Moto G6 Review: All the Phone You Need for $250

The $249 Moto G6 is the latest in a line of extremely well-rounded budget smartphones that make you second-guess paying $700 and up for a flagship. You get a colorful 5.7-inch display with minimal bezels, solid performance from a Snapdragon 450 processor and software features that are handy instead of gimmicky.

However, despite yearly gains in performance and display quality, many of the same shortcomings that have dogged Motorola's earlier budget offerings remain with the Moto G6, including camera quality. The result is still another great choice among midrange rivals, but one that hardly pushes any boundaries for the segment.

Price and Availability

The Moto G6 costs $249 both unlocked and through carriers, including Verizon (where it's actually a bit cheaper, at $240) and prepaid services like Republic Wireless. For that price, you'll get 32GB of storage paired with 3GB of RAM. A microSD slot lets you expand space for additional apps and media, but the phone won't accept anything beyond a 128GB card.

The Moto G6 comes in three colors — Black, Deep Indigo and Blush — and works on both GSM and CDMA networks. That means subscribers to all four major networks can use the device, a rare feat for an unlocked handset.

Interestingly, Motorola has opted to sell only the standard G6 and lower-end G6 Play in the U.S., while the bigger G6 Plus will not be available on our shores. Last year, the G5 Plus and G5S Plus were offered stateside, though both the G6 and G6 Play actually have larger screens than last year's Plus models.

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We plan to review the G6 Play separately in the future. That device will retail for $199 and feature a larger battery, a lower-resolution display and a single camera instead of the regular G6's dual lenses.

Design: Perfect size, imperfect materials

The Moto G6 is a polarizing concoction of metal and glass. On one hand, the phone is perfectly proportioned, with a curved form that effortlessly nestles itself into your palm and small bezels that put the new 5.7-inch, 18:9 screen at center stage. On the other hand, it can't help feeling a little chintzy compared to the G5 Plus.

The slight cheapness comes from the slab of Gorilla Glass 3 shielding the back of the G6. The G5 Plus employed aluminum, which not only lent a more premium feel but also made the handset more durable. The switchover to glass could help with network connectivity, but the G5 Plus seemed to have no issues picking up a signal, so it's tough to definitively call this a worthwhile trade-off. Of course, many high-end phones use glass, but there's a hollowness to Motorola's application here that doesn't instill confidence.

Ergonomically speaking, this is the most comfortable and sensibly sized smartphone this side of the Galaxy S9. The display is just as large as it needs to be, but the handset is still easy to use one handed. Better yet, Motorola smartly left just enough room in the bottom bezel to keep the fingerprint sensor on the front. That allows for the option of one-button navigation instead of the typical Android on-screen controls — something Motorola's been doing for the last few years, well before Google unveiled its plans to introduce gestures with Android P.

Motorola has transitioned from the micro USB in previous budget devices to USB Type-C in the G6. Fortunately, the company didn't use that opportunity to eliminate the headphone jack, which remains situated next to the charging port on the phone's bottom edge.

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The G6 isn't IP-certified for water resistance, though Motorola says it's given the phone a water-repellent nano-coating. That should at least stave off damage from splashes. Disappointingly, NFC once again isn't part of the package, which means you won't be using the G6 to make any payments in stores via the Google Pay mobile wallet.

Display: Sharp and colorful (but could be brighter)

Extra-wide 18:9 displays have trickled down to budget devices, and so the one in the Moto G6 doesn't bring much we haven't seen from other modestly priced smartphones. The 5.7-inch, 2160 x 1080 LCD panel is sharp enough, with solid color accuracy and average brightness.

The Moto G6 re-created 113 percent of the sRGB color space in our testing. That's perfectly adequate for an LCD. If you need a little more intensity, you can use the optional Vibrant color profile, which dials up the saturation. This suited the trailer for the upcoming fantasy-adventure film Mowgli, where the jungles of India popped off of the screen with warmth and lushness.

Color accuracy remains a strong point of Motorola's budget phones. The G6 notched a Delta-E score of 0.39, which not only tops results from budget rivals like the $199 Honor 7X, but beats the $820 Galaxy S9+ as well.

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However, the G6's peak brightness failed to impress when we measured the display with our light meter. At 413 nits, Motorola's phone was just below the 433-nit smartphone average. By comparison, the G5 Plus turned in 591 nits — impressive given that phone's price, but also one of the brightest panels we tested last year in any handset.

Cameras: Just OK

Motorola has brought its dual-lens imaging tech to the Moto G6. The main, 12-megapixel, f/1.8 sensor is accompanied by another 5-MP one to enable portraits with bokeh effects. Like the Galaxy S9 with its Live Focus mode, the Moto G6 allows you to change the strength of the background blur after shooting.

Motorola has also given the G6's camera Google Lens-like capabilities that allow it to identify landmarks and objects in the frame. The phone also has a document-scanning mode that converts what it sees into editable text.

The G6's Smart Camera, as it's called, identified objects accurately in my experience, though it took upward of 20 seconds on average to return results. That's much too long, especially considering Google Lens is available from within the Photos app and surfaces results instantly.

Special features aside, the Moto G6's cameras are as close to average as any you'll find at this price. Normally, photos on sunny days are a cakewalk for even the least expensive handsets, but the G6 painted this scene in a park in unrealistically cool tones. The Android One-powered Nokia 6.1, which costs $20 more than Motorola's device (and will be reviewed soon), turned in a shot that was a smidge too warm by comparison, but certainly closer to the ideal.

I used this sign to test the Moto G6's selective-focus capabilities, and the dual-camera system did an adequate job of separating the foreground from the background. The detail on the sign itself is also commendable compared to the Nokia 6.1's attempt, which blew out some details and couldn't capture the texture of the surface.

Indoors, the Moto G6 turned in a surprisingly balanced low-light picture of a collection of vinyl figures. There's certainly some noise and a fair bit of blurriness, but overall, it's an improvement on the Nokia's relatively dim shot, which allowed some color from the figures themselves to bleed into the rest of the frame.

Rounding out the comparisons are a couple of selfies from both phones, where the Nokia 6.1 definitely emerged on top. The G6 appears to have a penchant for overly saturated colors, while Nokia's budget phone kept everything in check, with crisp detail and hues that were realistic, rather than dramatic.

Performance: Solid for the price

On paper, the Moto G6's Snapdragon 450 processor might seem like a serious step back from the Snapdragon 625, which delivered an excellent experience in the G5 Plus. However, Qualcomm's latest 400-series chipset functionally equals the power of the older silicon in most use cases, so the difference is negligible.

I certainly didn't notice any hiccups switching between apps in the background, exploring my surroundings using Google Maps or juggling an assortment of tabs in Chrome. The Moto G6's result in Geekbench 4, which measures general performance, demonstrated that the new device outperforms its predecessor, if only by a little bit. Where the G5 Plus posted a score of 3,746, the G6 achieved 3,934.

Graphics performance was nearly the same in the two phones, because the G6 and G5 Plus use the same Adreno 506 GPU. In 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark (the graphics test we typically use for low- and mid-range handsets), the G6 managed a 12,616 score, while the G5 Plus edged it at 13,862.

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Like the Honor 7X, the brand-new Nokia 6.1 or other devices in its class, the Moto G6 is not a great phone for gaming. Sure, it can effortlessly run less demanding titles like Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. But if you're an avid mobile gamer who needs something that can handle more-hardcore multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile, the G6's choppy framerate and low-detail visuals aren't going to cut it.

Moto G6 Specs

Price
$249
OS
Android 8.0 Oreo
Screen Size (Resolution)
5.7-inch LCD (2160 x 1080)
CPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 450
RAM
3GB
Storage
32GB
microSD Slot
Yes, up to 128GB
Rear Camera
Dual: 12 MP (f/1.8) and 5 MP (f/2.2)
Front Camera
8 MP (f/2.2)
Battery Size
3,000 mAh
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)
8:35
Water Resistance
No
Size
6.06 x 2.85 x 0.33 inches

Battery

With a 3,000-mAh battery and Qualcomm's latest energy-sipping processor, we expected the Moto G6 to deliver battery life on par with that of its predecessors. The G5 Plus and G5S Plus had similar size batteries and turned in nearly 12 hours in our testing, which consists of streaming websites on T-Mobile LTE.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as well as expected. The G6 shut down after just 9 hours and 25 minutes. That's 4 minutes longer than the Honor 7X lasted, but far worse than other devices that cost even less, like Motorola's own $169 E4 Plus with its gigantic 4,000-mAh battery. (And the upcoming E5 Plus will feature a 5,000-mAh battery.)

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At least the G6 is relatively quick to charge, thanks to Motorola's TurboPower technology, which provides 6 hours of usage in 15 minutes on the stock adapter. Like most budget phones, though, the G6 doesn't support wireless charging.

Software: Intuitive, but not the latest

Motorola's take on Android 8.0 Oreo is close enough to stock Android that you really can't tell the difference. Still, the Moto G6 isn't an Android One product like the Moto X4 or Nokia 6.1, so owners won't get the latest 8.1 version of Google's OS out of the box, nor are they guaranteed to receive immediate updates as soon as these become available.

That's a shame, because like with so many Motorola phones, the software experience is great. The company neatly packages all of its exclusive features into the Moto app, where you can find various quality-of-life enhancements that make Motorola's phones a pleasure to use.

That includes one-button navigation, which expands usable screen space by moving all the controls to gestures in the fingerprint sensor, as well as popular shortcuts like twisting to launch the camera and chopping to activate the flashlight. Few phone makers understand the difference between gimmicks and genuinely useful features like Motorola does. The lone example of redundancy is Moto Voice, which is functionally a less-capable Google Assistant that can be safely ignored.

The Moto G6 also comes equipped with optional Dolby Audio software, which can be easily turned on or off from the quick-toggle shade. This phone has only one speaker, located in the earpiece, but it's a powerful one that gets reasonably loud. The placement on the front is definitely preferable to a side-mounted speaker, and Dolby's tech actually adds weightiness to music and videos. The bass synth and airy cymbals in Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" came across equally distinct, rather than compressed — more than I can say for the experience on my iPhone 7.

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Those software advantages make it doubly frustrating that Motorola's track record with Android updates has been pitiful over the last few years. For example, the Moto G5 and G5S Plus are still languishing on 7.0 Nougat after Oreo's been out for nearly a year. Even though Motorola has already confirmed that G6 owners are guaranteed Android P (and no further updates after that), history doesn't suggest the new OS will arrive in a timely manner.

Bottom Line

The Moto G6 is a great phone for almost anyone — whether that's a young person in your life or someone who doesn't care to shell out a whole lot on hardware. And we really mean anyone, because the G6's dual-band support allows Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T users alike to purchase an unlocked model with no service commitment and have it work perfectly on their network. That can't be overlooked when the majority of unlocked phones are designed for only GSM carriers.

This phone is also an excellent value. For $249, the G6 guarantees decent performance, thoughtful design, easy-to-use software and a perfectly adequate display. Better cameras and longevity on a charge would be nice, but considering the price, these are compromises that most buyers should be able to live with. Motorola's latest budget offering may not be perfect, but it's all the phone anyone really needs.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide

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  • El Chupacabura
    Any news on if the 64GB version will be coming to the USA?
  • vinylot
    One of the most important features not mentioned in this review is that this phone has network switching capability and will run on Google's Project Fi service or Republic Wireless, and presumably also supports "WiFi calling" on T-Mobile. For the record, Project Fi is selling this phone, WITH activation, for only $200. Also worth noting is that neither the cheaper "Play" version, nor the pricier "Plus" version, have network switching options like this one does.