This is where the Moto G4 and G4 Plus truly diverge. Should you settle with a 13 megapixel camera, or spend the extra cash for the G4 Plus's 16 megapixel one loaded with autofocusing upgrades? Based on my testing, the G4's camera is a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it delivered sharp and vibrant photos, but sometimes its color rendering was all off. It was also a constant disappointment in low light. The G4 Plus was a lot more consistent -- it was able to lock onto subjects much more quickly, and it was actually useful in low light. Looking at both phones shows how far we've come in the world of mobile cameras. But, if I had to choose, I'd opt for the G4 Plus's shooter without any hesitation.
While Motorola used a light touch with most of the software, its camera app is a very different experience from Google's stock entry. There's a radial exposure meter right next to the focusing ring, which lets you lighten or darken the image by dragging it up or down. Flash, HDR and timer settings are also on the left side of the screen, instead of the top. If you want to take panoramic photos, or simply want manual controls, you'll have to use a separate app, like ProShot or Open Camera.
While I was bracing for a slow experience with the Moto G4 and G4 Plus (due to increased rendering demands for 1080p screens, last year's display was only 720p), both phones surprised me with their relatively smooth performance. Sure, they're not as instantaneously zippy as expensive flagships, but they also don't feel like "budget" devices. Browsing around Android Marshmallow, launching multiple hefty apps like Pokémon Go, and juggling through them was relatively painless. There was the occasional slowdown on the G4, but nothing show-stopping. If anything, their performance feels more in line affordable mid-range phones like the Nexus 5X.
And when it came to demanding usage, I was surprised by how well both phones held up. I was able to capture 1080p videos of both phones' displays using the AZ Screen Recorder app while running Pokémon Go and jumping through several apps. The Moto G4 showed a bit of slowdown, but Pokémon Go was still totally playable. And the resulting video didn't have any major hiccups or dropped frames. The Moto G4 Plus with 4GB of RAM fared even better, with no slowdown during screen recording.
The benchmarks for both phones reflect the strong performance I saw. Compared to last year's Moto G, they scored four times higher in AndEBench, three times faster in CF-Bench, and they were more than twice as fast when it came to the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. Of course, benchmarks aren't everything, but huge performance bumps like these are noteworthy. I wouldn't have dared play a complex 3D game on the last Moto G, but the G4 and G4 Plus ran games like Racing Rivals without any issue.
The fingerprint sensor on the G4 Plus was easy to set up, and it had no trouble accurately recognizing my fingers. Its placement on the face of the phone is confounding though. Motorola would have been better off placing it on the rear of the phone like LG, or making it an actual home button like Samsung and HTC.
As for battery life, neither phone disappointed. Their 3,000mAh offerings had no trouble lasting me throughout a full day, even when I decided to go on some impromptu Pokémon hunts. In our test, which involves looping an HD video at 50 percent brightness, they both lasted around 12 hours and 30 minutes. The previous Moto G, lasted 10 hours and 40 minutes.
At $200 for the Moto G4 and $250 for the G4 Plus, both phones are practically in a class of their own. There are cheaper phones out there, including Motorola's own Moto E and HTC's $179 Desire 530, but they all have significantly worse performance in every respect. If you wanted a big upgrade, you could step up to the Nexus 5X, which currently sells for between $280 and $350 and remains one of the best Android phones on the market. Beyond that, there are the affordable high-end options like the $399 OnePlus 3.
If you've only got $200 to spend, there's no better option than the Moto G4 right now. Stepping up to the G4 Plus gets a bit more confusing. If you want the 64GB version with 4GB of RAM, you'd have to shell out $300. At that point, the Nexus 5X is more tempting thanks to its faster hardware, though you'd have to live with its smaller 5.2-inch screen.
Motorola's big problem with these new phones is that the last Moto G was simply too good. In pushing for larger screens and other upgrades, it also introduced some compromises. Ultimately though, the good outweighs the bad. The Moto G4 and G4 Plus offer plenty of power and versatility without breaking the bank. And they show that, once again, nobody does budget phones better than Motorola.