Motorola Moto G6 review: How the Moto G got its groove back
If Game of Thrones has taught me anything (and, honestly, it’s not a good teacher), it’s that the position on the titular throne is tough to hold onto. The budget smartphone throne is similarly competitive, albeit with a little more nerdery and a lot less bloodshed.For Motorola, the latest twist in the saga is good news. After a couple of disappointing generations where it lost ground to both Honor and Huawei, the Moto G6 is a phone fully worthy of the Moto G name. Not only is it (relatively) cheap and cheerful, it looks the part and packs a surprising punch.
Let’s be clear: this isn’t a Samsung Galaxy S9 beater – not anything close – but it comfortably makes mincemeat of everything else in the £150 to £250 bracket. Read on to find out why.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Design
Premium design has been dripping down to the budget market for some time now as manufacturing costs fall down and retail prices come up. All the same, for the money, the Moto G6 is something else.
As with the rest of the industry, Motorola has enthusiastically adopted the tall and thin 18:9 aspect ratio display but it looks a million dollars here. Clad in Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and pack and with a stylish curved design all the way round, the phone looks more like a flagship than it has any right to. The frame around the edges is colour-matched, and a circular camera housing sits on the back, evoking the appearance of an expensive watch. Or a robot from Futurama. Either way, it looks good.
Naming no names, some handsets use premium design as an excuse for getting rid of popular, but fiddly features like microSD card support and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The Moto G6 maintains both of these, as well as a fingerprint reader below the screen. There’s no replaceable battery here but you can’t have everything.
Here are some other things you don’t get on the Moto G6: wireless charging and waterproofing. While the phone has a p2i water-repellent coating, suitable for light rain or beer spillage, you shouldn’t expect the Moto G6 to last a sustained voyage to the bottom of the bathtub. One more negative: the circular camera housing/robot face is a dust magnet.
Still, it’s £219. This is by far the best designed and finest-looking handset you can get if your budget is strictly limited. And get used to that particular refrain, because you’re going to read it a lot in this review.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Screen
The Moto G6 has a 5.7in IPS screen, which makes it sound like it would weigh pockets down. Fortunately its 18:9 aspect ratio means it’s tall and thin, so it feels more comfortable in the hand than you might expect it to.
And that screen is decent, too. The resolution, at 1,080 x 2,160, is more than acceptable for a display of this size and it provides rich, pleasant colours.
It’s not the best out there, as you might expect for a phone that retails for less than a third the cost of the Samsung Galaxy S9. The display is a bit on the dim side, for a start, with a peak level of 408cd/m2, which means that, on the two or three days of blazing sunshine we get each year, you might struggle to read things clearly.
Colour accuracy too is a little weak, and sRGB gamut coverage isn’t wonderful either at 86.3% in the phone’s Standard display mode. The contrast is a decent 931:1, which is more than adequate, but still a distance behind the very best performers.
Unfortunately, this does put it slightly behind the cheaper Honor 9 Lite, which has a screen that’s 24% brighter and has a contrast ratio of 1,531:1. Fortunately for Motorola, this is by far the weakest point of the Moto G6 and, for the majority of consumers, these fairly technical deficiencies will be a complete non-issue.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Performance
Of far more import to most is raw performance, and the Moto G6 punches above its weight here, not only beating the Honor 9 Lite but giving both the Honor 7X and Sony Xperia XA2 a run for their money, handsets which retail for £51 and £80 more.
Before we get into the benchmarks though, here’s what you get for your £219. The device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor, an octa-core 14nm chip running at 1.8GHz, with 3GB RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. Oh, and there’s also an Amazon-exclusive dual-SIM model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for £20 more, which might be worth considering if you travel a lot, although at that price the G6 Plus may be worth a look instead.
If you’re used to hearing about Qualcomm’s latest and greatest, that may seem a little underwhelming: the Snapdragon 450 is relatively new, but it’s not the most powerful – and the upcoming Honor 7C include its while shaving £60 off the Moto G6’s price. But that’s tomorrow’s handset and this is today’s. So how does it perform? Well, better than the Moto G5 and G5S, which is a start.
As you can see from the charts above the CPU is around 17% quicker than the Moto G5S while the graphics capability also receives an 8% bump. This still won’t be the go-to smartphone for the latest, most graphically intense mobile games, it does still eclipse the more expensive Honor 7X, and comes close to taking out the Sony Xperia XA2 as well. Again, that’s very good for the price.
Another positive is that the Moto G6 runs what is pretty close to stock Android and the changes that have been introduced are for the better. The Moto’s gesture controls, for example, let you launch the camera with a double twist, or flick on the torch with a shake. In addition to the fingerprint reader, which is situated below the screen on the front, the Moto G6 also comes with face unlock, which seems both fast and reliable.
Where the phone is let down a little is the 3,000mAh battery, which lasted just ten hours and 46 minutes in our video test.
There’s no sugarcoating this: that’s not a great result but in general use the outlook is more positive and you should be able to get a day’s usage out of it fairly comfortably. It’s also worth noting that the supplied “TurboPower” charger gives you six hours’ battery life with a mere 15 minutes connected to the mains, which is pretty good.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Camera
So at the moment, you have a great-looking smartphone with an okayish screen and solid performance for £219. The price alone ensures a five-star review is in the bag, but if you’re still on the fence, the camera ought to seal the deal. It’s nothing short of brilliant for the price.
On paper, there’s nothing too special about the dual camera array on the Moto G6. You’re looking at a 12-megapixel snapper with an aperture of f/1.8 and phase-detect autofocus. The second snapper is just 5-megapixels and doesn’t offer zoom or wide-angle capabilities. What it does is supplement the main camera to add depth perception, and the results are pretty decent.
Pop the camera into portrait mode, snap a subject and you can edit the photo based on the extra data captured by the supporting camera. Blur, replace or desaturate the background at will – it works pretty well, even if the edges are occasionally identified incorrectly.
Party trick aside though, for £219 you’re not going to find a phone camera this good, period. No, it’s not a Pixel 2, Galaxy S9 or P20 Pro beater, but it can be mentioned in the same sentence without looking comically out of place and that’s one hell of a result for a phone that costs less than a third of any of them.
Outside, and in good light the Moto G6 captures images of the London skyline that are bursting with detail, with colours that are pleasingly accurate. Flick on HDR mode and you’ll find that both bright and dark areas are equalised superbly without adding a vibrant sheen that other phone cameras often can’t resist.
The selfie camera offers more of the same. Photographs aren’t quite up to the same standard but once again they’re both detailed and well balanced.
It’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows but the compromises are – from my perspective – made in the right places. First off, video capture isn’t 4K – but it is 1080p at 60fps, which is hard to be too angry about. More damagingly, the camera does take a while to actually capture the image after you press the shutter button. You’ll get used to this in time, but it makes magic-moment photography that bit more challenging and I often found myself moving the phone early, resulting in a write-off blurry photograph doomed to the dustbin.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Verdict
You can pick faults with the Moto G6, but every argument against it can be knocked down with a very simple reply: “It’s £219.”
So yes, the processor isn’t the fastest, the screen isn’t great and the battery life isn’t exactly stellar, but (join in everybody) it’s £219. That’s £80 cheaper than the Sony Xperia XA2, a phone we loved at the time but that now looks pretty average when compared with the new Moto.
To counter those weak points, the Moto G6 has good qualities in spades: it looks super stylish, the performance is solid and the camera is the best you can get without spending more than twice the money. All of which makes the Moto G6 about the easiest recommendation I can offer. Let’s say you have a smartphone budget of £225: unless you can literally double your phone budget, the Moto G6 deserves to be your next handset.