The Moto One family is becoming more and more diverse. It's also becoming more niche in the process, with each iteration in the series adding a distinctive camera proposition – but not necessarily matching build quality and performance from device to device.
The Moto One Macro is, as its name suggests, the phone to bring a macro lens to proceedings, designed for close-up photography. The specification is otherwise like a watered-down Moto G8 Plus handset, with a lower-resolution screen, seeing the Macro sit at the bottom of the One series (which also includes the Vision, Action and Zoom).
That makes the Macro an affordable handset. But it's also a slightly confusing proposition in light of the G8 Plus: do we really need all these niche-targeted budget handsets, or should Moto be focusing on creating a do-it-all and ultimately higher-end proposition?
Design: A more budget G8 Plus
- Dimensions: 157.6 x 75.41 x 8.99mm / Weight: 186g
- Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
- Finish: Space Blue, Ultra Violet
- IPX2 water repellency
- 3.5mm jack
At its outset the Moto One series was all about Android One software and hardware simplicity. But since the Zoom launched, the software tie-in has gone. And the Macro offers little to represent this handset as one of the One family; instead, as we said above, it feels like a re-worked, cheaper version of the G8 Plus.
That means it's a svelte handset with a graduated colour finish to its incredibly glossy back (it loves fingerprints), the cameras all aligned in the corner. It's got a fingerprint scanner tucked away to the rear, embedded within the "M" 'batwing' logo. That you don't see 'Motorola' logos plastered everywhere on this phone shows confidence, keeping the design refined – even if it's a bit plasticky.
Just like the G8 Plus, the One Macro comes with some handy features: there's a 3.5mm jack for headphones (absent in too many flagship devices these days); microSD support means you can expand the on-board storage at minimal cost; and there's even an IPX2 water-repellent rating (unusual for a Motorola phone).
Flip to the front and you'll find that display with a waterdrop notch at the top – and let's just remember that the Moto Vision and Action are both punch-hole – which means bezel is relatively trim, except for a bit of a 'chin' black bar to the bottom. For a phone at the affordable end of the spectrum it's surprisingly well achieved. That's become the hallmark of Motorola over the past few years.
Display & Performance
- 6.2-inch display, 1520 x 720 pixel resolution (270ppi)
- 4000mAh battery, 10W charging via USB Type-C
- MediaTek Helio P70, 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage + microSD slot
- No NFC (so no contactless)
There's a big 6.2-inch display on the front of the Moto One Macro, but the thing you'll really notice about it is the resolution is only HD. That's not unexpected at this price point, but having just used the Moto G8 Plus prior, we find the jaggies on text, images and in particular games to be a lot more noticeable on the Macro. In isolation that's not a huge bother, but we'd plump for the G series each and every time.
While the Macro's screen size and display presence is perfectly fine, it suffers the same Motorola overzealous auto-dimming. This has been an ongoing issue for budget Motorola phones and we don't see why it's ongoing; the option to adjust this lowest threshold would be welcome, to avoid making manual adjustments.
Sitting at core of the Macro is another indicator of where Motorola has pinched a penny to cut the price down: it's a MediaTek Helio P70 octa-core processor. It more or less sits in the same position as the Snapdragon 660, though, which is what you'll find in the Moto G8 Plus. Is there a difference between the two? Not really, as both handsets come with 4GB RAM. That means a slightly slower load time for apps than from a more premium device, but there aren't limits to what you can run.
With budget phones of the past you'd expect games to stutter or perhaps not load certain graphical textures. But the Macro doesn't suffer such issues; we've been playing South Park: Phone Destroyer without lag, so if you want a budget handset that can handle general use and casual gaming, there's nothing distinctive to hold you back here.
There's a big positive on the battery front too: the One Macro features a 4,000mAh cell, delivering long-lasting capacity. That's an echo of what's in the G8 Plus, with both handsets offering long innings. Even with an hour of gaming and some casual use the battery won't drop more than about 30 per cent over a 10 hour period – and that's with cellular and Wi-Fi seeing apps running in the background at all times.
However, the Macro doesn't offer the same fast-charging experience as the G8 Plus, with a 10W charger in the box. Unlikely to be a bother for nightly charges, but a difference nonetheless. At least it's a USB-C port this time around – it seems the days of Micro-USB have come to an end. That said, there's no NFC – so you won't be making mobile payments with this handset.
In terms of software, the Macro is much like the Zoom, featuring Google's Android 9 Pie operating system, making for a clean and clutter-free experience. The only additional app you'll find is the Moto one, a hub where Moto Display and Moto Actions can be accessed. These are used to control the 'peek notifications' – where icon previews pop-up on the screen when not in use – and physical actions, such as karate chop and flip, to perform certain results, respectively.
Let's go macro! Or not
- Main camera: 13-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixel size
- Depth sensor: 2MP, f/2.2, 1.75µm
- Macro: 2MP, f/2.2, 1.75µm
- Laser autofocus
We've had zoom, we've had wide-angle, and now we have macro! Macro lenses are all about getting close to a subject while maintaining focus. This, of course, is where the Moto One Macro is a bit of a specialist, enabling focus just 2cm away from that rear lens. We're not sure anyone asked specifically for this dedicated feature on a phone – a zoom is more useful in our opinion – but it's one of those nice-to-have features nonetheless.
Such a specialist camera won't get used as often as the main camera, which in this case is a 13-megapixel one, paired with a secondary lens for gathering depth data for the portrait mode. This is another area where the One Macro lags behind the G8 Plus, the latter offering a 48MP main (with Quad Pixel tech for cleaner 12MP results).
In terms of performance, the One Macro is never going to be the best on the market at this price. That's the contradiction of adding such a specialist feature and then not really offering a particularly standout camera. The macro shots are small, at 2-megapixels of resolution, but at least the autofocus works – a criticism we levelled at Honor for lacking such usability. If the lighting isn't good, however, then don't expect good results.
The main camera is perfectly acceptable but, again, without a dedicated night mode or similar, it's not a low-light winner. That's the real test of a phone these days, and the Macro feels limited as a result. Even in so-so light we've found the shutter speed opts to be a little too long, so many of our shots have been slightly blurred as a result.
The Moto One Macro is an interesting concept. By bringing macro photography to a budget handset it's a unique prospect. In the same breath, however, we're not sure close-up photography is a genuinely big sell – especially when, somewhat ironically, the cameras aren't all that.
We suggest paying a little extra and buy the higher-resolution Moto G8 Plus, which brings better cameras. That the One stands in its sister series' shadow to such a degree is somewhat confusing – we think the G series should be the affordable focus and that an all-encompassing One handset should bring together all the cameras from the series (action cam, zoom, wide-angle and macro) for a more enticing mid-level prospect.
Really, the One Macro needs to be seen for what it is: a budget handset with a big battery life and fuss-free software. In those regards it performs well, for a long time, and it won't break the bank to get you there. But its presence feels like a bit of a gap-filler.
This article was originally published on 24 October 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status
Moto G8 Plus
Pay a little more and you'll get a better screen, better cameras, and fast-charging. The presence of the G8 Plus makes us wonder why the One Macro needs to exist, really, as it's clear which is the better phone of the pair.