Review of the Motorola Moto G


The Moto G is new phone from Google-owned Motorola aimed at the budget shopper. It easily blows away every other low-price smartphone on the market and could single-handedly bring a lot more Android buyers who simply couldnít justify the price of anything else.

Last Updated: 08-Dec-2013

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

The Moto G isnít a high-end smartphone, nor does it even try to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S4, the HTC One, the LG G2, or the Nexus 5. It doesnít have the specs to do that. However, what it does have is excellent build quality and one of the lowest upfront prices of any smartphone on the market, mated to hardware that is way above what one might expect for the price. It feels like a premium high-end phone from 2 years ago.

So how inexpensive are we talking? Well $180 regularly, but on sale at the time of this writing for just $150 on Koodo. Big deal youíre thinking, I can buy a high-end phone for that kind of money. However, weíre talking about OFF-CONTRACT here, the PURCHASE-OUTRIGHT price. You can buy the Moto G for this insanely low amount without signing a contract, or opening a ďtabĒ, or without even signing up for service at all if donít want to. If you loose one, this is all it will cost you to replace it.

As far as which phone I compare the Moto G to in this review, that will have to be my Galaxy S4, simply because itís my day-to-day phone and the one I have available for comparison. Before you call me out for being unfair, note that I donít generally include much in my reviews about features and add-ons, I concentrate on the core functionality. While the Moto G isnít the greatest at any one thing, youíll see that when it comes to core competency, the Moto G doesnít need to make any apologies.

RF Performance

Because the Moto G does not have LTE, I performed all of my tests with my S4 locked into HSPA. As far as RF performance on HSPA is concerned, the Moto G works just as well as the S4. It pulls in signals just as well, and under any conditions you can throw at it, the phones also produce approximately equal transfer rates and ping times. In other words, the Moto G passes this test and manages to stand neck-and-neck with the big boys.

The lack of LTE might be an issue, but it didnít stop people from lining up to buy the Nexus 4 when it was released last year. The HSPA networks are getting less crowded as many people move to LTE phones, and so the overall performance of such networks has actually been improving over the last little while.

WiFi Performance

Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly, depending upon how you look at it) the Moto G suffers from the same odd uplink problem as I found when I tested its big brother the Moto X. It was so strikingly similar that Iím quoting the text from my review of the Moto X virtually word for word:

I compared the Moto G with the S4 by performing speed tests under varying conditions. In my house I run two WiFi access point, one upstairs and one on the main floor. Down in the basement the main floor access point is very strong, but the one upstairs is a lot weaker and is excellent for mid-strength testing.

After repeated tests I found the downlink speeds on the two phones to be quite similar, though the nod always went to the S4, which was just a little bit faster (by around 5%). However, when it came to the uplink speed, there was no comparison. My home internet service has an uplink cap at 3 Mbps, and so I thought that both phones would handle that with no difficulty. In fact, the S4 had no trouble at all and could always deliver a 3 Mbps uplink speed. However, the Moto G could barely provide 1 to 2 Mbps no matter where I tested it in the basement.

I guess this is one those cases where you get what you pay for. However, itís certainly more acceptable in the Moto G that in itís more expensive sibling the Moto X.

Audio Performance

The earpiece on the Moto G provides sound quality that is approximately on par with the S4, and perhaps even a little richer-sounding (though not quite as good as I remembered the Moto X sounding). Unlike the Moto X however, the Moto G has plenty of earpiece volume and it matches the S4 (without the Samsung's volume-boost activated).

The speakerphone doesnít fair quite so well, as it produces a lot less volume that than the S4, though it doesnít fair anywhere near as badly as the Moto X, which I complained about having exceptionally low volume. Overall sound quality in speakerphone mode is quite good, and definitely a match to the Galaxy S4.

Multimedia Audio

Generally one relies on the built-in speaker to listen to the audio track of videos, and so the quality and volume of this activity is important to overall rating in this category. The undisputed king of multimedia audio (though the built-in speakers) is of course the HTC One, which just blows away every other phone on the market. The Moto G isnít even in the ballpark, but it does warrant comparison to the S4.

Both the S4 and Moto G deliver about the same volume (perhaps slightly louder on the Moto G), but each makes different compromises. The Moto G however doesnít mirror the Moto X. Instead of having a richer tone than the S4, it actually has an annoyingly peakier sound quality. In addition, the volume gradients near the top are insanely far apart. A jump from the maximum setting to the next lowest setting cuts the volume in half (or so it sounds). This often means the multimedia volume is either too loud or too soft with nothing in-between.

Display

This is one of the really surprising pluses for the Moto G. At its price point youíd probably expect a 960 x 540 screen with lots of color issues as viewing angle increases. However, what you get is a fairly decent LCD screen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 with no color or contrast distortions, even at the slightest of viewing angles. The loss in brightness is relatively minor and is less apparent that on the much-more-expensive Nexus 5. You also get a maximum screen brightness that easily trounces the S4.

The only issue I had with the display was one I could never quite put my finger on. Frequently, when looking at the screen, I swore I could see tiny horizontal lines, especially in solid colors. However, whenever I looked more closely the lines seemed to disappear. I examined the sub-pixels under a 6X magnifying glass and they were arranged in the standard RGB bar pattern. There appeared to be nothing out place there. This phenomenon continued to occur throughout my time with the phone, but in the end I couldnít really see it being an annoyance to many users, assuming they even noticed it in the first place.

Camera

Thereís really not much to report here. The Moto G comes with a relatively old-fashioned 5 megapixel camera on the back that takes okay photographs, which many people will find quite acceptable, especially if their primary purpose is to take photographs to post online. Low-light capabilities are so-so, but bright-light shots are fairly good. However, donít expect the quality of these photographs to match something from an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. Donít ever expect it to hold up to high-end smartphones.

GPS

There is no question that the Moto G supports Glonass satellites, which gives it markedly better accuracy in tough situations (like downtown buildings), but I noticed something rather odd when I tested the GPS. Using the oh-so-useful app called GPS Test I was able to watch what the GPS was doing over a period of time. What I noticed was that every now and then, for no particular reason, the GPS would completely loose ďknowledgeĒ of the Glonass satellites and the phone was stuck with just GPS satellites for at least a couple of minutes until it figured things out again. This would eventually settle down, but the strange problem would reoccur at random times. There might have been something wrong with the GPS chip in the phone I tested.

Processor and Chipset

Another surprise waiting for you under the hood is the Qualcomm 400 chipset with the Adreno 305 GPU. The Qualcomm 400 features a quad-core processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. This isnít as fast as recent high-end phones based on the Qualcomm 800 chipset (2.3 GHz), but itís plenty fast enough and being quad-core is a big surprise. Youíd have expected nothing more than a dual-core chip. Sadly it has only 1 GB of RAM, but that worked just fine on high-end phones just 2 years ago and unless you run a lot of memory-hungry apps at the same time, you arenít likely to find this to be a huge issue.

However, despite the lower specs for the processor, the experience with the phone was much like that of the Moto X. It was smooth and fluid most of the time, with just a few hiccups here and there. For the type of user this phone is targeted at, they will be very pleased with the overall level of performance on this device.

Battery Life

I didnít perform any exhaustive tests on the battery life, but my overall feel throughout the test period was that the phone had pretty decided endurance. In standby (with the screen off) it would just sip power, and according Battery Monitor Widget the phone could easily run for 4 days in that state. With the screen on I found battery drain to be quite acceptable. Battery Monitor Widget frequently predicted run-down times that were almost as good as I saw on my S4 (which has a 2600 mAh battery vs the much smaller 2070 mAh one in the Moto G).

Conclusions

Thereís no question that this might be the best bang-for-your-buck smartphone out there. While the Moto G may not have LTE, top-rated specs, a 1080p screen, or a great camera, for the small number of dollars you have to part with to own one outright, itís difficult to see any other phone on the market giving your more value for your money. I would personally have no trouble recommending Moto G to anybody looking for a quality smartphone at a budget price.

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