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Posted on November 13th, 2013 by Jonathan Bray

Motorola Moto G review: first look

The popularity of the Google Nexus range and Nokia’s low-cost Lumias is proving that there’s a great appetite for more affordable, yet high-quality smartphones, and that’s something Motorola is hoping to tap into with its new Moto G.

Launched today in Brazil, the 8GB version of the Moto G will be available in the UK for a dirt cheap £135 SIM-free, and yet it isn’t short on features.

The headline is the screen, which at 720 x 1,280 is beyond anything we’ve seen from a Nokia Windows Phone at this sort of price, and stretched across 4.5in gives a pixel density of 329ppi – that’s around the same as the iPhone 5s. It’s an IPS unit, and our first impression of its quality is highly positive. It’s bright, boasting colours that leap from the screen with more verve than you’ve any right to expect on a phone this cheap.

IMGP9664It’s a good start, and the Moto G has a string of other surprises up its sleeves, too. Topping that display, for instance, is a layer of tough, scratch- and shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass. All the components – as has become customary with Motorola smartphones in the past year or so – are nano-coated and so should resist a drenching without the phone going pop. There’s a 5-megapixel camera on the rear, equipped with a single LED flash so you can take sharp snaps down the pub.

The design of the Moto G is pleasant enough, too, without screaming high end. The rear panel is gently curved and sports a matte finish, therefore sitting comfortably in the hand and offering plenty of grip. That rear panel can be removed pretty easily and replaced with a selection of coloured alternatives, similar to Nokia’s replaceable backs, except Motorola also adds Flip and Grip “shells” to the range. The former integrates a cover that flips over to protect the screen, and the latter has rubberised edges, designed to add a modicum of ruggedness. There’s no user-replaceable battery, though, and no microSD slot for expanding the storage.

IMGP9672Performance appears to be a bit of a mixed bag. Motorola says it’s worked hard at tweaking the Moto G so basic tasks take less time and the battery lasts longer, and while we can’t pass comment on its stamina just yet, it certainly feels slick in and around the OS, with Android’s menus and various settings screens whizzing by, and apps leaping into life with impressive speed. It doesn’t feel like most budget Android smartphones, and on paper the phone’s CPU looks impressive: it’s a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400.

However, this processor is a long way behind the fastest on the market, such as the Snapdragon 800 found in the superb Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3. When scrolling and zooming around in complex web pages, it felt a little laggy, and this was backed up by the results of the two quick benchmarks we were able to carry out on it. A SunSpider score of 1,442ms is well below average these days, and a score of 11fps in the demanding GFXBench 2.7 T-Rex HD test proves it’s a long way off when it comes to gaming ability, too.

IMGP9685As for software, it’s better news, with Motorola adding very little of its own tweaks to the base Android 4.3 OS. The most extensive alterations are to the camera app: Motorola has removed the shutter button, leaving a minimalist front-end that requires a swipe from the left to access settings, a swipe from the right to access the gallery, and a swipe up and down to zoom in and out.

Preloaded apps include Motorola Migrate, which helps you transfer content from your old Android phone, and Assist, an app whose sole task is, it seems, to put the phone into silent mode while you’re sleeping and do the same while you’re in a meeting, based on information drawn from Google Calendar.

More usefully, Motorola is also guaranteeing Moto G owners an upgrade to Android KitKat 4.4 by January 2014, so you’re not going to be left in the lurch while those with posher smartphones surge past you, and there’s an extra 50GB of Google Drive storage (valid for two years), in addition to the 15GB Google gives away as standard.

IMGP9681This isn’t a phone to set the world on fire, but we do like the direction Motorola is taking with the Moto G. For the money, it offers an awful lot of hardware – especially that lovely display and the waterproofing. In addition, the design is appealing and software is mercifully clean. It looks as if Android finally has something to rival Nokia’s excellent Windows Phone-based budget Lumias – and we think the company is going to sell a boat load.

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14 Responses to “ Motorola Moto G review: first look ”

  1. Adam Dunlop Says:
    November 13th, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I think you must mean 4.3 and not 2.3 for Android version. Or maybe that’s why it’s so cheap!

  2. Jonathan Bray Says:
    November 13th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    You’re right, Adam. I’ve fixed that, now.

    Jonathan Bray,
    Reviews editor,
    PC Pro.

  3. Lee Says:
    November 13th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Hopefully it comes with Android 4.3 rather than 2.3!

  4. Lee Says:
    November 13th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Beat me to the punch…

  5. Damian Says:
    November 13th, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    “The headline is the screen, which at 720 x 1,280 is beyond anything we’ve seen from a Nokia Windows Phone at this sort of price”

    Ohh a stab at Nokia there. I’d prefer a Nokia phone to this ANY single day of the week

  6. Daniel Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 9:10 am

    When is someone going to break the trend and just make a phone with these specs but twice the thickness to give it the one thing that would have me switch phones immediately – a huge “heavy” battery that will last me four or more days of real use!

    The Razr MAXX gave me a little hope but it is a bit aged now and sadly nobody else followed up on it.

  7. Ian Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Daniel, Yes just what i would like, a heavy battery, lots of power “time” just like the old phones.

  8. grimer Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I’m currently using a Samsung GS3 and this ‘budget’ phone has the same CPU score as my 18 month old ‘high end’ phone. I think I’m going to stick with the GS3 until it breaks and then buy budget. Hopefully, Nokias budget line will be sporting 1920×1080 screens,64GB storage, 48 megapixel cameras and SD card slots by that time.

  9. Ejuk Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Why have a removable back if there’s no access to the battery and no micro sd card slot? Surely this swappable rear panel thing is just an extra rear layer to the already enclosed back of the phone – adding extra weight and thickness?

    I use a third-party 4400mah battery in my S3 when I travel. It usually lasts about three days with heavy use, or a week if everything’s off and you’re just watching for roaming calls. It’s NFC compatible as well.

  10. Robertv Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Agreed with grimer.

    I’ll have any phone, up to half an inch thick that offers 2-3 days usage without charge please. My iphone had a Mophie and My nexus 4 has an external charger in my bag.

    Can someone sell me a fat phone please?

  11. Robertv Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Erm, I meant Daniel. ^^^^^^

  12. David Marwood Says:
    November 14th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Hello Moto.

    Hello David.

    Hello you, internet person.

    Hello Moto G.

  13. Quentin Dunn Says:
    November 20th, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t like the plastic backing.

  14. Charter Boat Fishing Pompano Beach Says:
    August 16th, 2014 at 9:35 am

    This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am truly pleassant to read
    everthing at single place.


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