Moto G 2nd Gen review – now with Android 5.0 and 4G
Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 8-megapixel, Storage: 8GB / 16GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 141x70x11mm, Weight: 149g, Operating system: Android 4.4.4
It's no secret that budget smartphones are often small, chunky devices with sub-par screens and under-powered specs. This all changed when the original Moto G launched at the end of 2013, as it revolutionised what we came to expect from a budget handset. However, it was still, by current standards, a compact phone with a small 4.5in display.
Now, the successor to Motorola's best-ever-selling smartphone, the 2nd Gen Moto G (2nd Gen), has a large 5in display, giving you great value performance on a big screen. At the time, it was incredible that Motorola managed to keep the price down to £145, but now the 2nd Gen Moto G has some serious competition from the £125 Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, which has a faster chipset, a 5.5in Full HD display and a bigger, 13-megapixel camera.
Of course, you'll need to switch to Vodafone in order to get hold of the Smart Ultra 6, but it does mean the 2nd Gen Moto G isn't quite as good value as it once was. Even the latest model, the brand new 3rd Gen Moto G can't really compete with it, but if you're already happy on another network then the Moto G is still the next best alternative for those who want an excellent cheap smartphone.
While the 2nd Gen Moto G isn't as good as the 3rd Gen model, it is around £20-40 cheaper, so it's still worth considering until stock is eventually fazed out. You also won't miss out on Android 5.0 Lollipop by choosing the 2nd Gen Moto G, as you can start using Google's latest operating system once you've performed a simple system update. The 2nd Gen Moto G also launched without any 4G support, but Motorola has since fazed out this model in favour of a proper 4G version. Be careful when buying, though, as some of the 3G version may still be in stock.
The Moto G 2nd Gen is available in both 8GB and 16GB models, but both come with the ability to expand the storage up to 32GB via microSD card slot - a feature we're pleased to see continued from the 4G version of the old Moto G. Unusually for the UK, it's also available in both dual and single SIM varieties. In the dual SIM version you can use two SIM cards at the same time, which is great if you have a second SIM, usually for cheap calls overseas.
The new Moto G still ships with Android 4.4.4, but you'll be able to update to Android 5.0 Lollipop as soon as you take it out of the box
Motorola's outstanding build quality returns for the Moto G 2nd Gen. Its curved back, which measures 6mm at its thinnest point and 11mm at its thickest, is extremely comfortable to hold, and its feather-light weight of 149g is just 6g heavier than the old Moto G - an impressive feat for a considerably larger handset. The screen is also surrounded by the Moto G's new front-ported dual speakers, which deliver impressive-sounding audio for your films and music.
The 5in screen is beautiful. The resolution is still 1,280x720, so the new Moto G actually has a lower pixel density of 293 PPI (pixels-per-inch) compared to the old Moto G's PPI of 326, but the screen still looks perfectly crisp and sharp.
The screen isn't quite as bright this time round, but our peak measurement of 350.7cd/m2 means the screen is still perfectly legible both in and outdoors. Colour accuracy is also a little lower than the old Moto G as well; we measured the new handset as covering 87.2 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, compared to the old model's 98.4 per cent. The trade-off is noticeably deeper black levels, which we measured at an impressive 0.36cd/m2.
Measured contrast was also excellent, at 960:1. This high contrast level helped the screen produce plenty of detail in our high-contrast test images, and the screen's viewing angles were equally superb. When we placed the new Moto G to our side, we could still see the screen clearly with hardly any discolouration present onscreen.
Motorola has also improved the Moto G's camera, which is great news as the camera was one of the old Moto G's weakest areas. The phone now comes with an 8-megapixel rear sensor with an f2.0 aperture, and you also have the option to change the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 4:3. The old Moto G, by comparison, was locked to 16:9. The new Moto G has all the same photo modes available, too, including HDR and Panorama modes.
^ Interchangeable shells and flip cases are also available for the new Moto G for either £10.99 or £22.49 from Motorola
Outdoors, our photos looked rich and much more natural than the old Moto G's images, and there was much more detail on show. The brickwork in our test scene was crystal-clear and the sky didn't suffer from any signs of overexposure. Objects further away were a little fuzzy compared to those in the foreground, but it's still a huge step up from most other budget cameras from similarly priced phones.
We were pleased with the Moto G's HDR mode, too. The effect was sometimes a little strong, but it helped bring a lot more definition to our shots and helped brighten what was otherwise a very gloomy afternoon. The accuracy of the colours wasn't affected by HDR either, so images still looked great regardless of whether HDR was turned on or off.
^ Colours still looked good even in overcast, cloudy weather
^ HDR mode brightened our photo considerably, dispelling the non-HDR shot's gloomy shadows
^ The 8-megapixel camera provides a lot more detail than the old Moto G's sensor
^ To get an 8-megapixel camera with HDR on a sub-£150 phone is almost unheard of