Motorola made an impressive comeback in the smartphone market, especially in India, with its affordable smartphones - the Moto E and the Moto G. The Moto G went on to become the benchmark of budget smartphones by bringing a good balance of design, features and performance. The smartphone was also praised for having vanilla Android experience along with timely updates, something which a number of smartphone players ignored.
Now we have the fourth generation of the Moto G which is also the first smartphone that sports the ‘Moto by Lenovo’ moniker. It is pretty much all Moto and less Lenovo, but it's clear that the Chinese vendor wants to make its presence felt. But has Lenovo and Moto done justice with the new update? Here is our review.
Design and build: 7/10
We’ve known the Moto G to be a more compact design, but this time we have a large smartphone. The first Moto G came with comfortable 4.5-inch display and eventually it grew to a 5-inch display on the 3rd gen. Now we have a 5.5-inch display which looks sharp and vivid. The design is still very ‘Moto’ with a rounded finish and a metal strip along the edges. In terms of dimensions, measures 153 x 76.6 x 9.8mm, and 7.9mm thick at its thinnest point. The G4 Plus weighs in at 155 grams. The front is dominated by the glass panel and of course the display under it. Right above the display is the earpiece which is also the loudspeaker, the front camera, and the usual set of sensors.
The square fingerprint sensor sits below the display which somehow looks odd and feels a bit asymmetrical as if Moto was in a hurry to cram it in the smartphone. It is also really small in size. On the left of the fingerprint sensor is a tiny hole for the microphone and on the right there is a hidden white LED which only turns on when the handset boots up or is charging after a complete depletion of the battery. We really wish that it was used as a notification light.
The frame holding the phone together is metal which somehow feels very plasticky. The right edge houses a textured power button and the volume rocker. The power button did feel a little flimsy, but that was only an issue with our unit. The top edge has the 3.5mm audio jack while the bottom has the microUSB port.
On the back you will find the camera module which is slightly raised, another microphone for recording audio in videos, and the dimpled Moto logo (We still wish that this is where the fingerprint scanner was placed). The removable back cover is made out of soft plastic and has textured matte finish. Underneath the back cover there are two slots for the SIM cards and a microSD card and of course the battery which is not user-replaceable. The SIM card slots also come with nano-to-micro SIM card trays which are handy for users who own a nano SIM card.
If you compare it with the Moto G 3rd gen, the G4 Plus is well balanced update over its predecessor. It features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset with an octa-core processor with four 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 cores and four 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 cores backed up with an Adreno 405 GPU to handle graphics-intensive tasks. There are two variants of the handset; 16GB storage with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage with 3GB RAM. We received the latter which is also the right option to go for even if it means spending a little more money. Both the variants come with an option to expand the storage with a microSD card.
The display size has grown to 5.5-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 3 for added protection. In the camera department you get a new 16MP rear unit and a 5MP front unit. The battery capacity is rated at 3,000mAh which comes with Turbo charging.
The handset runs on stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a couple of apps from Moto. On the connectivity front, you get Wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1, 4G LTE, microUSB 2.0 with OTG support, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS. It does lack NFC though, which isn't a huge issue, but some users do prefer that connectivity option.
Motorola, um Lenovo, has used a larger 5.5-inch display this time making the handset look a lot like the Moto X Play with less bulk. Nonetheless, it looks great, offering a full HD (1920x1080) resolution which comes down to 401ppi which is not bad at all. The display uses IPS LCD panel and it is protected by a Gorilla Glass 3.
You get two colour modes for the display. A vibrant mode, which increases the colour saturation (almost like OLED) and a normal mode that makes the display look more neutral and natural to the eyes. Colour accuracy is quite good with whites looking perfect. Even the brightness on the display was satisfying and we didn't face any issues using the handset under the harsh sun.
As always you get a clean stock Android experience and the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow OS. This is something that we always love and also enables the company to push upcoming updates faster, when compared to smartphones that come with their own proprietary skins. You get a standard set of Google apps and a few new apps from Moto including an FM Radio app, a file manager and an updated camera app (finally).
As with older Moto devices, you get some gestures including the ‘chop to open flashlight’ and ‘double twist’ to open the camera. Then there is also the Moto Display feature which is similar to Ambient Display mode giving you a glance at notifications without having to unlock the smartphone. Moto has finally added a clear all option in the multitasking screen, making it easier to clean up the memory.
The Moto G4 Plus is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset which is said to offer a very similar performance package as the Snapdragon 615 with improvements in thermal control and a new modem. There are four Cortex-A53 cores, clocked at 1.5GHz and the remaining four at 1.2GHz. There is an Adreno 405 GPU which is clocked at 550MHz. In terms of memory, you get two options, a 16GB variant with 2GB of RAM, and a 32GB variant with 3GB of RAM.
The day to day performance is very smooth and we didn't face any issues. Frequent tasks such as scrolling through social-media, browsing through websites and articles or checking emails didn't give any issues. Gaming is handled well but it wasn't very impressive as we noticed a few frames drop while running heavy games like Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2, however less power-demanding games run flawlessly. The handset does go warm when shooting videos, charging on turbo power and of course long periods of gaming, which is pretty much normal.
Overall, the performance is pretty decent, and the chipset performs well, but we somehow weren't fully impressed. A similar or even a better performance packaged smartphone is available at a lower price. The benchmarks proved that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 was way ahead and smartphones like the Lenovo Zuk Z1 and the Meizu m3 Note were also better.
Call quality on the handset is crisp and was very reliable in terms of connectivity as well. We tested all three network bands, and didn't find any issues. The fingerprint scanner also works flawlessly and is probably one of the most accurate ones in its class. It isn't a button like the iPhone of the Samsung Galaxy devices, but it gets the job done and let's you unlock the device without having to wake up the display.
Moto G series has always suffered in the camera department, but finally the company has shown substantial improvement. The rear camera features a 16MP OmniVision sensor with an f/2.0 aperture aided with a combination of phase detection and laser detect autofocus and a dual-tone LED flash.
Pictures come out very appealing and definitely better than any other Motorola smartphone camera. Details are very good and there is visible sharpening to pop out some details. Colour saturation is well balanced and the scene looks natural when taking pictures outdoors. But indoors, pictures are not very accurate in terms white balance. Pictures look better with HDR mode on and it improves the overall dynamic range.
The focusing system also works pretty good thanks to the combination of phase detection and laser auto-focus, it did miss the focus at times, but it was mostly in order. The camera can also record 1080p videos at 30fps. The video quality is just decent, but nothing out of the ordinary, again the HDR mode improves the highlights and shadows.
As we mentioned, Moto has finally update the camera app. It looks pretty much like the Google Camera app with a simple looking UI. There is also a pro mode which brings a bunch of settings like manual focus, white balance, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation.
The quality is definitely impressive when compared to previous generation of Moto smartphones, and the camera on the Moto G4 Plus is probably one of the best under the Rs 15,000 budget.
There is a 3,000mAh non-removable lithium-ion battery on the Moto G4 Plus which sounds good and was probably chosen to keep the bulk away, unlike the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 which has a large 4,050mAh battery making it slightly heavier and lasting more than a day. The battery on the Moto G4 Plus lasts a day after a full charge and thanks to the Turbo charging feature, you can recharge the smartphone from 0 to 100 percent in about 90 minutes. Heavy tasks do drain more battery and there were days when we had to charge the smartphone at least once a day. For some reason, out PC Mark for Android battery life test kept crashing on multiple occassions. So we will update the score when we get a proper score.
Verdict and Price
As an upgrade, the Moto G4 Plus is a recommended smartphone. Moto has done a good job in updating its hardware as well as some software (camera app) to make it one of the best options under the 15k budget. There are two variants of the smartphone, Rs 13,499 for the 16GB+2GB RAM variant and Rs 14,999 for the 32GB+3GB RAM variant.
Of course, we would recommend the 3GB variant as it offers a much better experience in terms of multitasking and the extra storage is always a good thing. The company also launched the Moto G4, which is the same handset without the fingerprint scanner and a lower resolution camera, but clearly that is out of the picture. Motorola shouldn't have even bothered to make this version and just kept the G4 Plus.
The Moto G4 Plus is slightly expensive than its competition, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 or the LeEco Le 2, and to be very honest it won't be as powerful. But there are certain areas where the G4 Plus sounds like a better proposition.
The camera is impressive and Moto has finally proved that the company has the capability to incorporate a quality camera module. Even the display looks sharp and vivid for something at that price, although we wish that Motorola had used a 5-inch panel rather than 5.5-inch one. The fingerprint scanner is very snappy, even though it's tiny in size and the performance is up to the mark, if the best. If you are looking for a balance of quality rather than high-end performance, the Moto G4 Plus is the option to go for.
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