It's hard to stay on top. Not that Motorola has really struggled: its G series phones have always been the go-to destination for affordable yet capable handsets. But in a world where the competition has become so tough – especially that from China, from the likes of Xiaomi – the American company is doubling down by releasing the G8 series just six months after the G7 launched.
The Moto G8 Plus, on review here, arrives as the solo venture in the UK – finally putting to bed the sheer confusion of having standard, Plus, Play, Power options to confuse your buying decision – and takes on an altogether more attractive design, with some additional camera work, bigger battery, better specification and, crucially, smaller price tag than the outgoing G7 Plus. Surely a recipe for perfection then?
- Dimensions: 158.35 x 75.83 x 9.09mm / Weight: 188g
- Finishes: Cosmic Blue or Crystal Pink
- Water repellent design (not IP rated)
- Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
- microSD card support
- 3.5mm jack
The Moto G series has come along in leaps and bounds over the years. The G8 Plus takes a lot of the current in-trend design cues and adopts them into its updated form. It's a large phone – yet not too large, thankfully – with a gradated rear that's subtly pulled off rather than in-your-face garish. And it looks great, especially considering the price.
On the front the G8 Plus doesn't look a million miles away from the G7 Plus – there's a size difference and that unnecessary 'motorola' logo at the bottom has finally vanished from existence – but that's just fine. It means fairly trim bezel for a budget phone, the 'chin' and 'forehead' are shrunk – the latter for the sake of a dewdrop notch – and no in-screen fingerprint scanner in the way on the front (something that didn't work well in the Moto One Zoom at all).
Instead that fingerprint scanner is tucked away to the rear, embedded within the "M" 'batwings logo', operating perfectly well. That you don't see 'Motorola' logos plastered everywhere on this phone shows an air of confidence. Instead it's going about its business with subtletly, while remaining identifiable.
Like its predecessor, the G8 Plus 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; a USB-C port makes for fast-charging (the charger is in the box too); and there's even some water-repellent coating (although it's still not officially IP-rated like so many competitors).
The only downside, really, isn't of the phone itself, it's the competition. With the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro delivering flagship specs for £399, however, Motorola has made a sensible move: the G8 Plus is cheaper than its predecessor, despite being more powerful and feature-packed. That'll help it stand out in a busying crowd, but also put a significant distance between its asking price and the next would-be affordable king. A savvy move indeed.
Display & Notch
- 6.3-inch Full HD+ (2280 x 1080 resolution) LCD display
- 19:9 aspect ratio with dewdrop notch
If you put the G8 Plus and the Moto One Macro side by side, you might think they're the same phone with different finishes. However, the biggest point to set them apart – ignoring the camera setups for one moment – is that the G8 Plus comes with a higher-resolution screen (at Full HD+ over just HD+ in the One).
This works to the G8 Plus' advantage, as with a 6.3-inch panel you'll want this kind of resolution, it's the sweet spot for detail against battery life. It's a little larger than the outgoing G7 Plus (and therefore includes an extra 10 pixels on the vertical to compensate, not that it hugely matters), with an elongated aspect ratio (19:9) ensuring it's not unwieldy in the hand.
Like its predecessor, however, the G8 Plus keeps a dewdrop notch, that little black-out tear to the top and centre. It's not a massive one, though, and by and large you can just ignore it. Some more recent phones have much larger notches due to more complex camera and sensors embedded within – Pixel 4, we're looking at you – but we prefer the trim, smaller approach of this Motorola.
While the G8 Plus' screen size, resolution, brightness and colour are all perfectly fine, the handset continues with one ongoing and irksome issues: its auto-brightness is over-sensitive to making adjustments. Maybe it's not quite as bad as its predecessors, but we found far too often the screen would dip a little too much – and we'd like to option to adjust this lowest threshold to stop it! Sure, Motorola is trying to eke out the best of battery life – it does a good job, too, it has to be said – but we find constantly manually adjusting the brightness slider during a gaming session to be annoying. But that's our only complaint here.
Performance & Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor (2.0Ghz octa-core), 4GB RAM
- 4000mAh battery, 15W TurboPower charging (included in the box)
- Android Pie OS, including Moto app (for Display, Voice, Actions)
At this price point you can't expect the best-of-best processor to keep things ticking along. That said, we're spoiled in this day and age, so the Qualcomm SD665 and 4GB RAM at the G8 Plus' heart does a sterling job of powering things along.
It's not a slow experience at all, whether in general use, or when digging into some more demanding apps. The main difference compared to more flagship phones we've noticed is that loading apps can take a little longer. But it rarely affects them: playing South Park Phone Destroyer has been no bother at all, whereas Rescut Cut! has shown some minute stutters here and there – but nothing of concern.
The sound output is fairly decent thanks to stereo speakers and Dolby Audio, although it does sound a little one-sided from our experience.
There's a big positive on the battery front too: the G8 Plus features a 4,000mAh cell, meaning it's 33 per cent more capacious than the outgoing G7 Plus. That's a huge increase, and given the feature set is barely any different, it relays well in use too.
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. Getting a full two days of use from this phone is feasible, while heavy-use days should see you breeze through to bedtime with no qualms. Good job.
If the battery does need a quick top-up then the 18W charger included in the box will juice the phone up fairly quickly – although this is slower than the 27W plug found in the G7 Plus' box, oddly. Good job the battery life is better in the G8 Plus overall, then.
It's also worth putting in a word about software. Although, thankfully, there's little at all to moan about. Moto uses Google's Android Pie (9.0) operating system, making for a clean and clutter-free experience. It's familiar, it's fast, it's the way it should be.
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. There's no Moto Voice here, but with Google Assistant on hand that's no bother.
How many cameras?
- Main camera: 48-megapixel (Quad Pixel tech for 12MP results), f/1.7 aperture, 1.6µm pixel size
- Ultra-wide 'Action Cam': 16MP, f/2.2 aperture, 2.0µm pixel size
- Depth sensor: 5MP, f/2.2 aperture, 1.12µm pixel size
- Selfie camera: 25MP (Quad Pixel for 6MP results)
In recent years Motorola has been using its One series to introduce more pixel-dense cameras. Now its the G series' turn: the Moto G8 Plus moves to a 48-megapixel sensor, which sounds ultra-resolute, but is default used with Quad Pixel technology for 12MP shots (using the data of four combined pixels for better results).
Increasingly common in phones is multiple lenses. To look at you might think the G8 Plus is gunning for a quad camera – after all, there are five circular emblems on the rear. However, it's not that populated with lenses. Instead there's that main camera, a depth sensor (for portrait mode), laser autofocus, a flash, and then its special 'Action Cam' up top.
In that regard – despite looking different in design terms – the arrangement of these cameras is actually pretty similar to the Moto One Action that launched earlier in the year. In particular because of the addition of that 16MP Action Cam, dedicated to video capture, with the ability to shoot landscape video while you're holding the phone in portrait orientation. A bit gimmicky, yes, but you're not forced to use it – and when you do, the electronic stabilisation is really rather special.
In terms of camera performance, it's never going to be the best on the market at this price – the focus can be a little slow when re-locating focus, for example, while pinpoint focus isn't always 100 per cent where it says it should be – but the app loads fast, the shutter lag isn't too bad, and there's a bunch of shooting options to pick from.
The most notable absence is with any kind of wide-angle or zoom combination, which having come from a phone with a 2x lens is missed. The G8 Plus allows for digital zoom to 8x, but it doesn't cut it in most scenarios – although cropping into a full-size 48MP image does have some legs, of course, if that's your preferred action.
The real take-away is that, given the cost, the overall camera assembly here is fairly compelling. Exposures are often a little bright, but an on-screen slider makes it easy to adjust for this as needed, while there's a full manual mode if you want to take over the controls.
There's some intelligence in the camera with auto-prompts to change mode – such as when it's dark and night mode should be engaged – which can be handy. That night mode looks great on the phone's screen, but blow the size up and you'll see a fair few misgivings and some mushy processing – but it's usable enough.
Around front there's a 25MP selfie camera, used for taking Quad Pixel 6MP shots by default.
The main pain point with phones is battery life – something that the Moto G8 Plus has absolutely no issue with whatsoever. Given its affordable price point, updated subtle design, and capable enough feature set – you'll have no problems running games and other apps – there's very little to let this phone down.
The problems are fairly small: the irksome over-eager auto-brightness, the lack of some camera features and capability, perhaps the presence of a dewdrop notch. But that's hardly a catalogue of poor reading. It's the competition that renders greater issues: feeling a bit more spendy and the Xiaomi Mi 9T will deliver a lot more on the hardware front, but with software that's altogether a bit more painful. So, all in all, Motorola has found the sweet spot here – and while we'd like more cameras and capability here, at this price that lacking just has to be accepted.
Just as we said of the G7 Plus: if you're looking for an affordable phone that doesn't cost the earth then this handset should be very high up your consideration list. It's not felt like a massive downgrade compared to our usual flagship – and that goes to show just how strong an affordable device like this can be and why, even at sub-£250, you can get a lot for your money.
This article was originally published on 25 October 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
It's a bit pricier, but if you're looking for a true flagship processor for under the £400 mark then here's your chance. We don't love the software as much as the Moto, though, although the pop-up selfie camera feature is rather cool.
Oppo Reno 2 Z
Oppo is pushing into the UK market with some force, its Z handset a well-balanced mix of features to price ratio. Again, we don't love the software as much as the Moto, plus it's a little pricier, but still worth a look.