Lenovo Moto G4 review

Lenovo’s budget Motorola Android phone is a corker

Editor's Choice
Price
£134
  • Lengthy battery life; Bright, high quality screen; Fast and responsive; Clean Android
  • Bland appearance; Not waterproof; Large size unsuitable for single handed use

A lot of fear and uncertainty has surrounded Motorola since it was bought by PC giant Lenovo. Many feared that the resurgent Android smartphone maker would lose its identity, focus and style within the coddling embrace of the world's largest PC and laptop manufacturer. Although it's still too soon to stop worrying just yet, the fourth-generation Moto G (or the Moto G4 as Lenovo are calling it) is so good that we can at least take a breather.

A good ribbing

In our first look of the Moto G4, we thought that the fourth gen Moto G looked significantly less distinctive than its third gen predecessor. The Moto G4 obviously isn't completely devoid of style with a slender body and a rear covered in a nylon-style material. You can customise the colouring of the latter as well as the front panel and a small ring around the rear facing camera when ordering directly from the anachronistically named Motorola website.

Even so, we miss the ribbed backing of the third gen Moto G, as well as the wide range of colour options and the bigger, more obvious coloured rim around its rear-facing camera. The Moto G3 also had the benefit of being officially waterproof, unlike the Moto G4. Still, the fourth gen G is a sturdy, well-made smartphone and we can't ask for more than that.

Although the rear panel is removable, so you can change colours later if you wish, the battery is still sealed in place. You can still add more storage using micro SD cards if the 16GB already present isn't enough. A variant with 32GB built-in is available from Motorola for 30 more.

Screen and camera

The original first-gen Moto G released back in 2016 was had a reasonably sensible screen size of 4.5in, but the fourth-gen model is firmly in phablet territory at 5.5in. We do wish Lenovo would make a more ergonomically sized option for those of us with smaller hands, as Motorola did with the original Moto X which had a 4.7in screen but nonetheless felt much smaller.

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Regardless, the 5.5in screen is exceptionally bright with very good colour accuracy and contrast. Some will moan about the lack of a 2560x1440 pixel resolution, but 1080p is more than enough for razor sharp text.

The main rear-facing camera has always been the weak point of the budget Moto G series, but the 13 megapixel shooter here is surprisingly good. When shooting in good lighting, it produced well exposed, detailed shots. It's still not a patch on the best smartphone cameras though, such as the Galaxy S7, LG G5 or Nexus 5X it struggled mightily in low light. Still, there's plenty to like we're especially fond of the revamped Moto camera app. A dial control around the focus ring is used to adjust the exposure compensation it works simply and brilliantly. It's far better than other fussier exposure compensation controls we've seen, such as the double tap and hold vertical slider in iOS.

Performance and battery life

Eight core mobile processors have come a long way since the notorious overheating of last year's Snapdragon 810. The eight core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 has four main cores running at 1.5GHz with four slower 1.2GHz cores taking over for less demanding tasks. Paired with 2GB of memory, it did well in our multicore tests almost catching up with the six core Snapdragon 808, but never caused the phone to become noticeably warm.

It fell far behind the 808 in our single core tests, never mind the 810 and newer chips such as the quad core 820 and dual core A9, but it's still very fast for such a cheap phone. In practice, we had no problems with multitasking or the responsiveness of the touchscreen common problems in budget smartphones.

Battery life initially appeared very good, lasting just over 13 and a half hours in our video playback test and just over ten and a half hours in our WiFi web browsing test. When connected to the BT Mobile network in central London, however, and used for GPS, web browsing, photography and calls, it lasted a truly exemplary 47 and a half hours.

Android Marshmallow

Lenovo has kept Motorola's practice of installing a very clean, uncluttered version of Android on the Moto G4. Marshmallow 6.0.1 here is very close to Google's original design, with only a few modest alterations.

A quick twist of the wrist when the phone is locked quickly activates the camera, although it's a slightly tricky gesture to get right. Raising the phone to see the unlock slider and a summary of your notifications without pressing the power button didn't always activate. Others worked more smoothly, such as flipping the phone over to silence a call.

A quick double-chop action quickly turns on the torch, although a firm grip is advised to stop the phone flying out of your hand as you do so! A simple SMS app is included, allowing you to avoid the still rather messy combined SMS and instant messaging Google Hangouts app.

Given Motorola's track record with previous Moto phones, we'd expect Lenovo to be very prompt in delivering the Android N update for the Moto G4 soon after the operating system's release.

Conclusions

We shouldn't have doubted the Motorola team at Lenovo the Moto G4 is outstanding value. Staggering battery life, a great screen as well smooth responsiveness and slick performance make for a great smartphone pricier phones have been sold on less. If you want an excellent quality camera as well as a fingerprint reader and the fastest possible performance, then you'll still need to look elsewhere. Otherwise, your search for a great phone at a low price ends here.

Verdict

This cheap Android phone is so good, it’s also a serious rival to much more expensive phones

ProcessorOcta-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617
Screen size5.5in
Screen resolution1,920x1,080
Rear camera13 megapixels
Storage (free)16GB (10.8GB) / 32GB
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size153x77x7.9mm
Weight155g
Operating systemAndroid 6.0.1
WarrantyOne year RTB
Detailswww.motorola.co.uk
Part codeXT1622
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