Sheldon PintoDec 21, 2020 16:43:10 IST
5G isn’t here yet. While it has made its way to the east, the west is still struggling to make sense of it with spotty networks. And while it will make its way to India someday, it’s not here right now and it won’t be for a while.
I would not call a 5G budget smartphone future-proof right now. We don’t have a solid timeline for when 5G will see mass availability in the country. And the pandemic has slowed things down even further, as the auctions have yet to take place, after being delayed several times. Give or take, it could be about two years, by when most budget smartphone buyers will have already upgraded to a new smartphone; or at the least, will be looking to upgrade to a new one.
With that in mind, it’s clear that adding the 5G tag to a budget smartphone today makes little sense. A premium smartphone has a longer life as it is made of better components, lasts longer, and can go through milestone software updates (Android 10 to 11 or 12) a lot better than budget devices.
Sitting at the upper end of the budget smartphone segment (Rs 20,000) Motorola’s latest Moto G is a step in the right direction, but skipping on 5G and going with better hardware would have done it more good.
It’s the first smartphone with a Snapdragon 750G
Yes, this is the first budget smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset. It’s more mid-range hardware than budget, and is on par with the Snapdragon 765G chipset (or better, given its lower TDP and faster GPU). The 765G is currently available on the OnePlus Nord (review) and the Vivo V20 Pro (review), both of which are priced between Rs 25,000 to 30,000.
In short, you are getting more than your money’s worth when it comes to performance. Whether that’s running the almost-stock Android 10 software (with the usual Moto twists) or running the latest 3D games, the 750G can handle it all and do so efficiently, as you will read in the battery section of this review.
Since it has a capable GPU, I had to try out a few games. Call of Duty: Mobile worked brilliantly at “Very High” graphics and “High” frame rate with anti-aliasing switched on. Asphalt 9: Legends also ran at “High Quality” graphics settings without a hiccup or heating up.
Despite having just 6 GB of RAM, the stock-looking Android 10 felt smooth and fluid, with no hint of lag. There are the usual Moto customisations (like flick to turn on the camera) and some Pixel-like theming features that have also made it to this phone. Also available is the newer-looking version of Google Assistant with the rolling colours at the bottom edge of the display. In short, performance was not really a problem, and the same can be said about battery life.
The Moto G 5G is one of the few smartphones that includes a 3.5 mm headphone jack in or above Rs 20,000. The quality of the output via third-party earphones is quite good, and the same goes for the single bottom-firing speaker that packs in quite the punch.
Stellar battery life
I got almost 2 work days of use from this 5,000 mAh battery. It's hard to figure out what sorcery Motorola has used on this Moto G, but the phone delivered excellent battery life despite my gaming-heavy usage. This is impressive because it packs in a larger-than-usual 6.7-inch FHD+ display, which – despite being an LCD – ran almost two days.
And when the battery eventually dies out, Motorola has included a rather cool-looking 20 W charger in the box. It’s good enough to charge this phone up in an hour and a half or as Motorola claims, 10 hours of power with a 5 minute charge.
It looks and feels good… but weighs a ton
That large LCD display along with a 5000 mAh battery does make for a chunky phone. At 212gm with a 9.9 mm waistline, this phone is not for everyone. It almost feels like you are holding a slab of Cadbury’s Silk chocolate (just that this one weighs a lot more). However, the phone still looks good.
It features a plastic back (to keep the weight in check) along with this neat and classy-looking textured design that for once, also makes it onto the camera island. It’s a nice design touch and the wine-coloured back (Moto calls it Volcanic Grey) along with matte-finished rounded metal frame give it a nice handfeel.
However, the plastic back attracts dust and is a fingerprint magnet. Thankfully, the smudges are easy to wipe off. The phone also comes with an IP52 rating that will protect the phone against light splashes of water. This is a nice touch, as most smartphones even up into the mid-range do not offer any kind of (official) IP rating.
The display could have been better
Given that phone looks good and packs a powerful mid-range chipset, the display could have been better. The 6.7-inch mammoth of a display is a regular LCD unit with a regular 60 Hz refresh rate. I get that a 90 Hz display would have eaten into the battery life (and Motorola’s 2-day claims), but I expected a faster 240 Hz touch sampling rate at least, which would have made the gaming experience even better.
The LCD display features toned-down colours at the ‘Natural’ colour setting, so I kept it on ‘Boosted’ during the review period. It is bright enough outdoors, and mighty sharp at 393 PPI. However, the brightness drops when you view it off-center.
Despite the lack of an OLED display in this price range, the display did a fine job with video playback. With L1 Widevine support, the phone was capable of displaying crisp FHD video content, but without any support for HDR10. Neither Netflix nor Prime Video would let me access HDR content and while YouTube did let me stream in HDR quality, the display could not handle it, resulting in blown out whites and lack of detail in the darker scenes.
The camera needs work. A lot of it
What I liked and disliked about the Moto G’s camera was its camera interface. It’s a clean-looking interface that lets you access the macro camera in the lens selector itself. The rest of the settings you need (aspect ratio, flash, timer, active photos) are neatly tucked into the expandable menu accessible from the arrow above the shutter button, similar to a Pixel.
The remaining settings are either accessible under the gear icon (settings) or under the hamburger icon that sits next to the photo/video selector. What’s annoying about this mode selector is that you can only see two modes at any point in time. If you are in the Night Vision mode, you only see Photo and Night Vision. To get to Video, you need to scroll through the selector to exit Night mode and access Video. After a week of using this phone, I still found this camera mode selector extremely annoying to use.
As for the quality of photos, you get decent 12 MP shots from that 48 MP primary sensor. In daylight, images come out a bit too sharp with a decent level of detail, provided there’s enough light falling on the subject. The same goes for selfies, but the portrait mode shoots soft photos with below-average edge-detection, while the HDR system struggles to handle dynamic range.
Sunset is where the camera begins to take a hit. It’s aggressive noise suppression algorithms go all-out to reduce noise, and this results in images that look sharp, but are low on details. The camera still holds up quite well, as long as there’s a natural source of light around.
After sunset, things take a complete U-turn. The aggressive noise removal results in photos with reduced sharpness with a complete loss of detail. The textures are blotchy and the dynamic range goes for a toss. The much-advertised “Night Vision” does not help much. It’s able to brighten up the image along with a nice clean-up, but the details just aren’t there when you zoom in a bit, at least not as much as the competition offers.
The 8 MP ultra-wide angle camera shoots passable photos in daylight that are low on resolved detail. The 2 MP macro camera is usable in daylight but you will get detailed and more colour-accurate shots using a crop from the 48 MP primary sensor.
Video quality isn’t quite up to the mark. I got the best results when shooting 1080p footage at 30 fps. 60 fps at 1080p delivered blurry looking video (it’s not the focussing system, but the sensor), while shooting at 4K 30 fps was too jerky and did not have any stabilisation whatsoever.
Should you buy one?
At Rs 20,999 Motorola’s Moto G delivers almost-stock Android 10 software, 5G, a two-day battery and a large display which most will be happy to have. Had 5G been available today, I would recommend this phone for those seeking those faster data speeds, but it’s not. Moreover, all of that takes a back seat once you start shooting photos and video, as the quality is not up to the mark. And then, there’s the competition that offers so much more... for less.
Even the Poco X3 (review) that starts from Rs 16,999 (6 GB + 64 GB) provides a better performing camera, killer gaming performance with a Snapdragon 730G, a 120 Hz LCD display, stereo speakers and a 6,000 mAh battery.
Rubbing shoulders with the Moto G 5G will be the current king of the Rs 20,000 segment, the Realme 7 Pro (review). It’s got one of the best cameras you can get in this price segment, an OLED display, stereo speakers and a capable Snapdragon 720G inside that’s more than good enough for gaming. It’s also the lightest among the three at 182 grams and also the slimmest in terms of design (just that you will have to bear with Salman Khan on the retail box). The battery may be smaller at 4,500 mAh, but the phone comes with that crazy-fast 65 W charger in the box that no smartphone in the budget segment or the lower end of the mid-range offers.
In short, the Realme 7 Pro still gets you the best possible combination of hardware, software and camera performance you possibly can at Rs 19,999. Get the new Motorola Moto G only if 5G is a priority (it should not be) or you just cannot do without a two-day battery or stock Android, and are willing to compromise on the camera.
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