Moto G (3rd Gen) Review: Motorola Goes All In

Moto G (3rd Gen) Review: Motorola Goes All In

Every once in awhile, a company decides to be a jerk and doesn’t send me a review unit. Even more rarely, I decide to buy the phone that they won’t send me. Even rarer is when the phone impresses me so much that I give it a glowing review.

This is one of those times. The third generation Moto G was reviewed alongside the HTC Desire 626, which comes in at the same price point and was released at the same time. It’s fair to say that the Moto G puts the HTC Desire 626 to shame.

We’re talking about the $180 price range. The lower to mid-range market has come a long way over the last couple years. It was just a year ago that a $180 phone wouldn’t have a front camera and the rear camera wouldn’t have a flash. Now, it’s getting harder and harder for flagship devices to justify their prices.

Moto G: Specs

CPU 1.4 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 410
GPU Adreno 306
Display 5″, 720p, 294 ppi, IPS LCD
Body 142.1×72.4×11.6 mm, 155 g
Camera 13 MP, 4128×3096, 5 MP Front
Video 1080p – 30 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps
Aperture f/2
Storage 8/16 GB
RAM 1/2 GB
Battery 2470 mAh
Price $179/$219

Motorola’s configurations for their lower end devices is interesting. At their lowest price point, you have the 3G Moto E at $119 with a 1.2 GHz quad core Snapdragon 200 and 1 GB RAM. For $149, you now have the LTE model of that device, with a 1.2 GHz quad core Snapdragon 410 and 1 GB of RAM, which is a massive upgrade.

Note that the difference between the Snapdragon 200/210/400 has a huge difference with the Snapdragon 410 for a couple reasons. The Snapdragon 200/210/400 is ARM Cortex-A7 and 32 bit. The Snapdragon 410 is 64 bit and ARM Cortex-A53. I can’t stress enough how important this is, considering that the Moto E 3G uses a Snapdragon 210, the HTC Desire 626 uses a Snapdragon 210, and last year’s Moto G uses a Snapdragon 400.

Both models of the new Moto G use a 1.4 GHz quad core Snapdragon 410; however, the 16 GB model comes with 2 GB of RAM where the 8 GB model comes with only one, another massive upgrade.

You can check out the comparisons with the LTE Moto E and the HTC Desire 626 if you like.

Moto G: Rear Camera

When Motorola announced the new Moto G, the big story was the camera. Sure, I get why it was a big story. The new Moto G uses the same sensor as the Nexus 6 and the OnePlus One, which are flagship devices, and this is going to be in a $179 device? Crazy talk! The really interesting thing is that this device has a lot more to offer than a camera. We’ll get to that later. For now, the camera.

The third generation Moto G uses a 13 MP sensor with an f/2 aperture. I couldn’t get a definite read on the sensor size, but it should be 1/3.06″. There is no optical image stabilization (OIS) like there is in the Nexus 6; however, I think OIS is the most overrated feature in a smart phone camera.

My one issue with the camera is the Moto Camera app, which is something that I’ve always had an issue with. There is no tap to focus function. It’s more of a drag to focus, which takes a while to get used to. You’ll see that some of the samples here are a bit out of focus for that very reason.

As you can see, the camera is pretty awesome here. Disregard the fact that some of the photos are out of focus. It’s easier who buys the phone and wants to use the phone forever to get used to the camera app then someone who gets a new phone every week. Just remember, it is a camera app that you will have to get used to.

Moto G: Front Camera

The front camera is also a massive improvement over last year’s model. It’s very misleading when companies describe the quality of their cameras in megapixels, so when we say that the new Moto G uses a 5 MP front camera, that doesn’t mean anything.

Again, check out the comparison with the HTC Desire 626. Both devices use a 5 MP front camera, so you can see how much better the Moto G is.

You’ll notice that the very bottom photo on the right says that it was taken with a flash. The Moto G uses a strategy that I’ve also seen in LG phones and is in the new iPhone 6S. It lights up the LCD panel and uses it as a flash.

Moto G: Everything Else

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of phones out there that are a great deal. The market is full of them. Generally, with a budget device, the phone sacrifices something. It might have a great camera but a terrible display. It might have a fast processor or some cool feature but it won’t have a flash on the rear camera. There’s always something that leaves you saying “well, they had to cut costs somehow”.

The Moto G doesn’t leave you with that feeling. The Moto G looks, feels, and acts like a flagship phone. First of all, the device just feels premium. It has a textured back that can be designed with Moto Maker. It really feels premium. It’s beautiful too if you pick the right colors.

Now I want to talk about the display, because this is really the thing that impressed me about the Moto G. You’ll notice that on a lot of flagship phones, there is a coating on the display that prevents fingerprints. It’s very glossy and very premium looking.

You’ll also notice that on a lot of lower end phones, they tend to collect fingerprints quickly, they’re not as glossy, and so on. The Moto G has the premium look.

The 720p display looks great as well. There’s something that we all have to remember here. So many flagships are being released with 1440p displays and we’re even seeing 4K displays from Sony, and it’s all fucking useless. Pick yourself up a Moto G, which is 720p, a 1 MP display, and see if you can see any reason for an additional 2.7 million pixels.

Moto G: Benchmarks

I hate benchmarks. I hate them so much that I write a disclaimer like this every single time I post them. Go ahead. Look through my reviews and comparisons. I always say this. They so rarely provide any insight into real world usage.

Nevertheless, they are the best tool we have for writing down the performance of a device, so here we go.

The first is a battery test. Geekbench 3 has two settings, one with the dim screen toggled on and one with it off. The one on the left is with the bright screen. The one on the right is, you guess it, with the dim screen.

Moto G Battery

As we can see, battery life is effected greatly when the screen is brighter. Let’s face it, we don’t live life with the dim screen toggled on.

Next up is Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu tests.

Moto G Bench

So, we know that the LTE Moto E basically has the same internals as the lower end Moto G, which is the one I reviewed, a quad core Snapdragon 410 and 1 GB of RAM; however, the Moto E is 1.2 GHz and the Moto G is 1.4 GHz.

There is a lot more going on than the 0.2 GHz difference. There is a lot of noticeable lag in the Moto E, but not at all in the Moto G.

Next up, graphics tests from GFXBench. The first three are from GFXBench 3 and the last one is GFXBench 3.1, showing that GFXBench 3.1 just doesn’t work on the Moto G (it didn’t work on the Moto E either).

Moto G GFX

As we can see, the scores are pretty good for a device at this price range.

Moto G (3rd Gen): Review

Before I write a review of any phone, I do a video review, so here’s that.

Motorola set the bar for budget devices with the original Moto G. They then set the bar for low end devices with the Moto E. Well, budget and low end Android devices. Basically, Nokia started doing it for Windows Phone and Motorola made it clear that they could do it on Android as well, but I digress…

Motorola has once again set the bar for the mid-range. There’s a couple interesting things to note here.

  1. We’re seeing the quad core Snapdragon 410 in a lot of low end devices these days, such as the LG Lancet, the Blu Win HD LTE, the Blu Win HD Jr, and even the LTE Moto E. Despite the fact that we’re seeing the Snapdragon 410 in the low end, the Moto G is a solid mid-range.
  2. The Snapdragon 410 is a massive upgrade over the Snapdragon 400. The Snapdragon 400, like the Snapdragon 200, was ARM Cortex-A7. The Snapdragon 410 is ARM Cortex-A53, as well as being a 64 bit processor.
  3. The Moto G has the look and feel of a flagship device. This was what blew me away. It has the glossy screen that flagships have, where lower end devices typically have the dull display that collects fingerprints easily. It also has a textured back which feels premium.
  4. Moto Maker. The Moto Maker program puts the Moto G over the top. You can choose the back color, the front color, and the accent color. It’s awesome. Pick the right colors and the phone looks amazing.

The Moto G is a great phone and it’s a solid upgrade from last year’s model. It’s definitely a buy if you’re in the budget market. My only advice is to shell out the extra $40 for the 16 GB model with 2 GB RAM.


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About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • The Snapdragon 410 in the Moto E LTE edition, and in the 2015 Moto G, can also hardware decode HEVC (h.265) at least up to 720p (I tried both 720p and 1080p sample files and sure enough, smooth as butter on 720p and doesn’t work on 1080p at all). Note that the 410 can run in 32bit OR 64bit mode, and Motorola elected to install 32bit Lollipop which I believe is the wiser choice. Higher versions of the 410 CAN decode up to 1080p HEVC, but HAVE to run 64bit.

    Anandtech in its 2015 Moto G review thought the screen on the 2014 was better. What do you think? If this is covered in your video just let me know, I had time to read the article but I’m time-crunched today and haven’t queued up the video yet.

    • Yea, I know the processor can run in 32 bit or 64 bit. I’m pretty sure all 64 bit processors can run at 32 bit. I didn’t know that they elected to run the 32 bit version of Lollipop. Why do you think that it was a good choice?

      I don’t remember the screen on the 2014 model. I remember thinking it was pretty good. I don’t remember thinking it was great. I can’t make an authoritative statement on which one is better, but if Anandtech says that the 2014 model was better, it probably was.