Monday, 30 May 2016

Moto G4 Plus Review

Moto G4 Plus
The king of mid-range territory phones, Moto G series introduced new member of its family, the all new Moto G fourth generation earlier this month. Motorola is now completely acquired by Lenovo and it helped them in bringing down the costs thus providing better value for money to the customers. The unique selling point lies in its simple yet beautiful pure android experience set by the Google. The biggest change compared to previous model is that, the fourth generation Moto G devices are now available in two variants

1) Moto G4
2) Moto G4 plus (available in two colors, black and white)

The major difference between the two is the presence of 16 MP better camera with both laser & phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and a finger print scanner in Moto G4 plus . Moto G4 has "only" 13 MP normal camera borrowed from last year's Moto G3. Unlike the previous generation phones which were exclusively sold on Flipkart, this year the phones are sold only on Amazon India.

There is also another upgraded version of Moto G3 called Moto G3 turbo edition. The only upgraded feature is the turbo charging (more on it later) and priced at 12,499 rs, available on both Amazon and Flipkart. This is an outdated mobile and hence not suggested for buying. The new generation Moto G devices come with lot of improvements over the previous generation models, both hardware and software. Getting straight to the point, this review is divided into the following categories

A) Unboxing, Design, Build Quality
B) Network and Connectivity
C) Hardware (Screen, Chipset, RAM, Graphics, Battery, Camera, Sensors)
D) Software and Third Party Applications
E) Missing features and Overall score

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A) Unboxing, Design and Build Quality: The packing is as usual simple with good looking colorful box containing handset with pre-inserted battery, data cable, headphones, a two pin turbo wall charger and instructions leaflet
Contents of the box
The first thing you will notice when you take out the device from box is that it no longer carries the Motorola traits. The shell is very thin and delicate made up of normal plastic rather than polycarbonate which is more durable and provides better signal strength.

Refreshed "Moto" logo
Turning on the device brings the new refreshed "Moto" logo which is uber cool. I am a bit surprised that the device showed up the local language first (Kannada) which is likely due to insertion of sim card prior to switching the device. Immediately a software update prompted with change log saying "Camera enhancements and Stability Improvements". The software size is around 158 MB and I suggest to update it before setting up the device. Moto G4 plus is available in two forms

a) one with 3 Gb RAM and 32 Gb inbuilt storage for better performance and
b) another decently specced with 2 Gb RAM and 16 Gb inbuilt storage priced at 14,999 and 13,499 rs respectively. Moto G4 is not yet available for buying and details about its availability and prices are yet to be announced.

Rear View
Power/Lock, Volume up/down
 buttons
The design is flat on rear side with ridges (obviously matte finish!) and rounded edges for better grip and handling. The phone is tad big to operate with single hand (esp for women). Fake metallic buttons are placed on right side for lock/unlock and volume up & down.Loudspeaker is placed along with ear piece on the top beside the front camera along with proximity sensor and ambient light sensor (?).
3.5 mm jack on top
Sadly Moto G Plus is not IP67 rated unlike the yesteryear Moto G3 but has a nano coat layer which can resist splashes. Despite the bigger battery, the weight of the phone remained same (155 g) and feels light. The phone is slim by the current standards. Check the below shot for comparison various screen sizes: Lumia 1520 (6"), iPhone 6 plus (5.5"), Lenovo Vibe K4 (5.5"), Moto G4 Plus (5.5"), and Moto X Play (5.5").
From left to right: Lumia 1520, iPhone 6 plus, Lenovo Vibe K4, Moto G4 plus, Moto X play
B) Network and Connectivity
With LTE aka 4G penetrating fast into the Indian market, it is no surprise that all Moto G fourth generation devices are offering 4G as standard network feature. Although, the LTE bands offered differ from model to model and country. You can find more about LTE in my previous Moto G3 Review . Moto G Plus has the following connectivity options

Network
Frequency
LTE Cat 6 (band 1, 3, 5, 8, 40) (4G)
(FDD LTE: 2100, 1800, 850, 900 MHz and TDD LTE: 2300 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (3G)
 850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (2G)
850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
2.4 GHz + 5 GHz dual band

Mobile connectivity options are solid covering most of the frequencies in GSM (2G), UMTS (3G) and LTE (4G) networks. Kudos to Moto for providing category 6 LTE in this price range. With Cat 6 LTE, supported by the network, speeds can reach upto whopping 300 Mbps speed. The Wi-Fi chip is 802.11 a/b/g/n which means it is dual band supporting 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels along with Wi-Fi Direct option. Wi-Fi Direct helps you in transfer of files using Wi-Fi as medium without a internet connection (Access point). Bluetooth version 4 has been upgraded to V 4.2 low energy (LE) which is optimized for internet of things (IoT).

4G test results
Wi-Fi test results
Speed test: i) 4G test was performed during evening peak hours on IDEA 4G network which has solid coverage in Bengaluru. I had run the speedtest (through mobile app) 3 times and selected the best speed. Test conditions are ground floor, indoor and immobile. Open environment results will vary due to better signal strength.


ii) The Wi-Fi speed is consistent thanks to the newer dual band Wi-Fi chip

C) Hardware: When it comes to Android, better the hardware, better the experience as a whole. The system on chip (SoC) in Moto G4 Plus is ARM v8 based Qualcomm’s® SnapdragonTM 617 (MSM8952). It is a 64 bit Octa core processor with 1.5 GHz clock speed and Adreno 405 GPU with 550 MHz refresh rate. Strictly speaking, 64 bit processors comes in to picture when the RAM requirement is above 4 Gb only and it’s all marketing gimmicks. Though it is nowhere close to the Snapdragon 8xx series chipsets as offered in rivals like Lenovo's own Zuk1. The performance is good and significantly improved over last generation. As we discussed in the introduction paragraph, Moto G is available in two variants that differ in their RAM and inbuilt storage (NAND). I could not test the 2 GB RAM variant, hence cannot comment anything on its performance but, I expect it to be fairly well as performance is mostly due to the processor speed, not RAM. Inbuilt storage is eMMC based and nearly 24 Gb (32 Gb model) is available on first start up. There is a slot for SD card storage which supports upto 128 Gb.

Snapdragon 617 supports full HD (FHD) resolution (1920*1080) displays and hence the new Moto G device is upgraded to FHD from HD of G3. As I keep on telling every time, undoubtedly screen is the best feature of the smartphone. The screen in Moto G4 Plus is 5.5 inch FHD with resolution 1920*1080 that gives out 401 pixels per inch (PPI). It is an in-plane switching (IPS) LCD screen and is protected by a Corning gorilla glass 3 (Same as G3) which is “scratch resistant” but not “scratch proof”, hence it is advised to use screen guards, especially tempered glass screen guards which interfere less with the display output. I was sceptical about the display initially as the Moto G3 has a poor one with faded colors. To my surprise, the colors on Moto G Plus are excellent with well balanced brightness (Moonlight white) and photos look great on this device, perfect for gaming and watching movies. The viewing angles are good as it is IPS LCD. Disappointed that Motorola did not provide the latest offering from Corning, Gorilla Glass 4 which is more durable.

Android phones are power hungry since beginning (Of course performance comes at cost of power). Last year Android introduced doze mode in Marshmallow that intelligently powers down your phone or tablet when it's not in use for a long period of time and enhances backup. With the hardware capabilities of current android smartphones, a minimum of 3000 mAh capacity battery is standard by any norms and Moto G plus is no exception to this. By comparison, even 50,000 Rs Samsung flagship model S7 offers the same capacity. With heavy usage, solid one and half day backup is guaranteed. Snapdragon 617 brings the Qualcomm's quick charge 3.0 to the handset which means provided with a faster charger, phone can be charged quickly (turbo charging). Thanks to the provided turbo charger (12 V, 2.15 A), 15 mins of charging roughly gives 60% battery or as much as 6 hours of power. Charging time for one full charge (dead battery to 100%) is around 1 hr 40 mins.

Camera: 
Focus sensors, lens and dual LED flash

Camera Type
Camera Specifications
Primary camera
16 MP, Hybrid Autofocus (PDAF + LAF), Aperture f/2.0, Dual Tone LED flash
Video 1920*1080 @ 30 fps, 960*540 @120 fps (Slow motion), 4x digital zoom,
16 MP JPEG(4:3), 11.9 MP JPEG (16:9)
Secondary camera (front facing)
5 MP, f/2.2, Wide-Angle lens, Display flash
Video 1920*1080 @ 30 fps, 960*540 @120 fps (Slow motion), 1x digital zoom
5 MP JPEG(4:3), 3.8 MP JPEG (16:9)

Motorola updated the camera aspect only in G4 plus (not G4). The 16 MP sensor with aperture f/2.0 is equipped with a hybrid autofocus comprising high end Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) feature and a laser auto focus (LAF). When combined together the camera can achieve very quick focus lock and hence faster photos. To my observation, the focus time is less than a second and the images are captured insanely fast. It is aided by color adjustable dual tone LED flash (See above pic) set up for night portraits. The hardware is brilliantly aided by the software offering various features like geo-tagging, drag to focus, auto high dynamic range (HDR), slow motion videos, what not !.Tested the camera under all possible conditions in day to day life.

Test settings: Auto mode without HDR, Images are untouched after taken except cropping the frames. Check out the below gallery
The colors are little over saturated but it looks great on the device




Moto G4 plus is capable of taking great macro shots with minimum focus distance of just ~6 cm


The panorama resolution and quality is just OK
Panoramic view from Nandi hills 
Digital zoom is good but as usual pixelated on closer inspection
Normal View

Using 4x digital zoom
Auto white balance works well and you can adjust it on the screen quickly at the focused point





Location: Nandi Hills

Night shots are above average and are grainy
Took in the early morning just before sunrise
Moto G4 plus can shoot videos in FHD (1920*1080) resolution at 30 fps as well as slow motion videos in 960*540 resolution at 120fps, once again thanks to the snapdragon 617 chipset. The quality is average.
There is no sophisticated optical image stabilization (OIS) but there is a digital stabilization offered by the software which works well (but nowhere near OIS). Check the below video




Sensors and Location services: Moto G Plus is bundled with following sensors
Sensor Type
Primary Use
Accelerometer
For gaming and navigation
Ambient Light Sensor
For automatic brightness adjustment
Gyroscope
For Gaming and motion detection
Proximity Sensor
For locking screen during calls
Fingerprint reader
For secure access

HERE maps
The new sensor for fingerprint detection is a welcome change but again missed out the magnetometer (useful for navigation). For positioning the device, Moto G4 Plus has support for assisted GPS (A-GPS) which means it requires network connectivity for quick locking the position to satellites. I am not sure whether the device supports GLONASS (Russian satellite navigation system) and BeiDou (Chinese satellite navigation system) or not as it is not mentioned in specifications but were present in G3. Location services are well powered by the inbuilt Google maps which has great search functionality compared to rival HERE Maps but misses out the "full offline maps functionality" (Hopefully Google brings it by this year end).
Basemark OS II



Benchmark Tests: I performed the Basemark OS II benchmark free version which included few basic tests like memory read and write, graphics, calculation speed etc. Basemark OS is a cross platform benchmark software available on three OS and scores across all the devices. Check the result (higher the score better the result)







Android Marshmallow

D) Software: My experience with Android is still in infancy. Moto G4 plus is bundled with the latest Google offering Android Marshmallow (v 6.0.1) upgradable to Android N when released. The UI has not much changed compared to Lollipop on G3 since Marshmallow is more of a performance upgrade. And as expected, the OS is pretty stable and fast.
Google play store is well organized, easy to search and install apps & games quickly without much trouble and the app updates are prompted gently. The onscreen navigation is simple with cool transitions. High end graphic games like Asphalt 8 are well handled without any hiccups.

Personal assistant "Google now" is available for all Android devices and does the same job as Siri in iPhone and Cortana in Windows Mobile. It has evolved a lot during the last one year and tracks your emails, daily activity etc perfectly. Audio player interface is simple and the quality is good.


The inbuilt video player is capable of playing almost all video formats thrown including MKV without any glitches. The software experience is great and compliments the hardware well.

Third Party Applications: Come on, its Android !

E) Missing Features and Overall Score: Glance feature Always on display (Can observe this feature in initial image where the time and other information is displayed under lock screen). Always on display is available in few high end android phones and requires display memory for the panel which is expensive and hence unavailable. Double tap to lock screen or unlock screen is missing. It is available in similar priced android phones like of Asus made Zenfones and low priced Lumia phones since last 3 years. Once again Moto G misses out the near field communication (NFC) which is not really essential at least in Indian market but its always good to have the extra capabilities. Super sensitive touch is absent which means it cannot work when wearing gloves. Other missing features include hardware camera button, reverse USB type C etc. All these feature are not deal breakers for most users but enhance the phone experience. Features I could not test include the audio recording, water resistant test and call quality.

Overall Score
Design and Build Quality: 8/10
Network and Connectivity Features: 10/10
Screen: 8.5/10
Other Hardware: 8/10
Software Overall: 9/10
Camera 8/10
Final verdict: Worth buying

Kindly share the review if you like it, thanks for reading.

11 comments:

Unknown said...

Thumbs Up For The Review
👍

Unknown said...

👌👍

Anjani kumar said...

Tankz for The amazing review Raja brother , it's Amazing.. zing zing

Raghu said...

super review mate..very detailed one :)

Paul Warner said...

Thanx for the review. I have a Moto G Mk1 and it was great. Will get this if it is released here in New Zealand as dual SIM and priced similar to the Indian pricing. What % of sales tax do you have there??

Raja said...

Its called value added tax here, its 5.5%

Agathe Pottier said...

Wow, such a great review, thanks for all details ! I found an other article about Moto G4 plus, for interested...

Bhaskar Deka said...

Does the front camera have autofocus feature?

Rahul Mehlawat said...

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Raja said...

@bhaskar

Did not check it, but most likely it will be there as it is mainly software based

Style Baby said...

The content is very nice. You will get a good Thumbs up. Keep it up.


Sameera
Mobile Cases and Covers Designer.