Motorola Moto G8 Plus review: Lacking in the plus factor

Posted: 2 December 2019 9:00 am
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Motorola Moto G8 Plus

The Motorola Moto G8 Plus is a perfectly fine mid-range phone, but it's one that fails to stand out amidst its impressive competition.

Quick Verdict

There's not a great deal between the Motorola Moto G8 Plus and its immediate predecessor, and in a market where we're seeing some truly great mid-range phones, merely being adequate doesn't quite cut it.

The good

  • Good battery life
  • Motorola is hands-off with Android
  • Included case is pre-installed

The bad

  • Wide angle lens only shoots video
  • Average performance from an average phone

It doesn't feel like it was all that long ago that Motorola brought the Motorola Moto G7 Plus to our shores.

That's because it's only been a matter of months since Motorola's "Plus" branded G-series phone landed here, but the Lenovo-owned brand has rather rapidly replaced it with the Motorola Moto G8 Plus.

In many ways, this is essentially just a specifications bump over the existing G7 Plus, but in a market where we're seeing some real competition in the exact price space that the Moto G8 Plus is pitched at, just tinkering around the edges of the design and feature set really isn't all that exciting.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus

Design

  • 6.3 FH+ display
  • Plastic case is already installed
  • Teardrop notch
  • Still has a headphone jack

Motorola has largely stuck to its design ethos for the Motorola Moto G8 Plus, at least from the front. What you're faced with is a 6.3 inch IPS LCD with a FHD+ (2,280 x 1,080) resolution, which is decent but not that exceptional within this price range. There's a single teardrop notch in the centre of the display. LCD doesn't quite have the colour range of an AMOLED, but it's largely what you'd expect in this price range.

One feature that Motorola has on many of its recent phones has been the inclusion of a simple clear case in the box. That trend continues with the Motorola Moto G8 Plus, and like the recently reviewed Motorola One Macro, it's already installed on the phone when you unpack it. I'm a big fan of protecting phones at any price level, and while the case isn't fancy, it'll get that essential job done.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus

Around the back you'll find the familiar Motorola "Batwing" logo, which also serves as the site for the Motorola Moto G8 Plus' fingerprint reader. One design change here is that the Motorola Moto G8 Plus follows the design language of the Motorola One Vision with a vertically racked set of 3 camera sensors, as well as an LED flash module. The camera module does give the Motorola Moto G8 Plus a slight camera bump, but it's largely blocked out if you have the supplied case installed.

The Motorola Moto G8 Plus sold in Australia only comes in a "Cosmic Blue" finish, and it's a relatively subtle colour that often comes across as more black in some lighting situations.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus

At the top of the phone you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a nice inclusion given that many manufacturers are starting to omit those. The power and volume buttons sit on the right hand side, and one nice design touch here is that the power button has a textured finish so it's easier to identify by touch. This isn't an original idea, but it's a nice inclusion nonetheless.

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Camera

  • Triple lens with 48MP primary sensor
  • Wide angle lens only shoots video because...?

Motorola is keeping up with the times in the mid-range space by equipping the Motorola Moto G8 Plus with three rear camera sensors. The star of the show here is a 48MP f/1.7 sensor that uses quad-pixel technology to improve sensitivity. What that means in practical terms is that you're not actually shooting 48MP shots at any time. By default the regular shooting mode delivers a 4:3 12MP shot, dropping to 9MP in 16:9 or 7.6MP in 19:9 modes.

There's also a 5MP depth sensor, but like every other depth sensor, you're never shooting with that. It's simply present to give depth information to the primary sensor for bokeh-style portrait and focus effects.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus

Then there's a 16MP f/2.2 117 degree ultra-wide lens, which might make you think that in effect this is actually a dual-lens camera for stills and video usage.

Except that the Motorola Moto G8 Plus doesn't even quite manage that. There's a wide-angle lens present, but it's only ever used for video, and only used when shooting holding the phone in portrait mode to take widescreen video captures.

Now, I'll admit that I am that jerk that gets annoyed when I see people shooting video in portrait mode, so I can see the appeal of being able to easily shoot better video. What I do struggle with is having a lens that should also enable good landscape still photography that's absolutely blocked from doing so. It just seems like a weird exclusion for its own sake.

Motorola Moto G8 Plus

Motorola's camera software has remained essentially unchanged for some time, with a pleasant and easy to use interface that enables just a few key shooting modes. It's once again decent-but-not-spectacular territory we're playing with here, and the same observation extends to the Motorola Moto G8 Plus' overall camera performance.

In reasonable light, the Motorola Moto G8 Plus delivers pleasing results, but it's not a high-end camera in any real respect. Low light is a challenge, and while it's not priced at the same level as the Google Pixel 3A, that would still be my go-to camera for low-light work in the mid-range price space.

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Performance

  • Snapdragon 665 hits the mid-range square in the middle
  • Lightly skinned Android 9
  • Moto actions add flexibility

The Motorola Moto G8 Plus runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, which is very much a mid-range 2019 smartphone recipe. It's reflected precisely in its benchmark results, where it sits in the middle of what you can get at its price point.

Here's how the Motorola Moto G8 Plus compares using Geekbench 5's CPU test:

And here's how it compares against mid-range competitors using 3DMark:

The Motorola Moto G8 Plus runs on Android 9, and it's a little disappointing to see a late-2019 phone not offering up Android 10, to be frank. At least it continues Motorola's trend of only lightly skinning Android, with the primary addition being Motorola's own "Moto Actions". These use the embedded motion sensors to enable tasks that kick in when you twist or shake the phone, and they're a long-established and quite fun part of the Motorola experience.

Still, within the mid-range space, the Motorola Moto G8 Plus only manages to be an average phone, rather than one that really excels.

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Motorola Moto G8 Plus

Battery life

  • 4,000mAh battery provides good battery stamina
  • USB C charging with 15W supplied charger

Motorola's Moto G7 Power still sits as one of our favourite budget phones due to its impressive 5,000mAh battery, but that casts a wide shadow over the rest of Motorola's range.

The reality here is that the 4,000mAh battery found in the Motorola Moto G8 Plus is actually a decent capacity, and it's backed up by some quite good battery performance.

By way of comparison, here's how the Motorola Moto G8 Plus compares in our standard test, running a YouTube video for an hour at full brightness and moderate volume to measure battery rundown.

Your own usage day by day may vary, but phones that score in the range of the Motorola Moto G8 Plus are usually always good for a single day's usage, and possibly well into a second if your overall battery usage is only moderate.

Recharging the Motorola Moto G8 Plus is via USB C and the supplied Motorola "Turbocharger" does a fair job of topping up the battery when it runs low. There's no wireless charging, but that's a true rarity at this price point.

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Should you buy the Motorola G8 Plus?

  • There's little essentially wrong with the Motorola Moto G8 Plus
  • But in 2019, average isn't good enough

Motorola has certainly been experimenting with its phone range of late, with models such as the Motorola One Macro and Motorola One Vision.

The Motorola Moto G8 Plus is much more a case of Motorola sticking to a formula that has served it very well in recent years. If you buy a Motorola Moto G8 Plus you'll get an entirely serviceable phone with a decent camera, good battery life and acceptable performance within its price range.

The wide angle lens being video only is rather odd, but there's even some scope there for folks who want a pseudo-GoPro experience to get benefit from it.

However, what it ultimately provides is only an average phone experience, and in 2019 you can do better than this at this price point. Fans of the Motorola approach, and folks upgrading from a G6 or older phone may enjoy the continuity of the Motorola experience, but anyone else looking wider can do better.

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Motorola G8 Plus: Pricing and availability

The Motorola G8 Plus is available in Australia with 64GB of onboard storage in a Cosmic Blue finish for $499 outright.

Motorola G8 Plus: Alternatives

If you wanted to stick with Motorola as a brand, consider the Motorola One Vision phone, which is priced exactly the same as the Motorola Moto G8 Plus at $499.

That same $499 could alternatively pick you up the rather more flexible and stylish realme XT handset.

If your budget can stand the extra cost, the Google Pixel 3A still remains our overall pick for mid-range 2019 handsets.

Motorola G8 Plus Specifications

Display

Camera

Physical dimensions

Connectivity

Power, storage and battery

Device features

Display size 6.3 inches
Resolution 1080 x 2280
Pixels per inch (PPI) 400
Rear camera megapixels 48MP + 16MP + 5MP
Rear camera aperture size f/1.7 + f/2.2 + f/2.2
Video recording 4K
Front camera megapixels 25MP
Front camera aperture size f/2.0
Dimensions 158.35mm x 75.83mm x 9.09mm
Weight 188g
NFC Yes
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Network category speed Category 13
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
RAM 4GB
Operating system Android 9
Internal storage

64GB

External storage support Up to 512GB
Battery capacity 4,000mAh
Headphone jack Yes
Fingerprint sensor Yes
Water resistance IPX2
Wireless charging No
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