Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Is this the best value phone on the market? Moto G4 Plus review
High-end performance from a mid-priced phone
- High spec at low price
- Fast fingerprint reader
- Hit and miss cameras
It's not much of a looker but its a great performer. Specs and features are high end and the price stays low. Camera performance could be better though.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Motorola’s G phones have always been decent mid-range choice but they’ve not been particularly exciting and they’ve tended to be small, low-powered and cheap. The Moto G4 Plus on the other hand caught our eye because its specs approach those of much higher-end phones, it’s a decent size at 5.5-inches and yet its RRP is $400. It’s no coincidence that this is the first major Motorola phone to make use of parent company, Lenovo’s, manufacturing facilities.
It’s not a shiny, glossy, expensive-looking phone, but it’s smart and functional – it put us in mind of a Dell Inspiron corporate laptop. The textured, rubbery rear means that gripping the phone is very easy and comfortable – it doesn’t feel like it’s going to slip, unlike many competitors.
5.5-inch, 1920x1080, 401ppi display, 2/16GB or 3/32GB RAM, Qualcomm MSM8952 Snapdragon 617 chipset, two quad-core processors, Adreno 405 GPU, 16/5-megapixel cameras, Android 6.0, 3,000mAh battery, microSD slot (separate), Dual NanoSIM, Fingerprint reader, 153x77x10mm, 155g. Full specs here.
Handling and general use
It’s very easy to hold and comfortable in the hand thanks to the textured back and it also feels more drop-resistant than other glass-and- metal competitors. The first thing that struck us was the fingerprint reader at the bottom of the screen on the front. Ordinarily, this might be awkward to reach and press – especially if integrated into a physical button – but the sensor is up there with Huawei’s P9 as the quickest we’ve ever tested. Unlocking is virtually instant and easy to do if you enroll both thumbs. We’re completely over drawing patters on screens and entering code numbers now. All phones need to be like this.
The screen gets bright and the colours are vibrant although it’s not as good as the AMOLED screens on the market. But we had no issues – 5.5-inch 1080p screens like this are generally very comfortable to look at because there’s no squinting at small text.
The power button and volume switch lie on the right-hand side. On the left is a flap which covers two separate SIM card slots plus a microSD card (which takes up to 256GB).
Our variant had 2GB of operating memory and 16GB storage and everything ticked along nicely. Some games can be a bit slow to load, but for general-purpose usage, most apps opened without any annoying lag.
The OS is not far removed from straight Android. Double swiping down reveals the function buttons (as usual) but there aren’t many there and they’re hard to customize. Also, changing screen brightness from here has to be done manually. We had to download a media player and a file manager and the built-in screenshot feature could be better, but these aren’t big problems. You can’t swipe down to search for apps but your most frequently-used apps will appear at the top of the app list when you’re in that screen. All in all, this is a decent Android phone without the gimmicky bells and whistles that we see at the high-end – just all the important stuff.
As for actual phone usage, we found conversations were particularly clear more often than not. However, the speakerphone could be very quiet which was odd considering the speakers are generally loud and clear when playing music.
The 3,000mAh battery is quite generous and we found it easily lasted a full day no matter what we threw at it. Moto also has implemented a Turbo charge feature whereby it can gain six-hours talk time in just 15 minutes of charging. In reality, this is similar to other phones’ fast charging.
The deciding factor for many phones nowadays is the camera performance – both front and back. Moto’s 16-megapixel rear camera comes with “laser” focus for quickness. The area we noticed this best, however, was with video where focusing was quicker and smoother (and quieter in some cases) than we’d seen from most other competitors. The camera doesn’t have Optical Image Stabilization - and it shows - but the shakiness is not as bad as others when walking around. While exposure was generally accurate, white balance seemed was a bit off too often – we frequently experienced colour casts in video segments and pictures.
Taking pictures is near instant and if the lighting is right, so is the picture. It can be good in low light but certainly not all the time.
At $399 this really is a great-value phone. Compared to the tragic Sony Xperia Performance we reviewed last week, it’s nigh-on-impossible to find $600 worth of differences and features like the fingerprint reader, dualSIM, battery life are actually better. But it’s not an unqualified success with - its hit and miss camera lets the side down a bit. We’d also be inclined to spend the extra $50 and get the 3GB variant with 32GB memory – that’s a good-value upgrade. Elsewhere it's still worth checking-out the slightly-more-expensive Oppo R9 and HTC One X9.
It’s available in Black or White which isn’t too surprising – this may be a very solid, great-value phone, but it’s not particularly exciting. For a bit more you can grab the Huawei P9 with its fantastic Leica camera and better screen. Also interestingly is the imminent arrival of the Alcatel Idol 4S which is $100 cheaper, far more stylish and even comes with a case and a VR headset! We’ll be reviewing that next.
Nonetheless, Motorola (and Lenovo) should be congratulated on what they’ve achieved here. It’s a very good Android phone at a very affordable price.
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