Motorola Moto G4 review: An unbeatable Android bargain

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The Good The Moto G4's big, bold screen and junk-free software make it a pleasure to use throughout the day. Its ability to survive a dunking will appeal to the clumsy among us.

The Bad Processor performance is great for everyday tasks, but gamers will want to shop elsewhere.

The Bottom Line With its big, bold screen, water-resistant design and rock-bottom price, the Moto G4 is a dazzling deal.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 8

Fall 2016 update

Since we first reviewed the Moto G4 and G4 Plus, Motorola has kept busy, expanding the Moto line to include even less expensive variants of their flagship budget phone.

And if there was no Moto G4, the less expensive, stripped-down Moto G4 Play would be the deal of the century. For just $150 (or $100 for Amazon Prime members who submit to Amazon Prime ads, like this), £130 and AU$279, you get a budget phone that's surprisingly pleasant to use, for a rock-bottom price. But there is a Moto G4, and its larger screen, superior camera and faster processor cost just a bit more than the G4 Play ($50 or £39). For most people, the Moto G4 is well worth the additional cost.


The G4 Play (left) and the larger G4.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Moto E3 isn't available yet, but we do know this: it's not expensive. At £99, it's about £70 cheaper than the G4 (US and Australian pricing and availability isn't yet known, but £99 converts to roughly $130 and AU$175). And it doesn't appear to have the fatal tradeoffs we often see in the budget end of the market. Specs include a 5-inch, 720p display; quad-core processor; 8-megapixel rear camera; and 5-megapixel front camera. Plus, it runs Android Marshmallow, comes equipped with a microSD card slot, and is water-resistant (like the G4).

Dedicated bargain hunters in the US may also consider the Blu R1 HD, which can be purchased (with preloaded Amazon apps and lock screen ads) for a mere $50. That noted, despite the emergence of its lower-priced siblings, for now, the Moto G4 and G4 Plus remain at the top of the pile in the budget phone category.

Editors' note: The original Moto G4 review, originally published July 6, follows.

The Moto G has always been among the top dogs when it comes to "cheap but good" phones and the new G4 -- and slightly fancier G4 Plus -- have kept up that tradition.

Competition in the budget arena has never been more fierce, but the newest fourth-generation Moto G continues to hold its own thanks to a host of hardware upgrades, including a larger and brighter 5.5-inch, full HD display and faster octa-core processor, without shedding last year's water-resistant construction and expandable storage (you can add up to 128GB by adding ultra cheap microSD cards).

And then there's that price. In the US, you'll pay $199 for the unlocked phone, which will work with all major US carriers. Amazon Prime members in the States can also buy the phone for $150 from Amazon, if you accept ads -- and they're easy to ignore. Our review of the Moto G4 Amazon Prime edition here.) In the UK, the standard 16GB Moto G4 starts at a similarly affordable £169.

Motorola -- which is now owned by Lenovo, by the way -- hasn't said how much the phones will go for in Australia, but the Moto G4's UK price converts to about AU$300.

So what's the catch? Not much, really. Spending a bit more for the aforementioned Moto G4 Plus gets you a fingerprint sensor (for easy unlocking), a slightly better camera and -- at the top end -- double the RAM and even more built-in storage. But neither phone has NFC or contactless payment options, so the Plus upgrades don't feel worth the extra money in our book.

Moto G4 vs. G4 Plus: What's the difference?

The G4 Plus gets its name from its 16-megapixel camera (up from 13 on the regular G4) and a fingerprint scanner on the front. It also offers more RAM (4GB vs. 2GB) on its top-end 64GB configuration. Otherwise the phones are the same, from processor to screen.

Obviously, the Plus costs a bit more -- and configurations vary by region. Americans will pay $50 more for the 16GB Plus ($250), while those in the UK will pay an additional £30 (£199). An extra $100 or £95 gets you a 64GB G4 Plus, which -- as noted above -- also doubles the RAM. (The UK also gets a 32GB Plus that doesn't appear to be available in the US.)

That said, none of those upgrades are particularly compelling in my book. I kept confusing the Plus's fingerprint sensor for a home button (it's not), and its lack of NFC means there's no contactless payment option. The extra megapixels in the camera, meanwhile, didn't offer a big difference in everyday shots, unless you were zooming in. For those reasons, the cheaper G4 is the better option for nearly everyone.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Slender and water-resistant

The Moto G4 and the G4 Plus are almost identical. They both have 5.5-inch screens, which is half an inch larger than the previous model and a full inch larger than the original Moto G from 2013. Both displays have full HD (1,920x1,080-pixel) resolutions, which are bright, bold and well suited to your tweeting and snapchatting.

Even better, the handsets are water-resistant, so they won't shut down the first time you spill your drink on them. The back panel is removable, providing access to the microSD slot to expand the storage. You can't swap the battery out, but its 3,000 mAh capacity is sufficient for a full day of use, so you may not need to carry spares around.

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