Review: Lenovo Moto G4 Plus

The Lenovo Moto G4 Plus had some big shoes to fill, even though it technically doesn't have a predecessor. This year, Lenovo opted to give us not one Moto G model, but three. There's the Moto G4, Moto G4 Play and Moto G4 Plus. The Moto G4 Plus is the "high-end" model in the Moto G4 lineup. While the Moto G4 got some pretty high praise from us in our review last week, how does the Moto G4 Plus stack up? With its upgraded camera, extra RAM, extra storage and a fingerprint scanner, is it really worth the price? Let's find out in the full review.

Specs

The specs here on the Moto G4 Plus are pretty similar to the Moto G4. We're looking at a 5.5-inch IPS display here sporting a 1920x1080 resolution giving the display 401 pixels per inch. This display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 as well. Powering the Moto G4 Plus is the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 (MSM8952) which is a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 and a quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A53, paired with the Adreno 405 GPU. This is paired with either 2GB of RAM or 4GB of RAM. Lenovo is selling the 2GB of RAM model with 16GB of storage, and the 4GB model with 64GB of storage. There was a 3GB/32GB model announced, but that appears to have vanished, as Lenovo is not selling it on motorola.com, and there has been no mention of it since. There is a micro SD card slot included, which is said to support up to 256GB SD cards.

The camera is one of the main differences here with the Moto G4 Plus. We have a 16-megapixel sensor here with an f/2.0 aperture included. It does also include phase detection and laser auto-focus, making the shutter nice and quick, even in low-light. It can record video in 1080p at 30FPS. The front-facing camera is a respectable 5-megapixel shooter with an f/2.2 aperture.

Moto G4 Plus also supports WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1, A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS for location, an FM radio as well as fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, and proximity sensors. The Moto G4 Plus is powered by a non-removable 3000mAh battery and Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Bands for the Moto G4 Plus are as follows:

2G: 850, 1900

3G: 850, 900, 1700 (AWS), 1900, 2100

4G LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 25, 26, 41

In the Box

There's not much going on inside the box here for the Moto G4 Plus. Right on top, we have the Moto G4 Plus, and underneath the smartphone, there is the turbocharger, micro USB cable and paperwork. There's nothing extra inside the box, not even a SIM ejection tool - because, well you don't need one.

Hardware & Build Quality

Motorola has been known for the build quality, for a very long time, and that carries over under Lenovo's ownership. While their smartphones haven't always looked as pretty as the Galaxy S7 or HTC 10, their smartphones have always been a bit rugged, and the Moto G4 Plus is the same way. Now the Moto G4 Plus isn't rugged to where you can drop it on the street and expect nothing to happen. But it can survive a drop or two. Part of that is due to the raised edge that they have on the side of the display, as well as the back panel. Speaking of the back panel, Lenovo did a good job at giving it a rather plain look, but making it non-slippery as well. The back of the Moto G4 Plus has plenty of grip. And the phone did not fall out of our hands once during the review process.

The back is removable, and underneath the cover, you'll find the micro SIM card slot and micro SD card slot. The micro SD card slot, as we mentioned already, can support up to 256GB of extra storage. We spent the review process with a 128GB micro SD card in there, and not a single issue - even with adoptable storage. With the 64GB model we have here, and a 128GB micro SD card, we were able to have 181GB of storage on this device. Something you can't say about the OnePlus 3. The micro SIM card slot is also there, and Lenovo was nice enough to include a nano to micro SIM card adapter inside the phone. So using our nano SIM card, we were able to use the phone without needing anything else. A nice, but subtle touch. Now since the back is removable, you can opt to pick up a new back from Motorola.com, and get a different color if you'd like.

Button placement was about what you would expect from Lenovo. There's the power button and volume rocker on the right side of the device. With the power button up a bit higher, and it has a slightly different texture, when compared to the volume rocker. Both buttons are nice and clicky, making for a rather pleasurable experience here. Up at the top, there is the 3.5mm headphone jack. Nice to see that Motorola kept it here on their lower-end model - even though the Moto Z and Moto Z Force both do away with that headphone jack. And the bottom houses that micro USB port.

Many have said that the design of the Moto G4 Plus (and by extension, the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Play) are a bit boring. Now obviously, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think the design looks rather sleek. It doesn't scream "look at me, I paid $700 for my smartphone" but it's not the ugliest smartphone on the market either. It's a happy in-between design. Having said that, it would have been nice for Moto to keep that curved back, as many felt that it was a better design choice, since it makes the phone feel more natural in your hand. But the Moto G4 Plus still feels really good in the hand. It's not an overly large smartphone, but it's not tiny either.

Display

Like the Moto G4, the display here is a pretty big update compared to last year's model. Gone is the 720p panel, and in is a 1080p IPS panel. Now where the Moto G4 does still support Moto Display, we would have much preferred Moto to stick with AMOLED - like they did with the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. However, to get the phone at this cost, they had to cut corners somewhere, and it appears that was where it was. The IPS panel here isn't bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. It gets very, very dim, and also gets very bright when using it in direct sunlight. Great for playing Pokemon GO during the day. The colors on the display are pretty accurate. However, as expected, the blacks don't quite get as dark as they would on an AMOLED display. Lenovo has also included the ability to change the color mode, although the options here are still limited. You can choose between Normal which "displays realistic color" or Vibrant which "displays enhanced color and saturation".

The way the display looks, isn't the entire story of the display on any smartphone. The other big component of any display is the digitizer. The digitizer is what registers your touch every time you touch the display. Making it an even more important part of the display than the resolution, or how the colors look. The digitizer performed quite well here. We didn't have any issues with the digitizer not recognizing our finger when it touched the display. It was accurate almost 100% of the time.

Performance

The big question for the Moto G4 Plus, is performance. Since it is running the Snapdragon 617 along with 4GB of RAM, you'd expect the device to run pretty well. However that's only part of the story. You see, the Snapdragon 617 is an upgraded Snapdragon 615. That's right, one of the many processors from 2015 that had all kinds of overheating issues. And, unfortunately, these heating issues do still exist on the Moto G4 Plus. However, they weren't as frequent as they were on the Snapdragon 615, which is a good sign. But it's far from perfect. When it comes to gaming, the Moto G4 Plus can warm up pretty quick, even quicker when playing graphic intensive games. However, when doing normal day-to-day tasks like checking email, keeping up with Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and other apps, the performance is quite good. Although, with this being a quad-core 1.5GHz and a quad-core 1.2GHz (to make it an octa-core) processor, the device is somewhat slow.

Throw in 4GB of RAM in the mix, and you don't really see much of a difference from the Moto G4 Plus to the Moto G4 with just 2GB of RAM. There's plenty of RAM to go around here, but the performance doesn't really get better, unfortunately. If Lenovo had stuck a better processor inside, the Moto G4 Plus would be one heck of a smartphone, especially with 4GB of RAM.

Fingerprint Scanner

At first glance, many may not like the fact that the fingerprint scanner here is on the front of the Moto G4 Plus. And I wouldn't blame you. Especially with most phones putting it on the back of the device - and the Moto G4 Plus having that Moto dimple back there. But, it turns out, the placement is actually quite good. It makes it easy to place your finger or thumb on the sensor and unlock the device right away. The fingerprint sensor always recognized my finger(s) instantly, and never had to place my finger on the sensor once again to get it to recognize it and unlock. Fingerprint scanners are continuing to get better and better, and that's a good thing.

Since the Moto G4 Plus does run on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, that does also mean that we have support for Google's Fingerprint API. What this means is that the fingerprint scanner here can be used on any app that supports the API. This includes apps such as PayPal, LastPass, Google Play and many others. Giving users a great alternative to putting in their password every time, which no one really wants to do anyways. The fingerprint scanner worked perfectly fine with these apps, just as you'd expect.

Speaker & Sound

Much like the Moto G4, the Moto G4 Plus' speaker is located in the earpiece on the front of the device. Now this is both a good and a bad thing. It's good because it means we have a front-facing speaker here. But the bad is that there is only one speaker here. Meaning we don't have dual speakers. That may be a turn off for some, but it is better than having one bottom firing or rear firing speaker.

Lenovo doesn't give us much, in terms of options for sound here. So we're stuck with the options they opted to make in the software. And that's not a bad thing for most people. There's no HiFi audio, but the audio is pretty decent. For most people, that aren't audiophiles, you'll be quite happy with the front-facing speaker on the Moto G4 Plus. The lows are nice and deep, and bass heavy. While the mids and highs are still crystal clear. The volume of the speaker can get pretty loud all without distorting the sound of whatever is playing on the Moto G4 Plus.

Moto Maker

One of the main advantages to buying the Moto G4 Plus from Motorola.com over Best Buy, Amazon or any other retailer, is Moto Maker. The company debuted Moto Maker back in 2013 with the original Moto X, and it has evolved over what has been almost the last three years. With Moto Maker, you can customize many aspects of the Moto G4 Plus. This includes which model of the Moto G4 lineup you want to get. There's the 16GB and 32GB Moto G4, then there's the 2GB/16GB and 4GB/64GB Moto G4 Plus available. The Moto G4 Plus models are priced at $249 and $299 respectively.

For the front, we're still stuck with either a black or white front (many like the black front better because the sensors on the front of the phone are hidden, whereas on the white model, they aren't). For the back cover, we have 8 colors. These include Cobalt Blue, Foam, Raspberry, Chalk White, Pitch Black, Deep Sea Blue, Dark Fig and Lava Red. Lenovo offers the accents (these accents are for the area around the camera only) in five colors including Metallic Dark Gray, Metallic Silver, Metallic Pink, Metallic Ocean and Metallic Fine Gold. This helps you to really make your Moto G4 Plus yours, and make it stand out from the crowd. For $5.00, you can also engrave the back of your Moto G4 Plus. And finally, there is the on-screen greeting. Remember that whatever greeting you add will be gone when you do a factory reset of your Moto G4 Plus. So don't get too attached to it.

Battery Life

Battery life on the Moto G4 Plus doesn't seem to be as good as the original Moto G4. It's a bit puzzling to me, but that doesn't mean the battery life is bad. It's still quite good. Being able to get through a full day on a charge, without really having to watch what I'm doing on the phone. Of course, these numbers are all subjective, and depend on what you're doing on your Moto G4 Plus, but you can definitely get around 4-5 hours on screen time out of the Moto G4 Plus. Unless you are playing Pokemon GO. Then that's another story.

Even if the Moto G4 Plus doesn't last you a full day, Lenovo has thrown in Turbo Charging - which is compatible with Quick Charge 3.0 from Qualcomm. We plugged in the Moto G4 Plus at 2% and it took around 90 minutes to get to 100%. That was pretty close to the time it would take to do the same on the LG G5, which does explicitly support Quick Charge 3.0. While Lenovo doesn't actually use that term, and sticks with "Turbo Charging". While many smartphone manufacturers aren't throwing in a Quick Charge or Turbo Charge charger in the box with the phone, Motorola has done just that. So you don't need to spend any extra money to get Turbo Charging out of your Moto G4 Plus. That's another box that the Moto G4 Plus checks.

Benchmarks

We ran AnTuTu, Geekbench 3 and 3D Mark here on the Moto G4 Plus. The results were pretty similar to the Moto G4, which was to be expected considering the internals are identical between the two smartphones.

Software

As mentioned already, the Moto G4 Plus is running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (and for those wondering, it's the May 1st, 2016 security patch, at least at the time of reviewing the device). Lenovo opted to allow Moto to stick to a stock version of Android on the Moto G4 lineup - as well as the new Moto Z and Moto Z Force. So we're looking at vanilla Android, with a few features built into the Moto app, that is available from the Google Play Store. The software experience also brings us the Google Now Launcher out-of-the-box, so you get an almost Nexus-like feel from the smartphone.

When it comes to the Moto app here on the Moto G4 Plus, it's not as loaded as the version on the Moto Z. We have just Moto Actions and Moto Display here. With Moto Actions, there are four gestures included. The chopping gesture for opening the flashlight, flipping the phone to turn on do not disturb, picking it up to stop the ringing and of course, the double-twist for opening the camera. With Moto Display, you are able to see your notifications at a glance, without powering on the entire display. Now these apps can show you all of the details, or block sensitive content - especially useful if you have a lock on your phone like your fingerprint. You can also choose to block certain apps from showing notifications on the lock screen, and most importantly, you can adjust what times the screen stays dark.

There are a few other Moto apps, that aren't pre-installed here. Of course, the most popular one is Moto Connect. This app allows you to control other Motorola (now Lenovo) products like their Power Pack Micro, Keylink and the Moto 360 smartwatch. It's a pretty great app to use on the Moto G4, especially if you do have these other products. In addition to this, Lenovo is offering up unlimited storage of full-sized photos on Google Photos, for the next two years. For those that are unaware, Google Photos allows you to back up all your photos, and gives you unlimited space at "high quality" and the full-sized images use your Google Drive space. But with the Moto G4 Plus you can back them up at full resolution for free. Another great perk of picking up the Moto G4 Plus.

The software is pretty straight forward here on the Moto G4 Plus, there's not a lot of hidden surprises. And in fact, there's not a whole lot of extras included either. That's actually part of what makes the battery on the Moto G4 Plus so much better, when compared to the likes of the Moto Z or Moto Z Force.

Camera

Lenovo's camera is actually an app in the Play Store. Which allows Moto to quickly update the camera app without needing to push out an entire software update. The camera UI is actually pretty simplistic, and that's a good thing. Motorola didn't go the simplistic route to leave out a ton of features either. There are still plenty of features included here in the Moto G4 Plus' camera. The modes included here are auto, video, panorama, slow-motion and manual mode. Manual mode is arguably the most intriguing, considering the fact that this is a sub-$300 smartphone. Motorola also gives you a bit more granular control over the settings in manual mode, when compared to the other smartphones out there.

Just like on previous Moto smartphones, swiping in from the right will take you to your gallery, showing you the most recent picture you've taken. Swiping in from the left shows you all of the settings that are available for the camera. Some of the settings included here include the ability to turn off the shutter sound, where to store your pictures (if you are using Adoptable storage, there's no option to change the location, since the SD card is technically part of the phone's storage now), toggling quick capture, save location (GPS location), Photo size and video size. It's pretty simple and self-explanatory. Lenovo kept things simple, but also kept loads of features in the camera app. Not bad, Lenovo and Moto.

Camera Quality

Now when it comes to the quality of the images taken with the Moto G4 Plus, we weren't as impressed. Some scenes, the Moto G4 Plus performed beautifully. While others, we could see plenty of noise within the picture. And with a 16-megapixel sensor, that should not be the case, unless it's in total darkness. With phase detection and laser auto-focus, the auto-focus on the Moto G4 Plus is quite snappy, however. It was almost instant when taking pictures with the device, which is exactly what we expected with laser auto-focus in addition to phase detection being included. The front-facing camera was somewhat decent. It isn't going to blow you away, but it's good enough for those selfies. Unfortunately, there is no front-facing flash on the Moto G4 Plus here, so if you're taking selfies in the dark, they are still going to look pretty bad.

The Good

Display: Most smartphones in this price range either sport a great display, with a rather low-end processor or vice versa. Lenovo was able to give us a pretty decent display here, with a somewhat decent processor.

Battery Life: Not only has Lenovo given us some amazing battery life here, but we also have some incredibly fast charging thanks to Turbo Charging.

Build Quality: While the design might be boring, and waterproofing is gone, the build quality of the Moto G4 Plus is pretty amazing.

Adoptable Storage: A feature announced in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, very few smartphones actually support it. Luckily the Moto G4 Plus does.

Cost: How many other smartphones can you get with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for just $299? Not many.

The Bad

Performance: The Snapdragon 617 is still underperforming and overheating. A bit unfortunate, given the fact that the rest of the Moto G4 Plus is pretty amazing.

Camera: Pretty subpar, to be honest. Again, it's pretty unfortunate, given that this is a 16-megapixel shooter and it does sport both phase detection and laser auto-focus.

Water Resistance: After having this on the Moto G (2015) last year, it's tough to figure out why it's not here on the Moto G4 or the Moto G4 Plus.

Wrap Up

As I mentioned in the Moto G4 review, the Moto G had been Motorola's most successful phone ever. That includes beating out flip phones like the RAZR. And that's nothing to sneeze at. The Moto G has always offered some amazing value for the money, and the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus continue with that. Even under Lenovo's ownership. Is the Moto G4 Plus perfect? Not exactly, but there's no such thing as a perfect phone. Is the Moto G4 Plus a good alternative to the likes of the HTC 10, LG G5 or Galaxy S7? It sure is. Of course the Moto G4 Plus does have its weaknesses, but they are pretty few and far in-between.

Should you buy the Moto G4 Plus?

The big question. Should you buy the Moto G4 Plus. I would say yes. The Moto G4 Plus is definitely future-proof for a good bit, with its 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a fingerprint scanner on the device. While Lenovo does offer up the Moto G4 Plus in a 16GB model with just 2GB of RAM, for $50 more you can get 4-times the storage and double the RAM. Definitely worth going all out and getting that 4GB/64GB model for $299.

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About the Author
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Alexander Maxham

Section Editor
Alex has written for Androidheadlines since 2012 as Editor of the site and traveled the World to many of the biggest Smartphone and Technology events. Alex has a background in Technology and IT and Deep Passion for Everything Android and Google. His specialties lay in Smartphones of all budgets, Accessories, Home Automation and more. Contact him at [email protected]
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