Moto G4 Review: No longer a game-changer (Video)
Before Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014, the company created a few very interesting lines of phones under the Moto brand that sought to change the way we buy phones. One of these is the Moto G line, that was introduced a few years ago and offered an very reliable and speedy phone for less than $200 unlocked. The Moto G eventually became Motorola’s highest selling phone of all time.
Fast-forward to today, Lenovo hopes to carry on the legacy of the Moto G, and offer a quality, affordable successor in a world where most other smartphone companies are offering their new phones for lower prices. The Moto G4 is here, and literally bigger than ever.
The Moto G4’s build quality hasn’t improved from the previous years iterations, but it feels solid for a $200 plastic phone. At 155 grams, it has the perfect amount of heft for me. I really like the plastic back of the phone which has a slightly textured feel to it and feels almost like rubber, although the oil from your hands will visibly show up on it after just a little usage. Wash your hands at all times.
The front of the device brings the classic minimalistic style I’ve loved since the Nexus S came out a long time ago. In fact, the design of this phone reminds me so much of a bigger Galaxy Nexus – front and back. There’s nothing on the front except the secondary camera and a single front-facing speaker right above the screen. No Lenovo logo, no Moto logo. That’s a +1 right there. While I’m bummed they didn’t include dual speakers like last year’s Moto G, I can’t complain for the price. Plus, the single speaker does get very loud, and almost competes with speaker quality on flagship phones using single speakers on the bottom.
As for the power and volume buttons, someone at Lenovo should’ve spoke up about these. They feel cheap, and barely provide any feedback when pressing them. It takes more effort to press the volume buttons than any other phone I’ve used. The power button at least has a horizontal line texture on it to distinguish it from the volume.
Easily the highlight of this phone. I’ve seen quite a few cheap LCD displays on phones before, even on more expensive phones, but the 1080p LCD display on the Moto G4 rocks.
I was disappointed with Lenovo’s decision to put a 5.5 display on the Moto G, but after using it for a week, it doesn’t feel like a big phone at all. 71% of the front of this device is covered with screen, so it doesn’t feel bulky to me.
Aside from the size, the quality of this screen seriously impresses me for what it’s worth. If any of you still own the OnePlus One or OnePlus 2, the display quality is right with those. I will say, the viewing angles are not great, as the brightness decreases and colors go yellow as soon as the device is slightly shifted away from your eyes. However this isn’t a problem for me, as my phone is directly facing me 98% of the time I use it.
Comparing the screen to other LCD displays like the Nexus 5X and Nexus 5, I immediately prefer the display on the Moto G4. The colors look very washed out on the LCD Nexus devices compared to the Moto G4, which is able to produce colors almost as vivid as an AMOLED display.
The 1080p resolution is perfect for this device. I started using this phone right after using the OnePlus 3, and believe it or not, I prefer this screen. These phones both have 5.5 inch 1080p displays, but the pentile AMOLED screen on the OnePlus 3 holds it back in comparison in terms of image sharpness. Images are sharper, more accurate, and the whites on the G4 look much better. I still much prefer the deep blacks on the OnePlus 3’s AMOLED screen though.
In 2016, it’s hard to find a phone running Android 6.0 that doesn’t perform well. The Moto G4 runs on a Snapdragon 617 processor which was unveiled by Qualcomm in September of 2015. I was expecting a sluggish experience, and to this day I’m waiting for the inevitable crashes or hair-pulling slowdowns to happen. But so far, this phone runs well! If I were to compare the everyday speed of the Moto G4 to something else, I would say it’s neck and neck with the Nexus 5 from 2013 – which still runs like a champ on Marshmallow with its Snapdragon 800 chip.
After using the phone for a couple hours on AT&T LTE while browsing on Chrome, the phone didn’t get as warm as other phones have, and quick-charging it with the Motorola Turbo-Charger doesn’t make the phone as hot as previous Motorola phones, specifically the hot-plate that is the Droid Turbo.
If you’re into mobile gaming, you might want to look the other way. The Adreno 405 GPU here does not handle most games very well, and loading times are pretty terrible. I primarily play Fallout Shelter, and while I had zero hiccups and quick loading times playing it on a phone with a Snapdragon 820 chip, the loading time to get into my game on average took a staggering 72 seconds on the Moto G4. This was if the game didn’t freeze or crash mid-load, which happened 20% of the time. I experienced similar results with other 3D games.
Don’t expect miracles here, people. But also don’t expect a bad camera. The Moto G4’s 13-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture provides pictures more than deserved for a $200 phone. Pictures in daylight look a little more dim than they should be.
Low-light pictures lose a lot of detail, but having HDR mode on really helps balance out the bright parts of the photos and the darks. Notice the overexposure of the Subway sign and interior in normal capture mode.
Daylight HDR on
Daylight HDR off
The camera app takes a couple seconds to open, which is annoying when trying to grab a quick shot. The app comes with some useful features such as professional mode that allows for manual tweaks, slow motion mode (although the 540p resolution for this is kind of a joke) and auto-HDR.
I was a little nervous Lenovo would take Motorola’s near-stock Android skin and mess it up, but things have barely changed since previous Moto phones.
This is basically stock Android with the addition of a few useful features. First, we have Moto Gestures, which includes four ways of interacting with the phone. When it’s off, you can make a chopping motion with the phone to turn on the flashlight. Keeping the phone face down immediately mutes the phone and keeps it silent. When someone calls, picking the phone off the table cuts the noise of the ringer. Finally, whether the phone is on or off, twisting it will launch the camera.
On top of this, Moto Display is back, showing your notifications when the phone is sleeping, however it;s nowhere near as useful as it is on the Moto Z, or previous Moto X phones that have sensor on the front for hand waving gestures, or the AMOLED screens that actually save battery when using the Moto Display. On this phones LCD display, you can totally tell the entire screen is on, and it just doesn’t look great.
A 3000mAh battery is becoming common for a high-end phone, so the decision to put one in the $200 Moto G4 was a great move from Lenovo. This phone lasts until the very end of the day for me with 10-15% left. To be exact, I unplug the device at 6:45 AM, stream Play Music for 30 minutes to work, browse reddit and Chrome for about an hour a day, text my imaginary friends using Textra, send between 20-30 snaps with Snapchat, and use a lot of GroupMe until I’m tuckered out at 10:30 PM. That’s 16 hours of “moderate” usage.
I haven’t felt concerned with running out of battery in a day yet, but if I do, this phone comes with a Turbo-Charger that supports Qualcomm Quickcharge. I remember when I had to pay extra for a Turbo-Charger when I bought a Moto X 2014… so I’m very pleased with this.
I’m satisfied with the Moto G4. I’m not blown away by it, and I’m not disappointed with it. Lenovo didn’t take risks with this device, and they didn’t push any boundaries. The build quality lives on from previous Moto G generations, and the display quality is something I never expected to see on a $200 smartphone. But is a bigger, better display worth the removal of dual front-facing speakers and a waterproof exterior? If I were to give an answer, I would say the screen is more important to me than speakers I rarely use, or having the ability to pour champagne on my smartphone.
At $199 for the 16GB model, the Moto G4 is less impressive than it was in its earlier generations, and faces serious competition from smartphones in similar price ranges, such as the all-metal, fingerprint scanner included Honor 5X. For $199, I would recommend the Honor 5X over this phone, but you won’t be disappointed with a purchase of the Moto G4, especially with the experience of customizing it through the innovative Moto Maker website.
You can purchase the Moto G4 here