Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) review: Is it worth an extra $100?

The Moto G has long been the go-to phone for people on a budget. Is it still?

Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • 5MP and 13MP cameras
  • Water resistant with IPX7 rating

Cons

  • No support for larger microSDXC storage cards
  • Same 5-inch display as last model
  • More expensive than similarly specced rivals

Would you buy this?

There was no two ways about it: if you wanted a well rounded smartphone on a shoestring budget, you would buy a Moto G. Then you would tell your friends about its incredible value-for-money — the first and second gen models cost no more than $269. These really were the kind of smartphones that would turn the sceptical into brand advocates.

A year on and the times are changing. Google has passed Motorola on to its new owners, Lenovo, and the business is trying to increase its profitability. The result is a third generation Moto G that costs an extra $100.

The only matter left unresolved is whether the third-gen model is worth its $369 asking price.

What does the extra money buy?

Our only gripe with the older Moto G was its lack of 4G. This year’s model packs a 4G LTE modem than can take advantage of Australia’s fast mobile networks. More impressively, it supports fast Internet while retaining support for two SIM cards.

Armed with a Vodafone SIM in Bankstown, NSW, the Moto G recorded respective download and upload speeds of 40Mbps and 14Mbps. And just like that, the successor turns a weakness into one of its strengths.

Other changes represent a welcomed departure from the Motorola formula. Separating the Moto G from its me-too rivals is an IPX7 rating, which certifies it can be immersed in water 3 feet deep for a period of 30 minutes.

‘Waterproofing’ a smartphone doesn’t necessarily mean it can be used underwater. Water will falsify finger touches and gestures on a capacitive smartphone screen. The IPX7 rating then reaps rewards by making it possible to hold a call when it is raining, or to handle the smartphone when hands are dripping wet. Consider it a feature of convenience.

Is it any good for multimedia?

The smartphone’s design hasn’t been sacrificed in order to make it water resistant. No flaps desecrate its ports and the overall profile remains slender. If anything, the 3rd Gen Moto G is better looking than its forefathers. Gone are the protruding speaker grilles of yesteryear; in their place are hollowed grilles that preserve the understated front. This smartphone still is inconspicuous, curvaceous and symmetrically attractive.

Up front is a familiar display. The LED-backlit LCD screen spans 5-inches, has a resolution 1280x720 and a 294 pixel-per-inch density. Failing to update the display puts the Moto G at the mercy of better equipped rivals. Its pixel density contends with ZTE’s Blade S6 and Microsoft’s Lumia 640, but trails behind Kogan’s Agora 4G Pro and Oppo’s R7.

A revised display would’ve served the improved cameras justice. The front camera has jumped from 2- to 5-megapixels. Whereas rivalling front cameras go too soft on detail, in a failed effort to make people’s skin appear flawless, the Moto G’s is sharp on detail and organic in its colour. It has an f/2.2 aperture and, because it has a 72-degree field of view, three or four people can squeeze into the frame. The resulting photos look fantastic on the smartphone screen and commendable on computer monitors.

Sharing the same gene-pool is the rear camera, which has jumped in size from 8- to 13-megapixels. It has an f/2.0 aperture and a dual-LED flash for improved night photography. The changes work for the most part, with daytime photos that are clear, well exposed and vibrantly coloured. Many of them will look great on a large screen television.

Artificial, low-light situations don’t do the camera any favours. The camera’s interface tries to streamline how a photo is taken by autofocusing and taking the photo in one continuous process. When light is scarce, some of the photos will be out of focus, soft on detail and riddled by image noise. The flash offers some salvation in select scenarios, such as a mid-range group shot, but falls short on most occasions.

Taken with the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen)
Taken with the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen)

Read more: Sink or swim: The right way to use your waterproof smartphone

Taken with the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) - flash on
Taken with the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) - flash on
Taken with the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen)
Taken with the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen)

In spite of its shortcomings, the Moto G’s cameras still surpass what’s on offer from most rivals. We consider it superior to the Lumia 640 and Kogan’s Agora 4G Pro, and a contender to the cameras in Oppo’s more expensive R7.

What’s the deal with the hardware and battery life?

Benefitting notably from upgrades is the computing hardware. The quad-core CPU runs at a faster 1.4GHz; the RAM has been doubled to 2GB and; the storage is larger at 16GB. This hardware is just enough to cover the Android 5.1 operating system, systematically processing one instruction to the next without strain, but lacking the immediacy characterising more expensive rivals.

The proof is in the numbers. A 3DMark ice storm unlimited benchmarking test returned a score of 4463, which is significantly less than the scores of Kogan’s Agora 4G Pro (7523), ZTE’s Blade S6 (8680) and Oppo’s R7 (7775).

These numbers become a tangible hassle when gaming. Frames stutter, spoiling the fluent motion common to the rest of the operating system, and this is the case in titles as intensive as Real Racing 3 and as light as Boom Beach. Games can be played, only with less success than most of its rivals.

Read more: Motorola's Moto X range will go on sale at Vodafone, starting from $45 a month

Another disappointment is the lack of support for microSDXC memory cards, that is, microSD cards 64GB in size and above. Rivals leave the Moto G behind by supporting larger memory cards.

Integrated into the smartphone’s enclosure is the same sized 2070 milliamp-hour battery. Its performance correlates to how light or how intensively the smartphone is used. Our testing returned results as varied as 18 hours to 29 hours, with the smartphone often averaging just shy of a full day.

The bottom line: is it worth $100 more?

Let’s not be coy: yes, this smartphone is worth the extra $100. Some rivals have better screens or support larger memory cards, but these top-tier features are pointless if they fail at the basics. And it is here, with its above-par build quality, large screen, audible speakers and fast Internet, where the Moto G excels. Only now the price hike leaves the 'Moto G' brand feeling less special. It no longer is the smartphone you want to tell all your friends about.


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Read more on these topics: Motorola, Lenovo, Moto, g, Android 5.1, Moto G 3rd gen
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