Before the original Moto G, mid-range phones were hardly even an afterthought for most users. The Moto G changed all that and opened the floodgates for device makers to start showing that you do not need to have flagship specs and pricing to give customers a great smartphone experience.
After years of dominating the mid-range market the last years, Moto G5 was more or less a flop, so expectations are understandably low with the release of the g6 this year.
Read on for the full review of the moto g6 from Lenovo.
What's In The Box?
Inside the box was a nostalgic surprise. I keychain version of Motorola's DynaTAC 8000X, celebrating the 45 year anniversary of Motorola's first cellular phone.
Following that you find your standard in-box items.
- moto g6
- USB Type C cable
- Motorola Turbo Charger
- Quick start guide
- SIM removal tool
Review Device Specifications
The g6 is a mid-range phone so these specs are not likely to get you too excited but remember, this device retails for $250 USD or $350 CAD.
- 5.7" IPS LCD display at 1080 x 2260 and 424 ppi
- Gorilla Glass 3
- Qualcomm™ Snapdragon™ 450 chipset
- Octa-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU
- Adreno 506 GPU
- 3000 mAh battery
- 32 GB storage (plus 265 GB more via micro SD card slot)
- 3 GB RAM
- 12MP + 5MP dual-camera on the back
- 8MP front-facing camera
- Front-side fingerprint scanner
- Headphone jack (yes, this is documented as a feature on most devices today)
- Android 8.0 Oreo
Design & Build Quality
The moto g6 is a mid-range device, but at a glance, it looks like a more premium device. The g6 is constructed of plastic, but until you actually pick it up, it almost has an all-glass look to it. The first two things I noticed after handling the device for a few minutes after unboxing was how much of a fingerprint magnet the device is and also how slippery out was too. I've nearly dropped the g6 dozens of times. I understand the idea of giving the device a faux premium look, but I'd also rather the device be made of a more tactile material.
The overall design, however, is still quite pleasing. Sporting the more modern 18:9 aspect ratio and a 5.7" IPS display. It is nice to see moto using this screen ratio even on lower-end phones.
When Motorola released the first Moto X one of the biggest standouts was its nearly stock Android experience. Sitting the device next to a Nexus device showed that Motorola wanted the experience to be as clean as possible. The only additions to the vanilla Android install were the addition of Motorola's suite of enhancements such as Moto Voice and Moto Actions. Moto voice allowed for always-on passive listening of the Moto X microphone which allowed users to call out 'OK Google" from anywhere in the room, and Google Assistant, then known as Google Now, would wake up and start listing. Over time this evolved and allowed users to use any name to wake the device. For me, with my Moto X, 2014 and my Moto Z, 2016 I went full nerd and changed the wake command to OK Friday. Friday is the AI assistant to Tony Stark, that replaced Jarvis when he took from as Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but you already knew that (if you didn't, shame!). Moto Actions, on the other hand, allows you to do things like twist the phone to open the camera app or perform a double chop action to turn on the flashlight. These add-ons do not take away from the visuals but add to the UX of the phone. Very worthwhile.
Motorola has continued to update and support the moto suite of tools on the moto g6 family of phones, however, there is one limitation. You cannot change the wake command from "OK Google" to your own selection. This is a minor thing for most I am sure, but perhaps my favourite feature of Motorola phones since the original Moto X in 2013 was the ability to change that wake command to anything you like. Deal break no, but disappointing still.
As for the overall software experience on the moto, g performance is really good. Running Android 8.0 Oreo, I was really happy with how well it performed. Coming from a Google Pixel XL, which despite its own gremlins, performs near perfect in most cases, I had very low expectations for the g6 and its Snapdragon™ 450 chipset.
There are noticeable performance differences when compare against the Pixel XL, but in nearly every use case I put the g6 through, it performed admirably. Even light gaming on the g6 was possible. Running Real Racing 3 did lead to some slow down, for sure, but it was not unplayable. Most of my gameplay was limited to Motorsport Manager 2 because I am a major Formula 1 fan, and that game had zero issues running, in fact, it performed better than my Pixel XL does in some cases with this game.
One note I should point out though. Any phone I have, regardless of its spec sheet, I always enable developer options and turn the animation settings from 1X to 0.5X speed. Animations are nice, but for me, performance and overall speed is king.
Long story short, you won't be disappointed by the performance of the moto g6 in nearly every scenario.
As I mentioned the moto g6 sports an 18:9 screen ratio with a resolution of 1080 x 2160, so still standard Full HD, and that is fine for me, and likely for most people who would consider a g6 when making a smartphone selection. Compared to my 2016 Moto X which is running at 1080 x 1920, this display looks light years ahead as far as clarity is concerned.
The real downfall of the display is its colour saturation. Colours tend to look washed out and dull. This is amplified further when you take the device out on a sunny day. The screen is nearly impossible to see in bright light making tasks like checking email or even taking pictures a challenge.
Overall, I would say the display may be the weakest point of the moto g6, but not enough to scare me away from it.
Compared to most phones on the market today, the 3000 mAh battery packed inside the moto g6 is pretty standard. And thanks to its low-powered CPU used by Motorola getting "all-day" battery life as marketed by Motorola was very easy. On heavy use days where there was a lot of camera use, Waze and some gaming I still found that the battery had between 15 and 20% battery left after being off the charger for about 16 hours and not topping up during the day. On light use days, I could have easily left the phone off the charger at night, but that's not my thing, so I would top it off while I slept each night.
Running a Snapdragon™ 450 had me thinking we were going to be diving into a world of blurry and grainy photos. While this is no Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S9, I am happy to report that camera on the g6 isn't horrible. Would I say it is good? Sure, in a lot of conditions, the camera on g6 is good, maybe even very good, but as you may expect, low-light conditions lead to some poor to horrible quality images.
My normal camera use on any smartphone, during a review or not, is a fairly solid mix of daytime shots, both inside and outside. I took the g6 to a wedding during the review period as a test. Generally, at a wedding, you will have an excellent mix of shooting conditions over the course of the event. Early on, during the ceremony, I was really pleased with the shots I was getting and was even trying to convince myself that I could get away with not touching my Pixel once. However, by the time the dinner and reception came along, I found my Pixel was in my hand far more often than the g6. Pictures taken during the reception were grainy and blurry. It is worth noting though that colour reproduction was actually pretty close to the Pixel when the g6 was able to get the shot right. The problem is, the camera missed more often than it hit.
The g6 does support portrait mode thanks to its dual-camera setup and it works fairly well. It does suffer though from the common problems seen with other portrait mode implementations that are not Google's on the Pixel. The edges of images tend to end up blurry or fuzzy, which makes the whole image look pretty poor. Again, comparing to my Pixel XL, the portrait mode does stand up and I have not used it in cases where I would always select portrait mode over a regular shot.
With portrait mode being a bit of a letdown, I was looking forward to using another fun party trick the g6 camera has to offer. Selective colour, which allows you to tap anywhere within the viewfinder and have only that colour shown. All other parts of the image will be greyscaled, as you can see here with Iron Man.
I'm of two minds with the g6 when considering the camera. The speed and performance were way ahead of where I was expecting, and in most cases, the shots I got were not far off my Pixel, but when the sun went down I was let down frequently. Yes, being a Pixel owner does make it hard to look at other cameras seriously.
Should You Buy The moto g6?
Considering the long run of success Motorola has had with the g-series of mid-range smartphones, how well the g6 performed during my time with it and the price point of $250 USD or $350 CAD I would be very confident in recommending this phone to most users. If you are a spec-head power user who needs to have the latest and greatest a smartphone can offer you, then Google and Samsung would be happy to take your money, OnePlus as well. However, if top-shelf specs are not at the top of your wish list and you are looking for a well-built reliable phone that will offer a good user experience and not break the bank, look no further than the moto g6, you won't be disappointed.
The g6 should see wider availability soon, but as of this review, the only carrier that the has it available is Videotron in Quebec for $349.95 CAD outright or $55.95 on a 2-year plan.
If you're looking to purchase the g6 unlocked, you can pick it up on Amazon for as low as $379.94.
Further Motorola Reading
I have been spending a lot of time with Motorola hardware of late. Be sure to check out my Moto Mod reviews as well!