Motorola Moto G4 full review

As expected, Motorola has launched a new Moto G budget phone for 2016. For this year it's available in two different models. Here's our full and in-depth Motorola Moto G4 review.

Black Friday deal: The Moto G4 might be in Amazon's sale for £99 but we'd recommend getting the much newer G6 Play for just £129.

The Moto G range is a little confusing so let's quickly explain how the range has been launched over the years. You can see the list of Moto Gs below which was launched in 2013 originally. The phone got updated with 4G support before the second generation model came along in 2014 which was then upgraded to 4G in early 2015. Then last year the Moto G third-gen launched later in 2015. Now we have the 2016 models in the form of the Moto G4 which is the fourth-generation.

Moto G
Moto G 4G
Moto G (2014 - second generation)
Moto G 4G (2015 - second generation)
Moto G 2015 (third-generation)

If the launch seems a bit sudden, Lenovo chose to hold an even in India for the Moto G4 but we've been able to see the new phone in London ahead of its UK release.

Moto G4 review

Motorola Moto G4 review: Price and release date

It hasn't been too long to wait for the Moto G4 with its early June release date. It's priced at £169. You'll be able to buy the Moto G4 from the likes of Tesco Mobile, Argos and Amazon.

Motorola has also announced, for the first time, a more premium option for the Moto G range. It's called the Moto G4 Plus and will cost £199. This phone will be exclusively available at Amazon with a release date of 'mid-June'.

Over the years, the Moto G has increased in price – not by much, but Motorola has added another £10 onto the price tag for 2016. While it's still a very affordable phone, it still doesn't fit our under £150 requirement for the best budget phone chart.

Moto G4 budget phone

If you miss the days of the Moto G coming in at under £150, the Lenovo has the new K5 to tempt you with. It's a 5in HD phone with a 13Mp camera and Dolby Atmos which costs £129. Motorola has also dropped the price of the Moto G 2015 to £149.

Motorola Moto G4 review: Design and build

Now owned by Lenovo (previously Google), Motorola has kept the familiar design of the Moto G going with the new 2016 model. It's got the same overall look and feel but tweaking it enough to give it some freshness and individuality.

For example, the dimple the 'M' for Motorola has been taken out of the camera surround. A small change but one which helps differentiate between last year's and this year's models. The build is still plastic but the Moto G4 feels good in the hand. The main difference is that they're bigger phones which some customers might not want - it will be too unwieldy for some, especially if you're used to the smaller size.

Moto G4 design and build

The good news is that you can still customise the phone via the Moto Maker. It's like 'build-a-bear' for phones so you can choose different front and back colours and five accent colours. You can only choose black or white for the front but the rear cover comes in eight different options. You'll also be able choose how much storage you want an optionally add an engraving to the rear cover. The latter is the only cosmetic item  which adds to the price - £5 to be exact.

While the 2015 Moto G is fully waterproof, the Moto G4 has been downgraded in this respect. Now it's simply splash proof so you can't go dunking it completely in water. Motorola told us that most consumers only need splash level protection so avoided the additional cost of making it fully waterproof.

It's worth noting that the Moto G4 Plus is identical to the regular Moto G4 in size and design – 7.9mm and 155g. It simply has the fingerprint scanner below the screen in addition (below). The scanner is quite small compared to others we've seen on phones and has a small raised border around it making it feel a bit different to the touch.

One of only complaints about the design is that the volume rocker is a little tricky to use as it sit a bit too flush with the case. We also imagine the groove for the earpiece above the screen will get clogged with dirt over time.

Moto G4 Plus fingerprint scanner

Motorola Moto G4 review: Hardware and specs

If you like the size of the Moto G 2015 then the fact that the Moto G4 has a larger screen might not be the best of news. It's jumped from 5- to 5.5in which is a reasonable amount to add but the resolution has also gone from 720p to Full HD 1080p.

What's confusing, compared to the rest of the smartphone market, is that the Moto G4 Plus is actually no bigger. It's also 5.5in and Full HD so it offers benefits in other areas. See also: Moto G4 vs Moto G4 Plus comparison review.

We really like the display on the Moto G4 with its natural but still punchy colour reproduction, decent contrast and excellent vewing angles from the IPS panel. You'll stuggle to find better at under £200 aside from the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6.

The only real issue here is that not everyone will want to jump to 5.5in so it would have been good if Motorola had gone for two different sizes, perhaps leaving the regular model at around 5in with the Plus model offering the bigger display.

Moto G4 screen

There are a few key hardware upgrades to address beyond the screen. Firstly the new processor which is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chip, up from a Snapdragon 410 in the third-gen Moto G. The Snapdragon 617 offers octa-core CPUs (up to 1.5GHz A53 cores), Cat 7 LTE and Adreno 405 graphics.

We've found performance to be very good indeed in general use and the benchmark results are good, too. As you can see below, the numbers in Geekbench 3, GFX Bench and JetStream are healthily up from the previous generation and keep up with more expensive phones like the new Samsung Galaxy A5 2016.

That's a good start and the Moto G4 now has 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM as standard which is double the entry-level Moto G from last year. A 32GB model is also available for an extra £30.

If you want more on either front, the Moto G4 Plus is available in 32/2GB and 64/4GB configurations. It won't be totally necessary to spend more on the Plus for the reason of storage as both models come with a Micro-SD card slot which can take up to 128GB cards.

Moto G4 Micro-SD card slot

There are no frills when it comes to connectivity – there's still no NFC which is a shame but the Moto G4 does have that all-important 4G LTE support (still Cat 4). Bluetooth is now version 4.1 and Motorola has stuck with a traditional Micro-USB port rather than the newer Type-C.

Both the G4 (and G4 Plus) comes with a 3000mAh battery which is sadly non-removable despite the rear cover snapping off. Motorola offers '24 hour battery' and 'Turbo Charging' with the latter meaning you can get 6 hours battery life from a short 15 minute charge. Only the Moto G4 Plus is supplied with the necessary charger in the box, though so we haven't been able to test the charging on the regular G4.

In our benchmark test the Moto G4 lasts a very decent nine hours and 22 minutes with a score of 3750. Time-wise that's up there with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Sony Xperia X.

The cameras remain at 13Mp for the rear with a dual-tone LED flash and 5Mp for the front. This is where you might want to splash out on the G4 Plus G4 Plus, as you'll benefit from not only a 16Mp sensor for the main camera, but phase detection and a laser auto focus, too.

We're generally impressed with the camera which takes decent photos in good outdoor light. The app is easy to use and use the professional mode if you want to take control of individual elements like the ISO or white balance.

Moto G4 camera test

On the video front the G4 shoots average quality footage at 1080p and 30fps but is cropped a lot so it can be hard to fit much in. There's also a 120fps slow motion mode but this shoots at just 540p and we struggled to focus properly when using it.

Motorola Moto G4 review: Software and apps

Under Lenovo, Motorola is sticking to its formula of offering an essentially stock Android experience. The Moto G4 and G4 Plus both come with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow pre-installed with a very thin layer on top to add some features.

Alongside the usual Android elements such as the two-stage notification bar/quick settings, and the cards style recent apps are some Motorola elements. For starters there's a camera app which we've mentioned and the Moto app.

Moto G4 software and apps

This is where various things (namely Moto Display and Moto Actions) are bundled together, such as the ability to use gestures to do things like launch the camera, torch or silence notifications. You can also opt to have 'battery-friendly' notifications which fade in and out while the screen is off.

Motorola also adds the ability to automatically keep the screen dark between user-defined times (ie overnight) and you can also tweak how the screen looks with two different modes. All of this is found in the Moto app.

It's great to see such a stock version of Android come on the Moto G4 with the additions warranted. We like the simple but effective clock widget which gives you the date and temperature inside smaller circles a bit like a watch face. They also provide handy shortcuts to the clock and calendar apps, plus detailed AccuWeather info.

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Motorola Moto G4: Specs

  • 5.5-inch full HD display 1.5GHz octa-core Snapdragon 617 processor Adreno 405 GPU 3,000 mAh battery with TurboPower fast-charging 5 megapixel front-facing camera 13-megapixel rear facing camera 16GB storage 2GB RAM