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Moto G Pure review: 4 reasons to buy — and 5 reasons to skip

You won’t pay much for the Moto G Pure, but you get plenty of limitations in return

Moto G Pure review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

You’ll save a lot of money with the Moto G Pure, but you’ll get plenty of frustration in return. Other phones like the Moto G Power only cost a little more and don’t have as many limitations — opt for that model instead.

For

  • Long-lasting battery
  • Sub-$200 price
  • Decent design for a budget device

Against

  • Underwhelming processor
  • No ultrawide angle camera
  • No 5G
  • Limited Android support

Tom's Guide Verdict

You’ll save a lot of money with the Moto G Pure, but you’ll get plenty of frustration in return. Other phones like the Moto G Power only cost a little more and don’t have as many limitations — opt for that model instead.

Pros

  • + Long-lasting battery
  • + Sub-$200 price
  • + Decent design for a budget device

Cons

  • - Underwhelming processor
  • - No ultrawide angle camera
  • - No 5G
  • - Limited Android support
Moto G Pure specs

Starting price: $159
Screen size: 6.5-inch LCD (1600x720)
CPU: MediaTek Helio G25
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 32GB
MicroSD?: Yes, up to 512GB
Rear cameras: 13MP main (f/2.2), 2MP depth sensor
Front camera: 5MP (f/2.4)
Battery size: 4,000 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:52
Size: 6.6 x 3 x 0.34 inches
Weight: 6.6 ounces

Motorola's G series of phones has established over the years that a cheap smartphone doesn't need to skimp on features. The Moto G Pure is a stark reminder that cheap smartphones occasionally still do.

With the Moto G Pure, Motorola delivers a very inexpensive smartphone that could appeal to people who want to pay as little as possible for their next handset. But the compromises are too steep, negating even the areas where the Moto G Pure does deliver.

Our Moto G Pure review finds some areas where the new addition to Motorola's G Series is able to distinguish itself. But they're far outnumbered by the trade-offs made to keep this phone's cost so low.

Moto G Pure review: Reasons to get this phone

Moto G Pure price: The biggest argument to be made in favor of the Moto G Pure comes directly from your wallet. The phone costs $159 — hundreds of dollars less than midrange models and a fraction of what you'd pay for a flagship device.

The Moto G Pure also happens to undercut the prices of other phones in the affordable Moto G Series. It's $90 less than the 64GB version of the Moto G Power (2021) and even $40 cheaper than the 32GB version of that phone. You can save $140 by opting for the Moto G Pure over the Moto G Stylus (2021).

Even better, the Moto G Pure isn't tied to one carrier. Yes, Verizon and T-Mobile both offer the device, but you can buy it unlocked from Motorola as well as from retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and B&H Photo. 

Moto G Pure battery life: Besides its low price, the Moto G Pure's battery life is easily this phone's biggest highlight. Motorola knows how to eke out longevity from its devices — especially its less expensive handsets — and the Moto G Pure will soon be joining a number of other Motorola offerings on our best phone battery life list.

Moto G Pure display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Motorola packed a 4,000 mAh into the Moto G Pure, which isn't as beefy as the power packs found in other G Series phones. But the Pure still lasted a very long time on our battery test, which involves continuous surfing over cellular until the phone runs out of power. The Moto G Pure's time of 11 hours, 52 minutes over LTE isn't as lengthy as the epic 14 hours the Moto G Power can last, but it's well ahead of the average for smartphones. It even beats out flagships like the iPhone 13, which lasted an impressive 11 hours and 42 minutes on our test.

In everyday use, I took a fully charged Moto G Pure out on a Saturday afternoon to shoot photos at a football game, and still had battery life left on Sunday and Monday to do more photo testing, play games and watch video. When Motorola says to expect multi-day battery life from the Moto G Pure, it's not kidding.

Moto G Pure design: The Moto G Pure may be inexpensive, but that doesn't mean it looks cheap. Oh, when you hold the phone in your hand, there's no mistaking the plastic chassis housing the device. But the Deep Indigo colorway is pretty striking and the textured back, which feels somewhat grainy to the touch, makes the Moto G Pure easy to grip.

Moto G Pure camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Motorola also kept a feature that's increasingly rare in smartphones — on the top of the phone, you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack. More people might be trying to grab the best wireless earbuds these days, but not everyone's ready to make that leap, and having the option of using a wired set of headphones that let you charge the phone at the same time is a welcome design decision.

Moto G Pure screen size: Motorola touts the screen size and resolution of the Moto G Pure's 6.5-inch LCD panel. And I'd agree, it's an ample screen size with a good-enough-at-this-price resolution of 1,600x720 resolution. Certainly, I didn't have to strain to see the details of the sun-drenched village of Portorosso in Luca or the spooky easter eggs in Muppet Haunted Mansion when I streamed both videos via Disney Plus. (As for the color accuracy of the display, we'll talk about that in a moment.)

Moto G Pure streaming movies

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The screen is also pretty bright, measuring 555 nits with adaptive brightness turned on. That compares to 415 nits for the OnePlus Nord N200 5G.

If I have a criticism of the Moto G Pure's screen, it's that Motorola has left too much bezel. The top of the display is fine, with a teardrop-sized camera cutout dipping into the screen. But the chin at the bottom of the display is ample, making that 6.5 inches feel less expansive than it should.

Moto G Pure review: Reasons to avoid this phone

Moto G Pure performance: The MediaTek Helio G25 powering the Moto G Pure is simply not up to the task. Even the most stripped-down budget phones should be able to launch apps with relative ease, but when you tap an app on the Moto G Pure's screen, there's a noticeable lag before it's ready to use. This is particularly noticeable when it came time to launch the camera app, where I noticed a lengthy pause before the G Pure's camera was ready to take a shot. You can lose once-in-a-lifetime moments in these delays, and I really think it's unacceptable, low price or not.

Our benchmark test results for the Moto G Pure bear out this lackluster performance. On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the Moto G Pure tallied single- and multicore scores of 133 and 481, respectively. The OnePlus Nord N200, a Snapdragon 480 5G-powered phone that costs only $80 more than the Pure, puts those results to shame with respective scores of 508 and 1,602.

I was able to play demanding games on the Moto G Pure, but just barely. PUBG Mobile featured a few stutters here and there, and graphical flourishes like trees and terrain were still rendering as I approached them in this first-person shooter game. That would explain the gap in scores on 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 test, where the Moto G Pure's 438 result badly trailed the Nord N200's 2,416 performance.

Moto G Pure camera: Dual lens cameras are now pretty standard, even on cheaper phones. But the second lens on the Moto G Pure is not what you think it would be. Instead of an ultrawide angle lens to accompany the main camera, Motorola has opted for a depth sensor to improve portraits. That means a 2MP sensor joins the 13MP wide angle lens on the back of the Moto G Pure.

If your photo needs tend to be pretty conventional, the photos shot by the Moto G Pure are good enough. The main camera turned in a pretty balanced shot of this bowl of apples, capturing the greens and reds accurately, while also getting some of the details on the wrinkled skin of an older apple. You don't really get that same balance in a similar photo shot by the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, the cheapest smartphone I have on hand. Light streaming in from a nearby window over-exposed the shot dulling the colors of the apples on the left.

But that was the only instance where the Moto G Pure held its own in camera testing. When I took a shot of a college football game, Motorola's phone couldn't contend with the shadows from the setting sun, losing all the details in the crowd around me. The Nord N10 didn't have that same issue, keeping a consistent color tone throughout while still reflecting the shadows creeping over the field.

By the way, you had better hope you only need to take photos with the Moto G Pure when there's plenty of light. There's no night mode on this phone, and the lower the lighting, the more noise can creep into the picture.

What about that depth sensor that's supposed to help the Moto G Pure take better portrait shots? It's a mixed bag in my testing. My friend Jason looks sharp enough in this image, but the Moto G Pure decided that his wife was part of the background and blurred her. The Nord N10 doesn't make that mistake (though, to be honest, the Nord N10 takes a very minimal hand when it comes to background blurs). Perhaps asking for a portrait shot featuring two people was too much for a budget phone, but it does speak to the Pure's limitations.

Up front, the Moto G Pure features a 5MP camera, and the results are, once again, all right when the lighting is favorable. This selfie of me is fairly detailed, though the Moto G Pure has favored a warmer skin tone that seems to buff out the creases around my eyes. I prefer the lighter touch of the Nord N10 here, where I look like I've spent less time in a tanning booth.

Moto G Pure display colors: I like the size of the display on the Moto G Pure, but I wish it did a better job of rendering colors. Particularly bright colors look a bit off on the G Pure's 6.5-inch panel — that red Vespa that's the object of so much desire in Luca ends up having an orange tint when I streamed the movie on Motorola's phone.

Moto G Pure camera app

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Our testing numbers back that up. In its default saturated mode, the Moto G Pure display captures 103.8% of the sRGB color spectrum. That compares to 160.7% on the Nord N200. The Moto G Pure screen isn't as accurate either, with a 0.33 Delta-E rating vs. 0.26 for the Nord N200. (The closer the number is to zero, the more accurate the colors.)

Moto G Pure charging speed: It's a good thing that the battery on the Moto G Pure lasts such a long time, because recharging it takes some time, too. The phone supports 10W wired charging, which is fairly standard on Motorola's G series devices, but still pretty slow.

Moto G Pure front camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A half-hour of charging got a drained Moto G Pure back to 24% power. That's well below the 32% we got on the Nord N200 from its 18W charger. Even the iPhone SE, which ships with a 5W charger, edges out the Moto G Pure by getting to 29% in 30 minutes.

Moto G Pure connectivity and support: The Moto G Pure only works with LTE — there's no 5G modem here. For many bargain hunters, that absence won't matter much: 5G networks remain in their early stages, and it's likely you wouldn't see a huge bump in download speeds depending on where you live.

But it's not always going to be that way. 5G networks are going to improve. App makers are going to figure out ways to take advantage of the better performance and lower latency. And the Moto G Pure will be unable to reap the rewards of any of these advances.

Moto G Pure apps

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Then again, it's not like this phone is built to last. The Moto G Pure ships with Android 11 and is only guaranteed one Android update, plus two years of security updates. That single update will be Android 12, which is already available on Google's Pixel phones and rolling out to other Android devices shortly. Unboxing a Moto G Pure is not unlike opening a fortune cookie with a slip of paper that reads "You will soon be buying a new phone."

Moto G Pure verdict

A good phone value is not just about having a lower price. It also means delivering enough features so that you can hold onto your phone longer, stretching your dollar further.

You simply can't do that with the Moto G Pure. Setting aside the lack of 5G, the phone's minimal Android support and pokey performance mean you're going to be in search of an upgrade in a couple years, optimistically. Why not spend a little more on a fully featured phone up front that you'll be able to hold on to longer.

Yes, the Moto G Pure lasts a long-time on a charge, but so do other Moto G series phones that only cost a little more and shed some of the Pure's limitations. Motorola makes plenty of compelling devices for bargain hunters — the Moto G Pure is not one of them.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.