Last month Motorola unveiled their latest budget smartphones and so far from what we’ve seen, they’re pretty darn good. Dan reviewed the E7 a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with what it offered for the sub-$200 price.
The moto g30 is a step up from there, but priced at just $299 it still sits comfortably in the budget market segment. The specs, as you would expect are also a step up and the end result is a great experience for a minimal price. The Snapdragon processor combined with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage keep the clean version of Android 11 humming along without too many missteps. Add in a 6.5-inch 90Hz refresh rate display and a quad rear camera setup and it’s hard to believe that it costs just $299.
We’ve been using the g30 for a couple of weeks now and we’ve got a handle on what you get for your money. Read on to find out more.
Hardware and design
The g30 we received was of the Phantom Black variety and if this is black, we like this black. I would say the colour is more of a reflective purple — one of those colours where it changes colour slightly depending on the angle you look at it and the angle the light is hitting it. The polycarbonate rear also is extremely resistant to fingerprints — you won’t hate look at this one after handling it for a while.
The front of the device houses a 6.5-inch HD+ display which supports 90Hz refresh rate — 60Hz is just not good enough these days. Once you’ve experienced a refresh rate greater than 60Hz you can never go back — it is smooth and an enjoyable experience to not just look at it but to interact with. The display is an LCD display so you won’t get the black blacks or the extremely vibrant colours you see with an AMOLED display but you pay more for that and if you have a price point to meet something has to give. In saying that I had no issues watching various YouTube videos, Netflix shows, or NBA and AFL games on it — the colours were certainly decent on their own.
The mechanical fingerprint sensor is located on the rear of the device — smack bang in the middle with Motorola’s logo in the centre of it — as we’ve come to expect from them.
Other notable inclusions are a 3.5mm headphone jack (and we all thought it was dead — not in the entry level devices it seems), Bluetooth 5.0, IP52 water repellent, a USB-C charging port, NFC for tap and pay and dual SIM capabilities (if you don’t want to use an SD card as well).
Powered by a middling Snapdragon 662 octa-core chipset the Moto g30 rarely missed a beat. The only occasional slowdown I noticed was when using the swipe up gesture to go into Recents — it occasionally took a small amount of time to open it but not excessively long that’s for sure. Once in the Recents menu it was a bit stuttery most of the time — but that could be because I was used to fluidity of the OPPO find X3 Pro and the OnePlus 9 Pro.
Navigating around the operating system was a breeze and although not as snappy as an ultra-premium device it was still a great experience — something that is often overlooked when considering devices.
The 4GB of RAM could possibly have been increased but I didn’t seem to have any memory issues in my day-to-day use. The 128GB of onboard storage should be more than enough for just about everyone — you should not be storing ALL of your photos on your phone in 2021, a safe backup/redundancy plan is easy to find and use (eg. Google Photos).
Motorola say that the 5000mAh battery should last two days and for the vast majority of people I dare say they are correct. I am a very heavy user with Bluetooth streaming music, videos and sport and I was still able to get over a day of use with it before having to charge.
Using it for an entire day it is/was possibly the best battery life I have experienced in a smartphone (that I can remember). Whether it was the 5,000mAh battery or the 720P display with mid-range chipset, it does not matter. I used it for close to an hour of Android Auto — wireless Android Auto too by the way which normally chews through the battery — streamed an NBA game on Kayo for nearly 2.5 hours, and streamed another game through Google Chrome for just over 90 minutes — all with the display brightness at 75%.
Motorola have also included a 20W charger in the box which you would think would allow you to charge that battery quickly with a minimum of fuss. Unfortunately, even though a 20W charger is included in the box, the g30 only supports 15W charging — it seems to be very slow charging. It took just over two hours to charge from 5% to full and even with the large 5,000mAh battery that’s not good enough (and not using it at all).
Opening the camera is a breeze — either double tap the power button or twist your hand with the phone in it (assuming you have that gesture turned on). Opening it isn’t as fast as the ultra-premium device so don’t expect to catch something with a split second’s notice.
The rear camera consists of:
- 64MP sensor | 16MP output (f/1.7, 1.4um) Quad Pixel technology
- 8MP (f/2.2, 1.12um) | 118° ultra-wide angle
- 2MP (f/2.4, 1.75um) | Macro Vision camera
- 2MP (f/2.4, 1.75um) | depth sensor
- Single LED flash
So how does the camera fare? The colours don’t pop like they could and the features aren’t quite as smart as on some more expensive phones but the photos are definitely passable. As usual with a budget entry-level phone, the night mode suffered and was a bit of a let down but given decent light the photos were definitely acceptable. If you are purchasing in this market segment you probably should not expect DSLR-quality photos.
The selfie camera is a 13MP f/2.2 camera with the ability to perform timelapse and hyperlapse photography.
Motorola call their Android skin MyUX — But I don’t even call it a skin to be honest. They have taken a clean build of Android from Google and added in a few of their tweaks, and they’ve done it well, so well that other manufacturers should start to emulate them.
The small tweaks are incredibly useful — with very few of those gimmicks that you see in so many other manufacturer Android skins. From how the skin looks with various icons and styles to the gestures that are the best I’ve seen. Twist your hand with the phone in it and the camera opens, make a chopping gesture with the phone and the torch opens — not earth shattering but extremely handy nonetheless.
In the end the software creates a great experience — even with some entry-level specs — thanks to the skin not bogging down the memory. There’s a reason some manufacturers need to fire a lot of RAM at some phones — ever notice how Google doesn’t put much RAM in their devices? They don’t need to (although they have been a bit stingy at times creating some issues but that’s another story). Same here.
The only time I ran into sketchy UI issues is in the Recents menu. It slowed and stuttered a bit in there, as discussed above but that shouldn’t affect users’ overall experience substantially — my wife still insists on swiping away apps from the Recents menu (doing so not only slows performance on Android but increases battery consumption).
Who’s it for?
The moto g30 is a great phone for a very attractive price. The specs are decent, considering the price is just $299, the camera is acceptable in good conditions and the software experience is enjoyable — something I cannot say all that often with entry-level smartphones.
If you know someone who has a tight budget or only needs a basic phone to do basic things then you simply cannot go past the moto g30. If you need high end DSLR-quality photography this is not the phone for you. On a day to day basis though the overall experience was much better than anything else I have ever used in this price range.