful idea. In practice, it constantly redraws itself if you use a lot of apps, which really defeats the object of it being there. It's a shame, because it is nice to see a manufacturer trying to be creative with their UI. The fault lies in the execution.

The social graph is a similar widget for your most recently contacted people. I'm not big on old-fashioned voice calls, but I can imagine big talkers and texters may run into similar redrawing issues with this widget.

Motoluxe Notifications  Motoluxe Weather App

I do like the combined  weather and clock widget though. It looks good, and the weather app behind it uses Accuweather so it’s pretty reliable too. We’re not talking HTC-like levels of UI polish, but it’s impressive nonetheless. The notification menu is pretty useful too, with the last 4 apps used lining the top above your notifications.

App wise, we’re not actually bloated down on this one, but this is an unlocked device from Motorola.

Quickoffice Lite is on there, as is Twitter, and Facebook, and Google+. The Music and gallery apps are pretty much the stock Android versions given cute new icons. Motorola has also thrown in a File Manager. It’s fairly basic and not a patch on something like Astro, but it’s there and it works, so it’s useful. Otherwise there’s a lot of stock -- stock browser, stock contacts (albeit with a cutesy Motorola dialer), and the usual selection of Google apps.

Perhaps the most impressive piece of software though is Swype, which comes pre-installed. On a smaller screen such as this, Swype really comes into its own. It is by far more responsive than the stock keyboard, and it was a pleasant surprise to see it nestled there in the settings menu.

Camera

We’ll get the front facing camera out of the way first. It isn’t that good. You probably wouldn’t expect it to be, but it really isn’t. It just isn't good enough at either still photos or videos to make it worth making regular use of it.

The rear 8MP camera is pleasantly surprising though. It isn’t in the same league as HTC’s 8MP cameras on the One series, but for a budget orientated device it’s not bad at all. Low light performance isn’t too hot, but in well lit conditions it produces reasonable images. There’s also a selection of built in effects to the camera app, which can make basic adjustments to color, and saturation, and white balance and the like. 

 

The video camera doesn't do HD video recording. As such, quality isn’t really anything to shout about. We’ve shot a sample video for you to check out though. It's watchable, but doesn't compare to the higher-end offerings out there. 

Conclusion

For the first time smartphone or Android user, there’s definitely a lot to like about the Motoluxe. The hardware is excellent for the price. The screen is nice, bright and colorful. It feels good in the hand, and more importantly it feels well built. The addition of a dedicated camera button, too, is a nice touch. The issue is with the software. UI lag is sadly something that is too often associated with low end Android devices, but that doesn’t make it excusable. It really is a shame, because for the price the Motoluxe is a great little device with a lot to offer. It’s likely to be snapped up by pay-as-you-go customers looking for a cheap, yet full featured smartphone. For those people, it’ll do just nicely. And at £199, it’s not badly priced either. If you're after a basic Android smartphone, the Motoluxe is definitely worth a look.

  

 
There are 6 comments

josuearisty says:

Great review and opinion, I hope to buy it soon and install some custom rom to take the most of this phone.

FanDroid619 says:

I love the physical design of tbis phone and from the looks of it, the choice materials seem to be on par with the OG Droid, the Droid X and the DX2 which I am quite fond of. It would've been sweet if Motorola released this device with high end specs. Oh well... Can't have it all I suppose. Cheers.

Meister_Li says:

As long as the Motorola Support in Europe continues to be the worst in the entire industry by a huge margin, the locked boot loaders and the lack of updates continue... This is completely worthless.

Gamer_Radar says:

honestly, Is Motorola close with google? Why do they continue to bump decent phone's with S*** UI's..... Feel like im in the 90's with their motoblur (or what ever its called now) Overlay.

How much of the stock Motorola software can be removed/uninstalled?

tictactaylor says:

You actually have to question the credentials of phone reviewers at times, as their determination of a devices attributes is totally askew with reality of use of item. Firstly, the speaker is dreadful! It is not loud, and vibrates the fine grill with just about any audio pumped through it, just like that of original htc desire. The screen is fantastic though, it could be mistaken for the second generation slcd screens used in the likes of the one X etc. Despite only an 800mhz processor it is super fast in browsing and not too bad in ga mimg for non graphically intensive apps. It bemchmarks low this device but performs better than expected, adreno 200 graphics are a step back, liked to have seen at least 205. The camara cannot record in HD, the pics are like from a 3mp camera, not 8!! Now motoblur has gone Moto have given us an ICS looking UI, love it! Audio through decent headphones is excellent, now that IS loud! The plastic case of device creaks, see no point in the metal back cover over battery, it only serves to again negate what little audio is emanated by adjacent speaker. Social networking is very good, motoblur style integration. The pointless illuminated massive linyard slot is a fantastic folly, and looks well smart. Conclusion, good screen, good social network integration. Bad camara, dreadful audio and outdated specs (on paper anyhow). However, highly recommend for a mid range device. Battery reasonable too as lover spec may give longevity.