Australian Review: Motorola Moto G4 Plus - Bigger ain't always better
Motorola's Moto G smartphones have become synonymous with value and reliability. They’re not the flashiest devices, and their cameras haven't always been great, but they punch above their weight and their price tag. The Moto G4 Plus - the first Motorola smartphone to also carry the branding of new owner Lenovo - stays true to this course.
I was loaned the AUD$399 Moto G4 Plus to review. This configuration ships with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. An AUD$449 configuration is also available, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.
The biggest change this year is that the Moto G4 Plus is, well, bigger. Motorola's kitted out the phone with a 5.5-inch 1080p display, which is a fairly big step up from last year's 5-inch 720p display. The display is great for the price point; it's sharp, has good viewing angles, and goes relatively bright. It's not quite bright enough for consistent outdoor usage in searing Australian sunlight, but it works well for the most part. A touch more saturation would be welcome too; as it stands, the Moto G4 Plus is a little washed out.
While it's great to see affordable phones in the 5.5-inch space, I'm a little sad Motorola increased the Moto G4's size. When it combined with a hefty amount of bezel, it makes the Moto G4 Plus just a little bit less accessible. One handed typing is a bit of stretch, and I often found myself accidentally hitting the volume rocker rather than the power button when trying to put the phone to sleep. This isn't really a big deal, but I feel like this could have been avoided by putting the volume keys on the opposite side of the phone, as Samsung tends to do with its flagships.
The Moto G4 Plus benefits from the addition of speedy and accurate fingerprint reader, which isn't exactly a common addition for phones in its price range. Oddly, the fingerprint reader doesn't also work as home button. As such, you've got a row of software buttons sitting above the fingerprint reader, which doesn't really seem like an efficient use of space.
The biggest trade off made by the Moto G4 Plus is a very plastic design. The textured back has a nice feel to it, but picks up fingerprints quickly and has bit of flex. While the Moto G4 Plus doesn't feel premium it doesn't feel cheap either. That being said, similarly priced options from the likes of OPPO (such as the newly launched F1s) offer aluminium bodies if you're after something a little bit fancier.
Since the Moto G4 Plus runs an almost unmodified version of Android Marshmallow, it punches above its weight in terms of performance. The handset isn't quite as zippy as a 2016 flagship device (like the Samsung Note 7 or iPhone SE), but day to day to performance is almost on par. You'll see more of a difference if you're using your phone for processor intensive games, but otherwise, the Moto G4 Plus runs smoothly.
One of the main benefits of a stock Android installation is the potential for faster software and security updates. Unfortunately, Lenovo has said that it won't be releasing monthly security updates for any of its Motorola smartphones, and is instead opting to bundle up and release a couple of months' worth of updates at a time. While this a bit of a shame, very few phones in the Moto G4 Plus' price range offer monthly security updates, with the exception of the Nexus 5X (which will still cost you at least AUD$100 more, unless you import).
One omission worth mentioning is the lack of NFC. This won't matter to everyone, but it does mean you can't use the Moto G4 Plus for services such as Android Pay.
In terms of battery life, you can expect the Moto G4 Plus to comfortably last the day.
The Moto G4 Plus offers one of the better cameras I've seen on a budget smartphone. For the most part, the Moto G4 Plus' camera is quick to open, fast to focus, and reliable. Colours can be a little washed out, you'll see some blowout, and auto-focus might miss the odd shot (especially if your subject is moving fast), but all in all, the Moto G4 Plus does better than you'd expect for an affordable smartphone. Even shots taken in lowlight were surprisingly usable.
The Moto G4 Plus isn't quite as easy to recommend as last year's third generation Moto G, but it's nonetheless a fantastic bang-for-buck smartphone. The screen is lovely, the camera is much better than expected, and stock Android is always welcome. On the other hand, the design is uninspired, and you've got quirks like a front-facing fingerprint reader that doesn't also work as a home button. The jump to a 5.5-inch display will win some over, but will be a deal breaker for others. That being said, if you want a big Android smartphone on the cheap, the Moto G4 Plus is a compelling option.
Cybershack Score -
|Great value||Plain design|
|Lovely display||Fingerprint reader not also a home button|
|Surprisingly good camera||No monthly security updates|