Moto G review

Now shipping with Android 4.4 KitKat is this the best value Google-handset available?

Reviews
21 Jan, 2014
5
Price 
£139 SIM-free
or Free from £11 per month
Pros 
Excellent value for money; Great display; Vanilla Android 4.4; Quick software updates; Changeable back covers; 50GB of Google Drive storage
Cons 
Camera isn’t great; No microSD-support; Limited onboard memory; No 4G connectivity
Verdict 
For £130 nothing else comes close to the Moto G. It offers excellent performance, all day battery life and it runs the latest version of Google’s Android platform, KitKat. It’s not perfect but you won't find anything better at this price.

With the flagship Moto X due for release on the 1 Feb, we take a look at whether it’s worth investing in smaller and cheaper Moto G.

On first glance, the Moto G looks similar to the myriad of budget handsets on the market as it's got a cheap plastic front. But don't let this fool you. For the £139 price, you get a lot of performance - and the backpanel is interchangeable allowing for a degree of customisation.

HD on a budget

The 143g chassis houses a 4.5in TFT display with a 1280 x 720 HD resolution. It's got a pixel density of 329 ppi – that’s higher than Apple’s iPhone 5s. Visuals are sharp and colour reproduction is excellent. But where the Moto G really comes into its own is how it handles brightness, colour depth and contrast – all are well above par for this price point. 


Processing power

The Moto G runs Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 400 chipset alongside 1GB of RAM. The CPU is clocked at 1.2GHz per core and is backed up by an Adreno 305 GPU, delivering  consistent results across the board. You will encounter jitters, but this occurs when running multiple resource hungry apps such as Drive, Spotify and Chrome simultaneously. This is a limitation placed on it by the 1GB of on-board RAM.

You can choose between 8GB or 16GB of internal storage - and whilst this isn't the most on offer, you do get supplemented with 50GB of Google Drive cloud storage for free.

Android 4.4.2

The Moto G is one of a handful of smartphones which is shipping with Android 4.4.2 KitKat in the UK. This brings  new-look status and notifications bars; full screen mode in apps; an updated Hangouts app and wireless printing by default.


The UI remains unchanged with Android 4.4 retaining a stock configuration. Motorola doesn't dilute the Android experience with any battery sapping overlays. The firm preloads three apps alongside the default selection. This includes Assist – a personal assistant; Migrate – software for transferring your old phone’s data across to the Moto G; and Moto Care – live technical support. 

The new-look Quickoffice comes as standard, making the Moto G an excellent choice for anyone looking to work on the move. Quickoffice tightly integrates with Drive, placing creation and edit tools for spreadsheets, images, documents and presentations right at your fingertips. 

Camera

To keep costs down Motorola has gone with a 5-megapixel setup. It features an f2.4 lens and uses Motorola’s bespoke camera interface.

Flick from left of the screen inside the camera app to reveal settings – HDR mode, Flash, widescreen mode, Control Focus and Exposure Settings, slow-motion video, panorama and geo-tagging. Similarly, a flick from the right opens the Gallery app. However, there are no “advanced” settings for ISO or exposure.

One quirk here is how the Moto G handles focus. To manually re-focus the lens you must turn on Control Focus and Exposure in Settings. Once this is down, tap anywhere on the scene to focus, and the Moto G will hold that aspect in focus, ready for you to shoot.

Image quality is average. Photos are adequate for sharing on social networks like Instagram and Facebook. But look closely and you'll see images are washed out, especially those taken in bright conditions. Colours reproduction isn’t great either and it's worth tinkering with the settings to get the best results. 

Connectivity

The usual suspects are present: There’s support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G. High-speed 4G and NFC connectivity are missing to keep costs down. The latter is not an issue – not with Bluetooth on board – but many will understandably lament Motorola’s (and Google’s) decision to omit 4G, just as they did with Google’s 2012 Nexus 4 handset.

Battery

The battery is user accessible, but it's not designed to be user replaceable and the warranty will be void if you fiddle with it. However, it's unlikely that you'll need to replace it before this warranty period runs out.

At launch Motorola claimed the Moto G’s 2070mAh battery cell would provide “all day usage”. Our tests showed the Moto G could last a full day with heavy use before requiring a charge. 

During a 12-hour day, with auto-brightness, Wi-Fi and data enabled, the Moto G managed to power through the day, lasting longer than both the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 5. Of course extended video sessions will drain the battery life but if you stick to browsing, calls, IM and less than one hour of gaming, the Moto G will easily last the entirety of a day before succumbing.

Conclusion

The Moto G hails the arrival of the budget smartphone which is powerful. The biggest USP of the handset is its price – £130. It also belongs to an exclusive club of handsets which are running the latest build of Android, and has a great display and battery.

The lack of LTE and microSD support is disappointing, as is the Moto G’s limited onboard memory and squiffy camera. These could be better, but then the handset wouldn’t cost £130. In our view, Motorola made the right trade off and has built a handset that no one else can currently match at this price point. 

Specifications 

OS: Android KitKat 4.4

Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7

Memory 1GB RAM

Storage: 8/16GB

Screen: 4.5in (1136 x 640 pixel) 326 ppi

Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n, micro USB, 3.5mm headphone jack

Other: Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Compass

Bands: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100, 

Camera: 5MP rear with LED flash and autofocus, 720p HD front-facing

Battery: Built-in 2070mAh

Size: 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6 mm 

Weight: 143g

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