Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

For years Motorola has had a stranglehold on the budget phone market, especially in the U.S where phone buyers don’t have quite the same access to all the low-cost handsets available overseas. It’s gotten to the point where it’s as if you could just change the headline on previous reviews, update a few numbers and specs and call it a day.

Now no one is going to do that, it would be lazy, but the sentiment still rings true. And after spending some time with the Moto G7, while I do wish Motorola added just one more feature to make its latest $300 just a bit more exciting, the G7 still feels like one of the best values of any phone on the market.

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For 2019, it seems Motorola’s idea was simply to give the G7 more of everything. At 6.2-inches, the G7's LCD has gotten a sizable increase from the 5.7-inch display featured on last year’s G6. The screen is bright too, able to hit nearly 600 nits on our tests, which makes images look rich and vivid even viewed outdoors. And by moving the phone’s fingerprint to the back of the device while also slimming down its bezels, the G7's screen to body ratio got a nice bump to just short of 82 percent.

Same goes for its components, because in addition to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chip, Motorola also increased the phone’s RAM from 3GB to 4GB, while doubling its base storage to 64GB. That’s the same amount of storage you get from an iPhone XS, a phone that costs more than three times the price of the Moto G7. And when it comes to performance, even though the G7 isn’t a mobile gaming powerhouse, unless you’re a big-time PUBG Mobile or Fortnite fanatic, the G7 has enough power to handle most gaming or multitasking duties without much lag.

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Thankfully, Motorola didn’t get rid of any important ports either, which means you still get a USB-C port for data and charging, a microSD card slot for expandable storage, and a 3.5mm jack for anyone who hasn’t embraced the Bluetooth headphone trend.

Holding everything together is the same glass-paneled front and back that you get on every other phone nowadays. However, despite the G7 being a tenth of an inch wider and taller than last year’s model, because it’s still relatively light and a tiny bit thinner than before, the phone never feels cumbersome even in my smallish hands. There is one design choice that feels a bit pedestrian though: that notch. Between the tiny hole for the 8-MP selfie cam and the relatively thick hump surrounding it, the top of the G7 kind of reminds me of a cyclops with a unibrow wearing eyeliner. While I wouldn’t call it offensive, it’s not exactly an endearing look either.

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On our unlocked review unit, the G7 also sports a wonderfully lightweight build of Android 9 Pie, with practically zero extraneous software and only a light touch from Motorola for things like its Moto Actions. That means you get still support for Motorola’s long-standing gesture controls, which let you hold the phone while making a chopping motion to activate the flashlight, twist the phone with your wrist to launch the camera, or even use the side-mounted volume controls to change tracks when the screen is off. I also have to give a shout out to Moto’s One Button Nav, which in my opinion, is a slightly better implementation of gesture controls than the standard “pill-button” nav in stock Android 9, mostly because it’s smaller and performs all of the standard Android navigation features with a single button. (However, if you prefer Android’s three-button nav bar, that’s still an option as well.)

Around back, Motorola included a familiar dual camera module consisting of a 12-MP main camera and a secondary 5-MP depth sensor that assists with things like portrait shots. In bright light, the Moto G7 is an even better shooter than the slightly more expensive $350 Sony Xperia 10, particularly when it comes to accurate white balance and preserving details in highlights. One of the starkest differences came in a head-to-head shoot-off of a statue of Honest Abe in the late afternoon, where the Moto G7 captured an image that was better exposed, colorful, and avoided the awful yellow color cast that plagued the Xperia 10's shot. (Check out the slideshow below.)

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In low-light, the competition was a lot closer, with the Moto G7 suffering from excess noise in certain shots, and a general lack of sharpness in others. It’s a real shame because it feels like the G7's low-light photography hasn’t improved much since last year, and all things considered, it’s the one real knock I have against the phone as a whole.

Motorola also gave the G7 some fun extra camera modes like Spot Color, which lets you preserve a single color in the shot while turning everything else to black and white, and a built-in cinemagraph mode that lets you turn videos into quick, eternally looping gifs. And while neither mode nails the effect 100 percent, both are more than capable of delivering a bit of quick fun.

There is one area Motorola didn’t go bigger on the G7: its battery. Featuring a 3,000 mAh power pack that’s the same size as what you got in the Moto G6, the G7 doesn’t offer much in the way of increased longevity. On our battery rundown test, the G7 lasted just 9 hours and 29 minutes, which is an hour and a half short of our 2018 battery life average. And while that figure includes times from some premium, high-end phones, it still feels like Moto could have done a little better.

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Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

For people who want longer battery life and better low-light photography, I can’t fault you for wanting to reach for more. But when you consider everything the Moto G7 offers for $300, it’s hard not to appreciate how it fares against similarly priced competition, not to mention how much value it packs compared to today’s $1,000 handsets.

Sure, a Galaxy S10 or iPhone XS will give you a better overall experience, but are those phones more than three times as good as the Moto G7? That’s a much closer call. Either way, the Moto G7 is a success because it doesn’t make you feel bad about buying a budget phone. I just wish Motorola had given the G7 something unique to make the phone feel a bit more distinguished.

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README

  • At $300, the Moto G7 costs $50 more than last year’s phone. In return, you get a bigger 6.2-inch screen, twice the base storage (64GB), and some bonus camera modes.
  • The G7 doesn’t have an official rating for water-resistance, but Moto claims it’s splash-proof. Based on our testing, the phone might even survive a quick dunk.
  • Despite having a larger earpiece above the notch, the G7 only has a single mono speaker, which sounds just OK.
  • The G7's biggest weaknesses are its lackluster low-light photography and its only average battery life.
  • The G7's notch reminds me of a cyclops with a unibrow wearing eyeliner.

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