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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Motorola Moto G review: The best ever budget smartphone

The Motorola Moto G has been around for a few months now so here's our updated and in-depth review of the best budget smartphone on the market. Head to page two for our original review. See also: best smartphones

We've been using the Moto G since launch and we still really love this phone. It's cheap, cheerful and reliable. Every time we pick it up we're blown away by the stunning screen which you just don't get on a gadgets this cheap. Performance remains excellent too, partly thanks to software updates, including Android 4.4 KitKat, which have arrived promptly when promised - a rarity in itself.

Nevertheless, the Moto G isn't flawless. The camera is still just ok and that means we're less likely to get snapping. Our main problem remains in the storage area. With no microSD card slot for adding more storage, our 8GB model is seriously lacking in space for the apps we want to download and use. So anyone looking at getting the Moto G will be better off investing in the larger 16GB version.

If we were going to picky, then a lack of 4G support is a downside. Faster 4G networks are now widely available and 4G tariffs are quickly becoming the norm. However, 4G LTE goes hand in hand with high-end phones so consumers buying a budget device but still wanting 4G are still in a niche category.

For a smartphone, the Moto G is getting a little old - it happens very quickly in the mobile market. However, we've still not seen a worthy rival for its best budget smartphone crown. It still tops our best budget smartphones comfortably.

Sony launched the Xperia Z1 Compact following the trend of mini versions of flagships and has done a great job. The device has the same premium feel, in a smaller size, but without the massive downgrade in specification. Alas, this is no budget smartphone though and costs a few times more than the Moto G.

The new Nokia X is much more of a rival since it will launch for under £100, but this device runs a strange cross between Android and Windows Phone which we don't recommend.

Upcoming is HTC's Desire 310 which we haven't seen in the flesh yet. It, like the Moto G, has a quad-core processor, a 5Mp rear camera and a 4.5in screen but it importantly has a lower resolution and only runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

For a long time the phrase 'budget Android phone' meant 'poor-quality handset'. For less than £200 you were looking at a connected device with laggy performance and - most of all - an ugly display with a poor resolution. You probably won't have heard of many of the manufactures so it can be difficult making the right choice on a handset.

But the bottom of the market is where the new customers can be found, and we've started seeing some excellent devices at cheaper prices. Walk into your high-street store and you'll see the Nokia Lumia 520 offering a decent cheap deal on the Windows Phone platform.

Meanwhile the likes of the Nexus 5 and 2012 flagships such as the Galaxy S3 offer something for everyone in the mid-price range. But the Moto G is the first genuinely cheap Android phone that is genuinely good. For a few quid over the £100 mark you can have high-end performance, features and build - with almost no compromise.

This kind of value for money is unheard of at the budget end of the smartphone market. The Moto G barely has a single rival. Only really the Lumia 520 but we're still at the stage where we recommend Android over Windows Phone, especially for users buying their first smartphone.

For your ton, you'll get a nice albeit fairly basic looking handset. There's nothing interesting going on here, with just the essential buttons, ports and a classic smartphone shape. It does have some style though; interchangeable covers which are relatively cheap provide easy access to customisation. We're quite fond of our aptly red rear cover. The flip case even has a magnet built-in so it sticks to the screen and the Moto G comes to life as soon as you open it up.

Going back to the price again, it's astonishing that the Moto G has an HD screen. That's 720p and with a 4.5in screen, the result is the same amount of pixels per inch as the iPhone 5s, a device which costs five times that of the humble Moto G.

That's not all you're getting either. The Moto G has a quad-core processor, 8- or 16 GB of internal storage a 5Mp camera and the latest version of Android, 4.4 KitKat. It's not too surprising that there's no NFC or features such as infrared or wireless charging. The only really downside of the device is a lack of expandable storage; there's no microSD card slot here.

We've examined why the Moto G is so cheap in this blog - how Motorola made the Moto G so cheap. Here we focus on the Moto G's features, design and build, and performance. If you are new to the smartphone game, or just looking for a bargain, you've found it. Read on to find out why.

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