Motorola has been something of a quiet achiever in the mobile space over the last three years or so offering some excellent devices, importantly at a really sharp price. Roll on a few years and we’ve got the latest iteration of the G series phones on the test benches: The G7 with myself and G7+ with Duncan.
Weighing in at $399 RRP you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a really budget device and matching your expectations to the price, but from 24 hours in I’ve been more than impressed with the capabilities of the phone (without taking the price into account) and continued to be throughout my review time with it. It’s not without drawbacks though which I’ll go into as we go through this review.
The specs only tell part of the story here, in reality they’re mid range and certainly don’t set the world on fire. I liked the familiar feel of the device, it’s almost identical dimensions to my OnePlus 6 and in fact many of the current crop of 6.X inch screen devices and the 19:9 ratio is right where many users are used to and expect a phone of this size to be.
|Key Specifications:||Moto G7|
|Release date||February 2019|
|Resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
|Core config||8 x 1.8 GHz|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 128GB|
|WIFI standards||802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Android OS||Android 9.0|
|Vendor skin||Moto Stock|
|Dimensions||157 x 75.3 x 8 mm|
What Motorola has done with the hardware is pretty impressive though. The company has delivered a no-bloat, well optimised and – perhaps most importantly for many users – stock version of the Android Operating system.
The physical dimensions are near identical to so many of the similar screen size devices out there. Let’s be realistic, there’s only so much you can do with it. It’s got Gorilla Glass 3 and weighs 172 grams.
The general functionality of the G7 is really solid also. I felt immediately comfortable and familiar with the position of the fingerprint reader. It’s the same as many devices that are out in the wild currently. The centre of the back of the device where your index finger will quite naturally sit when you pick up the device.
Face unlock is something that I found to be a bit of a surprise in a mid-range device. It worked pretty well, but was a bit slower than I would have hoped and about 15% of the time didn’t detect correctly so I had to use my PIN or fingerprint anyway.
When I looked at the G7 I was very impressed by some of the design decisions made by Motorola. I think the biggest one for me is the USB C port allowing you faster charging which in the current day and age, is so important. The other is the headphone jack, not really needed by many users these days as Bluetooth Headphones are so readily accessible, but a nice to have for folk like myself who have really good, wired headphones for travel.
Despite looking, I don’t really have any criticisms of the general design and engineering on the G7. It’s solid, reliable, feels far more premium than the price of the device suggests and it looks the part even against far more expensive competitors.
What’s it good at?
This is a budget device, it’s only $399 and if you look – you’re sure to find it cheaper. Despite the lost cost you will get most of what you want from a far higher end device but the camera but that’s not to say that it’s a bad camera, In the right conditions, you’ll get some pretty nice results from it.
The screen is great, it runs at really nice resolution with a decent PPI and enough brightness to be easily read in the test outdoors. In day to day general operations, I couldn’t really pick too much wrong with the G7 aside from the camera and this becomes particularly prevalent when you take into account the price is only $399.
Adding to the great first impression is the April security update I got on the device while reviewing it. It’s a small thing but for a company like Moto, lots of little things add up to a great user experience and that’s what they’ve delivered on the G7.
What’s it not so good at?
The biggest issue I faced was camera shutter lag. Sadly it wasn’t consistent or predictable enough to work through if you’re tracking a fast moving target or trying to capture one of those split second moments with kids.
While it wasn’t as noticeable as the shutter lag, there were quite a few generally laggy moments in terms of the phone performance as well. This is almost certainly me being really picky about the performance though, I asked a few of my family to take a look and where I saw it – they didn’t.
In the performance lag, the disappointment here was that there didn’t seem to be any reason for the lag either. It could be straight after a reboot and trying to access an app I hadn’t not loaded yet. It could have been loading an email, switching between the current and most recently loaded app… I just couldn’t figure it out despite checking a lot of log files and monitoring the system resources while there were issues occurring.
A look at the camera
First things first, yes it has a notch. Moto have gone with the teardrop notch which is less invasive to the screen for the amount of space it takes, but I’m not a huge fan.
The camera performance on the G7 is a bit of a roller-coaster ride, you’ll get some really good results in the right conditions and you’ll get some photos that you’ll instantly hit delete on because they’re just not worth keeping and there are a few factors at play here.
I struggled to accept the shutter lag on any front. I know it’s not a Pixel, Note device or Galaxy SX series phone with top notch cameras but I can’t accept on any phone camera in the current era that it’s that difficult to capture what is on your screen when you hit the button to take a photo. As a parent, I don’t really want to run that risk of missing something magical because the camera isn’t up to it.
I’m happy to report that for the most part, when you do get a good photo, the quality of images is really good. The colour reproduction is a touch pastel when compared to some of the other cameras on the market, but I don’t mind that as I find it a little more “true to life” than the more highly saturated images you’ll get from Samsung.
As a happy snap camera, the G7 offers some good automated capability with solid results for the most part provided you’re in an area with reasonable lighting. The problems really only arise when you’re trying to get a moving target or you’re dealing with less than ideal lighting conditions where you’ll find the results a bit grainy or blurred.
There have been a few moments of laggy performance and the camera has unpredictable shutter lag, but these aren’t going to be hugely evident to most users because they aren’t heavy enough users to notice. When I did notice the performance lag, by the time I began to investigate it was back up to speed and the issue no longer evident.
Should you buy one?
Despite a few grumbles around performance, I’ve been really impressed with the overall capability of the Motorola G7. For $399 it’s a fantastic phone and well worth the investment if you’re after a new phone on a budget, or perhaps a second/back up phone for yourself or your family in general.
There are a couple of spots where the more “power users” are likely to be a bit disappointed, but equally so they’re unlikely to be shopping for a device in the sub $400 range if they’re that level of user.
Day to day the G7 will meet and exceed the needs of an “average user” and have power to spare. The screen is right up there with some of the top range devices on the market and when you take into account the dollars it’s not just great value, it is a genuinely solid and reliable device that is going to make anyone shopping in the sub $700 range happy with their decision.