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A stunning budget smartphone, the Motorola Moto G6 sets a new standard
Motorola hit a rich vein of form with the first four generations of Moto G but, with the Moto G5, it faltered for the first time. Motorola quickly followed up with the more accomplished G5S and G5S Plus, but the damage was done. Can it get back to winning ways with its latest budget phone, the Motorola Moto G6?
Motorola G6 review: What you need to know
The short answer is yes. If you have £219 to spend on a smartphone this the phone you want. It has a big 5.7in 18:9 screen, runs the latest version of Android and looks a bit like a mini Samsung Galaxy S9.
For a budget phone, the Moto G6 is nothing short of exceptional. It doesn’t have quite the same level of specifications as flagships costing hundreds of pounds more, but it delivers astonishingly good value for money and has a great camera, too.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Price and competition
Although the price has risen over the G5 and G5 S, £219 is still pretty reasonable for what you get with the Motorola Moto G6, and with the price of flagship phones rising exponentially it actually looks pretty reasonable.
The Moto G6’s isn’t lacking key rivals at this price. The strongest competition comes from the Honor 9 Lite, which like the Moto G6 is built from glass and metal, has an 18:9, 1080p display and costs a mere £199.
There’s also Motorola’s own Moto G5S, which you can pick up for £180 and the forthcoming Honor 7A (£140) and Honor 7C (£170) to consider, both of which also have large 18:9 screens. You have plenty of choice. The question is, do you need it?
Motorola Moto G6 review: Design and key features
Just to reiterate, the Motorola Moto G6 is one seriously good-looking smartphone but the beauty is not just skin deep. It’s clad in Gorilla Glass 3 at the front and back, so it’s easy to clean and should be resistant to scratches, scuffing and cracks – and those curved edges at the rear lend it a seriously classy look. A colour-matched chrome-finish frame and a circular camera housing that gleams an expensive watch finish off the high-class look.
And it’s good to see that Motorola has retained a little of the original Moto G’s design DNA. Instead of sheep-like following the crowd, the G6’s slightly bowed-out top and bottom edges, and its softly rounded corners help to give the phone an identity all of its own.
On the negative side, the camera housing does stick out quite a long way and it does tend to pick up and harbour pocket dust at an alarming rate. There’s also no full waterproofing or IP rating here. You get a p2i water-repellent coating instead, which at least should keep it safe should from harm should you spill your tea on it.
There’s also a fingerprint reader on the front below the screen, which is a touch awkward to reach, and inside is a 3,000mAh battery. That’s on the small side, given the size of the screen, but Motorola says it’s good for a day’s use and, with a “TurboPower” charger supplied in the box, you should be able to gain around six hours use from 15 minutes of charging.
There are a couple more positives about the design of the Motorola Moto G6. It has a microSD card slot, which can be used to expand storage by up to 128GB and a 3.5mm headphone jack, so no messing around with adapters. It has most of the important boxes ticked.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Display
The Motorola Moto G6’s display is more than acceptable. It’s big, at 5.7in from corner to corner, it uses IPS tech and the resolution is 1,080 x 2,160, which is about as sharp as you need at this screen size. It’s colourful, too, and in the default “Vibrant” mode, graphics, photographs and video all look pleasingly rich.
When it comes to the crunch, though, it’s clear that this is not the best screen around. Brightness is the main issue. It reaches only 408cd/m2, which means in really bright conditions it can be a challenge to read.
Colour accuracy isn’t wonderful, either, and sRGB coverage in Standard mode is a disappointing 86.3%. The display’s contrast ratio is fine at 931:1 but even this is a long way behind the best screens on flagship phones.
What is perhaps more damning is that it isn’t even as good as the screen on the Honor 9 Lite, which is 24% brighter, has a more impressive contrast ratio of 1,531:1 and only slightly worse sRGB coverage in its equivalent mode.
All things are relative, though, and while the Moto G6’s display is undoubtedly its weakest suit, most folk will find it perfectly adequate.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Performance and battery life
Inside the Motorola Moto G6 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 – an octa-core 14nm processor running at 1.8GHz – with 3GB of RAM and a rather measly 32GB of storage to back it up. It’s a modern chip but not the most powerful on the block, and it’s worth noting, too, that the Honor 7C has the same specification for a price that’s £60 less.
While performance is far from storming, it is at least a step forward over the Moto G5 and G5S. As you can see from the graphs above, the CPU is quicker – by around 17% – and the Qualcomm chip’s Adreno 506 graphics chip is also more rapid, by 8%. You won’t be playing demanding games at high detail levels but I did find that PUBG Mobile at low quality was playable, albeit with the odd frame drop.
Battery life wasn’t amazingly good from the phone’s 3,000mAh power cell. It lasted 10hrs 46mins in our video rundown test, which is below average but, true to Motorola’s claims, in regular use it will last a day if not a little longer if you’re careful.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Software
As with previous Moto G phones, the phone runs pretty close to stock Android (Android 8 Oreo, in this instance) with some useful extras tacked on. I’ve always liked the Moto phones’ gesture controls, which allow you to launch the camera with a double twist or toggle the torch on and off by twisting the phone or shaking it, and those are still in place here.
New this year is the addition of Dolby Audio processing, which you can enable and configure by tapping the Dolby icon in the pull-down notifications menu. This allows you to tweak the EQ, apply volume levelling or choose from a number of different sound profiles, which include music, game and voice. The presets are a bit overkill for movie and music, applying a little too much bass for my liking, but the volume levelling and Voice presets are useful for making poor quality podcasts more listenable.
The phone also supports Moto Voice, which comes in addition to support for Google Assistant. This works with the screen off and allows you to control do some things you can’t with Google’s voice recognition system. Finally, there’s also face unlock, which so far I’ve found pretty darned fast and reliable.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Camera
As for the quality of the images the Moto G6’s camera produces, that’s even more positive. Let’s talk about the dual camera capabilities first. Unlike on the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9, the second camera doesn’t add zoom or wide-angle capabilities. It’s intended primarily to help the camera with depth perception so it can more effectively apply a background-blur portrait effect, or cut out the background.
Pop the camera into portrait mode, snap your subject and then you can go into the gallery and apply various different effects based on this depth data. You can blur the background to varying degrees, replace or desaturate the background. This works reasonably well, but the edges of in-focus objects can take on a bit of a ragged edge.
There’s nothing special about the specifications. The main camera is a 12-megapixel unit with an aperture of f/1.8 and phase-detect autofocus. It can’t shoot 4K video – only 1080p at up to 60fps. The secondary depth camera is 5-megapixel and the selfie camera on the front is 8-megapixel and comes with a front flash.
For the money, though, the quality of the photographs you can capture with the Moto G6’s camera are nothing short of stunning. In low light, the Moto G6 achieves the perfect balance of grain to noise suppression with the camera retaining a truly impressive amount of detail and colour. It’s not Samsung Galaxy S9 or Google Pixel 2 levels of good but this phone costs a fraction of those handsets and it isn’t far behind.
Outdoors and in good light, the Moto’s impressive performance continues. Our test shots of the central London skyline were bursting with crisp details and colours were both neutral and accurate. The HDR mode worked sublimely well, too, equalising bright and dark areas effectively without making everything look unnaturally candy-coloured.
The 8-megapixel front-facing camera follows the same trend. Selfies aren’t quite as crisp as shots taken with the rear camera, but they’re well-balanced and packed with detail.
There are flaws, of course, but they’re flaws I’m happy to live with at this price. First, there’s a noticeable delay between pressing the shutter and the camera actually capturing your image, which can catch you out if you’re not prepared. More than once I ended up with a blurry image because I had expected the camera to take the image straight away. Second, the Moto G6 can’t capture video at 4K, but then 1080p at 60fps isn’t a bad compromise.
Motorola Moto G6 review: Verdict
The Moto G6 is a stunning budget phone, although I have been comparing it to the Honor 9 Lite, it’s a level above. It has its shortcomings. There’s a touch of lag on the camera shutter and the screen isn’t the brightest but these aren’t deal breakers.
The quality of the images the camera is capable of producing is amazing, the design is fabulous and the software is chock full of useful extras, while still retaining the look of stock Android.
With the Moto G6, Motorola is well and truly back on form. If you’re in the market for a phone at around this price, the only alternative you should consider is its slightly more expensive sibling, the G6 Plus, which is faster, has slightly longer battery life, and a better display.
- Processor-Octa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 450
- Screen size-5.7in
- Screen resolution-2,160 x 1,080
- Screen type-IPS
- Front camera-8-megapixel
- Rear camera-12-megapixel, 5-megapixel
- Storage (free)-32/64GB
- Memory card slot (supplied)-microSD
- Wireless data-802.11ac
- Dimensions-153.8 x 72.3 x 8.3 mm
- Operating system-Android 8.0
- Battery size-3,000 mAh