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Review: Motorola Moto G 4G

By Leigh D. Stark | 10:57 am 16/09/2014

We’ve seen both what Motorola calls the high and the low end of its mobile phone spectrum, and now it’s time to check out the mid-range, as Motorola’s “G” enters the appropriately initialled GadgetGuy labs.

Features

A new Moto G might be on its way out to shelves, but that’s only a 3G model, and if you’re in the market for a 4G LTE phone and Motorola is the name you trust, the Moto G 4G might be the one to check out.

Inside the handset is a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, running alongside 8GB storage and 1GB RAM, with a microSD slot upgrading that 8GB to an amount determined by a microSD card.

Connections are more or less par for the course, with 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy (BT LE, BT Smart), GPS, and 4G LTE, with wired connectivity handled through a microUSB port at the bottom of the handset.

Cameras are included as well, with a 5 megapixel shooter on the back with an LED flash and autofocus, while the front camera sits at 1.3 megapixels.

A 4.5 inch 720p High Definition (HD) screen covers this array of technology, protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 and showcasing the 1280×720 resolution with software button loaded in at the bottom of the screen, acting for back, home, and multitask, as Google’s Android 4.4 “KitKat” is loaded here, which this set of soft buttons relies on.

Two physical buttons can be found on the Moto G 4G, with the power button and volume rocker both found on the right edge.

Ports are equal in number to the buttons, with the aforementioned microUSB port a the bottom and a 3.5mm headset jack at the top, both of these in dead centre in their respective positions.

The back of the phone is removable, revealing a microSIM slot and microSD card slot.

The battery is rated for 2070mAh and is not removable.

Performance

Not everyone wants to spend an arm and a leg on a new phone, and if that’s you, you might find that you only have 3G phones to choose from.

But 3G is slow, and with 4G working on pretty much every major network in Australia, having that available as an option even on the “cheap” options is a big deal.

Enter Motorola’s G 4G, a new version of the mid-range Moto G smartphone Motorola brought to our shores in June, now updated to support the 4G technology we’re all enjoying at the moment, increasing the speeds of the Moto E to something a little bit faster that has the potential to make YouTube watching on the bus a little more high def, at least from a mobile perspective.

First, though, you have to pick up the handset.

In the Moto G, Motorola is continuing with its soft touch plastic back, a design that is comfortable on the hands and fingers, fitting the palm nicely, with the 4.5 inch display not too big and not too small.

If the idea of a big phone isn’t on the agenda for you, the Moto G 4G is worth checking into, as it’s a comfortable slot between the 4.3 and 4.7 inch spot, just before the 4.7 inch to 5.5 inches that the non-phablet flagships now take up.

Over to the screen, and while we prefer a Full HD display, Motorola’s G doesn’t have a bad thing going with its 1280×720 display, which is technically running at 1184×720 due to the soft buttons taking up some of that screen space.

That said, even with a few pixels gone, Motorola is showing an admirable 326 pixels per inch, right on target with the pixel count of an Apple iPhone 5S and even the new iPhone 6.

On the eyes, it’s bright, crisp, and easy to look at from most angles, giving other similarly sized handsets a good run for their money when compared directly, with the pixels hard to peep at all.

Using Android is more or less exactly the way you’d expect an Android handset to be, especially if you’ve played with one before this.

As usual, Motorola keeps things mostly stock, with widgetised home screens, a scrolling app menu, dropdown notification bar, and a shortcut dock you can easily move icons in and out of.

We’ll get to more on this shortly, but it’s an easy transition if you’ve ever used a version of Android before, and Google is mostly to thank for that.

Positive marks have to go to the battery, with the Moto G 4G able to pull an impressive two days from its 2070mAh battery.

That’s a result better than a lot of bigger handsets, and we were amazed by what the G 4G could do here.

Our test includes making phone calls, sending texts, surfing the web, social networking, taking photos, playing the odd game, listening to music, capturing photos, and generally using a phone, and that pulled two working days for us, or a little over 36 hours from a purely on-and-working runtime.

If you use your mobile a little more than we will, you’ll likely want to charge daily, but most people should see close to two days usage, which is relatively impressive given that this is a 4.5 inch smartphone that runs on 4G networks with 4G speeds.

Those 4G speeds were equally excellent, with download speeds ranging from 25Mbps to just shy of 61Mbps in our tests, which should be plenty fast for most people.

Even the performance isn’t bad, though it does have some niggles here and there.

From a technical standpoint, the Moto G is an improvement on the hundred dollar less Moto E, upping the chip from a dual-core Snapdragon 200 to a quad-core Snapdragon 400, but it’s not a huge shift that most will notice, and there’s still a degree of lag here and there, especially when you look at some of the 2013 phones that can be found at reduced prices that this competes against.

The software, though, is probably the best part of the performance package, because like other Motorola Android phones made in the past two years, this is pretty much pure Android the way Google wants it, with Motorola’s own stuff sitting on top.

This implementation means Motorola practically delivers the most up-to-date Android experience ever, and while some phones struggle with Android 4.3 “Jelly Bean” and others have Android 4.4.2 “KitKat” on them, this $299 Moto G 4G was running Android 4.4.4 a day into beginning our review tests.

Are the improvements minor?

Mostly, at least not the sort a general consumer will notice, but it shows you how on the ball a Motorola phone is, and if you’re at all concerned by the speed of updates from other manufacturers, those concerns can be allayed here on the $299 Moto G 4G, because the latest version of Android is what you’ll get. It really is.

But not all is great, and we take particular aim at the camera, because that’s where the Moto G just doesn’t feel as solid an experience as the rest of the handset.

Granted, there’s a flash on the back, so that’s something, but the camera quality isn’t good, at least not on the usable level that it is on the Moto X.

Here, the images are soft, blotchy, and generally lacking in light balance unless HDR mode is switched on.

At least the interface makes the camera easy to use, with the same simple camera software from both the Moto E and Moto X gracing the Moto G 4G.

But seriously, we’d only rely on it for the bare basics, because really, the camera is one of the weakest we’ve seen on a camera edging this close to the $300 mark.

Image sample from the Motorola G 4G's HDR mode

Conclusion

It’s not the cheapest Motorola out there, but in terms of performance, the Moto G 4G ticks quite a few boxes, offering a great screen, fast 4G speeds, and impressive battery life.

There’s some pretty solid competition between this and Kogan’s BenQ-powered Agora 4G, a device which has half an inch on the Moto G 4G, but if you like devices small-ish and want to move from the iPhone 3 or 4 to an Android with more bandwidth, this is one phone we’d check out.

Price (RRP)

$299

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Solid 4G battery life in a compact size, with almost two days of juice; Nice screen; Comfy design; Insanely up-to-date version of Android; Upgradeable storage;

Product Cons

Mediocre camera with slow auto-focus; System performance can lag sometimes;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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