Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) Review

Camera Features

Although the first Moto G had a run-of-the-mill 5 MP camera that you could find in any phone at its price level, the second generation Moto G had one of the best cameras in its class. Low-light performance was poor, but in good light it could take some impressive photos relative to its competitors. The Moto G (3rd gen) raises the bar again, inheriting a camera sensor seen on flagship phones from a year or two ago.

The Moto G is not the first mid-range phone, even one that costs as little as $180, to come with a 13 MP camera, but its camera sensor is the same one used in the high-end Nexus 6: the 1/3.06” Sony IMX214 Exmor RS sensor with 1.12µm pixels. The Nexus 6 does come with optical image stabilization (OIS), a feature that can improve low-light performance by mitigating motion blur during longer exposures, while the Moto G does not. However, the Nexus 6 does not take full advantage of OIS, so this difference may be moot.

The 13 MP rear camera is paired with an f/2.0 aperture lens that lets in more than twice as much light as the lens on the Moto E (2nd gen), which should definitely give it the edge in low-light performance. However, the Moto G’s lens captures 7% less light than the Asus ZenFone 2 and significantly less light than the lens systems on modern flagship phones.

The front-facing camera has the same resolution as the original Moto G’s rear camera: 5 MP. It’s a Samsung S5K5E2 sensor (1.12µm, 1/5") that’s paired with an f/2.2 aperture, fixed-focus lens with a 72° field of view.

Camera Software

Motorola’s Camera app remains one of the simplest and most intuitive to use—just line up the shot and tap the screen to take a picture. It remains largely unchanged from previous iterations, but it does add a few new features such as native QR code scanning.

Camera controls are basic and simple. The 4x digital zoom is controlled by sliding your finger up and down from the bottom side of the screen. Setting the focus is done by simply dragging the focus ring over the desired object. After enabling the new fine-grained exposure control, touching the sun symbol next to the focus ring and sliding your finger in a circular motion achieves the desired effect.

While tapping the screen to take a picture is simple, it’s also easy to tap too hard and jiggle the phone, resulting in a blurry image. Activating the usual shutter button with your thumb allows for finer control, but there is not one available in Motorola’s Camera app. You can also long-press on the screen to activate burst-mode, which takes multiple shots per second.

Additional controls are accessed via swipe motions. Sliding your finger from the left edge of the screen to right opens a carousel menu of settings: HDR, flash, manual exposure and focus control, Night Mode, video mode, photo resolution, shot timer (3 or 10 seconds), panorama, storage location (local or microSD), geotagging, shutter sound, and quick capture. Sliding your finger inward from the right edge of the screen allows you to browse through your latest images and edit them.

It’s nice to see Motorola provide an automatic HDR mode, a useful feature that many more-expensive phones lack. There’s also the handy “Quick capture” feature that allows you to open the Camera app with two flicks of the wrist. While it does get you to the camera quicker than more traditional methods, we could not help but feel a little weird doing it in public. Once the camera is open, repeating the gesture switches between the front and rear cameras.

The front-facing camera supports all the same features as the rear camera, including burst-mode and the manual exposure control. One additional feature is the ability to use the screen as a selfie flash, a perk found in LG’s flagship phones and more recently the iPhone 6s.

Video

Video recording options are pretty basic considering the limited capabilities of the Snapdragon 410’s image signal processor (ISP). The rear camera offers two modes: 1080p@30fps and 720p slow motion. HD video quality is decent, with results similar to what’s seen in the camera’s still pictures. Slow motion video is captured at 120fps and played back at 15fps, creating a 1/8 speed slow-motion effect. The slowed down video does not include an audio track, however.

Rear Camera Video Modes

Video ModeResolutionFrame Rate (fps)Video Bit Rate (Mb/s)Video
Codec
ProfileAudio CodecAudio Bit Rate (kb/s)
HD 1080p1920x10803017H.264HighAAC (48kHz)128
720p
(slow motion)
1280x7201205H.264High

Front Camera Video Modes

Video ModeResolutionFrame Rate (fps)Video Bit Rate (Mb/s)Video
Codec
ProfileAudio CodecAudio Bit Rate (kb/s)
HD 1080p1920x10803017H.264HighAAC (48kHz)128
720p (slow motion)1280x7201205H.264High

The front camera supports the same video modes at the same quality settings as the rear camera. However, the video does show more noise and is almost unusable in lower-light conditions.

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24 comments
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  • utroz
    Not bad for a relatively cheap phone..
  • InvalidError
    Yay, one more seemingly decent ~$200 phone that isn't Asia-only.
  • MasterWandu
    Just got the 16GB phone. Best value for money phone I have ever owned. Cannot believe the quality / specs at the price point. It's about as quick / specc'ed as my Nexus 4 that it replaces, but it trumps the Nexus 4 with it's expandable memory and 4G/LTE capabilities. Couldn't recommend it more!
  • gangrel
    I don't game on my phone, so that's never been an issue for me. I do note that app install speeds are very good; download speed I can't really say, as I do all of that on wifi, not cell. I'm quite happy with it.
  • RCFProd
    Had to choose the even cheaper Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 over this one.
  • Glock24
    Why is the ZenFone 2 listed in the specs / comparison table , but not on benchmarks? It's $20 cheaper than the Moto G 16GB/2GB
  • MattBoothDev
    Only issue is it released a couple of months ago, but isn't getting Marshmallow. Bit poor, that.
  • RCFProd
    2118962 said:
    Only issue is it released a couple of months ago, but isn't getting Marshmallow. Bit poor, that.


    it is getting Marshmallow no?
    http://www.androidstandard.com/android-m-will-hit-moto-g-3rd-gen-and-2nd-gen-in-this-fall/
  • ZolaIII
    Not impressed. There are similar spec Chinese phone's with more than 2x lower price like for instance Elephane Trunk. I know it's weird Elephone made a decent phone but strange things happen. As much as Motorola got a developer community and long suport it's not worth 2+x.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    Why is the ZenFone 2 listed in the specs / comparison table , but not on benchmarks? It's $20 cheaper than the Moto G 16GB/2GB


    There are two different versions of the ZenFone 2 (well more if you count the special editions). The less expensive version is shown in the spec table since it's closer in price to the Moto G. We only tested the more expensive version with a faster SoC, so that's why it's not in the benchmark charts. Plus, we already included the more expensive/faster Z8 as the upper bound in the charts. I figured this was more relevant, since it has a more common SoC configuration.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • gangrel
    How many of those Chinese phones are available outside Asia? And what else are you sacrificing with them?

    One major advantage of the Motorola phones is *minimal* add-ons, and most of em aren't intrusive at all. I don't like most skins. Another point: I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.
  • InvalidError
    764133 said:
    I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.

    No need to look at no-name brands either: Acer has a poor reputation with dropping firmware updates for their low-end devices merely months from launch.
  • ZolaIII
    764133 said:
    How many of those Chinese phones are available outside Asia? And what else are you sacrificing with them? One major advantage of the Motorola phones is *minimal* add-ons, and most of em aren't intrusive at all. I don't like most skins. Another point: I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.

    Not much but hire is one & from Chinese firm behind it that is known for regular updates. It's currently available only in Asian Pacific region but Alcatel is officially present in much more (especially EU) countries than Motorola so it's expected that it arrives & on other markets. By all means it's not perfect but it beats Moto G 3rd gen in lot aspects that are important by the view of general users.

    As I don't want to advertise anyone I will mention only manufacturer & product name so if you are interested in more details browse & particularly pay attention to user opinions & review about it.

    It's Alcatel Flash 2.
  • cypeq
    Moto continues to stomp the market with budget offering that leaves 600$ phones with big question mark near 'why bother'.
  • RCFProd
    309074 said:
    Moto continues to stomp the market with budget offering that leaves 600$ phones with big question mark near 'why bother'.


    As a former 2nd Gen Moto G owner I'd say It's far from that situation.
  • kaalus
    The biggest problem with this phone is poor screen resolution. 5" screen with 720p is way too low. Get a Nexus 5 instead (still available through eBay). It's cheaper. It's smaller with a proper screen. Has no SD card or waterproofing though. But has a faster CPU and already runs Marshmallow.
  • gangrel
    Alcatel Flash 2 is Asian market, and has limited LTE bands...questionable whether it'd work in the US.
  • InvalidError
    173767 said:
    The biggest problem with this phone is poor screen resolution. 5" screen with 720p is way too low.

    720p on a 5" display is already 293ppi, high enough that most people won't really notice resolution any higher than that unless they specifically look for differences. It may seem "way too low" for marketing purposes but as far as real-world usability is concerned, it is perfectly fine for an almost entry-level device.

    Personally, the lack of an SD slot on Nexus devices is a much bigger deal-breaker.
  • DbD2
    Quote:
    How many of those Chinese phones are available outside Asia? And what else are you sacrificing with them? One major advantage of the Motorola phones is *minimal* add-ons, and most of em aren't intrusive at all. I don't like most skins. Another point: I have high confidence that Motorola will release security patches very quickly. I have no confidence that some budget Chinese maker will put ANY effort into this.


    You can buy them all on amazon, they don't generally come with much bloat, and you get twice the phone the current moto g gives you. The main place you suffer is android updates. Imo this latest moto g is still not what the first one was. When that came out it combined what was at the time mid range hardware/screen/etc at a significantly lower price. Now it's distinctly low end with it's low res screen and slow processor.
  • RCFProd
    The 1GB RAM was actually a big issue with the Moto G 2014. It was actually quite slow. Has this been fixed with the new 1GB RAM 2015 model?
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    The 1GB RAM was actually a big issue with the Moto G 2014. It was actually quite slow. Has this been fixed with the new 1GB RAM 2015 model?


    As shown on page 7 of the review, the new Moto G has significantly more memory bandwidth than the previous model, in addition to better CPU performance. So no, memory speed is not an issue like it was before.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • RCFProd
    Actually looks very solid. I love the phone's design even more this year aswell. It's worth considering over the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, because the support for the phone is simply very very good.
  • RealityOfIt
    Motorola does not sell the XT1548 on their web site and it is not for sale unless through a carrier or service provider. Even though they advertise it as "unlocked". This article should have made this information clear to the readers.
  • RCFProd
    I bought one since I've become a big fan of Motorola since Google took over. The phone runs decent enough, the Android stock experience is beautiful and the phone's design is great and very well built.

    I'm scared because Motorola has been making solid phones but they're not making profit so Google sold them to Lenovo. It's sad when absolutely great phones go unnoticed by the majority because of the Samsung and Apple hierarchy. Hate the fact Motorola is no part of Google anymore. Hopefully Lenovo has great plans with Moto.