Motorola g30 Review: 90Hz but at what cost?

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The Motorola g30 is part of a growing number of budget smartphones from the company. There are some aspects of the smartphone that are particularly appealing. For example, a 90Hz refresh rate display, a 64MP camera and a 5,000mAh battery. Especially at its Dh699 price tag, the smartphone offers considerable value for money. But could it serve as your day to day companion?

Design and build quality

To ensure that that the smartphone’s specification list stays appealing, Motorola has cut a few corners with the g30’s build quality. The plastic frame and back of the smartphone is far from premium, with it getting easily smudged with sparse usage. At 200 g, we also think the smartphone is a bit too heavy especially considering its build. However, we are going to excuse its 9.1 mm thickness because of the large battery on board.

The rear fingerprint scanner is slightly on the slower side

The rear of the smartphone also houses a slightly protruding quad-camera setup and a fingerprint scanner. While the scanner is well-placed and comfortable to use, it is slow and unreliable. The smartphone takes one second to unlock from sleep, which is much longer than many we have seen. And when your index finger is placed slightly off-centre, you have to shuffle before the phone unlocks. To make the unlock process faster, you do have the option to toggle the smartphone’s screen on before unlocking, which shaves half a second off the overall time.

The textured power button is a great touch

Speaking of power, the right side of the smartphone is where you find all the buttons. There is a dedicated Google Assistant button on the top right edge, the volume rocker in the middle and the power button almost central to the smartphone’s body. Its placement is great and we think the additional texture is a great touch from Motorola. Even adjusting volume does not require too much shuffling although reaching the Google Assistant button is a chore. Thankfully, we never found a use for it throughout the duration of the review period.

There is a single speaker on the smartphone for media consumption

On the top edge of the smartphone, you find a 3.5 mm headphone jack, the speaker grill and the secondary microphone. The left edge houses a triple SIM-card slot with support for dual 4G nano-SIM cards and a micro-SD card simultaneously. Lastly, the bottom of the smartphone is where you find the primary microphone, Type-C USB port and a side-firing speaker unit. Motorola also says that the design of the smartphone is water-repellent although there is no official IP-rating for the device.

Display and multimedia

The lack of a premium feel carries over to the Motorola g30’s display performance. Despite the panel being a 90Hz one, it hurts to use it because of its 1,600 x 720 pixel resolution. At a 6.5-inch size and a 20:9 aspect ratio, the tear-drop style IPS LCD display sports fairly large bezels with a 82.2 per-cent screen-to-body ratio. With no official HDR support and minimal visual enhancements, using the screen is tough.

Multimedia is not as rich as it could be on the 90Hz 720p display

Its brightness at 70 per-cent is adequate for indoor situations but outdoors, you notice a drop in performance with even a 100 per-cent brightness being too low. We also think the 90Hz refresh rate makes viewing angles on the flat display particularly poor. Even a slight deviation when watching content can cause colours to fade which is not something we should see from any smartphone in 2021. Naturally, recommending this panel for regular multimedia consumption is difficult.

You can use the display at 60Hz, 90Hz or set it to automatically switch refresh rates

We think this is unfortunate given a lot of hardcore smartphone users rely on multimedia consumption from their smartphones in this day and age. Nonetheless, the 90Hz refresh rate does do its job. Elements in the user interface when scrolling or navigating stay smooth. But this tends to help with overall usage more than watching movies or videos. The audio experience on the device is also similar to what you would find from the general competition at this range. There is a mono-speaker which is decent but distorts fairly quickly at louder settings. We think the experience is passable although a wired or wireless pair of headphones will significantly bump it up.

Performance and gaming

Running the show on the Motorola g30 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 octa-core process clocked at 2.0GHz. The 11 nm chip gives you decent performance but nothing that is groundbreaking. On AnTuTu, the smartphone scores 176,361 whereas on Geekbench 5, it posts a 303 and 1,221 single-core and multi-core score respectively.

These benchmark scores are definitely at the lower end of the spectrum however, more than the internals, performance discrepancies are masked by the smartphone’s high refresh rate display. On-board, you find 128GB of storage alongside up to 6GB of RAM. Both of the these specifications are not restrictive in any way. Thus, for daily use, the smartphone should hold up. However, when loading rich content on the Motorola g30 or videos, there is evidence of some struggle. For instance, the smartphone’s user experience becomes very choppy when navigating on Chrome through a website with a lot of images. In other situations, the phone struggles to keep up with notifications or when the phone goes to sleep when watching a YouTube video, where you have fiddle with the device but waking it back up and experiencing an unnecessary pause. It was fairly common to see jitters and lag spikes even during scrolling when the smartphone was pushed heavily.

Graphically rich pages can cause the smartphone to stutter

With the 90Hz refresh rate display, gaming performance also looks okay. However, we would not go as far as saying that this is the ideal smartphone for gaming. Firstly, the display and audio experience is sub-par and the processor can show some creaks despite the Adreno 610 GPU on-board. For occasional gaming at low resolutions, you should benefit from an average experience.

User experience and software

With many smartphones in this price segment, user experience tends to let them down. But for the Motorola g30, that is not the case. The smartphone continues Motorola’s tradition of a clean Android experience. Aside from the pre-installed Google applications, the smartphone comes with absolutely no other bloatware. This is great to see and we think more manufacturers at this level should adopt what Motorola and Nokia have been doing for a long time now.

A clean user interface is always appreciated especially at a budget friendly price tag

This means cutting back on obtrusive applications, advertisements and features. For some, this could indicate a lacklustre and basic experience. But this is not the case with Motorola’s g30. You get a useful array of gestures built into the experience which are both natural and handy. For example, turning on the flashlight via a chopping motion or moving to the camera using a quick movement of your wrist. But one of our favourites has been the swiping to split a certain application. Despite the budget hardware on the smartphone, performance via this is phenomenal. And the ease of use via Motorola’s gestures made us use it more than usual.

Some of Motorola’s gestures are quite handy to use daily

There are also native features such as screen recording and casting built into the smartphone as well as support for NFC. If there is one drawback we faced, it is to do with the display of the smartphone. With poor contrast and viewing angles, we were not able to use the dark mode theme on the Motorola g30 running Android 11. Speaking of the software, it is also worth mentioning that the smartphone is still on the January 2021 security patch as opposed to March 2021. Motorola needs to look into this and rectify quickly.

Camera performance

The optics on the Motorola g30 are there to serve a purpose and offer just a bit more. On its rear, the quad-camera houses a 64MP primary lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. On paper, these specifications are good but that is only half of the story. Just like the Motorola g30’s software experience, its camera user interface in fairly minimal and easy to understand. But performance of the user interface is questionable.

As long as you have enough light, the camera on the Motorola g30 is decent

For instance, there seems to be a degree of lag when looking at the viewfinder thus navigating could be a bit smoother. Lastly, the shutter speed of the camera itself is also a bit on the slower side. The combination of these problems means you will not be able to quickly capture a scene. However, the camera comes with useful additional features. Google Lens support and an easy to understand menu is welcome on the Motorolo g30. But some of the options within the menu system such as ‘Colour Picker’ or ‘Cutout’ are unnecessary because the hardware capabilities of the smartphone seem limited when using them.

As for the photo quality from the smartphone, it is good so long as you have ample light in the scene. Dynamic range is good but sharpness from the camera can definitely be worked on. A dedicated 64MP photo mode is also available here which captures a bit more detail in the picture when zoomed in. However, the downside of using this is a much slower capture speed for just a marginal increase in detail.

We never saw the point of some of the menu options available in the camera application of the Motorola g30

Even at this price point, the Motorola g30 retains the versatility of an ultra-wide angle lens though. The 8MP sensor is warmer than the primary one, which means you will notice colour shifts more often than not. But we would not say it is bad. However, the 2MP macro sensor is just there to make up the numbers. The key area where the smartphone struggles is with night time photography. Here, pictures have a fair bit of noise with the dedicated night mode reducing this. However, the time it takes for the smartphone to process pictures just makes using the camera a bit tedious in low-light situations. There is also support for 1080p video however with no OIS or EIS, we would sway away from seriously using the smartphone as a video camera.

Battery life

For the entirety of our testing, we had the Motorola g30 running at a 90Hz refresh rate. With this, the smartphone gave us varied battery performance from the 5,000mAh battery. With lightweight usage, its battery gave us screen-on times of up to 9 hours however with heavier usage, that dropped to 6 hours. On its website, Motorola claims the smartphone delivers 2-day battery life, which we think is only half accurate. Perhaps at 60Hz and with moderate usage, these numbers are possible. However for us, the smartphone lasted a maximum of 1.5 days before needing a top-up. It is also worth noting that standby times were poor, with the battery draining up to 20 per-cent overnight.

As for the charging capabilities of the smartphone, you find support for just wired charging. It uses Type-C USB and has support for 20W fast charging with both the charging brick and cable provided out of the box. In the first thirty minutes of charging, the smartphone goes up to 30 per-cent. However from that point onward, charging speeds drop. A regular 0-100 per-cent charge should take 2.5 hours using TurboPower, which is a bit on the longer side.

Conclusion

For the price tag, the Motorola g30 offers two big unique selling points. The 90Hz display is one alongside the near stock Android 11 experience. However, the panel itself suffers when it comes to multimedia consumption, which as we know is a big part of smartphone usage in 2021. In that respect, the Motorola g30 is a hard sell. But in most other aspects, you always feel like you are getting a good value. The 5,000mAh battery or 128GB of storage are some specifications that you do not typically associate with this Dh699 price tag. It is difficult to be overly enthusiastic about the smartphone but at the same time, one should not completely dismiss it.

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