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Moto G vs. Moto X Review - 179 for a whole lot of phone


Review by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday December 31, 2013.

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Moto G left, Moto X right
Moto G left, Moto X right

Motorola, like several of its rivals, has spent the past four years selling its phones by making the argument that power trumps everything else. Then it did a swift about face with the Moto X, a phone that said power is good but effectiveness is great. Motorola took that concept to the extreme with the Moto G, a pared down version of the Moto X that seemingly takes away the limited amount of flair in an already compromised phone. Despite how that may seem, the Moto G still has enough power to punch above its weight class. And it does it with a sub-$200 price tag.

Hardware and Design

The Moto G is identical to the Moto X. Hold the two phones side-by-side and the only distinctive differences will be the placement of the rear speaker. The Moto G has the same design with wide curves that perfectly fit someone's hands, power and volume buttons perfectly within reach, and a light frame that makes the device very portable and very comfortable. The Moto X has a better three-material blend for the back of the phone, but the Moto G's noticeably cheaper material isn't a dealbreaker.

One key external change for the Moto G is that the back of the device is removable, making it easy to swap colors or attach the phone to a folio case. That's actually preferable to the locked-in model of the Moto X, so there are no real compromises in the Moto G form. Function is another story because the speakers, moved to the left of the camera, lack the high volume of the Moto X. The sound quality goes down a peg, but both volume and timbre are at solid levels.

Moto G buttons on right side
Moto G buttons on right side

Screen Quality

Despite having a nearly identical body, the Moto G has a different face thanks to a smaller 4.5-inch display. The screen resolution holds steady at 720p, so there's a high 329ppi to go along with a bright LCD that should be pleasing to look at. The choice to go with LCD rather than AMOLED sadly means the exclusion of the Active Display feature that makes the Moto X able to show glimpses of notifications on the home screen. While that's disappointing, people who browse the web often will be pleased to know that the Moto G has a better color profile that doesn't put warm tints on whites or other colors.

Moto G with 4.5-inch display
Moto G with 4.5-inch display

Performance

One might expect the Moto G performance to be the area that it's most lacking, but this is actually the area where users might be most surprised. The 1.2 GHz quad-core processor is a less powerful Snapdragon 400 processor. Motorola built the device to overcome this shortcoming with "real world" optimizations to make sure that the most important examples of speed, such as app start-up times, remain swift. The Moto G isn't a benchmark beast at all, but it does tend to load content fairly quickly. I even managed to play Riptide GP2 with reasonable loading speeds and smooth framerates, something no low-cost Android phone has been able to offer me this year.

Moto G folio, replacement battery cover, standard cover
Moto G folio, replacement battery cover, standard cover

Where the phone really runs into problems is when attempting to multitask. The Moto G has a paltry 1GB of RAM that starts to struggle when a high number of apps are running, so my attempts at listening to podcasts and browsing the web were fine, but responsiveness was not as snappy as the day went on. Storage is another cause for concern because the phone is offered only in 8GB and 16GB increments without any support for a microSD. I strongly urge anyone considering the Moto G to spend the extra $20 and avoid the headache of running out of space, something that is guaranteed to happen once someone starts taking pictures, loading music, and downloading apps.

Software and Apps

The Moto X and Moto G have a surprising split when it comes to software. The compromises made with the hardware unfortunately mean that the very features that make the Moto X compelling are not present in the Moto G. There's no Active Display because the G model uses LCD instead of AMOLED, and because there are no low-power X8 companion cores to handle sensors, the always-on Google Now commands are gone. Though Moto Assistant is still present for auto-responding to calls or texts when in a meeting, it lacks the driving mode feature that kicks in whenever sensor determine someone is in a car.

Motorola packs in a fairly standard build of Android in the Moto G. The lock screen looks like the old standard view without any shortcuts, and the home screen hasn't changed at all. The software is run of the mill Android 4.4 Kitkat and that's perfectly fine. The lack of manufacturer additions is disappointing from a feature standpoint, but it improves the speed of daily performance and eventual firmware updates.

Camera Quality

Motorola's weak performance on cameras predictably gets weaker with the Moto G. The 1.3-megapixel front camera and the 5-megapixel rear camera are barely at the passable grade. Sometimes, they are below it. The camera routinely takes out of focus shots. Even post Android 4.4-update, which has a touch focus option that's supposed to improve things, the images can be blurry. An LED flash is present and highly necessary because the lowlight performance is downright terrible. I was never a big fan of the Moto X's camera, but the Moto G shows that things can definitely be worse. It also helps to sometimes use HDR mode to improve results.

Communication and Data

The Moto G takes us back into the dark ages of 2012 by being a 3G-only device. That doesn't mean much for people in places where 4G has yet to take hold, but it's a hindrance to those who have grown accustom to it. It also depends on the carrier performance. The Moto G is sold unlocked and works with AT&T or T-Mobile in the US, so if HSPA+ 21 Mbps works in your area, things become far more tolerable. Call quality was as good as any other AT&T device that I've used, so the only real concern is data speed.

Moto G
Moto G

Battery

The lack of 4G has the added benefit of providing a big boost in battery life. The 2,070 mAh battery keeps the phone running longer than the Moto X. Actually, it keeps the Moto G running longer than most phones with a higher battery capacity. Even on heavy usage and frequent viewing of locally stored video, I never managed to use more than 70 percent of the battery in a single day.

Conclusion

Comparing the Moto G to the Moto X makes it fairly obvious that compromises have to be made in order to justify a price tag of $179 unlocked and free of any contract. The sacrifices made in texture, camera, and connectivity options make the Moto X a better phone. Still, that doesn't mean it's a better phone for everyone. The Moto G manages to offer a great design and a consistent experience that rivals what's available on the Moto X.

Moto G Folio
Moto G Folio

I'd still recommend the Moto X because of its 4G powers and the enhancements enabled by its sensor, but those features speak to a more plugged-in portion of society. Someone who doesn't need Active Display or take a lot of pictures can easily get by with the Moto G. That person can get by for the price of $199, free and clear of any subsidies or contractual obligations to a carrier. The value offered by this phone is unprecedented and hard to overlook.

 
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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.

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