When the Moto G brand came to the market 3 years ago, it was a breath of fresh air, decent specs at 1/3 of the price of it’s competitors. Since then the mid range market has become saturated with great devices and competition is fierce. Let’s find out if the new feature rich Moto G4 Plus has what it takes to stay at the head of the pack.
At 5.5 inches this is the largest Moto G to date, what’s interesting is we’ve gone from a one hand friendly 4.5 inches up to 5.5 but basically stayed the same weight at 155 grams.
The design of the Moto G4 Plus is pretty standard, slightly round edges, metal bumper along with familiar placements of the power and volume rocker on the right hand side. You’ll be able to tell the Moto G4 Plus apart from most of handsets at a glance because of it’s square finger print reader placed firmly at the bottom center of the FHD display. Down the back we have a camera “strip” right above the familiar Moto dimple which feels great since the back is made of a very nice soft touch plastic. The Moto Maker program is great because it allows you to truly customize your handset making this handset which has very few distinguishing features suddenly very unique and personal.
If you’re getting excited for the removable back because you think you’ll be able to swap out the battery, think again, there is no access to the embedded battery, which is a comfortable 3000mAh with Quick Charge 2.0. The dual Micro SIM cards can be found when you peel things back, the dedicated Micro SD card slot is very welcome since many manufacturers make you choose between dual sim and MicroSD.
The headphone jack and micro-USB ports are symmetrically centered on the top and bottom of the phone and reside in the all metal bumper. Flanking the fingerprint sensor on the left-hand side there is a microphone use for calls. Hidden on the right-hand side is a small white LED, which surprisingly, is not used as a status light and only lights up briefly while the phone is booting up.
The one design element that we do question is the finger print scanner which is flanked by dead space. It would have been nice if the finger print scanner brought you home when you tap on it, right now it does nothing. Software navigation buttons aren’t the problem, it’s that I’m reaching past a protruding physical element to get to it, they should have included hardware navigation, though if you’re being price competitive it’s the more expensive route. If you’re wondering how the finger print sensor performed, it never skipped a beat except when I had wet hands. To give you a comparison the Samsung Galaxy S7 finger print reader would have let me unlock the phone in a similar scenario. Apart from this issue it’s stayed consistent in it’s accuracy the entire duration of the review.
I have to admit, that I’m really enjoying the hardware that’s quickly becoming standard in the mid range, Full HD IPS display’s and Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series processors are usually good enough. The Moto G4 Plus comes with 16MP camera which after a few minutes of playing with we’re pretty excited to dive into a full review. Overall the build feels solid, the power button has a textured finish which is firm to the touch and is sturdy in construction.
- 5.5-inch 1920×1080 IPS display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53; Adreno 405 GPU, 2 or 3GB RAM)
- 16 or 32GB storage expandable with a microSD
- 16 megapixel rear camera, f/2.0, phase detection and laser assisted autofocus, dual tone LED flash, 1080p video recording
- 5 megapixel front camera, f2.2 aperture, screen flash, 1080p video recording
- Dual SIM, LTE Cat4 150/50 Mbps, dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, microUSB
- Water-repellent nano coating (IPX7)
- Fingerprint sensor
- 3000mAh battery, Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0
- Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Looking at this list there is a few features that are missing and that’s NFC, if you’re looking to take part in Android Pay or just like pairing devices with a simple tap.There is also no IR blaster, so you can’t control your TV or AC unit which are two things I’ve become a custom too because I hate having so many remotes lying around.
In the box we have the Moto G4 Plus placed on some instructions on how to remove the back plate and access the dual SIM & MicroSD card reader, instruction manuals in multiple languages, a turbo charge wall adapter & Micro USD cable. If you were hoping for a free bumper of headphones you’ll have to keep looking.
The 5.5-inch display offers a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels for 400ppi. That should be sharp enough, even if it doesn’t quite reach the pixel density or resolution of some flagship devices. Viewing angles look great and the whites seem to be color accurate, we don’t have any overt red tones like on the HTC 10. Moto Display was one of the first to give you always on display which is now standard across all flagship devices, but years of refinement have lead to a great experience. The display engages the phone’s accelerometer to determine when to pulse the latest three sets of notifications. As in years past, these bubbles can be previewed by merely tapping on them — though this year they are more information-dense, and show color — or engaged by sliding up to unlock the phone.
The bezels are a little thicker than we’re used to these days, ultra thin millimeter wide sides are quickly becoming the norm, the Elephone P9000 which is in the same price range offers 1.6mm and an OGS display whose colors really pop. There is nothing wrong with the display on the Moto G4 Plus good viewing angles and a brightness good enough to handle the sunniest day’s. However other manufacturers that don’t have the same overall build quality are using display’s that at first glance make the device seem more premium.
Overall performance is smooth and apps are quick enough to open. Playing games like Asphalt 8 were no problem and load times were average, we never felt like we were waiting too long for larger apps to open. We did have issues with the camera app taking too long to open and Photos is the default gallery app. Both took longer than is acceptable to open nearly every time we used them. The camera would hang on a black screen for a few seconds which is equal to torture when you’re trying to take a photo.
Geekbench single: 722
Geekbench Multi: 3042
Ice Storm Extreme: 5377
GFX Bench Manhattan offscreen: 6.5fps
GFXBench TRex Offscreen: 16fps
This is likely the software, during the review we actually downloaded a camera update, which came through Google’s Play store. We hope the next update fixes this issue and if like me you’re not happy with Google’s native photo app HTC makes a great one and it’s available in Play.
When it comes to benchmarks, the Moto G4 Plus is exactly what we expect from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53; Adreno 405 GPU running 3GB RAM.
Motorola’s history with Google has left it with a very vanilla version of Android, there aren’t too many changes compared to a Nexus device. We have the Google Now Launcher and Motorola’s own Gallery app in favor of Google Photos. For long those term fans, the only recognizably “Moto” piece of software are Moto Display and Moto Actions.
Notifications haven’t changed much and since Moto has been doing a variation of always on display for longer than all of today’s flagship manufacturers it’s kept on getting better. The Moto G4 Plus lacks the infrared sensors of its more expensive Moto X Style counterpart. Since this sensor usually figures out when to display the notifications the Moto G4 Plus engages the phone’s accelerometer to determine when to pulse the latest three sets of notifications. If you’re familiar with the lock screen the bubbles can be previewed by tapping on them, this year they are more information-dense, and show color.
Moto Actions are a bit more idiosyncratic, but no less useful: you’ll be double-chopping the phone to engage the flashlight, and double-twisting it to quickly enter the camera. Pick up the phone upon receiving a call to change the ringer to vibrate, or flip it onto its face to silence it altogether. I almost never use the flashlight on my Smartphone, but I’ve found because of the quick action to activate it I think to use it every other day.
We are missing a few pretty significant Moto features, like Moto Voice, which provides the ability to engage the phone by simply saying “OK Moto” and your handset can read emails, texts, or Google Now responses. Lenovo has clearly influenced the Moto G’s external design, it appears the company has left the software experience alone. From the notification shade and quick settings to the standard Marshmallow multitasking menu. It’s a clean experience that isn’t cluttered by bloatware.
The way that the Moto G4 Plus handles expandable storage is also quite seamless. Adoptable Storage a MicroSD card up to 128GB in size can be formatted to seamlessly integrate with the 32GB of internal storage. Once you format your card Android will install apps and store files on the new partition, with no detriment to performance.
The camera is often when we see that a Smartphone is meant to cost under $300, but the Motorola G4 Plus does a fantastic job, not just for it’s price point but in general. Is it as good as the Galaxy S7 or LG G5? No, but those devices are double the price and their cameras aren’t twice as good. The G4 Plus’s has quite a few tricks up its sleeve for a sub $300 phone, dual Auto focus system, Phase Detection Auto focus (PDAF) system, along with laser focus (which isn’t common in this price bracket). These help the camera find the subject quicker no matter the lighting condition.
This 16MP shooter has only one problem the camera app often hangs before opening, when you’re trying to take a photo it’s a lifetime. This can be fixed with an update from Google Play, of which the camera got one half way through this review. It didn’t fix the frequent lag in the camera being able to take an photo after launch, but we do have to admit that we’re extremely pleased with the Auto HDR. Many cameras only turn HDR on when the back-light is extreme, but the G4 Plus kicks in often and with great results. The display reminds you to keep the phone steady, usually when this happens and I wasn’t expecting it i’ll retake the photo. It’s good to have the reminder because with multi-exposure photos it’s easy to get for it to be a little blurry if you don’t keep still. Most people won’t clue into this, but it’s a habit that can be formed if the phone reminds you to do it.
The front facing camera takes a decent selfie, it doesn’t have any of the instant beauty mode that I’ve gotten used to with other Smartphones. It really does makes a difference when you can soften your skin just a little, if you’ve never lived with it or been a fan I can see why you won’t care, but it’s nice to have my tiny flaws taken care of in a natural way.
When it comes to selfies at night you can see that the colors are washed out and the detail is severely lacking. I took one picture with the screen flash and the inside of my nose looks great! In general the screen flash works in bar settings when you want to try to make the most of poor lighting, hold the phone out too far and the benefit is lost. Since I’m clearly a few cocktails in (Thanks R&D!) i’m not sure which had the screen flash on and which didn’t.
Night time shots using the 5MP f2.2 aperture, screen flash doesn’t’ handle back light well, but in most other situations I was really pleased with the result. The field of view is wide enough for groups or to get the background in the photo.
Moto’s camera app has a Professional mode, Shutter speed is adjustable from 1/5 s to 1/3200, so you won’t be able to take long exposure photos or time-lapses of the night sky. ISO is adjustable from 100 to 3200, we’d have preferred an ISO of 50 to really make the most of night time photography. We did however notice that a few daylight captures taken in Auto mode went as low as ISO62. The camera sensor itself is capable, and shots taken in poor light are still more than usable at ISO2000.
We were happy with the over all performance of the G4 Plus but it does lack stabilization of any kind, and the Snapdragon 617’s bandwidth limits limits video capture to 1080p at 30fps. The quality itself is quite good and the low light shots are better than the average Smartphone of the a similar price point. It’s not flagship quality, but it’s good enough, delightfully average in fact.
The single speaker is located at the top of the handset where the ear piece is located. Call quality hasn’t been an issue, but when playing music and videos the loud enough audio sounds a little distorted and full of echo. The G4 Plus also lacks high rez audio features in its internal specifications. You will be able to share YouTube videos no problem or share the odd song, but I won’t be leaning on this for my morning routine, the G4 Plus always gets paired with my Bluetooth speaker.
We are definitely happy with the battery life on the Moto G4 Plus, we have gotten into the habit of not charging over night and in stead relying on an hour of quick charge time to get me through the day. 10 minutes of charge gives you 15% or enough to make it through a real city commute. On a full charge I get about a day and a half of use. On the road trip to Taichung that I took over the weekend, 4 hours of navigation went through nearly the entire battery, which we think is pretty standard. If I’m heading out for the evening and I’m only at 50% I might top up for 10 or 15 minutes just in case, but if I don’t I know I’ll still be of for a night out of a ton of selfies, messaging and maps.
What we have above is an average day where I used WiFi and I still made it a day and a half.
The Moto G4 Plus comes in at 299Euro in Germany which is a very reasonable for what you get. However, the Nexus 5X, Samsung A5 or Lg G3 are around 250, so you can pick up older more high end hardware for a similar price point. Personally I would pick newer hardware which is more power efficient. The durable nature of the handset is something along with it’s day and a half of battery life make it worth the extra euros.
Where things get interesting for the Moto G4 Plus in the US in terms of pricing is that it’s currently listed at $375, for $24 more you could get a OnePlus 3 which totally blows this out of the water. However, for a 100Euro price difference in Germany the decision isn’t as clear.
But if you’re really serious about the Moto G4 Plus, the real question is should you be looking at the Moto G4 whose only difference is no finger print reader and a 13MP camera versus 16MP. We’ll have our review up in a day or two.