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motorola moto g review 2

At just £135 SIM free, is the Motorola Moto G the best budget handset around? That's certainly what some would have you believe.

Joe Svetlik finds out whether it’s an absolute steal, or just cheap and cheerful.

First impressions and design

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Us Brits may have missed out on the Moto X, but Google-owned Motorola hasn’t forgotten about us completely.

The Moto G is one of the most wallet-friendly handsets around, costing just £135 SIM free, but it packs the kind of specs you’d expect to find on a device that costs twice as much.

Build quality is solid. With a 4.5-inch screen, it’s a bit smaller than most high-end handsets nowadays, but it’s well put together, and certainly doesn’t feel cheap.

It’s as well built as any smartphone we’ve tested recently, which is pretty amazing when you consider the price.

The back is interchangeable, so you can choose from a range of colours. It’s not quite as personalisable as the Moto X, with its plethora of customisation options, but it’s a nice touch if you fancy a handset that looks a bit different.

The back is made of a matte plastic that’s quite similar to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It’s pleasing to the touch, and actually feels more premium than the much pricier Samsung Galaxy Note 3, with its faux-leather back.

It’s not the slimmest or lightest handset around though. It looks positively chunky next to the more lithe mobiles on the market, and with a weight of 143g, it’s heavier than both the iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4, and the Nexus 5, all of which are bigger than the Moto G.

But it’s still very pocketable, and won’t weigh you when if you’re out and about.

Software

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The Moto G comes with Android Jelly Bean onboard. But if you buy it from Vodafone on pay as you go, it’ll have the newer KitKat version of the operating system.

KitKat has landed as over-the-air update for SIM free models of the Moto G this month too. For the record, though, our test unit had Jelly Bean on board.

It runs stock Android, which means Google hasn’t ‘skinned’ it with its own user interface, as HTC and Samsung do with their Android blowers.

This should also mean it’s one of the first devices to get the latest version of Android when it launches. Though we’re still tapping our fingers for KitKat…

KitKat bringS with it a few new features like using Google Hangouts as the default messaging option, a separate homescreen for Google Now, and the ability to search for local businesses straight from the phonebook. But Jelly Bean will do just fine for now.

If you’ve never used Android before, it’s simple to get the hang of, though maybe not quite as user-friendly as Apple’s iOS.

Motorola has added a couple of its own apps, too.

Moto Care helps you find out how to get the best from your device, with tips like how to maximise the battery life. Or you can use it to chat to a Motorola representative over instant messaging, for live help.

Motorola Assist, meanwhile, syncs with your Google Calendar and blocks, silences, or replies to calls with a text when you have events scheduled. It means you don’t have to worry about being bothered when you’re busy.

You can choose to let through calls from select contacts though, so important business contacts or loved ones can still reach you.

You can set the same for when you’re asleep – just set the usual hours you snooze, and you can rest without being disturbed.

They’re both good ideas, and help set the handset apart from rival Android smarties, especially at this price.

Features

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The 4.5-inch screen has a resolution of 1,920x720 pixels, which gives it a pixel per inch count of 329ppi. That’s a smidgen higher than the iPhone 5S’s 326ppi, though not a patch on the Nexus 5’s 445ppi.

The handset comes in either 8GB or 16GB versions, and neither has a memory card slot, so you can’t add more storage.

If you want a lot of apps on your phone, it’s maybe worth paying more for a higher capacity handset, but for basic tasks the entry-level model is fine.

Both come with 50GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for two years, which should help somewhat.

On the back is a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash and 4x digital zoom.

The Moto G isn’t equipped for 4G, so you’ll be stuck with 3G browsing and download speeds. But for general use that will be fine.

Usability

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Videos look great on the screen, with bold, bright colours. The sound is surprisingly good too, with the speakers going loud enough to annoy everyone on the bus.

The screen is also great for games, though it can seem a little cramped if you’re used to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or HTC One Max.

Games run without a hitch, and it’s nippy to move around Android, thanks to the 1GB of RAM coupled with the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor that’s clocked at 1.2GHz.

It’s not as beefy as the Snapdragon 800 found on higher-end rivals, but it does the job well enough. Apps are quick to launch, and the whole OS is very responsive.

The processor might struggle with some of the more graphically advanced games that come out in the future, but for now it runs without a hitch.

The camera is the only real letdown, as on the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5.

Snaps lack detail, and they have a lot of noise in low light. It’s slow to launch, and the shutter is a bit sluggish too. But it’s ok for everyday shooting.

Google has vowed to improve its camera software on the Nexus 5, so let’s hope it brings some improvements to the Moto G soon.

Verdict

The Moto G is amazing value for money. It might not be as slim and light as some handsets, storage is limited, there’s no 4G, and the camera is a bit of a letdown.

But even before you consider the price, it’s a solid smartphone that performs well, with great software, solid build quality, and some very respectable specs.

Throw in that bargain bin price, and you’ve got by far the best affordable handset around.

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