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Moto G6, G6 Play and G6 Plus review: solid smartphones at keen prices

It's the return of the G series. And this time there's three to get to grips with.

Pros

  • Extremely competitive price
  • Good battery life, great for the G6 Play
  • All models are splash-proof
  • Clean, stock Android experience with no intrusive apps

Cons

  • Looks are a bit dated compared to the latest, most expensive phones
  • Solid but unspectacular cameras, especially the G6 Play

First impressions and design

  • All-plastic G6 Play vs glass-backed G6 and G6 Plus
  • G6 and G6 Plus are slimmer and lighter than the cheaper G6 Play
  • Modish shiny, highly reflective surfaces

Motorola-Moto-G6-and-G6-Play-side-by-side-hero-image

The G6 and G6 Play look identical at first glance. Not least because they have the same screen size and overall shape.

The body keeps the unmistakable Motorola style with a rounded top and bottom. All that really seems to be 'new' is that the bezels around the screen have been slimmed down for a more modern look.

However, closer inspection reveals there are some more significant design differences between the G6 and the G6 Play (I’ll come to the G6 Plus later).

The first is the position of the fingerprint sensor. On the G6 Play it’s at the back. But on the standard G6, it’s in the more conventional location at the front of the phone and can be found where you’d expect a home button to be.

Motorola-Moto-G6-and-Play-backs-camera-lenses-hero-size

Manufacturers don’t seem to have made their mind up on the optimum position for fingerprint sensors and there appears to be no consensus on whether front or back is more convenient.

In the case of the G6 series we found there was little difference in performance between the sensors on the two phones, so it really comes down to personal preference.

Having tried them both for a few days, I don’t think this should be a major factor in choosing one versus the other.

The camera hardware, today a make-or-break factor for any phone, is another point of difference.

On both phones the camera sits within an attractive circular relief at the back. But while the G6 Play has a single lens paired with a circular flash, the G6 has two lenses next two each other above an oblong flash.

The G6 is also slimmer, and marginally lighter than the G6 Play, giving the former an expensive, slicker, and altogether more premium feel in your hand.

The audio jack is also on opposite sides: at the top of the phone for the G6 Play, at the bottom for the G6.

Although these are seemingly minor design differences, they belie much more considerable differences in the internal architecture.

So it’s perhaps not fair to say that the G6 Play is simply a stripped-down, lower specced version of the standard G6.

What about the G6 Plus? While the G6 and G6 Play are clearly different animals under the bonnet, the G6 Plus is identical to the G6 in every respect, except for its dimensions.

It’s got the same double-lens camera and the same fingerprint sensor at the front, but comes with a bigger screen (it’s 5.9 inches instead of 5.7 inches).

That’s not a huge difference, but it means it’s comparable in size to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus or the iPhone 8 Plus.


Screen and sound

  • Screens could be brighter and crisper. But that’s to be expected at this price point
  • The G6 Play has similar brightness levels, but noticeably lower resolution than its higher priced siblings
  • While sound quality is good for all three of the phones, the G6 Play is poor when on loudspeaker

Considering the keen price of these phones, I didn’t have great expectations for their displays.

With a pixel density of 424ppi for the G6 and 409ppi for the larger G6 Plus, in theory the picture quality should be much less sharp than more expensive phones. But in reality, they’re more than crisp enough for most users and 1080p YouTube videos look good.

The G6 Play, on the other hand, has a lower resolution and a pixel density of 282ppi.

The difference is visible when comparing the phones side-by-side and it affects how the G6 Play renders icons and text. Even so, it’s still fine for casual use.

One area where you will have to prepare to compromise is brightness, which is a lot lower than pricier handsets.

Motorola-Moto-G6-screen-hero-size

The G6 series uses IPS LCD technology rather than higher-grade Super AMOLED tech that you’d find on the latest models from Apple or Samsung. That translates to a screen that may struggle to cope with being used in full sun.

Audio playback is another area where there is a marked difference in performance between the G6/G6 Plus and the cheaper G6 Play.

Although I would normally recommend pairing your phone with a good quality bluetooth speaker, there are cases where this is not possible or practical.

While The G6 and G6 Plus offer music via the built-in speaker at a slightly shallow yet acceptable quality for a bit of background music, the G6 Play’s sound has the tinny feel that would annoy anyone after a few minutes.

There was no noticeable difference in sound reproduction when listening through good quality headphones or a dedicated speaker.

You’ll also find a Dolby app on board that you can access through the Sound preferences and which provides an equaliser for tinkering with audio playback levels. It’s a very useful feature if you listen to a lot of music or podcasts.

Size G6 Play: 5.7”, G6: 5.7" , G6 Plus: 5.9"
Resolution G6 Play: 720 x 1440 pixels, G6: 1080 x 2160 pixels, G6 Plus: 1080 x 2160 pixels
Technology LCD

Features

  • Essentially a stock Android system with only a few essential additions from Motorola
  • Face-unlock, only available on G6 and G6 Plus, is rather slow

Moto-G6-actions-and-features-screen

One of the best features of Motorola phones before now is that they run a fuss-free ‘clean’ version of Android that’s unencumbered by extra apps you don’t want or need.

What few Motorola-branded additions that are included are usually all packaged neatly into a Motorola app. So they don’t get in the way.

Thankfully this hasn’t changed with the G6 series. There are no proprietary browsers, health apps or news feeds. The only exception is Microsoft Outlook, an email client that’s very similar to Google Inbox and which integrates with Gmail seamlessly and works really well.

Security features are easy to set up and while the face-unlock isn’t exactly lightning fast, it certainly complements the very responsive fingerprint log-in.


Camera

  • Sometimes a little slow to start up
  • Low dynamic range means they don’t always cope well when against the light
  • Not much detail in low-light

Motorola-Moto-G6-camera-hero-size

With the G6, Motorola has taken a rather conservative approach to the dual camera implementation.

That’s in stark contrast to higher-end phones that are stacked high with features such as a monochrome lens, light filters or an optical zoom.

The G6 and G6 Plus use the dual lens to help achieve a portrait - soft background or ‘bokeh’ - mode. Results are pretty good and it’s surprisingly easy to use.

I was quite impressed by the colour isolation feature that enables you to keep one colour in a scene while removing all others.

There’s also a slow-motion video mode that records at half the speed, while maintaining full video quality.

I found it surprisingly easy to use, a lot more so then the super-slow-mo modes implemented on some high-end phones.

Video recording is the one area where the G6 Plus differs from the standard G6. The bigger phone can record video at up to 2160p resolution compared to the 1080p of the G6.

But this is not enabled by default, so you will need to open the camera and find the video resolution settings if you wish to record at the maximum resolution. Bear in mind that this affects the size of the video and battery life.

There’s a slight lag when taking pictures and, coupled with the absence of optical image stabilisation, it’s important you keep a steady hand if you want to ensure you get presentable shots.

I would be harsher in my opinion of this camera if it was attached to a phone at a higher price point, but these are very well priced budget phones.

And although they don’t offer anywhere near the quality of colour reproduction of a Galaxy S9 or the low light detail of a Huawei P20, they take more-than-good-enough shots to share on social media.

They’re also very easy to use and Motorola’s approach of offering a simple, no gimmicks experiences with their phones translate to an easy-to-use camera that can take very good shots when the conditions are right.

Despite the odd drawback, the G6 and G6 Plus’s cameras is easily one of the best picks for this price. However, the G6 Play is a more basic camera that’s fine for shots to share on social media, but may disappoint if your expectations are of sharp images every time.

Main camera G6 Play: 13MP, G6 and G6 Plus: Dual 12MP and 5MP
Optical image stabilisation No
Selfie camera 8MP (all models)


Performance and battery life

  • Essentially a stock Android system with only a few essential additions from Motorola
  • Face-unlock, only available on G6 and G6 Plus, is rather slow

Moto-G6-suggestions-screen-for-storage-and-battery

One of the best features of all Motorola phones before now is that they run a fuss-free ‘clean’ version of Android that’s unencumbered by extra apps you don’t want or need.

What Motorola-branded additions that are included are usually all packaged neatly into a Motorola app. So they don’t get in the way.

Thankfully this hasn’t changed with the G6 series. There are no proprietary browsers, health apps or news feeds. The only exception is Microsoft Outlook, an email client that’s very similar to Google Inbox and which integrates with Gmail seamlessly and works really well.

Security features are easy to set up and while the face-unlock isn’t exactly lightning fast, it certainly complements the very responsive fingerprint log-in.

Battery capacity G6 Play: 4,000mAh, G6: 3,000mAH, G6 Plus: 3,200mAh
Storage G6 Play: 32GB, G6: 32GB, G6 Plus: 64GB
OS and version Android 8.0 Oreo (all models)

Durability

  • Splash-resistant thanks to hydrophobic coating
  • Scratch-resistant Gorilla glass 3 on the G6 and G6 Plus
  • All models come with transparent rubber case

Moto-G6-actions-and-features-screen

Motorola has a history of producing sturdy devices and the G6 series is no exception.

Although the overall look and feel is very similar, there appear to be some significant differences in the construction of the G6/G6 Plus compared with the cheaper G6 Play.

While the G6 Play has a plastic back that’s sturdy but prone to scratches, the G6 and G6 Plus feature a more modish glass back of the kind that more usually graces higher-end phones.

The material of the body makes little difference in practice especially with a case on. But it’s well worth looking at the type of glass used for the screen, where it’s more important that the glass can withstand shock from dropping it and that it’s scratch-resistant.

On its site Motorola lists both the G6 and G6 Plus featuring displays made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

While this is not the best on the market (the Galaxy S9 comes with much tougher Gorilla Glass Version 5, for instance) it offers reasonable amount of protection against scratches.

And if you stash the G6 and G6 Plus in the attractive rubber case that’s provided in the box they’ll easily cope with the occasional mishap.

The spec sheet for the G6 Play doesn’t specify that type of Gorilla Glass its display is made from. But it’s probably fair to surmise that it’s an older, less durable version.

Instead of sealing the devices in order to achieve full water-resistance, Motorola has opted for the option of a hydrophobic coating for both the exterior and internal components.

The coating creates a water-repellent layer, which means that while the phones cannot be submerged in water they’re protected against accidental spills, splashes or rain.

Waterproof rating P2i splash-resistant coating
Protection G6 and G6 Plus: Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Value and verdict

Motorola-Moto-G6-lock-screen

Despite having changed hands and experienced some branding false starts in the last few years, Motorola have been surprisingly consistent in delivering solidly built, reliable phones at very low prices.

Of course, Motorola isn’t the only budget phone-maker vying for your smartphone spend. But what sets their phones apart from other brands is the almost total absence of proprietary browsers, branded apps and other intrusive utility apps.

This, together with the company’s insistence on keeping interfaces simple and avoiding packing gimmicky features, makes these phones a pleasure to own and use. And it's for that reason that they're a consistent best-buy, despite their basic specifications.

If you’re looking for a budget phone, you cannot possibly go wrong with one of these three as long as you pick the right one for your personal needs.

Moto G6 Play

The camera is basic and it doesn’t perform well when pushed with intensive apps, yet battery life is amazing and it will be hard to find a better phone at this price.

Pick it up SIM-Free for £169 from Amazon.

Moto G6

Same no-frills experience, but with a better camera that supports Portrait mode. Offers good overall performance in a slick and solid package.

Pick it up SIM-Free for £220 from Amazon.

Moto G6 Plus

Like the Moto G6 but bigger. Supports higher video resolution and has a faster processor although there is no visible difference in performance in everyday use.

Pick it up SIM-Free for £269 from Carphone Warehouse.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: motorola
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