Moto G4 and G4 Plus review: Outstanding performer priced less than $300

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $299.00

Pros

  • Low price with customization options
  • Snappy performance with pure Android OS experience
  • Solid camera performance
  • Handy gesture support
  • Attractive and clear display

Cons

  • No NFC, so no Android Pay support
  • Fingerprint scanner doesn't function as a home button
  • Rather large device
  • Weak speaker

There are some fantastic Android flagships currently available with new iPhone and Google Nexus phones launching soon. I'm a sucker for high end smartphones and will probably buy the new Samsung Galaxy Note and Apple iPhone each at more than $800, but there are much more reasonable options for most people.

Last week Motorola sent along its new Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus, along with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon prepaid SIM cards. As configured, at $229.99 and $299.99, the Moto G4 is a third to a half of the price of the high end flagships, yet offers experiences that are likely to meet the needs of a majority of phone users.

These two models are not perfect, but with prices less than $300 that is to be expected. I used the Moto G4 Plus with my personal T-Mobile SIM for a few days to see if I could use it as my primary phone and I ended up going to the Moto Maker site to see how I could configure one for myself. The deep sea blue back and dark moon front look great.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 1.5 GHz octa-core
  • Display: 5.5 inch 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution LCD screen with 401 ppi
  • Operating system: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • RAM: 2GB and 4GB (Moto G4 Plus option only)
  • Storage: 16/32GB (G4) and 32/64GB (G4 Plus) internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 13 megapixel rear (G4) and 16 megapixel rear (G4 Plus) with 5 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Water resistance: IP67 certified splash resistant nano coating
  • Battery: 3000 mAh non-removable with Turbo Charge
  • Dimensions: 153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm and 155 grams

The one specification that is lacking here is NFC, which means you won't be able to use either of these Moto G4 models with Android Pay. I understand these are low cost phones and the last generation Moto G also lacked NFC, but in order to get people using Android Pay I would like to see NFC in all new Android phones and understand the cost to add it is not substantial.

One feature that I personally enjoy is the presence of a FM radio. I am out and about a lot, but like to listen to local Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders games on the FM radio so am glad some manufacturers are still enabling access to it.

The only differences between the Moto G4 and G4 Plus are the rear cameras, front fingerprint scanner, and inclusion of the Turbo Charger A/C adapter in the retail package. The Moto G4 supports fast charging via the Turbo Charger, but the spec sheets state it will not be included in the retail package.

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Compared to the 2015 Moto G we see these G4 models are a bit taller (11mm) and wider (4mm) with a better processor, higher resolution display, larger capacity battery, and support for fast charging. They are worthy upgrades over the 2015 model and are a great option for those looking for an affordable smartphone.

Hardware

Both the G4 and G4 Plus are large phones with 5.5 inch displays, ample side bezels, and top and bottom bezels for the fingerprint scanner, headset speaker, and front-facing camera. There's nothing unique about the front glass panels.

While the LCD screens have 1080p resolution, text looks crisp and clean while the display has good color, brightness, and wide viewing angles. You won't be using the Moto G4 with a VR headset, but these low cost models aren't necessarily designed to support VR.

The Moto G4 Plus has a square fingerprint scanner centered on the front lower bezel. It has performed flawlessly at unlocking the phone, but it is only used to unlock the phone and does not serve as a home button. Without NFC, the button also does not play a role for wireless payments. There is a small raised frame around the button to make it easy to feel and touch.

Motorola incorporates a soft curved metal frame around all of the edges of the Moto G4, reminiscient of the Nexus 6. The headphone jack is centered on the top, the microUSB port on the bottom, with power and volume buttons on the upper right side.

The back panel on my eval unit is black with some texturing to make it easier to hold and less likely to slide across a table. The iconic Motorola dimple, under the Moto logo, is centered below the camera. It is more subtle than we've seen on previous Moto phones and unfortunately does not serve as the natural location for the fingerprint scanner.

The back panel can be removed to reveal the microSIM and microSD card slots. The eval unit came with a nano to micro SIM adapter since most cards today are nanoSIMs. The 3,000 mAh battery is not removable.

The camera and flash are aligned on the upper middle of the back. The G4 Plus has a 16 megapixel camera while the G4 has a 13 megapixel model. The G4 Plus also has a more advanced focusing technology with support for laser and phase detect autofocus systems. Check out my Flickr album for full resolution images where you can compare the output yourself.

The Moto G4 models have water resistant nano coating, just like most of the previous generation Moto smartphones. This means it can survive accidental splashes and spills, but do not attempt to bathe these phones in champagne.

Make sure to also check out the CNET review where the Moto G4 earned an 8.1/10 rating.

Software

It's great to see these Moto G4 devices launch with a clean, fresh operating system. There are even fewer Moto enhancements on these devices as you get a pure Google experience that even leaves out many of the Google apps that previously were installed by default.

The only additional application is one called Moto. This utility gives you access to toggles for the various actions and display settings available on the G4. Actions include:

  • Karate chop twice to turn on the flashlight (don't drop the phone)
  • Flip the phone face down to silence notifications and calls
  • Pick up the phone when it rings to switch to vibrate
  • Twist your wrist twice to launch the camera

Display options let you toggle on notifications that appear while the display is off. You can choose to block apps from the display, set how much detail is shown, dictate when the display should remain dark, and toggle on touch vibration.

The camera app is easy to use and supports auto photos, video, panorama, slow motion, and professional modes. Swipe in from the left to access settings and in from the right to quickly view photos in the gallery. There is one momentary transition that appears if you are capturing photos in landscape orientation and then swipe into the gallery, but it only appears for the first image and does not appear if you move around in portrait orientation.

The rest of the software is typical Android Marshmallow, including the ability to enable the System UI Tuner and customize your Quick Actions buttons.

The review units have the May 2016 Android security patch installed. Since there is no carrier involvement here, owners should see security patches and software updates appear in a timely manner.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The hardware is not innovative, but it is well built and doesn't feel cheap at all. The software is very responsive and I never noticed any slowdown or pausing even after installing about ten of my most used daily apps. I was able to stream music, watch video content, and fly around social networks.

I don't use my smartphones for gaming, but I did download and try out CSR Racing 2 since racing games tend to push the limits of low and mid range smartphones. It played just fine on the Moto G4 Plus.

I did notice that phone calls had some crackling static in the speaker and listening to music through the speaker, it's located in the headset speaker above the display, was not a good experience. Music was hollow and sounded pretty terrible at high volumes.

I took both phones to the beach for a weekend getaway and admit to being rather surprised by how well the cameras performed. I figured there would be some serious compromises here, but think the majority of people that take photos in auto mode and share them to social networks will be very satisfied with the G4 camera performance. The cameras are not as good as a Samsung Galaxy S7 or Apple iPhone 6s Plus, but again when you are paying less than $300 you cannot expect that.

Using the Moto G4 Plus for three days as my primary phone proved I could go a full day on a single charge with moderate usage. The Turbo Charger works quickly to recharge the battery so if you have a few spare minutes it can't hurt to top it off. Wireless charging is not supported on the Moto G4 or G4 Plus.

There are some excellent choices today for buyers looking for affordable and functional smartphones. If Android Pay is not an issue for you, then you may want to visit the Moto Maker site and customize your own G4 or G4 Plus. The better camera and increased RAM option may be worth the extra price for the G4 Plus, but the G4 is also a very capable device that should satisfy the masses.

Specifications

Processor
Clock Speed 1.5 GHz
Display
Diagonal Size 5.5 in

Where To Buy

Price
$299.00

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Where To Buy

Motorola Moto G4 Plus (64GB, black)

Part Number: Moto G4 Plus-64GB/black
Price
$299.00

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