- Incredible value
- Good camera
- Speedy fingerprint scanner
- Stock Android
- Lovely screen for the price
- A little unwieldy
- Processor is getting on a bit
- 1080p, 5.5-inch display
- Snapdragon 617 CPU
- 2/3GB RAM
- Android 6.0.1
- 3,000mAh battery
- 16MP camera
- 5MP selfie camera
- Manufacturer: Motorola
- Review Price: £199.00/$298.5
WHAT IS THE MOTO G4 PLUS?
The Motorola Moto G is the standard by which every budget smartphone is measured. Since the first version was released back in 2013 the Moto G has dominated the TrustedReviews Awards Budget Phone of the Year category. You can’t get better bang for your buck anywhere.
Up until now we’ve only had one version of the G released every year, but Lenovo, who bought Motorola last year, has this time brought us two: the Moto G4 and the Moto G4 Plus.
You might expect the G4 Plus to be larger than the regular Moto G4 – it’d make sense with a name like that, wouldn’t it? But you’d be wrong. The Moto G4 Plus is exactly the same size as the G4 and comes with the same whopper of a 5.5-inch screen.
So what is the difference?
Well there’s the price for starters. The Moto G4 Plus costs £199 for the basic 2GB RAM/16GB storage option. That’s £30$45 more than the equivalent Moto G4. The extra cash has been spent wisely, though – you get a fast, responsive fingerprint scanner and a better camera.
Is it worth it? Having used both phones for a while now I’d say yes, very much so. This is the best Moto G you can get right now.
MOTO G4 PLUS – DESIGN
The Moto G4 Plus is no style icon. It looks pretty similar to the myriad budget smartphones out there – glass slab front, plastic back.
At first glance I was underwhelmed, but I’ve come to appreciate the understated looks of the G4 Plus.
For starters the dark grey metal frame makes this feel like a phone that’s worth more and gives the G4 Plus a stability and robustness that’s rare in phones costing less than £300/$450. I’ll attest to its durability, as I’ve dropped it twice – the second time on a hardwood floor – and it remains unscathed.
The soft-touch finish on the rear is reasonably grippy, but does get greasy quite easily. Pop the back off and there’s access to a microSD and Micro SIM tray – a Nano SIM adapter is included. The battery isn’t removable, however. Well, not without removing screws and voiding your warranty.
There are only two visible differences between the G4 Plus and G4. The first is a tiny extra sensor in the camera module for laser autofocus and the second is a small square at the bottom of the screen.
The latter is the fingerprint sensor and it’s rather good, if a little ugly. It’s nice and responsive and unlocks the phone as quickly as the Touch ID sensor does on the vastly more expensive iPhone 6S. Unfortunately, unlike with Apple’s phone, the fingerprint sensor on the Moto G4 Plus isn’t a button, so it doesn’t do anything other than unlock your phone. It feels like a wasted opportunity to add a nifty shortcut.
The biggest issue with the Moto G4 Plus is, well, how big it is. Even though it’s not as massive as the Nexus 6P, its 5.5-inch screen puts it distinctly into phablet territory and that means it’ll be more than a handful for a lot of people.
If you’ve not bought into the benefits of large phones, and prefer to have a petite device in your pocket or handbag, you might need to look elsewhere – the Moto G4 Plus is almost the same size as the giant iPhone 6S Plus. It’s a real shame Lenovo hasn’t given us the option of a smaller Moto G.
Still, if you can handle it there are a lot of benefits to having a larger phone, not least of which is the screen.
MOTO G4 PLUS – SCREEN
Every Moto G phone has had a good screen for its price, and the G4 Plus is no exception. In fact, its screen is fantastic and better than ones on some phones that cost a lot more.
For starters the resolution has been upped to Full HD, so it’s now pin-sharp. There are phones with higher resolutions out there, but I defy most people to notice the difference if the screen isn’t a few inches from your eyes. If you enjoy a bit of mobile VR, you might want a sharper panel, but for everyone else it’ll be absolutely fine.
The display technology used is still IPS. That means you don’t quite get the same black levels as with AMOLED phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7, but it’s very bright and colourful.
Colours are punchy, blacks decent and it has enough brightness to be viewed outdoors on even sunny days.
It really is a joy to use and makes the Moto G4 feel luxurious and like a much pricier phone than it is.
The only negative when it comes to image quality is that the colours aren’t perfectly accurate. The Simpsons’ yellow skin has a faint greenish tinge to it and reds can be a bit too oversaturated, but this is still a far superior screen to any Moto G before it.
The screen is very fast and responsive to touch, although palm rejection isn’t perfect. I regularly find myself zooming in when trying to hit a link on a webpage because the bottom of my thumb interacts with the screen when I’m stretching.
One of the best features of the Moto G4 Plus is its Android software. I’ll take a closer look at it on the next page.
MOTO G4 PLUS – PERFORMANCE
It’s a little tricky to benchmark the Moto G4 Plus because there are few versions available with different internal components. These will vary depending on where you buy it. My review unit was the most basic model with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, costing £199. You don’t get that option if you buy directly from Motorola, as the cheapest version on its site has 32GB storage (£229) and there’s the option to bump it up to 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM (£264).
The 2GB/16GB configuration will be an Amazon exclusive for £199, although it’s currently unavailable to purchase.
All versions come with Qualcomm’s mid-range 617 CPU, which is a bit long in the tooth. That’s not to say it doesn’t perform, though.
Like each Moto G before it, the G4 Plus zips along merrily. Apps open up instantly, it doesn’t often get bogged down when multiple apps are open, and animations are smooth. I’ve been using it at the same time as the £459 Sony Xperia X and it performs as well as, if not better than, that.
Gaming performance is the area that really surprised me – I’ve had no issues playing even graphically intensive titles such as Asphalt 8 and Hitman Sniper. Loading times can often be a little exaggerated over a higher-powered device, and there’s the occasional dropped frame and slowdown when the action heats up in the likes of Freeblade, but it isn’t anything that ruins the experience.
Something a little concerning is how hot it gets after even short gaming sessions. Just 10 minutes of Clash Royale and the top of the G4 Plus started to get uncomfortably warm.
In our usual benchmarking tests the Moto G4 Plus scores 3,198 in the multi-core test in Geekbench 3 and 9,616 in Ice Storm Unlimited, putting in the same ballpark as the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016).
One of the sacrifices to meet this price was NFC, so Android Pay and quick pairing is a no-go.
Call quality and overall signal, on Three’s UK 4G and O2 networks, has been on par with other phones I’ve tested, with calls coming across crisp and clear. The ear speaker on the G4 Plus can be turned to very high levels, although it starts to sound a bit shrill at the top.
The speaker is perfectly acceptable for alarms and watching the odd video, but don’t chuck away your Bluetooth speaker.
MOTO G4 PLUS – SOFTWARE
The Moto G4 Plus sticks with a vanilla flavour of Android 6.0.1 and that’s a very good thing for a number of reasons. Firstly, history has taught us that Moto Gs get updates much faster and with Android Nougat on the horizon that’s great news. If you’re concerned about your data it’s worth mentioning that security patches come much quicker too.
You also get the benefit of Google’s fantastic Material Design throughout, with no ugly icons or superfluous bloatware. Google Now is quickly accessed from a swipe to the left on the homescreen, and Now on Tap works as advertised.
It’s even more impressive that the bits Lenovo has added are actually really useful, unlike the gimmicks we’re normally fobbed off with. The classic Moto Display feature is still here – pick up the phone and the accelerometer will kick into gear and briefly make the screen glow, showing off the time and any recent notifications. It’s seriously useful and I miss it when I jump to other phones. Turn the phone on its face when it’s ringing and it will go silent, while my favourite is a shortcut to get the torch on or off by moving it in a sharp chopping motion twice. These are the sort of tweaks and features I like to see.
Crucially the Moto G4 Plus supports Marshmallow’s Adoptable Storage feature, letting you combine the internal storage and the microSD. It’s very handy and if you pick up a fast 64GB card you bump your overall storage from 16GB to 80GB and means that the 16GB version won’t hold you back as long as you don’t switch cards regularly.
One of the biggest differences between the Moto G4 Plus and the cheaper Moto G4 version is its camera. I compare the two on the next page.
MOTO G4 PLUS – CAMERA
The biggest difference between the two Moto G phones for 2016 is the camera. While the Moto G4 has a Sony-built 13MP sensor, the G4 Plus ups that to 16MP with the added benefit of both phase detection and laser autofocus.
On paper it seems like it should be a decent camera, with a huge 1/2.4-inch sensor and an f/2.0 aperture. Aside from the missing optical image stabilisation, it ticks all the boxes.
Initially it didn’t strike me as a whole lot better than the regular G4’s, but there turned out to be a few areas where it really outperformed its less spec-heavy brother.
Details and colours are much more realistic, with greens not overly saturated and reds that don’t jarringly pop off the screen. It’s down to personal preference, but I prefer the more natural look here. Those extra megapixels also help everything look much crisper, especially when you crop in. It also helps produce nicer-looking low-light shots, though this still really isn’t a camera that excels when it’s dark.
Bokeh-heavy shots – where the background blurs heavily and leaves the subject in focus – are easily achievable, especially if you enable Pro Mode in the app. But as both cameras have the same aperture size there isn’t any noticeable difference here.
HDR, a feature that combines multiple photos taken at different exposures to increase the overal range of exposure, automatically kicks in unless you turn it off, and is reasonably zippy. Photos taken with HDR look a lot richer in tone.
The Moto G4 Plus (right) can take stunning photos in good light compared to the iPhone 6S Plus (left) that’s three times more expensive. The colours aren’t quite as realistic and some areas are blown out, but the photo is more detailed and brighter. Very impressive.
Lenovo has also cleaned up the camera app. It opens much faster than before and that silly rotary dial that held all the options has been killed off in favour of a simpler menu. All the key settings, such as HDR, are constantly visible and there’s a handy slider for upping the exposure, while Pro Mode offers you a multitude of tweaks.
The front 5MP camera is fine, but nothing special. It has good face-tracking and skins tones look natural, but that’s about it. Video is limited to 1080p 60fps, or 540p if you want slo-mo, but it’s smooth and usable for sharing on social media.
The Moto G4 Plus comes with a reasonably sized battery. I put it through its paces in the next section.
MOTO G4 PLUS – BATTERY LIFE
The back of the Moto G4 Plus might be removable, but don’t think you’ll be able to carry around a spare battery. The 3,000mAh cell can’t be switched, but that’s barely an issue, as the Plus will easily make it through it the day with a bit to spare.
It’s the same size of battery as the one in both the HTC 10 and Samsung Galaxy S7, but those phones have more power-hungry screens and processors, so the Moto G4 Plus managed to beat both of them in my tests.
An hour of Netflix streaming eats through 8% of the battery life. In fact, you can watch more than 10 hours non-stop before the battery dies. An hour of Spotify action takes it down by about 3%. It also slurps very little power when you’re gaming, and a 15-minute round of Asphalt only uses around 7% – however, as mentioned, the rear can get a little toasty.
Turbo Charging is supported and Lenovo throws in a compatible charger, so you can go from 0-80% in just under an hour and to full power in about 80 minutes. Fast charging is still a rarity at this price, so it’s nice to see it included here.
SHOULD I BUY THE MOTO G4 PLUS?
It might be the priciest Moto G yet, but the G4 Plus still represents exceedingly good value. It’s a reliable phone, one that isn’t flashy or blingy but just does pretty much everything you can throw at it.
It’s better value than the Samsung Galaxy A5, which retails at £299, and in my eyes is on par with the far more expensive Sony Xperia X in just about every area.
Is it much better than the regular Moto G4? Well, if you’re happy to lay down that extra cash, then yes – the camera is more reliable and having a fingerprint scanner is always handy. The fast charger alone costs £30 if you want to buy it separately. You’re getting a fantastic phone either way, but I’d recommend spending the extra if you can, buying the 16GB version and complementing it with a 64GB microSD card to make good use of Android’s Adoptable Storage.
The main question is whether the large size puts you off. The lack of NFC is annoying with Android Pay now widely available, but really there’s little else to moan about at this price.
It’s big, but the Moto G4 Plus is outstanding and adds some high-end flair to a budget champion.