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Motorola Moto G7 review: The best budget phone just got better

There are a bunch of fun modes: There's portrait mode, time lapse, cinegraphs and color removal. It also has Google Lens, which displays relevant information about objects, landmarks and animals in photos taken with the camera.

Portrait mode works well on the whole but it occasionally had trouble with edges. Thankfully you can change the focus point and amount of blur after the fact to really make portrait photos pop.

small-portrait-mode-abrar
View full gallery

This portrait was taken using the auto-smile capture feature on the Moto G7.

Patrick Holland/CNET

If you're a heavy phone video shooter, the G7 won't be for you. Videos look OK in good light, but they suffer from noise and a limited dynamic range. Videos are oversaturated. But if you want to occasionally record a fun moment with friends or something adorable that your child does, this phone is more than capable.

For more photos and camera features from the Moto G7 take a look at this gallery:

But here's an interesting wrinkle. If you're savvy enough to install the Google Camera app (Gcam apk), which is essentially the camera app used on the Pixel 3, you'll be rewarded. The results are eye opening. Photos taken with the Google Camera app on the Moto G7 have more detail, dynamic range and better color. They're still not as good as the Pixel 3, but using this app takes the Moto G7 camera from C- to a solid B for photos.

Take a look at the two photos above of my cat. In the one taken with the native Moto G7 camera app the details in her fur look muddy and over sharpened. In the photo taken with the Google Camera app, her fur has much more detail and dynamic range. There are crops of the photos below.

Here are 100 percent crops of the photos above. The one from the Moto G7's default camera app is on the left and the Gcam version is on the right.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The selfie camera is OK. There's an auto-smile setting where it won't take a photo until everyone in the frame is smiling -- this also works on the rear cameras, too. The feature worked imperfectly but it did allow me to capture some goofy photos of me and my friends. Selfie photos, particularly people's skin, were often undersaturated. There's also a portrait mode on the front-facing camera that yields decent results.

While I do have criticism about the cameras, keep in mind that this is a $300 phone.

Android 9 Pie and a Snapdragon 632 processor

The Moto G7 runs Android 9 Pie with few customizations, and that's good if you're a fan of stock Android. Overall the experience is simple and straightforward, which makes the Moto G7 so appealing. There are also all the fun shortcuts Motorola adds. Twist your wrist twice to open the camera -- my favorite way to open a camera on any phone. Lay the Moto G7 face down to trigger Do Not Disturb mode. There's One Button Nav, which adds a small bar on the bottom of the screen that you can tap, hold or swipe to trigger different actions. There's an always-on screen where you can hover your hand over the display to see the time.

The Moto G7 supports the Call Screen feature found on Pixel phones, which lets you monitor calls from an unrecognized number via Google's service. A transcript is shown of the conversation in actual time. The idea is to minimize the number of robocalls you get.

The Snapdragon 632 processor makes the Moto G7 much faster than the Moto G6. In everyday use, I didn't notice any lag or stutters in animations or apps opening.

I played a few games on the Moto G7, including Alto's Odyssey and PUBG (in low-quality mode). I was impressed how well the phone handled the graphics in Alto's Odyssey and the fact that after playing about an hour's worth of PUBG the phone was barely warm.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Moto G7
941
Moto G6
818
iPhone 7
3,694
Google Pixel 2
4,424

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Moto G7
14,803
Moto G6
12,792
iPhone 7
35,662
Google Pixel 2
39,267

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

Moto G7
1,260
Moto G6
740
iPhone 7
3,500
Google Pixel 2
1,917

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

Moto G7
4,772
Moto G6
3,940
iPhone 7
5,977
Google Pixel 2
6,396

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

The Moto G7 gives you even more battery life

Probably my biggest complaint about the Moto G6 was its battery life. In our tests, the G6 lasted 9 hours and 51 minutes playing a looped video in Airplane mode. The Moto G7 on the other hand lasted 12 hours and 51 minutes. That's a 3 hour improvement.

The Moto G7 doesn't have wireless charging but can be charged fast via its "Turbopower" charger. The phone took 25 minutes to go from 2% to 48%.

Moto G7 vs. G7 Play, G7 Power and G7 Plus

Aside from the Moto G7 I tested for this review, Motorola also makes three other variations. There's the Moto G7 Plus which isn't sold in the US but adds better rear cameras, optical image stabilization and a faster processor. The Moto G7 Power is all about that battery. It has a 5,000-mAh battery as opposed to the 3,000-mAh one in the Moto G7. And the Moto G7 Play is a paired down Moto G7 that starts at $200.

 For an in-depth comparison of the Moto G7 family of phones check out this CNET article.

Google Pixel 2 vs. Moto G7

The Pixel 2 launched in October 2017, but a new one is still available on Amazon for $340. You get the same amount of storage and a better camera but a smaller screen. The Moto G7 looks more modern than the Pixel 2. And the screen and plastic body of the Pixel 2 shows more scratches and wear and tear than the glass body of the Moto G7.

Google's phone doesn't have a headphone jack, but at $340 it's hard to pass up. If taking photos is a priority, I'd go for the Pixel 2. Otherwise, the Moto G7 seems like the smart choice.

iPhone 7 vs. Moto G7

It's been easy for the past few years to cite the Moto G line of phones as one of the best bargains you can buy. But obviously if you're used to iOS one consideration is whether the low price justifies switching to Android.

Right now, the most affordable phone Apple sells is the two and a half year old iPhone 7 ($227 at Walmart). It has a faster processor and a better camera. However, it costs $450, has a smaller screen, comes with half the built-in storage and gets over 3 hours less battery life in our tests.

As someone who owned an iPhone 7 for two years, it's hard for me to say that it's worth one and a half times the cost of the Moto G7. Of course, if your friends and family are on iMessage and FaceTime, the iPhone 7 is the smarter buy. But if you can live without those services, the Moto G7 deserves your consideration.

Moto G7 specs vs. Moto G7 Plus, G6, iPhone 7, Pixel 2


Motorola Moto G7 Motorola Moto G7 Plus Motorola Moto G6 Apple iPhone 7 Google Pixel 2
Display size, resolution 6.2-inch LCD; 2,270x1,080 pixels 6.2-inch LCD; 2,270x1,080 pixels 5.7-inch LCD; 2,160x1,080 pixels 4.7-inch; 1334x750 pixels 5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 403ppi 403ppi 424ppi 326 ppi 441 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.18x2.96x0.31 in 6.18x2.96x0.33 in 6.1x2.8x0.3 in 5.44x2.64x0.28 in 5.7x 2.7x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 157x75.3x8 mm 157x75.3x8.3 mm 153.8x72.3x8.3 mm 138.3x67.1x7.1 mm 145.7x69.7x7.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.07 oz.; 172 g 6.2 oz.; 176 g 5.9 oz; 167 g 4.87 oz; 138 g 5.04 oz; 143 g
Mobile software Android 9.0 Android 9.0 Android 8.0 Oreo Apple iOS 10 Android 9.0
Camera 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel 16-megapixel, 5-megapixel 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 12-megapixel 8-megapixel 7-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 1080p 4K 4K
Processor 1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 1.8 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 Apple A10 chip Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Storage 64GB 64GB 32GB, 64GB 32GB, 128GB 64GB, 128GB
RAM 4GB 4GB 3GB or 4GB N/A 4GB
Expandable storage Up to 512GB Up to 512GB 128GB None None
Battery 3,000-mAh 3,000-mAh 3,000-mAh 14 hour talk time on 3G, 10 days standby, 12 hours internet use on LTE 2,700-mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back Back Below screen Home button Back cover
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes Yes No No
Special features Water repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging Water repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging Splash-proof, 15-watt fast charger Water and dust-resistant, Taptic Home button Squeezable sides
Price off-contract (USD) $299 300 euros, converts to about $340 $249 $449 (32GB), $549 (128GB) $330 (64GB)
Price (GBP) Converts to £231 Converts to about £265 £239 £449 (32GB), £549 (128GB) Converts to £250
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$421 Converts to about AU$480 AU$399 AU$749 (32GB), AU$919 (128GB) Converts to AU$465

Originally published April 3 at 3 a.m. PT

Update, April 6: Added Google Call Screen feature.

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