Motorola Moto G8 Plus, hands on: A worthy update, but is it enough to stand out?

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  • $259.99

Motorola's G series smartphones have been around for a while -- we are now on the 8th generation. Motorola tends to release different versions of the same handset, but so far we've only seen the G8 Plus. Last year's G7 Plus was joined by Play and Power versions, for example, so we can expect more in the G8 series.

In the early days Motorola pretty much owned the budget smartphone space, but the £240 (inc. VAT, or $259) Moto G8 Plus enters a very crowded market. Many players have a phone around the £250 price point -- Oppo and Honor being two examples.

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The 6.3-inch Moto G8 Plus runs on Qualcomm's 8-core Snapdragon 665 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, expandable via MicroSD card.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The 6.3-inch handset feels lightweight (it weighs 188g) thanks to the significant amount of plastic used in the chassis, and the back has a reflective blue-to-purple graded finish that's reminiscent of Honor's approach. However, the Moto G8 lacks Honor panache, and is a real fingerprint magnet. The rear cameras sit proud of the chassis.

Motorola uses a hardware-based fingerprint scanner, which is on the back of the phone with the Moto logo embedded within it. I'm easy about in-screen versus rear-mounted scanners, and this one was efficient enough not to cause problems. 

It's nice to see a 3.5mm headset jack, and also nice to see it on the top edge of the phone.

The 6.3-inch screen has a resolution of 2,280 by 1,080 pixels (19:9, 400dpi). It's an IPS LCD rather than the more poppy and vibrant AMOLED, but I was quite happy reading text, watching video and doing the odd bit of gaming. There's a small notch for the front camera, and while the bezels are hardly minimal the only one of any real significance is at the bottom. Of course, the screen is flat -- Motorola couldn't afford to go curved at this price.

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It's nice to see stereo speakers here. One sits on the bottom edge, the other in a tiny grille above the screen. There's plenty of volume, and while it could do with more punch, audio output is perfectly acceptable.

For many people these days the camera setup is vital to their handset, and that's the case whether they are going 'flagship' or 'budget'. The 25-megapixel selfie camera (double the resolution of the front-facing camera in the G7 Plus) shoots perfectly acceptable photos, but there's a surprise on the main array at the rear.

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The 16MP ultra-wide-angle camera only shoots video, which it captures in landscape orientation while you hold the camera in portrait mode.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

There are three cameras at the back: a 48MP main sensor with an f/1.7 wide-angle lens; a 5MP depth sensor with an f/2.2 lens; and a 16MP sensor with an f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens. Test photos looked sharp and captured plenty of light during the daytime, but the low-light performance was less impressive, despite the fact that there is a dedicated night mode. The bottom line is that high-quality smartphone night shooting is rare, and not really within a budget handset's remit.

The surprise is the ultra-wide-angle camera. It's only used for shooting video -- and even then, you can only use it in portrait mode, framing your video in a narrow letterbox. Try to tip into landscape mode and the camera software tells you to use portrait mode. I found it fiddly to frame video of moving subjects, and rather frustrating to work with. I also missed ultra-wide-angle stills shooting.

The 4,000mAh battery easily kept the G8 Plus going for a day under my normal pattern of usage. This includes a fair bit of social media and quite a lot of web browsing, some ebook reading, and a few voice calls. Fast charging (15W) is supported.

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The octa-core Snapdragon 665 chipset performs well enough, even though there's only 4GB of RAM. More restrictive is the 64GB of internal storage, of which 14GB is used out of the box, leaving you with 50GB free. The last budget handset I looked at, the £219 Oppo A9, had 128GB, with 105GB free. There is a MicroSD card slot for additional external storage, but if you use this you'll have to sacrifice the second SIM slot. NFC is present, along with an FM radio.

If you like your Android (9) without frills you'll be pleased, as there's a very basic setup here, lacking third-party extras.

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Image: Motorola

The G8 Plus is a worthy 2020 update to the Moto G line. Apart from the odd ultra-wide-angle video shooting setup, it doesn't do much wrong. However, it's not a giant leap forwards for Motorola's budget smartphone range, and it lacks sparkle. There are now plenty of options to consider if you're looking for a new phone at this price point.

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Where To Buy

Motorola Moto G8 Plus (Dark Red)

Part Number: XT2019-2