Motorola Moto G review: Well-built and affordable, but slow

Motorola Moto G review: Well-built and affordable, but slow

Summary: The Moto G has its drawbacks, but it's well built, and if its features are sufficient for your needs, then it delivers superb value for money. If you're looking to equip a workforce with a basic Android phone, it's arguably the best choice currently available.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.5
  • User rating:
    6.5
  • RRP:
    £135.00

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Affordable
  • Plenty of colourful accessories
  • Runs no-frills Android 4.3
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Unimpressive performance
  • 16GB internal storage maximum
  • No MicroSD card slot
  • Lacks LTE support
  • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi only
  • Moderate-quality camera

When Motorola launched the Moto G last month, CEO Dennis Woodside said: "Most people in the world can't afford a $500 or $600 smartphone: in fact, the average price of a smartphone is close to $200 — the problem is, the experience that smartphones in this class provides is really, really bad." This, in a nutshell, is the problem that the $179 (£135, €169) Moto G (with 8GB of storage) is designed to address.

Initial impressions at the launch were good: a 4.5-inch screen, a quad-core processor, 8GB or 16GB of storage and a 'pure' implementation of Android 4.3. But how does this handset stand up to closer examination?

moto-g-main

 

Design

Although the understated Moto G has few 'design' pretensions, this solidly built 143g handset has a quality feel in the hand that belies its entry-level price tag. The chassis measures 65.9mm wide by 129.9mm deep by 6-11.6mm thick, with the front dominated by the 4.5-inch screen and the curved back housing the camera lens, LED flash unit, main speaker grille and a discreet Motorola logo. The default colour scheme is black, but removable backplates and flip covers are available in six alternative colours.

moto-g-rainbow

We were supplied with a slate-grey flip cover which not only features a patterned, easy-grip texture, but also automatically puts the handset into sleep mode when closed. A word of warning: the backplate takes quite a bit of determined manipulation to remove — at least, it did on our review unit. Beneath the backplate you'll find the handset's 2,070mAh battery and a Micro-SIM slot.

Above the screen is a speaker grille, the front camera lens and a notification LED; the audio jack is on the top and the Micro-USB 2.0 charging/PC connection port is on the bottom; the power button and volume rocker are on the right. The handset is small enough for most people to be able to use one-handed.

The Moto G's 4.5-inch, 720p (1,280-by-720-pixel) Gorilla Glass-protected LCD screen delivers a very respectable 329 pixels per inch (ppi), and its image quality is more than acceptable: brightness, contrast and colour vibrancy are all better than you might expect for an entry-level smartphone. It's no OLED with eye-popping colour and super-high contrast, but it's not at all bad either.

Features

Underpinning the Moto G is a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, which includes a 450MHz Adreno 305 graphics processor. There's 1GB of RAM on-board, along with either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage. Conspicuously missing is a Micro-SD slot for expanding the limited internal storage capacity: if you run out of space, your only option is to use the 65GB of Google Drive space that's available (15GB as standard plus 50GB free for two years). This isn't a powerful smartphone platform by any means, as the benchmarks reported below attest.

When it comes to connectivity, the Moto G further betrays its entry-level status, offering GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA+ (and CDMA for US markets) but not LTE, and single-band (2.4GHz) 802.11b/g/n wi-fi but not dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. Also present are Bluetooth (4.0), GPS (with GLONASS support) and an FM radio, but not NFC.

moto-g-photo

High-end smartphones are increasingly boosting the resolution and functionality of their cameras. This is not a feature of the affordable Moto G, however, whose cameras deliver a moderate 5 megapixels at the back and 1.3 megapixels at the front. Motorola's camera app is neat enough, accessing settings via a left-to-right swipe and taking a picture (or starting a video) simply by tapping anywhere on the screen. Image quality is adequate at best, though (see an example, right).

The Moto G runs a largely 'pure' implementation of Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), with a guaranteed upgrade to version 4.4 (KitKat) by January 2014. All of the usual Google services (Gmail, Google Plus, Google Maps, Google Play, Google Now, QuickOffice) are present, plus a couple of Motorola apps: Assist and Migrate. Assist helps to ensure that your phone behaves appropriately when you're in different situations (in a meeting, driving or sleeping, for example), while Migrate helps you move your 'stuff' (photos, videos, SIM contacts and call/text history) from your old Android phone to your Moto G.

Performance & battery life

The Moto G's performance is on a par with its limited feature set. Starting with GeekBench 3, we can see that the Moto G lags behind both of Google's most recent Nexus phones — by some distance in the case of the Nexus 5:

moto-g-geekbench

The gap between the Moto G and the higher-end Nexus 4 and (particularly) Nexus 5 is even greater when we look at 3D graphics performance, as revealed by the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark:

moto-g-3dmark

However, when it comes to simpler tasks such as rendering JavaScript in the web browser, the Moto G holds its own somewhat better, particularly against the Nexus 4 (note that in this graph, shorter bars are better):

moto-g-sunspider

We didn't formally test the Moto G's 2,070mAh battery, for which Motorola claims 24 hours of 'mixed use'. We can confirm, however, that the handset comfortably stays alive all through a normal day's usage involving wi-fi and 3G connectivity, and only occasional GPS operation. A recharge overnight and it's good to go for another day.

Conclusion

The Moto G is not without its drawbacks. Depending on your particular requirements, it may 'fail' on internal storage capacity, storage expandability, camera quality, wi-fi support, LTE support, performance or some other feature. Having said that, it's well built, and if the features you do get are sufficient, then it delivers superb value for money.

If you're looking to equip a workforce with a basic Android phone, or buy a seasonal present that doesn't cost too much, it's arguably the best choice available right now.

Further reading

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 65.9x11.6x129.9 mm
Weight 143 g
OS & software
Software included Android 4.3, Motorola Assist, Motorola Migrate
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.2 GHz
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
RAM 1024 MB
Storage
Internal 8000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 4.5 in
Native resolution 1280x720 pixels
Connections
Ports Micro-USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio-out
Networks
2.xG GPRS, EDGE
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG UMTS, HSPA+
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Short range Bluetooth 4.0
GPS technology
Antenna built in
GPS receiver yes, with GLONASS support
Input devices
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1.3 megapixels
Main camera resolution 5 megapixels
Power
Removable battery No
Battery capacity 2070 mAh
Claimed battery life 24 h
Number of batteries 1
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter
Expand

Prices

Price
Price EUR 169
Price GBP 135
Price USD 179

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Mobility, Reviews

About

Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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Talkback

29 comments
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  • No SD slot ?

    9.0

    Show me an Iphone with an SD slot ?

    For the price with no contract it's great value for money.
    Alan Smithie
    • Oh forgot to add

      9.0

      It does support USB OTG out of the box
      Alan Smithie
    • The iPhone is available in higher storage amounts though.

      7.0

      The iPhone is available in higher storage amounts though.
      bradavon
      • Read my lips

        USB OTG out the box.
        Alan Smithie
        • Some Tech writer

          I am surprised when he stated that the only way to get storage is through the cloud for the moto g. Its great that you can buy a USB otg cable for around $5 and use regular USB flash drives on the moto g. However their is also WiFi storage that works great on android. I myself have a Sandisk Connect that allows you to change the micro SD cards, and allows up to 8 simultaneous connections from different platforms (Android, iOS, PC, tablets) for around $50. That includes 32gb and its the size of a USB flash drive. You can leave it in your pocket/bag/briefcase and still stream or share files and data. Not to mention if you go on Amazon you can find a number of different WiFi storage units. I am completely surprised as this guy claims to be a tech writer.
          sgodsell
      • At an even higher price though

        8.0

        And let's not forget that the Moto G has a larger screen than an iPhone and better resolution. All for $179. The cheapest iPhone 5 is the C at $549 for 16gb storage. No contest, the Moto G is far and above the best bang for the buck of ANY phone on the market right now.
        laequis
    • Toyota vs Lexus

      9.0

      I couldn't agree more. The whole article compares phones that cost twice as much. Find another phone at $200 or less that is stacked like a Moto G. This is exactly what the space needed. You match this phone with low cost no contract re-seller like 35orless and you'll save upwards of $1,000 over the term of standard contract.
      2-connected MG
      • Bargain for a major brand.

        Agree, for a branded phone to have quad core gorrlls glass and 720p for that price is a bargain. I will let you into a secret. Most of the Android phones coming out of China will outstrip this phone in terms of build quality and performance. A lot have 720p and even 1080p quad core and dual SIM unlocked to any network. In my area there are WiFi hotspots everywhere so it not having what you call LTE is not even an issue. I have compared the screen of my £100 phone to a Samsung Gaxaxy note and the quality on mine is far superior plus the speed is barely slower. In fact you can't tell the difference due to Samsung's bloatware. Really, if I had bought a new iPhone , I would be gutted.
        rdbilly
  • or

    For around $200 on ebay, get a z10, which in my opinion is the BlackBerry equivalent to the Moto x or Nexus. Love it. Amazing, smooth, fast, no regrets. And Full android app supports on 10.2.1.1055.
    Georgefly97
    • Joking, right?

      1.0

      The blackberry Z10 maybe an equivalent to the moto and nexus in terms of hardware, but not ANDROID. People aren't buying the piece of crap blackberry because there's not enough developer/app support as compared to Android.
      iG0tB00ts
  • Motorola G is junk

    1.0

    Give that phone a 1. Google, thanks for buying Morotola, an American company, and making them the bottom feeder of the Android market. Yea, that tells us what Google thinks of Americans.

    Cons out weigh any pro:
    Unimpressive performance
    16GB internal storage maximum
    No MicroSD card slot
    Lacks LTE support
    2.4GHz Wi-Fi only
    Moderate-quality camera
    TimeForAChangeToBetter
    • @ToddBottom3.5 Google is Americans, you shmuck.

      10.0

      Well, they can't include microSD or microsoft will come a-knockin' for their estimated $15 per device FAT long filename patent royalty - antiquated filesystem needed just like windows only due to legacy compatibility requirements. That would wipe out much of the reported 5% margin motorola gets.
      drwong
    • Best Value

      9.0

      This is easily the best deal you're going to get on a smartphone. Honestly, LTE means nothing to me because my area doesn't even have it (which is also the case for most other places too) and 16gb is plenty enough memory. Get an mp3 player if you have a lot of music. This review is trash because all it shows are the benchmarks, which unless you're an idiot, you know those are completely unreliable. This phone can play every game on the Play Store smoothly and operates Android every bit as smooth as the Nexus 5. Chances are if LTE is a huge deal for you, then you have the money to go buy a $700+ phone. This isn't targeted at the spoiled rich Americans, this is for developing nations and people who can't throw that much money away. You're also not going to find a sub-$200 phone that has a 720p display and as much memory as this phone does. Most budget phones have a 480p or lower display, a 1GHz crappy CPU, and 4gb of memory. Some people need to get their head out of their ass think about things like that.
      bulldog521
      • US market not original target. But...

        "This isn't targeted at the spoiled rich Americans, this is for developing nations and people who can't throw that much money away"

        Which is why it was introduced in Brazil before the US. It wasn't supposed to come to the US until early 2014...I guess they figured the holiday season here was a smarter time for introduction.

        BTW, a large percentage of the US population is quite poor in case no one has noticed. That segment is snapping up Lumia 521,s at WalMart for around $100 (on sale now for $79) like hotcakes. This phone provides a higher quality experience at a still affordable price for entry level.
        louishelps
    • Camera not bad

      Please list another smartphone for around $200 that offers slow motion video capture like the moto g. That also offers a water resistant coating, and USB otg, with a quad core 1.2ghz snapdragon 400 CPU and 1gb of ram. LTE alone adds a major expense. Let alone WiFi ac not everyone has yet. To be honest microsd card usage is overrated. You can get WiFi storage fairly cheap now that will do way more then having an sdcard slot on a phone. Go to Amazon and take a look there.
      sgodsell
    • Man, too harsh

      You do realize that Moto G is a sub-200$ phone, right? Whether I can agree with you on the lack of LTE being a flaw, everything else on your con list is just plain stupid. Unimpressive performance compared to what? Flagship devices? It smokes everything in its price range and even higher (htc one mini, I'm looking at you), the only thing most other budget devices have over G is microSD slot. Then again, most flagships lack that these days. The only better relatively cheap device around is nexus 4, but I doubt you can get an unlocked one for around 200$ - 16gb new one, that is.
      Edge Walker
  • No SD slot or LTE is unacceptible

    4.0

    I have a $150 Nokia Lumia with similar specs that works fine; except it has an SD slot and LTE. Why Motorola thinks it's a good idea not to include an SD slot makes no sense. As for no LTE, why? I don't need an FM radio in my cell phone! Remove that radio and add LTE support, then drop the price by $25 and you got yourself a good quality phone for an unbeatable price.
    KBot
    • Really?

      8.0

      You bought a brand new Nokia Lumia for $150 that has similar specs. What model specifically?
      laequis
  • Benchmarks prove nothing!

    10.0

    The Moto G is a perfect 10. The cons you stated above is due to the phone being a budget one. This is the first phone a reputed company is coming out with which costs around 180$, having an impressive quad core 1.2 Ghz and 1GB ram. Also, benchmarks prove nothing about daily use. Just don't call it slow, because it was quite a step down from the Nexuses. Obviously it would have to be, as the Nexus 5 sports a 2.3Ghz Quad core, while the Nexus 4 has a 1.5Ghz Quad core(Both with 2GB ram) while the moto g is lower. The company makes only a 5$ profit with the phone. Also kitkat was developed on a 'Dumb Nexus 4'(Google it) and hence the moto g having much higher specs than needed, will run kitkat perfectly. Do some research before doing a sh*t-as* review, yeah? And calling it slow?
    iG0tB00ts
  • Not so bad for the price...

    7.0

    it looks like its a solid phone, no LTE kind of sucks but that depends on the market that you are in. Everyone is doing these quad core A7 setups these days... Its about as fast as dual A9's running at a decent speed but uses less power.
    Jimster480