Motorola has been a top player in the budget smartphone market for a long time, but can it still compete with some fresh rivalry from the likes of Realme? Things aren’t quite as assured these days so the Moto G8 has a lot of work to do.
For a while, we got used to Motorola’s strategy of phone families – a regular model straddled by an even cheaper Play option with a Plus model for those wanting a bigger screen. Then the Power came in for anyone wanting a big battery.
The G8 range for 2020 is even more complex with the introduction of a Power Lite option. There’s a lot to get your head round and to make matters worse, these were all announced individually and have launched at various times in different markets.
What we’re dealing with here is the regular Moto G8, which should be an improvement on the excellent five-star Moto G7, offering a well-rounded smartphone at a surprisingly low price.
However, I’m not so sure that Motorola has pulled it off this year.
Design & Build – One step forward, two steps back
I’ve been a big fan of the Moto G range since the early days and I’ve reviewed a large percentage of them over the years. The G7 was a particular favourite, being one of the most un-budget like phones in this area ever.
I’m not saying the G8 is bad, but it somehow doesn’t feel like the new model. It might seem like a small difference but at 9mm, it’s an extra 1mm thicker than the G7 and just doesn’t feel sleek and as premium.
It’s also, like so many phones now, really big. In fact, it’s bigger than the G7 Plus and therefore also heavier, too, at almost 190g.
Perhaps I’m being too nostalgic, because despite this, the G8 is very similar to rivals such as the Realme 6. And the size and weight of the G8 does relate to some benefits such as battery life.
The Realme also has a plastic back, but it’s a shame that Motorola has dropped the glass rear cover seen on the G7 with its gorgeous curved edges. This year, the Moto G8 just feels more plain and less exciting.
Motorola has moved the camera module to the corner while keeping the fingerprint scanner on the rear (which still works well). At the front, a teardrop notch has now been replaced by a punch-hole camera which is nestled in the top corner.
The G8 still looks pretty premium and stylish is its Neon Blue option, with Pearl White also available if it takes your fancy. A silicone case is included in the box.
An advantage to the size, compared to a lot of rivals, is that you get a headphone jack. Motorola still doesn’t offer full waterproofing with an IP rating but the G8 has a water repellent coating.
Specs & Performance – So so
Like the Moto G8 Power, this phone comes with a mid-range Snapdragon 665 and a pretty standard 4GB of RAM.
It’s nothing to write home about, despite the affordable price here, and this translates into real-world usage. Largely, the G8 is ok to use but nothing more. It can handle the basics fine but can easily get overwhelmed when more is asked of it, leading to noticeable lag.
There’s nothing particular, either; the G8 will be motoring along just fine then essentially hit a wall and have a mini break down for a bit. Oddly enough, the G7 was driving more pixels on the older 632 chip, still with 4GB of RAM and we didn’t have any issues.
It hits a lower price point this year, and is therefore cheaper than rivals such as the Realme 6 but as our benchmarks indicate, you can get better performance if you don’t mind spending a little more.
Diving a little deeper into the specs and jumping to Bluetooth 5.0 and including a headphone jack is good to see. However, Motorola doesn’t offer NFC here which is an odd choice.
Contactless payments are becoming all the more popular but the Moto G8 won’t allow you to use services like Google Pay. It also doesn’t even have dual-band Wi-Fi.
Display – Full screen ahead
This will come down to personal preference, but Motorola has swapped the central teardrop notch to house the cameras to an in-screen punch hole option. So now the selfie camera is surrounded by the screen instead.
I’d personally rather have a pop-up camera but that’s not an option at this price. As it stands, the M8 tucks the camera away in the corner and even if you’re new to punch hole cameras, you’ll quickly get used to it and on the whole you won’t notice it being there.
The display itself is a huge 6.4in – 0.2in bigger than the G7 Plus – and this isn’t with a considerably better screen-to-body ratio. So you have really got to consider whether this is a manageable size.
Sadly, for those like me that prefer a smaller display, it’s becoming very hard to find.
The resolution might be lower than the G7, but at HD+ is still fairly crisp. Colours are good and there’s a decent amount of brightness on offer too. It’s fine, but that’s all and I’d rather have the G7’s display when it comes to Motorola phones.
In terms of current competition, the Realme 6 is a lot more exciting for not much more money. It’s got a higher resolution and is the cheapest phone around to offer a smooth 90Hz refresh rate.
Battery Life – Days and days
That HD+ resolution, combined with the components and a huge 4000mAh battery means the G8 does perform extremely well in one area.
It’s got one of the longest battery lives I’ve tested in a long time. So much so that I struggled to get the phone to die so I could test the fast charging.
I am a fairly light phone user the majority of the time, but even with increased usage over the weekend I found the Moto G8 would last multiple days. And we’re not just talking about a couple of days here, it can last me four or even five days at a stretch.
For most users, it will probably last three, but that’s still amazing. It seems to just keep going and going.
Fast charging is a big deal these days but the G8 is lagging behind here. At just 10W, it’s a long way off rivals (with the Realme 6 at 30W) and is a drop down from the G7 which has 15W. It can only top up 28% in our usual 30 minute test.
That’s almost half off the G7, which managed 54%.
Cameras – Mixed bag
When it comes to smartphone cameras, it seems some brands are going for all the megapixels or the biggest zoom, while others are packing as many different lenses onto the back as possible. Sometimes a combination of them all, but rarely in the budget market.
Here, Motorola has gone down the more lenses route and really, I wish there were fewer and they did a better job. Sadly, that’s not as easy to use in marketing. Here’s a rundown of the cameras on the Moto G8.
16Mp Main – f/1.7, dual autofocus
8Mp Ultrawide – f/2.2, 118°
2Mp Macro – f/2.2
8Mp Selfie – f/2.0
The main camera does a pretty good job in general, producing detailed and colourful photos that would be unimaginable for a cheap phone not even that long ago. This, though is typically outdoors in good light, but quality drops when indoors or low light despite the impressive aperture.
The Moto G8 has various camera modes available including portrait (with blur slider) which is good most of the time but lacks any kind of night mode. Despite having PDAF and laser autofocus, I didn’t find the G8 overly quick to lock on.
Moving on and I find it very useful to have an ultrawide option and the Moto G8’s is about on par with others I’ve tested. In other words, not as good as the main camera but you sacrifice a little bit of quality to fit more in the frame.
Oddly, my ultrawide samples have come out at 16Mp, not the advertised 8Mp so I will be contacting Motorola to see what the deal is with that – not that I’m complaining.
Like others, Motorola has fallen into the trap of adding a macro lens and I’m really not sure where this trend has come from beyond a cheap way of increasing the lens count. It’s only 2Mp but unlike rivals, this one actually comes in useful because when you switch to the main lens at the same distance and it simply can’t focus.
Lastly, the selfie camera embedded into the screen is able to give you reasonable pictures and does offer a portrait mode, although it’s a bit hit and miss as to how well it copes. It’s certainly not as good as the G8 Power’s 16Mp shooter.
As with the Moto G8 Power, you can shoot video at HD at 60fps, or 4K at 30fps, along with slow motion at up to 240fps. I tested at 4K and the quality is very good with lots of detail and rich colours. It’s also surprisingly smooth considering the lack of stabilisation.
Software – Simples
Software has always been a strong area for Motorola and still is. If you’re not so sure about Chinese rivals such as Realme and Xiaomi due to software then getting a Moto G8 could be a good choice.
Motorola keeps things nice and simple with essentially stock Android 10, the latest version for Google. It means you’re getting a clean interface like the Pixel phones without Motorola messing around with things.
What the firm does add is the Moto app which contains a number of useful features including Moto Actions (eg quickly loading the camera app by twisting the phone), Moto Display and Moto Gametime.
One tweak to navigation to be aware of is that you can swipe in from either edge of the display to go back. That’s pretty handy apart from things like swiping through photos in the gallery when it’s oh so easy to trigger the navigation instead of fetching the next picture.
If you have troubles then you can head into the settings menu to adjust the sensitivity of this feature, or simply choose the older three button navigation bar.
Something else I’ve found is a glitch that occurs when opening the recent apps menu. Swiping up from the bottom sometimes simple overlays the row of app icons instead of loading the interface properly.
Price – Dip and dive
Ok so I prefer what Motorola did with the G7, but the G8 is considerably cheaper which is an impressive feat.
It’s just £179 in the UK when the G7 was £219, so it’s great if you’re looking for something under the £200 mark.
The G8 Power now sits at the £219 mark which is also how much the Realme 6 is. If you can afford the jump, you’re getting a lot of benefits but the G8 still represents good value for money if you’re simply looking for the cheapest phone you can.
Otherwise, there are some strong rivals at the same price such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S and Oppo A5 2020.
As it stands, the US doesn’t get the Moto G8 with the G Power and G Stylus (no 8) being the latest models.
Check out chart of the best budget phones to see our top 10.
The Moto G8 might be cheaper than its predecessor, but I’d rather the price stayed the same and the quality retained.
Various things have gone missing including a glass rear cover, faster charging and a higher resolution screen. Furthermore, you might not even realise that the Wi-Fi has got worse and there’s no NFC either,
Now, the Moto G8 is bigger, thicker and heavier. It doesn’t have the finesse of the G7 and changes like a punch-hole camera and macro lens are neither here nor there. The other cameras are nothing special, either.
It might be more in line with rivals in some ways – namely design – but Motorola is now being outclassed by devices such as the Realme 6 and it’s 90Hz display.
It’s saving grace is the extremely long battery life and, compared to Chinese rivals, that software is more user friendly.
Moto G8: Specs
Operating system: Android 10
Display: 6.4in, HD+ 1560×720, 19:9 IPS LCD screen
Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
Memory: 4GB RAM
Storage: 64GB w/ microSD support up to 512GB
Cameras: 16Mp main, 8Mp ultra-wide angle, 2Mp macro, 8Mp front
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C
Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, mono speaker, FM radio
Security: Rear fingerprint sensor
Battery: 4000mAh w/ 10W TurboPower charging
Dimensions: 161. × 75.8 × 8.95mm
Colours: Neon Blue, Pearl White