Moto G (2015) Review | Best Budget Phone

Starting from just £160/$180 – the Moto G (2015) features a 5-inch HD display, 4G LTE, Android 5.1, 13 MP rear and 5 MP front cameras, an upgraded quad-core processor capable of playing the latest games and a large, 2470maH battery. Suffice to say, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Released in July 2015 it’s available in two models – the cheaper of which only has 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM whereas the £209/$220model  has a much more reasonable 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. This review features the lower-end model – and although it’s not perfect, let me tell you why I think this will be one of the best budget phones of 2015.

Design & Display:

In terms of design and display it’s not necessarily much of a step up over the 2014 Moto G. Weighing 155g and at 12.2mm thick – It’s fatter, heavier, has a lower screen-to-body ratio and has the same screen size and resolution as last year’s model. Despite this it’s still comfortable to hold and doesn’t feel that big thanks to the back tapering in to around 5.5mm on the edges.

The textured removable back cover looks quite smart but in my opinion it feels pretty cheap and tacky.  Having said that, the material and texture does make it very easy to hold which is great as you never feel like it’s going to slide out of your hand or pocket. Taking the cover off reveals the Micro-SIM and Micro-SD card slots. It’s important to make sure you firmly click the cover back into place afterwards to reseal the phone as the Moto G enjoys IPX7 waterproofing which means it will survive being submerged in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

Moto G waterproof

If you buy this phone online from Motorola directly, you can use their Moto Maker service which allows you to customise the front and back colours, choose between the 8 and 16GB versions, choose a case and add personalised engravings. I opted for a Black front, Cherry back and Dark Chrome Accent. It’s a great way of personalising your phone, with options to reflect your personality – making it look subtle and refined or really bold and eye-catching.

With a 5-inch, 1280 x 720 IPS-LCD display protected by Gorilla Glass 3, there’s little difference between this and its predecessor which sports the same size and resolution. It’s still reasonably sharp at 294 Pixels per Inch – only slightly less than the iPhone 6’s 326ppi.

As for the quality of the display, it’s not the brightest at around 450 nits at maximum brightness – although that is still a 14% improvement over the 2014 model. Colour temperature is improved to, but still remains markedly cool and not overly vibrant. It looks good for a mid-range device but falls down slightly next to more expensive flagship phones.

Moto G 2015Performance & Storage:

The Moto G 2015 features a 64-bit, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor alongside 1 or 2GB of RAM depending on the model you choose.

The new 410 chip sports a higher clock-speed and a faster Adreno 306 graphics chip than the snapdragon 400 found in the 2014 Moto G. So although the new 2015 model isn’t going to compete with the flagships in raw power – this is where mid-range phones like the Moto G offer fantastic bang for buck.

At less than half the price of top-end android phones like the Galaxy S6, LG G4 and HTC One M9, the latest android 5.1 software and efficient quad-core processor mean the Moto G isn’t really that much slower in real terms. In the AnTuTu benchmark, the Moto G scored a less than stellar 22,937 – that compares with 61,274 for the Galaxy S6 and 52,343 for the HTC One M9 which uses Qualcomms most powerful Snapdragon 810 chip.

Synthetic benchmarks aside, in real world use, the Moto G’s performance is surprisingly close to some of these flagships and highlights the diminishing returns we see with today’s flagships in terms of the increasing power of hardware versus the real-world gains in the performance.

Real Racing 3, one of the best looking and most graphically intensive games available on the Google Play Store runs really well. It’s a credit to the performance of the Snapdragon 410 which, despite being a mid-range chip, runs the game without a hint of slow-down or over-heating. You can be confident then that despite being described as a budget option, the 2015 Moto G is capable of running any game or app you throw at it.

Moto G 2015 games

It’s a shame I could only get my hands on the 1GB model as it would be interesting to see if there’s any significant improvement in multitasking performance with the 2GB version.

Storage is still lacking – however. The base model only offers 8GB of storage with the more expensive option coming with a much more reasonable 16GB. Fortunately, the phone does support Micro-SD cards but only up to 32GB in capacity. I would recommend opting for 16GB model as Android still doesn’t allow you to install apps (without rooting your phone) on external storage so installing more than a few basic apps will quickly fill it up. It’s rumoured that the upcoming Android 5.2 update will add a feature that allows you to format your Micro-SD card in a way that makes the phone see and use it as internal memory – which is great news but there’s no definite word when this is coming.

Software & Features:

One of the main reasons the Moto G feels remarkably fast and fluid to use is thanks to the latest Android 5.1 software it runs. The best news is Moto keeps things simple by offering a near-stock Android experience on the Moto G. Google’s Material design gives the phone a more grown-up and sophisticated feel, most noticeably in the app drawer, drop down notification bar and settings menu.

Moto do add a couple of interesting features though. From the pre-installed Moto app, you can use ‘Assist’ to change the settings on your phone depending on your location. If you’re in bed, for example – you can set it so the screen mains off and notifications are restricted to priority only. Within the app, ‘Actions’ guides you through your phones motion control. Perform a double ‘karate-chop’ action to turn on the flashlight or twist the phone twice to open the camera app – both of which work really well.

Relatively trivial but welcome additions to an otherwise great, stock android experience.

Moto G 2015 software

Camera:

Motorola boasts about the Moto G having a ‘best in class’ camera which includes a dual-LED flash and uses the same sensor found in the Google Nexus 6 – also made by Motorola.  The Moto G 2015 features 13 MP rear and 5 MP front cameras – up from 8 and 2 MP, respectively.

On the face of it, in well-lit environments the Moto G produces bright and detailed pictures that are naturally vibrant and pleasing to the eye. However, detail and sharpness fades into fuzziness as you zoom in and focusing on the right subject proves more hit-and-miss than it should be.

In lower-light, detail suffers and noise becomes much more apparent which the dedicated ‘night mode’ and flash do very little to compensate for.

When it comes to recording video, the 2015 Moto G adds a slow-motion mode and ups the maximum resolution to 1080p (full HD) at 30 frames per second which produces reasonable looking results and is surprisingly smooth despite the absence of optical image stabilisation. Colours appear a bit muted and there is occasional artifacting but on the whole does it a good job.  The only other video mode is a 720p slow-motion

Beyond HDR mode, a panorama option and selecting a mode allowing you to adjust the focus and exposure – there aren’t many options for more experienced photographers. For most of us this isn’t a problem, a double-twist action which quickly opens the camera app followed by a taking a picture with a single tap on the screen is an impressively fast and user-friendly experience.

The 5MP front ‘selfie’ camera is noticeably less detailed than the rear and colours appear unnaturally saturated.  It’ll get the job done and I doubt most people really expect the highest quality from the front camera – as long as it makes them and their friends look good (which the slightly wider angle and higher saturation should).

There’s no fancy 4K option, pro modes or even optical image stabilisation but it’s a solid step up from last year and performs admirably well compared with its mid-range competition.

Moto G Camera
Moto G (2015) Rear Camera (16:9 9.7MP, F/2.0)

Battery:

The Moto G’s non-removable 2470maH battery, which is nearly 20% larger in capacity than last year’s model, is surprisingly good.

Running the Geekbench 3 battery rundown test – It took 8 hours and 26 minutes for the battery to fully discharge. If we compare this result to 5hr14 for the LG G4, 5hr50 for the Galaxy S6 and 5hr26 for the iPhone 6 Plus, the Moto G 2015 would appear to absolutely thrash the expensive flagships in battery life by an average increase of 53%!

Moto G Geekbench

Strangely, the ‘battery score’ from the same Geekbench test actually puts the Moto G in last place so real-life testing was needed to confirm the unbelievable run-down result.

With Netflix running for just over 13 minutes on both the Moto G and Samsung Galaxy S6 – which had full batteries and brightness set to max, they performed identically – with 97% battery remaining.  A small-scale test, but it does suggest the Moto G doesn’t perform quite as well as the benchmark may have suggested.

Typical real-world use for me includes web browsing, Spotify, checking social media, sending a few texts and taking a couple of calls – with auto-brightness enabled. I don’t tend to play games or use any particularly intensive applications, but I would say my usage is pretty average. The Moto G comfortably lasted me a full work day and well into the evening, with around 30% remaining by 10pm. You could probably get a day and a half out of it with care – and maybe even two with the battery saver mode enabled – but for most of us it’ll require an overnight charge.

So the benchmarks exaggerated the real-world performance a tad, but it’s still impressive and thanks to the latest android software and more power-efficient snapdragon 410 processor, the Moto G offers very respectable battery performance.

In terms of charging, unfortunately there’s no quick or wireless charging features built-in to the Moto G, despite the Snapdragon 410 chip inside supporting quick charging – and therefore has pretty average charge times. From 0%, 30 minutes of charging will add about 20% of battery – significantly slower than phones, including the Moto X, which do offer fast-charging.

Call & Sound Quality:

Moto has dropped one of the front-facing speakers, despite appearances, meaning there is just one speaker located on the front’s bottom bezel. Although a forward facing speaker is still better than most phones which usually relegate it to the back or base of the phone, the Moto G’s single speaker doesn’t sound particularly nice. Volume is impressive but it’s tinny and lacks depth or warmth. It’s fine for the odd video or putting a call on speaker but I’d recommend using headphones for a better audio experience.

It’s a similar story with the call quality. Clarity is decent and there was no issue with either caller hearing each other but it’s pretty unremarkable in terms of quality. Fortunately, average call quality is something that many flagships suffer from so for a mid-range budget phone it’s more forgivable.

Moto G Call Quality

The Verdict

A near stock Android experience, significantly improved cameras and solid gaming performance make the 2015 Moto G a worthy successor to one of the best budget phones of 2014. It’s not perfect, except for the addition of waterproofing I think the design has taken a step back in many ways and the display quality, battery life and sound quality are all fairly average. Despite this, it represents great value for money even if you opt for the higher-spec 16GB model.

As mid-range, budget phones become more powerful and desirable – they raise serious questions regarding the value of top-end, flagship devices. The Moto G (2015) is an incredibly capable smartphone and I highly recommend it to casual users and phone enthusiasts alike.

 

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