While Samsung might be dominating market share in the Android market, two manufacturers have really impressed with their eye for design and build quality: Motorola and HTC. It’s no surprise that Google chose the former to make its Nexus 6 last year. And it’s also no surprise that the latter’s flagship has been voted the best smartphone for the past couple of years. So I decided to compare the latest HTC One with the Moto X from 2014 to see which is the best.
HTC has been criticized by many for not changing its look dramatically enough with the HTC One M9. It looks very similar to last year’s M8 with its all-metal body, hairline brushed metal finish on the back and BoomSound speaker grilles on the front. But, then how do improve something that was already so good?
In contrast, while the Motorola has a solid metal frame, the device makes great use of other materials. And which materials is entirely down to the buyer. You can customize it with wood, leather or plastic. If you’re not a fan of the cold feel of metal, Motorola gives you the option to choose more palm-friendly materials. Add that to the gently curved and tapered back, and you have a phone that’s so comfortable in hand, it almost feels like it belongs there.
As for the HTC - like its predecessor - it looks fantastic. But, I’m not convinced by its in-hand feel. The new dual-tone gold and silver finish really is beautiful in person. But the gold metal frame has its disadvantages. It doesn’t sit flush with the front panel, and creates this mini-ledge of around 0.5mm. And you do notice it when holding the phone, as it gives a sort-off sharp/rough feel. That said, the device itself feels incredibly solid. And it sits fairly comfortably in hand, and has lost a lot of the slipperiness I found with the M8.
Both phones have their volume and power buttons on the right edge, and again, the Motorola’s setup is preferable. I often pressed the wrong button with the HTC One m9. The power key was too close to the volume ones, and should be above the volume buttons in my opinion. One other disadvantage for the HTC is that is huge bezel and BoomSound speakers take up far too much space on the front. So despite being 4mm taller, its screen is 0.2-inches smaller.
I’m giving this round to the Moto X. You can make it look the way you like, it feels great in hand, and makes great use of the front, by putting in a larger screen.
Both phones sport fullHD 1080 x 1920 resolution displays. In terms of pixel density they’re so similar, you won’t notice the difference. It’s 441ppi on the HTC One versus 424ppi on the Moto X. The resolution is the only way these two phones are similar. In terms of colors, contrast and experience, they’re vastly different.
Previous HTC One display had a reputation for being full of life and colorful. Even contrast was good. But on the M9, I can’t help but feel they’ve gone a step backwards. The screen doesn’t impress next to any of today’s flagships from Apple, Samsung, Sony.. or the Motorola.
While its colors may be quite accurate, the display doesn’t seem as bright as the Motorola. It’s also much cooler, and lacks contrast. It’s hard to say this, but it’s pretty dull and faded. That said, whites are very crisp and clean, refresh rate is generally smooth and viewing angles are terrific.
Sure, the Moto X screen could be criticized for being over-saturated. Whites are a little yellow, but the blacks are incredibly dark. Almost blending in to the black frame of the phone. And for gaming and movie watching, there’s a lot to please the eye. I also love the way the content looks like it’s floating on the glass.
It’s the same old battle of LCD vs. AMOLED. Except the strengths and weaknesses on each technology are shown to the extreme with the Moto X and HTC One.
For me, I’m going with the larger size, the inky blacks and liveliness of the Moto X. That’s not to say the HTC has a poor display. I just don’t think HTC has improved its game enough since last year, at least not on the display front.
If there’s one weak point shared on the two devices, it’s the camera. The Motorola has a 13MP snapper, while the HTC uses a 20.7 MP sensor. And, while the pixel count i much higher on the HTC, it’s not that great.
If the One M9 has anything going for it, it’s speed. This thing takes pictures rapidly, with barely a pause between pressing the onscreen shutter button and the picture saving to the device’s gallery. Focussing is generally quick too. But it does tend to over-expose images in any light. This results in images that are often too bright and a little washed out.
But the same can be said of the Motorola. Some images came out a little crisper on the HTC One, while others had a tiny bit more depth in the Moto. All in all, it’s really hard to separate the image quality when used for general day-to-day snapping.
If I had to choose one for the overall experience, I’d say the HTC One is the slightly better camera.
Performance and Battery Life
There’s really no contest when it comes to performance and battery life. HTC’s Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor is super-fast. Animations and transitions between screens and loading apps is really, really fast. In fact, I’d go as far as saying for general use, this is the fastest phone I’ve used. And that’s despite the fact that it has Sense UI over the top, and Motorola’s is virtually stock Android. The One M9 is stupidly fast. And the standard Geekbench results confirm that the 1.5GHz octa-core chip in the One M9 is faster in both single core and multi core performance.
That’s not to say that the Moto X is terrible. Until I powered up the HTC One M9, I was happy with the performance I got from the quad-core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 chip. But next to the HTC, it feels like it lags a little. Animations don’t seem as smooth or instantaneous. And that’s probably not helped by the fact that it has 1GB less RAM than the HTC One M9.
And it’s a similar story with the battery life. While the HTC One should get you through a day’s use with its 2,840mAh battery, the Moto X struggles to get to the end of a work day. Using it as my daily driver, the Moto X regularly needed plugging back in to a power source by 5pm. The HTC lasted until at least bed time.
It’s no surprise then that this round also goes to the HTC One M9.
We’re in to the fifth and final category - Sound. And HTC’s One M9 has won two rounds and the Moto X has won two. But like the performance and battery life round, the sound quality round is no competition.
Both phones have stereo front-facing speakers, but the Dolby-powered BoomSound speakers on the One M9 blow the Motorola away.
It’s not just that they’re much louder, they also have a more immersive feel and better tone. Bass, middle and treble are all balanced in a way you wouldn’t expect from a phone’s loudspeakers. At the right distance from your face, they truly add an extra element to your media consumption. Also, you’ll never miss a notification again with the sound on. Did I mention that they’re really loud?
Sound round goes to the HTC One M9.
With that final round, the HTC One M9 finishes with three victories over Motorola’s two. Judging from those scores then, the HTC One M9 is the better phone. As an overall package, it is super. Yes, I’d improve the camera and the display if I could, but its performance and sound quality are out of this world.
Side note, I still love my Moto X and the feel of its leather back in my hand. And I won’t give it up easily, but I’d certainly consider swapping it for the HTC One M9. As long as I could stick a leather skin on it..