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Review: Moto G Plus packs high-end features at mid-tier price

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With a fast fingerprint sensor and improved camera, the mid-tier continues swimming up-market.

moto g plus

MOTO G PLUS
THE GOOD: Super-fast fingerprint sensor and battery charging.
THE BAD: Camera still can’t compete with flagship devices.
RATING: A A A A

Motorola’s phone division has bounced around between owners over the past few years, finally ending up with China’s Lenovo, but through it all the unit has somehow managed to keep making solid Android devices. The Moto G Plus, its new mid-tier effort, is no exception.

The G Plus, heading for most Canadian carriers in early summer at a base price of around $400, represents a shuffling around of Motorola’s phone portfolio. While the G Play, due later in summer, will aim for the lower price point of the market, the G Plus replaces the X Play devices, which were previously targeted at mid-tier buyers.

None of that really matters to anyone but smartphone industry analysts. What is important is that the G Plus is a solid mid-level smartphone. It doesn’t pack as much wallop as Samsung’s high-end Galaxy devices or the iPhone, but it’s also way more affordable.

Like most Motorola phones, the G Plus runs nearly stock Android – in this case Marshmallow – which means there isn’t a lot of preloaded crapware taking up space. Short of Google’s own branded Nexus devices, Moto phones are the closest you can generally come to pure Android.

The G Plus also brings back a few favourite features from other Motorola devices, and adds a few new ones.

Chief among these is the fingerprint sensor, which is the fastest and most accurate I’ve used. Tapping your finger on it immediately opens up the device, as opposed to the slight delay that many other devices have.

The only downside to the lightning fast sensor is its positioning, which is right below the on-screen navigation controls. As a regular iPhone user, I found myself often pressing the sensor to bring up the home screen, rather than tapping the soft buttons right above to do so.

The G Plus also has Motorola’s kick-ass quick notifications, which take the form of icons that appear on the lock screen.

Get an email and an “M” will flash, while a tweet reply will display a little bird. Tapping on the icons gives more info about the alert, while sliding them up opens the respective app. The system remains my favourite among the various smartphone makers’ notification alerts.

The phone also brings back the popular twist-camera-launch feature, which does exactly what it sounds like. You simply hold the phone and twist your wrist to launch the camera. A second twist switches to the front-facing selfie camera.

The G Plus features a 16-megapixel back camera and five-megapixels on the front, as well as a useful professional mode that lets you adjust certain settings, including ISO, white balance and focus.

It’s not a bad camera for its category, but this is unfortunately where the extra bucks come in. Lower-end phones are getting better, but higher-end devices are still packing much better cameras, generally speaking.

Here are a couple unaltered comparison shots between the Moto G Plus and a nearly two-year-old iPhone 6 Plus:

smartphones, flowers

In bright sunlight, the Moto G Plus camera doesn’t get as washed out, but its pics are also considerably darker. I come down on the iPhone’s results, but which you prefer might come down to a matter of preference.

The differences skew more noticeably when it comes to lower-light photos:

smartphones, koala

In this case, the iPhone clearly captures the better photo, with better colour and contrast and much less noise.

If it’s a really good phone camera you’re after, you’re probably going to have to step up to the various manufacturers’ flagship models, unfortunately.

Otherwise, the G Plus delivers pretty much everywhere else that counts. It’s got a sharp 1080p display and a battery that lasted me the better part of two days. It’s also got turbo charge, so you can get yourself back into action by plugging in for just 15 minutes.

The battery isn’t removable – moan – but it does take micro SD cards. It also takes micro-SIM cards with an included nano-SIM adapter, which is one of those handy small bonuses that can save time and trouble for people who frequently switches SIM cards while travelling.

It’s hard to come across a bad smartphone these days, and it’s indeed a good time to buy since previously high-end features – like the G Plus’s fingerprint sensor and turbo charging – are starting to migrate down-market.

If you’re not looking to spend a small fortune on a flagship device that’s fully loaded with all the latest specifications, you could do a lot worse than going with the Moto G Plus.

Motorola supplied a trial unit for the purposes of this review.

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