Motorola Moto G7 review-Best Budget Phones for 2019

The best budget phone just got better

The Good The Motorola Moto G7 has a slick contemporary design, a dewdrop notch display, decent dual rear cameras, turbo charging, solid battery life and a near-stock version of Android 9 Pie making it worth every penny.

The Bad The single speaker is merely serviceable, low-light photos and general video quality isn’t fantastic and the phone costs $50 more than last year’s Moto G6.

The Bottom Line The Moto G7 is the best budget phone we’ve tried hands down

It’s easy to be lured by flagship phones such as the iPhone XS, Pixel 3 or Galaxy S10. Each has a cutting edge design and bounty of features, but they also come with a hefty price. Even Apple and Samsung’s more value-oriented phones such as the Galaxy S10E and the iPhone XR will set you back $750. That’s why it’s undoubtedly impressive that the Motorola Moto G7 ($300 at Walmart) costs only $300. It offers the best balance of design, features and price in pretty much any phone sold today.

The Moto G family of phones has a history of being filled with well-considered necessities stamped with an attractive price. Over the past two years, the Moto G5 Plus ($230 at Amazon) and Moto G6 showed us just how nice a budget phone can be. And this year’s Moto G7 continues in the same direction with a similar body to the Moto G6 and an increased the battery life, a faster processor and larger display.

CompareMotorola Moto G7Samsung Galaxy S10 PlusOppo Reno 5GApple iPhone XROnePlus 7 Pro
PRICE$300 Walmart$1,000 Walmart$618 Amazon

I’ve used the Moto G7 for the past couple weeks and it’s clear this is the best budget phone out there right now.

The Moto G7 costs $50 more than last year’s Moto G6 which is a significant increase, but I think all the improvements are worth it. Also, the Moto G7 is already on sale. Google sells it for $249 when you activate the phone on GoogleFi. And there’s a $30-off coupon when you buy it direct from Motorola’s website.

And since we’re talking Moto, be sure to check out our live testing of Verizon’s 5G network with the Moto Z3 using the 5G Moto Mod. 

A bigger screen inside a slightly larger body

The Moto G7 looks dapper. Much like the G6, the Gorilla Glass 3 front and back give it a slick, modern vibe. But the G7 deserves an award for being so easy to cover in fingerprint smudges. It ranks up there with the OnePlus 6 ($521 at Amazon) or Galaxy S9 as far as attracting smudges. Seriously, look out, CSI and Law and Order.

The front of the Moto G7 is dominated by a 6.2-inch screen with a dewdrop notch cutout for the selfie camera.Angela Lang/CNET

Whereas the Moto G6 had a 5.7-inch display, the G7 is able to cram a 6.2-inch display into a similarly sized body. A dewdrop notch helps bring the screen closer to the edges which have bezels thinner than those on the iPhone XR. The display has nice contrast and looks good in most situations. It definitely won’t wow you like screens found on midrange or premium phones.

The corners on the screen are much more pronounced than the tiny ones on the Moto G6. And while most apps adapt to them, sometimes, like when I played PUBG, the game would fill the bottom two corners of the display but have a black bar across the top. It’s a little odd and if you’re sensitive to such things it might drive you nuts.

The fingerprint reader has been moved from below the screen to the back. Its position is easy to find and use. The tiny Motorola logo on the fingerprint reader is cute.Moto G7: Cheap never looked so good16 PHOTOS

Aside from the Motorola name on the bottom front of the phone, the Moto G7 has an appealing design. It has both a headphone jack and a USB-C port. There’s a single speaker on the bottom which serviceably played some Louis Prima in the kitchen while I made dinner, but it often sounded tinny. And the Moto G7 is rated IP54 for dust and water resistance. You can’t submerge it, but a little spritz should be fine.

Dual rear cameras, 4K video and slow motion on a $300 phone

There are dual rear cameras (a 12-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel depth camera). They won’t compete with the likes of the Pixel 3, iPhone XS or even the more modest OnePlus 6T. But the Moto G7 offers a solid C- camera experience — and that isn’t a knock. The cameras are impressive for $300, especially considering they can shoot 4K video, portrait mode photos and slow-motion video. Overall photos from the G7 have decent image quality. But Motorola seems to follow Samsung’s belief that brighter photos are better. This is also in line with the blind camera test Marques Brownlee did in December where people overwhelmingly chose brighter photos as the best photos.

I was surprised by how many decent photos I got with the Moto G7.Patrick Holland/CNET

HDR mode definitely improved the photos in most situations. But the live view can be frustrating in use because it shows a low-quality preview of the photo that doesn’t look like the final HDR picture, which almost always looked better. You have to put a lot of faith in Moto’s camera mojo every time you press the shutter. It seems processing might be the culprit here.

In good light, the Moto G7’s cameras are capable of some good photos.Patrick Holland/CNET

Some photos showed signs of moire, a ripple effect that appears on patterns or textures. Photos taken in low light can appear painterly due to all the noise correction the Moto G7 applies.

There are a bunch of fun modes: There’s portrait mode, time lapse, cinegraphs and color removal. It also has Google Lens, which displays relevant information about objects, landmarks and animals in photos taken with the camera.

Portrait mode works well on the whole but it occasionally had trouble with edges. Thankfully you can change the focus point and amount of blur after the fact to really make portrait photos pop.

This portrait was taken using the auto-smile capture feature on the Moto G7.Patrick Holland/CNET

If you’re a heavy phone video shooter, the G7 won’t be for you. Videos look OK in good light, but they suffer from noise and a limited dynamic range. Videos are oversaturated. But if you want to occasionally record a fun moment with friends or something adorable that your child does, this phone is more than capable.

For more photos and camera features from the Moto G7 take a look at this gallery:Moto G7: These photos were taken with a $300 phone37 PHOTOS

But here’s an interesting wrinkle. If you’re savvy enough to install the Google Camera app (Gcam apk), which is essentially the camera app used on the Pixel 3, you’ll be rewarded. The results are eye opening. Photos taken with the Google Camera app on the Moto G7 have more detail, dynamic range and better color. They’re still not as good as the Pixel 3, but using this app takes the Moto G7 camera from C- to a solid B for photos.

Take a look at the two photos above of my cat. In the one taken with the native Moto G7 camera app the details in her fur look muddy and over sharpened. In the photo taken with the Google Camera app, her fur has much more detail and dynamic range. There are crops of the photos below.

Here are 100 percent crops of the photos above. The one from the Moto G7’s default camera app is on the left and the Gcam version is on the right.Patrick Holland/CNET

The selfie camera is OK. There’s an auto-smile setting where it won’t take a photo until everyone in the frame is smiling — this also works on the rear cameras, too. The feature worked imperfectly but it did allow me to capture some goofy photos of me and my friends. Selfie photos, particularly people’s skin, were often undersaturated. There’s also a portrait mode on the front-facing camera that yields decent results.

While I do have criticism about the cameras, keep in mind that this is a $300 phone.

Android 9 Pie and a Snapdragon 632 processor

The Moto G7 runs Android 9 Pie with few customizations, and that’s good if you’re a fan of stock Android. Overall the experience is simple and straightforward, which makes the Moto G7 so appealing. There are also all the fun shortcuts Motorola adds. Twist your wrist twice to open the camera — my favorite way to open a camera on any phone. Lay the Moto G7 face down to trigger Do Not Disturb mode. There’s One Button Nav, which adds a small bar on the bottom of the screen that you can tap, hold or swipe to trigger different actions. There’s an always-on screen where you can hover your hand over the display to see the time.

The Moto G7 supports the Call Screen feature found on Pixel phones, which lets you monitor calls from an unrecognized number via Google’s service. A transcript is shown of the conversation in actual time. The idea is to minimize the number of robocalls you get.

The Snapdragon 632 processor makes the Moto G7 much faster than the Moto G6. In everyday use, I didn’t notice any lag or stutters in animations or apps opening.

I played a few games on the Moto G7, including Alto’s Odyssey and PUBG (in low-quality mode). I was impressed how well the phone handled the graphics in Alto’s Odyssey and the fact that after playing about an hour’s worth of PUBG the phone was barely warm.

All Rights Reserved for  PATRICK HOLLAND

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