Moto G4 Plus Review: A No-Nonsense Mid-Ranger

Moto G4 Plus rear

The original Moto G played a key role in bringing Motorola back from the dead. The handset sold like hot cakes in India, United States, and Brazil and helped Motorola in once again cementing its position in the smartphone market. The company then followed it up with the Moto G2 and Moto G3, both of which were excellent handsets in their own right. 

Since the time the Moto G3 was launched though, the smartphone market in developing countries like India has changed a lot. Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei have taken the market by storm with their excellent mid-range handsets whose value-for-money ratio is off the charts. To keep up with consumer tastes, Motorola launched two variants of Moto G4 this time around: Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus. The former is yet to go on sale and is essentially a cut down version of its ‘Plus’ sibling. The latter, however, is already available for sale in India where it is taking on heavyweights like the Redmi Note 3 and the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note.

The Moto G4 Plus is also the first phone from Motorola’s stable that has been influenced by its new owner, Lenovo — another Chinese smartphone that has been losing its foothold in the smartphone market to its other local rivals. So, how good is the first Motorola-Lenovo handset? Let’s find out.

Design

Moto G4 Plus front

The Moto G4 Plus does resemble its predecessor — the Moto G3 — though it is larger and thicker due to the bigger display and battery. The curved rear and the waterproofing capabilities of its predecessor are nowhere to be found on the Moto G4 Plus. The front of the handset looks similar to the Moto G3, albeit bigger and with no protruding lip. The prominent speaker grilles that were found on the Moto G3 is reduced to only one on the Moto G4 Plus that is now located at the bezel above the display. It acts both as an earpiece and speaker, and while the sound quality and loudness are nothing to boast about, the very fact that it is front facing makes it better than the competition. The bottom chin houses a fingerprint scanner that many are likely going to be confuse with a home button initially.

While almost every phone phone in the sub-15k ($230) range in India and China now come with a metal unibody built, the Moto G4 Plus only features a metallic chassis with the rest of the body being made of hard plastic. The removable back of the phone is made from matte plastic with patterns going over it that makes it more grippy. Despite being removable, the Moto G4 Plus comes with a sealed 3,000mAh battery. This, however, makes it possible to install different back covers on the handset to make it stand out from the crowd.

The power and volume buttons are located on the right edge of the Moto G4 Plus. While their placement is perfect, the volume keys are a bit too thin, fiddly, and the key travel is a bit too short. The power button is textured that makes it easily distinguishable from the volume buttons. The microUSB port is located at the bottom center of the device, while the 3.5mm audio jack is located at the top.

Display

Moto G4 Plus front display

The Moto G4 Plus comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD display, a size and resolution that has become the norm in phones priced around the $200 range in India. The display is slightly on the warmer side, since it does not tend to oversaturate colors and boost contrast, it does not look as impressive as the display on the Redmi Note 3 or the Letc 1S. This does not mean the display is a bad one though: for all intents and purposes, the 5.5-inch display on the Moto G4 Plus is decent. It has great viewing angles, contrast levels, and sufficient brightness levels. You are really going to be hard pressed to find issues with it. The sunlight eligibility is also great, with reflections being kept in check since the display is laminated.

The increased display size makes the Moto G4 Plus not as compact as its predecessor, but with 5.5-inch displays becoming the sweet spot for a majority of consumers, it was a shift that Motorola had to make.

Like the Moto G3, the Moto G4 Plus also comes with Moto Display despite coming with an LCD display. Since the contrast levels of the display are great and there is not much backlight bleeding, Moto Display works in a very non-intrusive way — just as Motorola intends it to be.

Software, Performance & Battery Life

Software has always been one of the key strengths of the Moto G lineup. It was feared that with Lenovo acquiring Motorola, we will see the latter’s near-stock build of Android once again being infested with bloatware and unnecessary features. Thankfully, that is not the case, as the Moto G4 Plus runs a near-stock build of Marshmallow. This means that you get to enjoy Android just the way Google intended it to be, with features like Now on Tap and the App Permissions manager working as they should. The software is not exactly untouched — Lenovo has made some modifications, though they either overall improve the user experience or do little to hamper it.

The biggest change that many users are going to notice when they first start the Moto G4 Plus, is the new clock widget on the homescreen. Lenovo/Motorola have also added an option to tweak the display color mode. Moto Display and Moto Actions are also present on the Moto G4 Plus, with the features just seeing some minor improvements compared to their previous implementations.

Under the hood, the Moto G4 Plus is powered by a Snapdragon 617 chipset, an Adreno 405 GPU, and 3GB RAM. Previous Snapdragon 61x-powered smartphones were known for their heating issues, and the Moto G4 Plus is no different (more on this later). In day-to-day usage, the Moto G4 Plus performs admirably with no issues. There are no random lags or performance issues with the handset, and while the Adreno 405 GPU does struggle while playing some relatively heavy games at full settings, casual games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds work just fine. The handset might be beaten by the Snapdragon 650 powered Redmi Note 3 in processor intensive tasks, but that lack of extra grunt hardly makes a visible difference in daily usage.

The fingerprint scanner on the front is fast and accurate, though its design leads one to believe that it is also a home button — which it is not.

The Achilles heel of the Moto G4 Plus performance is its overheating problem. Push the phone to its boundaries for more than 5-10 minutes (depending on the ambient temperature) and the phone will start overheating that leads to the Snapdragon 617 chipset throttling itself. This leads to the performance of the handset taking a huge hit. The overheating issues are especially visible while playing heavy games and using the camera for a prolong period.

Read: Does the Moto G4 Plus overheat?

The 3000mAh battery on the Moto G4 Plus packs enough punch to ensure that the handset lasts an entire day of heavy usage. Connected to an LTE network and with 2 Gmail accounts syncing in the background, I was easily able to make the handset last for more than 18 hours on a single charge. This was with around 4+ hours of SoT and around 2 hours of voice calls. If you are a heavy user, be rest assured that the Moto G4 Plus will easily make it through the day. And in case it does not, with Turbo Charging, you will be covered. With the supplied Turbo charged, the Moto G4 Plus charges extremely fast. The handset took around 1:15 mins to go from 0-100%, which is as fast as the likes of the Galaxy S6 and other phones renowned for their quick charging speeds.

Camera

Moto G4 Plus camera

The ‘Plus’ in the Moto G4 Plus comes from its 16MP f/2.0 shooter and not from its display size. While the normal Moto G4 comes with a 13MP shooter, the Moto G4 Plus features a 16MP F/2.0 shooter at its rear that features PDAF and LaserAF. It also features large 1.3um pixels that should allow it to capture more details in low-light. Motorola/Lenovo might have made some compromises with the Moto G4 Plus, but the camera is one area where they have gone all out.

Coupled with the new camera app, taking pictures on the Moto G4 Plus is a treat. Thanks to a combination of PDAF and LaserAF sensor, the Moto G4 Plus focuses quickly, even in low-light — an area where many other phones in the same price band struggle. The 16MP shooter is not going to give the likes of the Galaxy S7 or the iPhone 6/6s a run for its money, but compared to its competition, it is just astounding how much better the Moto G4 Plus performs.

One thing to note here is that in low-light, the Moto G4 Plus takes photos in 12MP resolution and not at its full 16MP resolution. This helps the phone in taking better photos in low-light as it likely makes use of pixel binning to achieve this.

The front 5MP shooter on the handset does a decent job as well, and does not over sharpen selfies like many other phones out there. The wide-angle lens also ensures that you will be able to fit in more people in your selfies.

Part of the excellent camera experience of the Moto G4 Plus is the new camera app. Just like the Moto G3 and Moto X handsets, the camera app can be quickly opened by double-twisting the phone in a screwdriver like motion. The camera app has a very simple to use UI, but to cater to advanced users, Motorola includes a Professional mode that provides granular control over almost every aspect of the camera including the shutter speed and ISO levels.

Conclusion

On paper, the Moto G4 Plus is easily outgunned by phones from Xiaomi, LeEco, and other Chinese companies. It does not sport a metal unibody design that has become a commonplace even in phones priced below $200 mark. It also lacks the water resistance capabilities found on its predecessor. And not to forget, the Snapdragon 617 chipset inside the Moto G4 Plus has severe overheating issues

However, despite these shortcomings, the Moto G4 Plus is a great phone that focuses on what matters the most — great day-to-day performance, camera, and battery life. The camera in particular is a step above the competition, and while over the next few months, we will see other Chinese companies beat the Moto G4 Plus in performance and price department, I doubt any of them will be able to rival its camera performance. Not to forget, the Moto G4 Plus will likely be among the first few handsets in the market that will get the Android N update.

If you are not a gamer and want a no-nonsense phone that works, the Moto G4 Plus is for you. If you are a gamer though, avoid the Moto G4 Plus because of its overheating issues.