A monster of a budget phone

News Highlights: A monster of a budget phone.

Cut down on cheap phones. It’s just inevitable, that’s why they cost less money. But each phone is its own seasoned mix of specific setbacks and drawbacks. Sometimes that is a fine-tuned combination with a clear goal in mind, but it can easily be a haphazard and battered meeting full of traps. But the Moto G Play from 2021 has a near-perfect combination with good performance, unadulterated software, great battery life and a large bright screen. It’s a massive phone, and ounce for ounce, pretty hard to beat at $ 170.

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The 2021 Moto G Play is a big phone – not just for a budget phone, but objectively big overall. It’s even bigger than the flagship-class OnePlus 8 Pro. I think that’s a good thing as it gives room for things like the big 5,000 mAh battery and a bigger screen, but there are some drawbacks. First, it’s a bit on the thicker side, and it weighs almost as much as a Note20 Ultra, so that does give a rocky feel to your pocket. It also makes a dent in display quality. This is a 720p screen and with a diagonal of 6.5 ″ that equates to 220 PPI, which is not particularly sharp.

Considering the Moto G Play is only $ 170, a 720p display isn’t the end of the world, but not everyone will agree. Beyond that drawback, it’s a pretty decent screen. I noticed it got bright enough outside and dim enough inside and at night, although some faint lines were visible with certain colors or while in motion, as you sometimes see on cheaper LCD screens. It even offers some color level settings, which you don’t always see on budget phones. While I suspect none are actually calibrated to a specific reference, at least you can choose between saturation levels.

While I haven’t chatted on or chased it, the glass top of the screen survived my review without getting any scratches and seems durable enough. It’s also notched for the front-facing camera and has a big chin, two features that some people will certainly despise, but I don’t think both are a deal breaker.

The phone’s body is sturdy plastic with a semi-gloss finish, but it doesn’t feel cheap. Like the screen, it escaped any signs of wear or damage during our review, which is encouraging. There is a square camera tray in the top center, with the fingerprint sensor embedded just below it and offset by a metal ring. It is in exactly the right place and has proven to be both reliable and fast.

On the bottom of the phone you have a USB Type-C port – not a derpy Micro USB like you get with the slightly cheaper Moto E. It charges up to 10W speed, and I confirmed that at 5V 2A with stand USB power, and there’s no USB Power Delivery or advanced charging technology at work here. In addition, there is the solitary speaker, which delivers hollow and tinny mono sound without the help of the earpiece. At the top is a highly rated headphone jack, a great feature that has now been relegated to just budget phones like this one. Integrated into the nano SIM tray is a microSD card tray, which allows you to easily expand beyond the basic 32 GB storage, if you need it.

The box comes with the normal smartphone paraphernalia: a SIM eject tool, a charger, a cable and a handful of maps, guides and manuals.

Software, performance and battery

The Moto G Play 2021 delivers a pretty bare-bones Android experience, but that’s a good thing, especially on a lower-end phone like this one. There are no pointless, inconsistent, or performance-enhancing changes here, just a mostly stock look with a handful of tasteful (and optional) tweaks, like Moto’s gestures for things like the flashlight or screenshot, and Peek Display for more minimal notifications. Other than that, it’s the kind of Android software that everyone can enjoy.

The only real drawback is the update situation. The G Play 2021 comes with Android 10, which makes it a big version behind the current release. It is also guaranteed only one system update to Android 11 and two years of security patches. If this phone costs more I would complain, but that’s acceptable at $ 170.

I also noticed a few annoying bugs like the ongoing call notification that goes on for a while after you hang up, the screen doesn’t always wake up on a call when you take it off your ear with the intention of tapping the screen to end it , and some auto-brightness issues. When you wake up the screen at night, you are guaranteed to be dazzled, and it slowly reverts from what appears to be maximum brightness to a more comfortable setting.

The performance for the Moto G Play 2021 was quite surprising. On paper, you could look at the Snapdragon 460 and assume it’s a downgrade from the Snapdragon 632 in the Moto G7 Play. After all, it’s in a lower chip array and numerically seen as 172 less, right? Well, it is not that clear. Qualcomm’s 460 is a much newer chip, and it stood out for inheriting some relatively “premium” features from the 600 series, such as Kryo-based CPU cores. In addition, the 460 has the same GPU as the Snapdragon 665 (the Adreno 610), and it is built on a smaller node, which also brings different thermal, efficiency and performance gains. In short, speed is more than just model numbers, and this is a pretty decent chip.

Now I say “decent”, but this doesn’t compete with flagships, and you won’t beat your friend’s new Galaxy S21 in any of the benchmarks. You will notice stuttering, dropped frames and some general whine. But that joke is so consistent that you can anticipate it, expect it, and barely notice it in the end. It’s not always a smooth experience, and demanding apps make it chug a bit. But in normal use it is completely fine, and frankly much better than I expected for the price.

The only real problem you can run into is lack of storage space. I’m 73% full with just my normal apps and a few photos, and 32 GB won’t be enough in the long run. It is expandable via microSD, but it is not the same.

The battery life was astonishing. I was usually about to break ten hours of screen time for three days before it died. That’s certainly because of the Snapdragon 460’s power-guzzling nature, 720p display, and big 5,000 mAh battery that powers the phone – and it’s fantastic. This will last more than long enough for everyone.

Cameras

I don’t have much credit for the G Play 2021’s camera. It’s bad, with results that seem roughly equivalent to 2020’s Moto E in my eyes. Admittedly, it’s harder to get out and take pictures during pandemic winter season, but what I have seen so far leaves me very impressed. This is good for receipts and not much else.

Dynamic range is poor, everything is muddy (even in ideal light), low-light performance is terrible, and only one of the two cameras really does anything. Of all the features, this is the one that is sure to remind you that you are using a $ 170 phone. If there’s one takeaway that gets you out of this review, it should be, don’t buy this in front of the camera.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There isn’t much to say about the Moto G Play 2021, and that’s really, really good. Coming from some of last year’s best phones, I expected to get more complaints, but I was quite satisfied beyond the expected issues, such as a bad camera and just acceptable performance. I didn’t have to put up with a micro USB port, bad software, horrible screen, bad battery life, or real issues. If I was in a tight spot and needed something cheap and decent to help me out for a while, this would be at the top of the list. While I quite liked the $ 150 Moto E for 2020, this phone is only $ 20 more and even easier to recommend.

It’s true, Motorola’s software update policy isn’t great, there’s no NFC for contactless payments, and the company is only promising one Android 11 update and security updates for a total of two years. The camera is also a legit potato, with mediocre results even in daylight and downright poor performance compared to today’s flagship or mid-range phones. There is no NFC for contactless payments. The lack of storage space means some micromanaging, a microSD card or difficult decisions. And yes, the screen is only 720p. But at $ 170, these restrictions hardly matter.

The battery life here is great; the screen is large, bright enough and sharp enough; and Moto’s light-touch software is easy to appreciate. It even comes with Googly features like call screening, which is a huge time and attention saver with spam calls as bad as they are today.

Modern Motorola does a lot of weird and confusing things, and not all of its phones are objectively ‘good’, but this one definitely is, especially at just $ 170.

Buy it if:

  • You have a strict budget.
  • Battery life is a priority.
  • You want a big phone.

Don’t buy it if:

  • You need a good camera. This really isn’t really one.
  • You miss NFC for contactless payments.

Where to buy:

Via: www.androidpolice.com

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