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Motorola Moto G4 and G4 Plus review

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The Moto G4 gets brought up to date for 2016.
Motorola G4

Pros

  • Amazingly cheap for a phone with this much to offer
  • Decent rear and front cameras
  • Simple to use Android software

Cons

  • Might be too big for some people
  • You can't use it to pay for goods and services in shops
  • Unlike 2015's Moto G, it's not waterproof

First Impressions

Motorola Moto G4

  • At 5.5-inches, it's no-one's idea of compact
  • Uninspiring to look at
  • Solid construction

Back in 2013, the first Moto G phone made a huge splash by proving you could make an affordable Android handset that actually had pretty decent specifications and features.

Now everyone's at it. The OnePlus X, EE Rook, Motorola Moto E and Sony Xperia M4 Aqua wouldn't exist without the Moto G paving the way.

To continue to stand out, Motorola has had to innovate. And this year for the first time, it's launched two models of Moto G simultaneously: the standard Moto G4 and G4 Plus.

The latter has a better camera (16 megapixels to the G4's 13-megapixels) that's equipped with a laser-enabled autofocus, more storage, fingerprint security and more RAM.

But is all that enough to ensure the Moto G hangs on to its cut-price crown? Let's find out.

Design

Motorola Moto G4

  • We'd have liked to see Type-C USB for faster battery charging
  • No fingerprint scanner on standard Moto G4
  • Backplate is removable for swapping colours

Time was, you had to pay a lot of money for a larger phone. Not anymore.

The G4 is an expansive 5.5 inches across, but it feels even bigger with those large borders above and below the screen.

Add the extra bulk of a case, and you might struggle to fit it in your pockets.

Its rounded corners and lack of buttons combine to make it look a little bland compared to some higher-end smartphones, but we have no real complaints.

Because of the low price, the Moto G4 has a plastic body rather than a more costly metal construction, which is to be expected.

But while that means it's decidedly less premium than more expensive rivals, it doesn't feel cheap.

Indeed, the plastic back (which is removable, so you can get to the microSD card and SIM slots) reminds us of that on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

While on Samsung's former top-of-the-range handset that made a £600 phone feel cheap, the plastic shell isn't out of place at all on one priced £169.

You can personalise the phone using Motorola's Moto Maker software, which lets you change the colour, add an accent, engrave a message on the back and even decide on a greeting to flash up on screen when you start the phone up.

There are some areas where corners have been cut to keep the price down, though.

Not least that it uses USB-A technology rather than the newer, quicker USB Type-C, which means the battery doesn't charge as fast as it might.

There's also no fingerprint reader on the standard Moto G4, and NFC – which lets you use your phone to pay for goods and services in shops and restaurants – is conspicuous by its absence.

Still, you get a lot of phone for your money. And that's always welcome.

Build: Plastic
Weight: 155g
Dimensions: 153x76.6x7.9-9.8mm

Screen

Motorola Moto G4

  • We like the warm, natural colours
  • Don't have to unlock phone to see notifications
  • Screen isn't always easy to see in bright light

Like other Motorola phones, the G4's screen shows notifications as they come in. That way, you can glance at emails, text messages etc without unlocking the phone.

It's a great addition. And while plenty of other phones have always-on displays to allow you see the time and date at all times – Samsung's Galaxy S7 and the LG G5, for instance – Motorola was first.

Impressively although the screen's 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution is stretched over the gargantuan 5.5 inches, somehow it manages to not look grainy in any way.

Sure, images are a little 'softer' and a bit less crisp than on higher-end smartphones, but that's to be expected at this price.

The previous Moto G had a resolution of 1,280x720 pixels, and was half an inch smaller too.

So it's good to see Motorola bumping up the resolution along with the size.

We did have one issue: the adaptive brightness (which brightens or dims the screen depending on your surroundings) was a bit dim for our liking. But you can adjust that in the settings.

Still, for most users the screen will be more than good enough.

It's only film buffs pouring over every tiny detail who'll notice the slightly lower pixel density. And they'll complain about anything.

Size: 5.5-inch
Resolution: 1,920x1,080 pixels
Technology: LCD

Camera

Motorola Moto G4

  • Great for the price
  • G5 photos in low light can be disappointing
  • G4 Plus offers noticeably more true-to-life colours

Motorola's cameras have never been the best around – much like those found in Google's Nexus handsets – but they have improved a lot in the last couple of years.

Motorola is obviously aware of its reputation. And that's why it also offers the Moto G4 Plus, which boasts a supercharged camera.

The 13-megapixel camera on the standard Moto G4 is pretty good though.

While it's the same sensor as found in last year's Moto G (which has since been rechristened the Moto G3), the new model has improved software and a faster processor, making for better performance.

In decent light, results are pretty good, with true-to-life colours and an impressive dynamic range (that's the difference between light and dark parts of the photo).

But in low light it struggles, just as its predecessors have. The result is that photos are grainy and it can be sluggish to focus.

The Moto G4 Plus is noticeably more capable. The 16-megapixel sensor captures tons more detail, and gives more accurate colours.

The laser autofocus also means it's quicker to lock on to your subject, so you're less likely to miss the moment.

The camera app has been improved too. It's now simple to use for novices, while also offering plenty of settings to tweak if you're a bit more serious about your photography.

Neither handset stands up against the likes of the iPhone 6s or Samsung Galaxy S7 when it comes to picture quality.

But both offer very good cameras for the price. If you take a lot of photos, it is worth spending the extra on the G4 Plus, however, as the difference is noticeable.

Both record video in 1080p HD, and both have 5-megapixel front-facing cameras that perform well in all conditions.

Camera: 13MP (G4)/16MP (G4 Plus)
Optical image stabilisation: No
Unique features: Twist the phone twice to jump straight to camera app

Performance and battery life

Motorola Moto G4

  • You can expand storage with a MicroSD card
  • Very impressive battery life
  • No duplicate apps means more storage space

No complaints here on either count. Both phones glide through menus as quickly as you'd expect, and apps open in a heartbeat.

We didn't get a chance to try the G4 Plus with 4GB of RAM, but the standard 2GB version, coupled with the 1.5GHz processor, was more than capable of handling everything we threw at it.

The fingerprint security scanner on the G4 Plus, which means your phone can only be unlocked with your fingerprint, also works well and is every bit as quick as much more expensive rivals. The only slight grumble is that it doesn't double as a home button.

The latest Marshmallow version of Google's Android software powers both phones. And because Motorola hasn't customised the software, the Moto G and G Plus will be among the first phones to be upgraded to the forthcoming Android N software when it becomes available.

Both handsets also have 3,000mAh batteries that keep them going well into a second day. And they support TurboPower charging, which gives you up to six hours of power from just a 15-minute charge.

However, only the G4 Plus comes with the TurboPower charger, so if G4 owners want to take advantage of the tech, they'll have to buy the charger separately.

RAM: 2GB for Moto G4/up to 4GB for Moto G4 Plus
Battery capacity: 3,000mAh
OS and version: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Value for money

The Moto G4 costs £169 for the 16GB model, and £199 for the 32GB. The Moto G4 Plus costs £229 for the 32GB model (the lowest capacity it comes in) and £264 for the 64GB one (the only model that has 4GB of RAM).

In all cases, this is incredible value for money.

Verdict

  • Decent camera
  • Excellent battery life
  • Fingerprint scanner on the G4 Plus works fast
  • Expandable storage
  • First in the queue for Android software updates
  • Option to customise your look with Moto Maker tool
  • Notifications show up on the lock screen
  • Solid construction
  • Great performance
  • Fantastic value for money

This is best phone for under £200, and if you want to spend a little more, the Moto G4 Plus is one of the best mid-range handsets around.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: motorola

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