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Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Good, but is it good enough?

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
240
inc. VAT

The Moto G series has been the gold standard of budget phones, but competition is now fiercer than ever

Pros 
Solid performance
Good looking
Excellent battery life
Cons 
No stabilisation on 60fps or 4K video
Pricier than the Redmi Note 7
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Motorola has had a busy 2019 and, just when we thought the company would be wrapping up for the year, it’s hit us with four new products. Alongside the resurrection of the Moto 360 smartwatch, the company has pushed out three new phones and, given the Moto G8 reviewed here is the Plus version of a phone that doesn’t exist yet, you’d better believe there’s more to come.
 
You should know what you’re getting with Moto G devices at this point. For the past six years, barring a blip in 2017 with the G5, they’ve been the gold standard of budget Android phones. Does the Moto G8 Plus continue the trend? 
 

 

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: What you need to know

The Moto G8 Plus is the newest member of the Moto G family, which became a household name back in 2013. Oddly, there’s currently no regular Moto G8; the Plus version reviewed here is all we have for the moment.

 
So, it’s a large, budget phone with a 6.3in screen with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 4,000mAh battery. But, for Motorola, that’s all secondary to the star of the show: unusually for a budget handset, the Moto G8 Plus has an interesting looking camera setup, led by a 48-megapixel f/1.7 lens.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Price and competition

Those are pretty compelling specs considering Motorola is charging £239 for the phone. It’s also helped by the fact there’s not a whole lot of competition at this price point, other than the phone it’s superseding: the £239 Moto G7 Plus
 

Elsewhere, two other options spring to mind and both of them are from Chinese company, Xiaomi. The Redmi Note 7 is pretty damned incredible value at £179, while the Pocophone F1 is even better at £270, as it uses the Snapdragon 845 processor found in last year’s most expensive Android phones.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Design

Since the G6, Moto handsets have been able to compete with the very best in terms of looks and the Moto G8 Plus continues this tradition, by and large. The 6.3in screen dominates the front, with reasonably thin bezels all the way around. This means the front-facing camera requires a notch but it’s one of those semi-circular teardrop-style ones, and it’s pretty inoffensive.

  
 
There are no sharp angles to speak of and this continues onto the rear, which gently curves to meet a smooth polycarbonate back that feels extremely comfortable to hold. Crucially, the phone doesn’t feel cheap by any measure and it’s certainly more durable to drops and scrapes than glass backs are.
 
The colour scheme on our review model also deserves a shout: it’s a two-tone affair that goes from very dark blue at the top to a shimmery purple-blue at the bottom. The shade changes nicely when it catches the light, too. 
 
The one misfire in design aesthetics is the camera array. Rather than putting everything together in a strip, as with the Huawei P20 Pro (the original triple-camera phone), Motorola has split its cameras into two sections. The lower section contains two cameras, the flash and the laser autofocus sensor, and this is crowned with a separate single, circular lens that sits in the very top-left corner. It’s a strange look and, with the circular Moto logo fingerprint reader in the middle, looks it all looks oddly lopsided.
 
Still, that’s a minor thing, and far less important than the other little extras Motorola has included. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is great to see, and it supports a microSD card of up to 512GB to augment the 64GB of built-in storage. There’s no wireless charging, and it’s only splashproof, but these are nice to have features, rather than essential. 

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Screen

The Moto G8 Plus has a large 6.3in, 19:9 aspect-ratio display. At this price, you’re getting IPS LCD rather than AMOLED but it’s a solid performer all things considered.

 
The resolution is 1,080 x 2,280, which means you’re looking at around 400 pixels per inch. It’s not as sharp as 2K screens, obviously, but even at this screen size there’s barely any difference to the naked eye and the battery savings are not insubstantial, so that’s fine by me.
 
According to our colorimeter, the G8 Plus covers 88.5% of the sRGB gamut with a volume of 90.8%, assuming you use “natural” mode, rather than the “boosted” or “saturated” colour schemes. At 935:1, the contrast ratio is also good enough that everything appears punchy rather than flat and washed out.  
Those are solid numbers, and brightness reaches a decent 605cd/m2 with auto-brightness enabled in really bright conditions. In short, you won’t have any problems reading the screen, even on the kind of sunny day that seems a lifetime ago as the winter nights draw in. It’s a touch reflective, and the viewing angles aren’t the best I’ve seen but as screens in this price bracket go, it’s not too shabby.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Performance

Powering the Moto G8 Plus is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 645 processor. This isn’t one we’ve encountered in our reviews to date: it’s an octa-core processor with cores split evenly between 2GHz and 1.8GHz and it’s backed by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.

 
 
The phone feels perfectly slick in day-to-day use and that’s confirmed by results in the benchmarks.

 
The Geekbench 4 test shows there’s a small but significant boost over the G7 Plus in terms of multi-core performance, and it’s a nose ahead of the Redmi Note 7, too. The Pocophone F1 is still miles ahead, though, proving once again that if performance is a priority, an older flagship chip is often a better bet than a newer mid-range one.

 
In terms of graphics performance, the positions of the Redmi and the Moto G8 Plus are flipped, but there isn’t much in it: the cheaper Xiaomi is 3fps better than the Moto G8 Plus, a result that, in turn, is 4fps superior to the Moto G7 Plus. Still, it feels a bit academic to be quibbling over single-digit frame-rate differences when the Pocophone F1 is so far superior to any of them.

 
The Moto G8 Plus’ 4,000mAh battery, however, helps the phone to a winning result in our video-rundown test. With all phones, we play a looped video with the display calibrated to a brightness of 170cd/m2 and engage Airplane mode to ensure a level playing field. With that all set up, the Moto G8 Plus lasted 17hrs 55mins. Not only is that very good in its own right, it’s also over seven-and-a-half hours more than the G7 Plus achieved in the same test.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Camera

So far, so good for the Moto G8 Plus, but not that much reason to upgrade from last year’s model in terms of performance. But with a 48-megapixel main camera, can the G8 Plus tip the balance?

 
First, a quick recap on what you’re getting here. Although there are three cameras on the back, only two of these are for stills: a 48-megapixel f/1.7 main snapper, which is supported by a 2-megapixel depth sensor for arty bokeh shots. There’s also an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor, but this is just used for video. The front-facing selfie camera is a faintly ridiculous 25-megapixel affair. So how do they all get on?

Unfortunately, we don’t have our review G7 Plus any more, so we took the next best thing – the regular G7 – onto the roof for camera comparisons. It wasn’t quite as good as its sibling – a 12-megapixel f/1.7 main camera, rather than the 16-megapixel number on the Plus – but it’s good enough to give you an idea of the difference between generations.

Not much difference in terms of picture quality, with a similar amount of detail captured, but the newer version definitely produces a brighter shot. 
 

 
While not offering a great deal of difference outside, the G8 Plus’ brighter aperture really comes into its own for low-light indoor photography. As you can see in the picture below, not only are the Moto G8 Plus’ photos sharper with less noise, but colour accuracy is also better. Compare the hair on the woman in the photograph for evidence of that.

Selfies are fine. There’s a beautifying option switched on by default, but it’s far from the worst offender we’ve seen here as the comparison shot below shows.

In terms of video, the Moto G8 Plus offers plenty of options, but not all of them hugely practical. Its main party trick – and it’s a good one – is the action cam, which lets you shoot landscape videos while holding the phone in portrait mode. No more video clips with aspect ratios wholly unsuited for YouTube.
 
This mode is available in either HD, FHD at 30fps or FHD at 60fps. Why the breakdown? Because if you go for 60fps, you lose image stabilisation, and the resulting footage is essentially unusable unless you pop your phone on a tripod or use a gimbal.

 
 
If you record video in landscape mode, 4K is unlocked as an option but as this mode also lacks stabilisation it’s not video you’d especially want to show anyone. Which is a pity, as all the footage is pretty solid in terms of detail.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Verdict 

 
In all, then, the Moto G8 Plus is another fine addition to the Moto G series. The only problem is that competition is stiffer than ever – especially from China. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 performs pretty much the same and is £60 cheaper. Equally, if money isn’t tight, then last year’s Xiaomi Pocophone F1 offers vastly improved performance for about £30 more. The Moto is caught between two stools.

 
 
Which isn’t to say the Moto G8 Plus is a bad phone or anything like. It’s good looking, nippy and takes good pictures. But in this competitive market, sometimes good enough isn’t quite good enough.
 

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