First Impressions: It had been quite some time since I had played with a non Nexus Android phone. If I’m truly honest the reason I liked the idea of the Moto G 4G was in large part due to its reputation for being a rather Nexus like experience. I wanted it to be a stock like, non rooted, no custom ROM’d, no tweeked anything. The other aspect I was rather keen on was its size. Its “just” a 4.5 inch screen which frankly is so much more hand friendly. Given I once, back in the day, had a Dell Streak, the 5 inch phone back when 3.5 inches was the norm. That thing was massive, just vast and I loved it. Then I began to realise I couldn’t use it one handed and move at the same time. Yes its screen was fantastic but it was just too big for me. With all phones going that way I rather liked the idea of getting a hand sized phone. That version 2 of the Moto G has grown to 5 inches makes me think that there may not be long to get a smaller phone.
Given it was bought some time ago I really have next to no recollection of opening the box up. So let’s assume it was a wild and thrilling ride. It’s a box, inside was a phone.
Hardware: Spec wise it is the benchmark for a mid-range handset for some time now. A Snapdragon 400, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, it also has a micro SD card slot. The screen is a 720p LCD. Notable the Moto G and the Lumia 735 are almost identical hardware wise, only LCD vs AMOLED. While I much prefer OLED screens the one on the Moto G is still pretty nice. Its colours are good, its brightness is good and for all the huffing some might do about it only being 720p screen the thing is 4.5 inches. 720p is absolutely fine for the size. It’s nice but all rather ordinary. The 735, which I fear I’m going to keep harking back to feels sooooooooooooo much nicer. The Moto G is fine. It’s nice in the hand with its curved back, it’s comfortable to hold and makes things easy to reach.
The hardware of the Moto G is, nice. It’s fine, it’s pleasant, it’s a bit better than adequate. I feel I’m damming it with faint praise. The thing is good, it is, it’s why it sold in huge numbers and was the go to value Android phone. A phone that isn’t just good for the money but good full stop. Yeah but it’s not exciting a thing to have before you. It’s just all a bit uneventful and bland. Again, yes its specs are all rather positive but I just cannot get excited about the thing, I just can’t. On paper however it’s all good. The CPU is the highly competent Snapdragon 400, the 1GB of RAM that it can do 4G (I have the 4G version.) They all add up to making a capable device that feels good to use, and it feels nice in the hand.
It’s just not exciting.
Audio Software: Well, its Android so you have at least 400 billion music app’s to play with. Of course I’m inclined to go right to Google Music since it’s got only my music there. It does have a streaming all of the world’s music option if you pay but I’m just fine with only my own. Actually for reviewing it’s much the preferred option. My preferences aside, you name it and it’s available. Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Blinkbox, Soundcloud etc etc etc.
You can of course always go old school and put music on the device and/or on its removable micro SD card. Officially it supports up to 32GB but you should be able to stick in a 64GB one too if you format it in FAT32. Once on board your find that any format you can think of there will be an app available that can play it. Hear that Microsoft, Apple??? Can play any format!
Audio Hardware: I’m optimistic that it might have the same audio bits that the 735 had. Since they are both Snapdragon 400’s. What I most readily note right of is that the Moto G 4G hisses like a bag of snakes. Bugger me you can hear the amp going on and off as you flick about. Seriously noticeable. That hopefully means they have tuned the amp inside for power so I’m note going to bash it yet. Still if you hate hiss, sorry.
Lows: Ooooooh. Oh I think this may well be the same bits as was in the 735. But the amp here is really set to blast you with power. My god, there is some headroom for the volume too. Right the bass, yes. I’m impressed. Since it’s a phone I pulled out the IE8’s, and kappow!!! Woahh there is spades of power. The IE8’s can shift some bass when you power them well and the little Moto G, I’m gobsmacked. If feels like it’s the same as the 735 but with the amp power cranked up. It vicious and potent. Grippy, violently aggressive bass with oodles of savagery cloaked behind a layer of silk. Bugger me, this is proper DAP good. Wow.
Okay so its maybe not totally reaching as low as it should. It might also a be a little more punch happy than to keep a smooth low, so it suggests its draining whatever little capacitor is on the amp but hey I’m nit picking. It’s a phone, this is possibly the best phone I’ve used. It’s just like the 735 but with the power cranked up.
Mids: There is an inclination towards being a little tonally cool. Clarity gets a bump from that but it is at the expense of expressiveness. They just aren’t capturing the soul of the vocalist, they haven’t the range to breathe. Then I remember I’m using a phone. Holy crap it’s good for a phone. Sure they aren’t so creamily inclined, they just are a bit dead, gray, tasteless, not fully expressible. Its like the vocalist just had to take their beloved pet to the vet for the last time. They are going through the motions but a little piece of their soul has just died inside them. Sure on paper they are giving their vocals vigour but they are somehow a little empty.
Nevertheless, aside from maybe being in a slight dip overall the vocals are a little cool, little bit greyed but otherwise I’m greatly impressed with the energy, dynamics and detail they offer up. Gosh it’s a beast of a little amp inside.
Highs: Dazzlingly enthusiastic. Sure I’d have to say a bit dry, bit cool and deep down a little bit soulless. Still I’m in awe of the spectacle they can put on. The amp has no problem launching the incredible IE8’s from one direction to the next in an instant. Treble explodes across them with abandon then blinks back out of existence like the shattered remnants of a high energy proton-proton collision. That brief moment of wonder while something new surges out of oblivion and in an instant it’s gone. There is a reason I think the IE8 has one of the best treble of any IEM ever. It can be awe inspiring when you throw power its way and the little Moto G is doing an astounding job.
I want to complain that it’s a bit brittle or over edgy, over hard but it’s not, not with the IE8. Sure I’d bet with a pair of ER4’s I might say different but I can’t bring myself to try them. Well I can justify trying the HF3, ahh and there’s that brittleness. Still I’m impressed with how well they power the things. Ety’s just love power, and they are still remarkably good.
Soundstage/Instrument Separation: It’s passable. On the IE8’s it was largish, when really it should have been vast. The HF3 though isn’t teeny tiny, it’s powerful enough for them to sound a little full. Again instrument separation is a bit middling. The little amp may be wowing me but I think separation wise we’ve reached the limit of what its DAC can offer.
Battery Life: Seeing as this isn’t my main phone it doesn’t get hard heavy use. However it is in continuous data use, hangouts and skype are both logged in so it’s in moderate usage. Still the battery life is quite good. It stands up far better than my Nexus 5 (though what doesn’t) so I can get away with charging it every second or third day. A third day would be tight, generally too tight for my liking but if you do forget to charge the thing one night, you should make it through to next day.
Build Quality: Its fine. Like the rest of the hardware it’s all fine. No, really, it really is fine. It’s just not anything special or exciting
UI: I’d like to say thank you to Motorola for pretty much not pissing about with the standard Android UI. Why on earth handset makers all feel the desperate not to “differentiate” their offerings I really don’t know. Not that in theory having their own UI’s is a bad thing, it’s just that they tend to be very lazy about keeping it up to date. What’s more, they seem to change things just for the sake of being different, not because they think they can do something better. Thus we have a pleasant and clean UI that is stock like and Motorola kept its promise and has updated it to Lollipop.
In The Hand: Where the 735 was angular the Moto G is very curved, curved at the corners, curved on the back and curved on the edges. Its pedestrian dimensions too compared with most phones, yes its “only” a 4.5 inch screen, only. However it’s just about perfect for my hands, its size, its rounded sides, its curved back all make it just sit nicely. It’s comfortable to hold and comfortable to reach just about anywhere on screen.
Format Support: It’s Android. You name it, it’ll play it. So if you want to fill that micro SD card with music you can without having to care what format things are in.
Volume: LOADS!!!! The amp has been cranked for power, if you want to deafen yourself you can do it with this no prob.
Accessories: It doesn’t come with much, charger and USB cable and errr nothing. However you can find plenty of things, cases, backs, backs with covers and what not all on ebay. Just make sure you get for the right version.
Speaker: While the 2nd gen Moto G gets front facing speakers, this 1st gen one does not. The speaker is, mildy adequate. Firing up Netflix at max volume, could I hear The Good Wife? Yes I could but not comfortably loud and certainly not loud enough that I could have put it on while I do anything else.
Camera: It’s a 5 MP on the back, 1.3MP on the front. The camera works fine, it’ll take photos of whatever. The front one is a bit so so. Comparing to the Lumia 735, the Lumia gives the Moto a bit of a kicking here. Its gets the job done but I can’t say I’m wildly impressed with it.
The Good: There is a reason the Moto G has been since launch the go to, bargain Android handset. It’s cheap, it’s pretty well spec’ed, it’s near stock and received updates, it’s got a developer base too. Every aspect of it is not just good for the money really good. It’s not a perfect device but there just isn’t any area where it sucks. It’s pretty damn good in every way possible, it’s the all-round great value package. So what’s the “Good” about it? Well everything frankly
The Bad: Erm, I like OLED screens more than LCD? There isn’t really anything bad about it.
Value: Excellent. You could maybe argue the 735 is “better” but there is no way you can say the G is poor value. Not to mention that with the 3rd gen one coming soon the price has plummeted for remaining 1st gen 4G’s.
Conclusion: It’s the all-round bundle that is great everywhere. As a phone it’s great, its internals, CPU, RAM all are good. In use it feels snappy mostly. You could swap a flagship worth several times its price for this and not want to kill yourself. It’s a genuinely good device, not just good for the money but just plain good. Period.
Then to the audio, well whatever I suspect Qualcomm have paired with the Snapdragon 400, I like it. It sounds very, very much like that of the 735 which I also loved. The difference being that the G has waaaaaaaymore oomph behind it. now I must confess I do not have a ROM that is a publicly certified one. So maybe it isn’t compliant with the stupid French/EU loudness restriction. Maybe that’s the difference, I really don’t know. Either way the additional power available here is enough for the G to give the Lumia a kicking. The cost is a bucket load of hiss but you don’t notice unless it’s in quiet passages. Classical listeners will likely be irked by it but I wasn’t.
So, Moto G 4G it’s an awesome little package. Great at everything and dirt cheap for what you get. Its audio too is top notch for a phone putting vastly more expensive devices to shame (cough Iphone, cough.) it may not about with the warmth that some crave but I like a DAP to be clean and open. Any warmth in the mix I like to come from the earphones so for me it’s a perfectly competent, capable DAP. From a phone!!!