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Moto G4 long-term review: We return to the Moto G4 in 2017

The Moto G4 is still a mobile well worth considering in 2017, thanks to its excellent camera tech, Full HD screen and even lower asking price. Our long-term Moto G4 review takes another look at this affordable Android and how it’s holding up a year after launch.

If you’re after an affordable smartphone that still packs a serious punch, you can’t go wrong with the Moto G family. Motorola’s Moto phones may now come under the Lenovo umbrella, but not much has changed; this year’s Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus are already strong contenders for best value mobile phones of 2017.

Of course, now that the Moto G5 handsets are out, that means last year’s Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus have dropped in price. One year after launch, the Moto G4 can now be picked up for just £145. Considering the tech on offer, that’s some seriously impressive value for cash.

We’ve already revealed our Moto G4 Plus long-term review and now it’s the turn of the Moto G4 to receive some attention a year after launch. I’ve been rocking the Moto G4 as my full-time phone again, this time running a lovely bit of Android Nougat (the latest version of Google’s mobile OS). Here’s what I think of the Moto G4 and whether you should grab one in 2017, or shell out a bit extra for the Moto G5 instead.

Read next: Moto G4 vs Moto G5, what’s changed?

Moto G4 long-term review: Design

Last year’s Moto G phones went through a super-sizing phase, with both the Moto G4 and G4 Plus rocking a mighty 5.5-inch screen. This new hand-filling design was one of our few complaints with the G4. After all, you’d kind of expect a larger build from the Plus model, but we were really hoping for a more compact finish for the standard handset.

At 5.5-inches, the Moto G4 is a bit of a struggle to use one-handed. That’s mostly thanks to the wide design, which makes it impossible to stretch your thumb to the far edges and top of the screen. Thankfully the latest update to the Moto assistant helps out quite a bit, by adding a new screen shrinking feature. Just swipe your thumb up from the bottom of the display and your desktops (and any apps you’re using) are reduced in size, making them easier to use with a single mitt.

After enjoying the metal craftwork of the Moto G5 for a couple of weeks, the plastic Moto G4 seems a little bland in comparison. It just feels a little cheap and cheerful. Other rivals such as Lenovo’s own P2 mobile offer a metallic finish, so it’s a shame this handset doesn’t go the whole hog with a premium-style design.

Still, the G4 is certainly a rugged beast. We’ve wheeled it out several times since launch to test various features and it’s not showing any signs of ageing. The screen is reassuringly scratch-free and that plastic rear isn’t scuffed or worn. You can also choose from a selection of customisable colour finishes if you opt to order the phone direct from the Motorola website, using the Moto Maker feature.

Moto G4 long-term review: Screen and media

The Moto G series was one of the first smartphone ranges to offer HD visuals for under £200 and the Moto G4 is another first, packing a Full HD display. That 1920×1080 pixel resolution means the spacious 5.5-inch screen still produces crisp visuals, ideal for enjoying high-def flicks on the go.

Of course, it’s not a perfect panel, as you might expect at this price point. Compared with some other rival handsets, the Moto G4’s output looks rather stilted; you certainly don’t get punchy images, as colours are quite subdued (even with the so-called Vibrant Mode activated in the display settings). In fact, the Moto G5 boasts brighter, more colourful visuals with improved contrast levels to boot.

That’s not to say the G4’s screen is dull. It’s absolutely fine for kicking back with some Netflix on the commute, or getting stuck into some apps. And don’t worry if you’ve got a rather large media collection that you’d like to carry around. You can slip a microSD memory card (up to 128GB in size) into the Moto G4, to boost the tiny 16 or 32GB of storage space.

In fact, the newer Moto G5 only offers a 16GB model, with no option for 32GB of internal storage. So in that respect, the Moto G4 is a better blower.

Moto G4 long-term review: Performance and battery life

The Snapdragon 617 processor packed inside our Moto G4 review unit is backed by 3GB of RAM, for respectable enough budget performance.

Even after a year, the Moto G4 still runs quite smoothly. Sure, there’s the occasional stutter and sometimes apps take a little time loading up. But all things considered, this phone is just as capable as others at this price point. You get strong 4G connectivity support too.

If you want something to game on, the Moto G4 is still up to the task. Fast-paced games such as Asphalt play with a decent frame rate, although the handset is better suited to more casual titles.

As for battery life, you can expect over a day of quite intensive use per charge before the device finally dies. While that’s nowhere near as strong as the three days we get from the Lenovo P2, it’s still as much as we hope for from a 5.5-inch smartphone. Fast charging support means you can power the G4 up to 90 percent in around an hour, or get a commute’s worth of charge from just ten minutes at the plug.

Moto G4 long-term review: Features and user experience

Moto mobiles tend to come with an unadulterated version of Android OS, unfettered by an overlay which changes up the look and the feel of the phone. That may help account for the smooth running of the handset, in fact.

When we first reviewed the Moto G4, it sported a vanilla version of Android Marshmallow. Since its launch the device has been updated of course, so now you can get full Android Nougat and all of the great features that brings with it. Once again it’s a mostly untouched experience, too.

You can now split-screen multitask with two apps at once, which the G4 handles no problem, while notifications can be expanded and replied to within the notifications tab. There are plenty of behind-the-scenes tweaks too, although we didn’t notice the phone running any more efficiently after the update. As for bonus features, you get some helpful gesture recognition that allows you to quick-load stuff like the camera, or silence the handset with a quick flip.

The one feature we truly miss with the Moto G4 is a fingerprint sensor, something that was only found on the more premium Moto G4 Plus. You still get Google’s Smart Unlock feature for bypassing PIN entry if you’re connected to a Bluetooth device, or located in a pre-designated ‘trusted place’. However, we definitely prefer the more secure fingerprint scan feature and its absence is a real shame.

Read next: Moto G4 tips, tricks and best hidden features

Moto G4 long-term review: Cameras

Budget blowers often sport quite basic camera tech, but the Moto G phones are a notable exception. The Moto G4 boasts a dependable 13-megapixel camera as well as a solid 5-megapixel secondary shooter around the front, and both are fine to use for everyday family shots. The results are easily strong enough to share online and also to stick in your virtual photo album.

Check out our full Moto G4 camera review to see our photo and video samples and read our in-depth analysis. We’ve also compared the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus cameras, so you can see any differences.

Moto G4 long-term review: Verdict

So, should you stump up for the Moto G4 at £145 or pay a bit extra (£25 extra to be precise) for the Moto G5? Or even opt for another budget phone entirely?

Well, £25 isn’t much of a gap, considering the bonus features you get. The Moto G5’s camera may not be much improved, but the addition of a fingerprint sensor, generally updated specs and a more attractive screen make a strong case for the 2017 handset over last year’s G4. Not to mention that more compact, metal-rocking design.

However, if you happen to spy the Moto G4 at a more reduced price, we’d still heartily recommend this brilliant budget blower. Full HD visuals, dependable camera tech, plus solid performance and battery life make for a truly enjoyable device, even a year after launch.

Read next: Best budget phones for £50, £100, £150 or £200

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