Motorola Moto G in-depth review - Word up, G

Look and feel

We like the Motorola Moto G’s chunky curved design, which thankfully isn’t thick enough to prove troublesome. The interchangeable back plates come in a range of bold colours, while the soft-touch surface feels great in the palm.

 

Ease of Use

Setup is blissfully simple and vanilla Jelly Bean Android (upgraded to KitKat in the new year) is unhampered by overlays and crapware, for a streamlined experience. The 4.5-inch HD screen makes browsing the web a breeze.

 

Features

That 720p display is stunning for the cost, making the most of your HD movies, while the Moto G’s dual cameras are great for the price, even if the camera app takes a little getting used to.

 

Performance

A quad-core processor keeps the Moto G running smoothly, and we had no trouble getting the latest games to run. For the impressively low price tag, the Moto G offers the best performance compared to every other rival out there.

 

Battery life

A distinctly average performance from the Moto G. It holds charge well when the screen’s off, but that bright HD display really saps the power. Expect no more than five hours of video playback on a charge.

 

 Motorola Moto G Review - Word up, G
4.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/15/2013 10:48:07 AM

10

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

6

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Sharp HD screen; The latest Android; Impressive performance; Changeable covers

Cons:

Limited on-board storage; No NFC or 4G; Unusual camera focus

When Motorola announced that its new quad-core 4.5-inch smartphone - packing a 720p HD screen and Android Jelly Bean 4.3 - would cost just £135 in the UK, our jaws were bouncing off our knees. It seemed too good to be true, but the Moto G is finally here, and it’s every bit as epic as we hoped.

 

 

Design: Curvy body

 

Motorola’s Moto X sadly never made it to these shores, but the Moto G rocks a very similar design, with a curved and comfortable soft-touch finish that fits well in the hand. We’re big fans of colourful phones – Nokia’s Lumia family really stands out with vibrant cases, while Apple’s iPhone 5c has its charms in pink and blue – and the Moto G comes in a similarly bold range. Best of all, the colourful cases can be swapped out with little effort, much like some of the Lumia smartphones. So don’t worry if you tire of wielding the same old smartphone day after day, because it’s easily rectified.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

When you’re finished gazing lovingly at the colourful rear, you might notice the near-edge-to-edge screen around the front. The bezels aren’t quite as slender as the LG G2’s, and perhaps a tad thicker than the Motorola RAZR i’s too, but you still get a spacious 4.5-inch display crammed onto a relatively compact frame. The rest of the front panel is relatively bare, with just a front-facing camera and speaker over the screen.

 

The Moto G is relatively thick in its middle, tapering off towards the ends, but it didn’t make our pockets bulge and at 143g it’s comfortable to clutch for extended periods. On the edges you’ll find the power and volume controls, with micro USB down below for charging. The entire back peels off, not only for swapping out with different colour plates, but also to give access to the SIM card slot. However, the battery can’t be easily removed and replaced.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

Display: Mid-range HD

 

That 4.5" screen packs a sharp 720p resolution, giving an impressive 329 pixels-per-inch. Compared to similarly-priced phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Young and Galaxy Fame, which suffer blocky low-res screens, this is a big step up. We checked out some HD video and the result was certainly impressive, with colours bleeding off the screen and images rendered with crystal-clear clarity. Viewing angles are dependable (the display darkens a little when tilted, but not to an alarming degree) and the display was bright enough to ward off glare from even our fierce office lighting.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

That sharp resolution isn’t just great for video, it’s also a godsend when browsing the web. You can zoom right out of a busy webpage and still clearly read the text, providing your eyes are up to it, while images remain crisp.

 

 

Performance: Mid-range powerhouse

 

A 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor backed up by 1GB of RAM means that Android 4.3 (to be upgraded to KitKat in January '14) runs impressively well. We tested out the new Asphalt racing game, the latest FIFA and a few other top titles, and all of them played with a perfectly smooth frame rate – although we once again proved that we can’t drive or play footy for our lives.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

Motorola also claims the Moto G is faster in some respects than the mighty Samsung Galaxy S4, boasting that their phone boots up faster, loads the web browser in less time, and is also quicker at making calls. We didn’t have an S4 to hand to test this out, but we certainly were impressed by how fast apps booted up. Tapping the likes of Gmail, Twitter and Maps brings up the desired app in just a second or two, which beats most other mid-range handsets with ease.

 

Battery life is reasonable, and you should manage a full day of use if you’re only checking emails and texts and occasionally browsing the web. Thankfully charge doesn’t drop much when the screen is turned off, so you won’t lose power overnight, but that bright display saps the battery quickly. We managed to stream video for just over five hours before the Moto G died, a distinctly average result.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

OS: KitKat in ‘14

 

Motorola also had a pop at rivals who lump their own interfaces and services over Android, saying they aimed for an unfettered, uncluttered experience instead. As a result, the Moto G’s interface is almost pure vanilla Google Android, similar to the Nexus devices. Jelly Bean 4.3 is in place and runs like a dream, but Motorola has also promised an upgrade to KitKat in January (made easy thanks to the lack of overlay).

 

Setup was blissfully simple, with our apps, settings and media carrying over from our old phone, and in double-quick time too. You get five desktops to populate with the usual array of apps and widgets, and you can fully customise the lock screen with widgets and your own wallpaper too. The notifications bar offers quick access to your main settings such as brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

Camera: Slow-mo and more

 

Although Android remains mostly untouched, Motorola has played around with the camera interface to produce a minimalist UI. Load up the camera app and you’ll see only two on-screen buttons, one to switch between photo and video mode, and another to swap to the front-facing camera. You zoom by pinching your fingers and take photos by tapping anywhere on the screen, with the lens automatically focusing before the shot. Of course, this means you can’t manually focus with a quick tap, the normal procedure on Android phones – and when we relied on the auto-focus, our shots often came out fuzzy. Thankfully there is an option to bring up a focus reticle, which can be dragged onto your chosen subject. This solution doesn’t feel quite as slick as a simple tap, but it works fine once you’re used to it.

 

Motorola Moto G review

Motorola Moto G reviewA couple of photo examples, taken on the Moto G. Both taken with manual focus.

 

Photos take instantly although there is a second or two of processing time, so you can’t take another immediately. Our up-close macro shots captured plenty of detail and looked great when blown up to a larger size, while general day shots are realistically reproduced. Photos taken in dingy indoor areas came out brighter than expected too. There’s also a flash for night shots.

 

Despite its stripped-back interface, the camera app has plenty of features hidden away – just swipe from the right side of the screen and you’ll pull up a scrollable menu, similar to Samsung’s bag of tricks. You can toggle the flash, turn on HDR mode, take a panorama shot, and – interestingly – switch to slow-mo video, a feature that Apple is bigging up in its iPhone 5s. The resulting clips are smooth, although you can’t edit and play with these videos as you can with Apple’s phone. Standard video is crisp enough for home movie purposes, with audio clearly reproduced.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

Other features: Plenty of Drive

 

Storage space is sadly limited on the Moto G, with the only two available models being 8GB and 16GB flavours. Our 8GB version had just 5.5GB of usable space, and worse yet, it can’t be expanded via a microSD slot. Thankfully owners get 65GB of Google Drive space instead of the usual 15GB, to store docs online. That’s a great deal if you don’t mind using the Cloud, and although the extra 50 gig only lasts for two years, at least that’s the general smartphone lifespan.

 

There’s no NFC or 4G support built into the Moto G, but these are reasonable sacrifices given the cost – and if you’re looking at budget smartphones, chances are you won’t be looking to spend over £20 a month on a 4G contract anyway.

 

Motorola Moto G review

 

The verdict

 

The Motorola Moto G’s 720p screen is a brilliant way to take in HD video or browse the web, and the quad-core processor effortlessly copes with the latest Android and all of your apps. Despite its processing pause and unusual focus method, the five-megapixel camera is a strong budget effort, while the lack of 4G and NFC is to be expected at this price point. All in all, the Moto G is by far the best sub-£150 smartphone you can buy, offering bowel-bustingly incredible value for money.