The Good The Motorola Moto G7 has a slick contemporary design, a dewdrop notch display, decent dual rear cameras, turbo charging, solid battery life and a near-stock version of Android 9 Pie making it worth every penny.

The Bad The single speaker is merely serviceable, low-light photos and general video quality isn’t fantastic and the phone costs $50 more than last year’s Moto G6.

The Bottom Line The Moto G7 is the best budget phone we’ve tried hands down.

It’s easy to be lured by flagship phones such as the iPhone XS, Pixel 3 or Galaxy S10. Each has a cutting edge design and bounty of features, but they also come with a hefty price. Even Apple and Samsung’s more value-oriented phones such as the Galaxy S10E and the iPhone XR will set you back $750. That’s why it’s undoubtedly impressive that the Motorola Moto G7 ($300 at Amazon) costs only $300. It offers the best balance of design, features and price in pretty much any phone sold today.

The Moto G family of phones has a history of being filled with well-considered necessities stamped with an attractive price. Over the past two years, the Moto G5 Plus ($300 at Amazon) and Moto G6 showed us just how nice a budget phone can be. And this year’s Moto G7 continues in the same direction with a similar body to the Moto G6 and an increased the battery life, a faster processor and larger display.

Compare

Motorola Moto G7 (ceramic black)

Motorola Moto G7

LG G8 ThinQ (128GB, aurora black)

LG G8 ThinQ

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus (128GB, prism black)

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Apple iPhone XR (64GB, black)

Apple iPhone XR

Google Pixel 3 (64GB, clearly white)

Google Pixel 3

DESIGN
8
8
9
9
8
FEATURES
8
8
9
9
8
PERFORMANCE
8
9
9
10
9
CAMERA
7
8
8.5
8
9
BATTERY
8
10
10
10
9
OVERALL
8.0
8.5
9.0
8.9
8.9
PRICE $300 Amazon $830 AT&T Wireless $986 Amazon $650 Amazon $699 Walmart

I’ve used the Moto G7 for the past couple weeks and it’s clear this is the best budget phone out there right now.

The Moto G7 costs $50 more than last year’s Moto G6 which is a significant increase, but I think all the improvements are worth it. Also, the Moto G7 is already on sale. Google sells it for $249 when you activate the phone on GoogleFi. And there’s a $30-off coupon when you buy it direct from Motorola’s website.

And since we’re talking Moto, be sure to check out our live testing of Verizon’s 5G network with the Moto Z3 using the 5G Moto Mod.

A bigger screen inside a slightly larger body

The Moto G7 looks dapper. Much like the G6, the Gorilla Glass 3 front and back give it a slick, modern vibe. But the G7 deserves an award for being so easy to cover in fingerprint smudges. It ranks up there with the OnePlus 6($525 at Amazon) or Galaxy S9 as far as attracting smudges. Seriously, look out, CSI and Law and Order.

moto-g7-2

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The front of the Moto G7 is dominated by a 6.2-inch screen with a dewdrop notch cutout for the selfie camera.

Angela Lang/CNET

Whereas the Moto G6 had a 5.7-inch display, the G7 is able to cram a 6.2-inch display into a similarly sized body. A dewdrop notch helps bring the screen closer to the edges which have bezels thinner than those on the iPhone XR. The display has nice contrast and looks good in most situations. It definitely won’t wow you like screens found on midrange or premium phones.

The corners on the screen are much more pronounced than the tiny ones on the Moto G6. And while most apps adapt to them, sometimes, like when I played PUBG, the game would fill the bottom two corners of the display but have a black bar across the top. It’s a little odd and if you’re sensitive to such things it might drive you nuts.

The fingerprint reader has been moved from below the screen to the back. Its position is easy to find and use. The tiny Motorola logo on the fingerprint reader is cute.

Aside from the Motorola name on the bottom front of the phone, the Moto G7 has an appealing design. It has both a headphone jack and a USB-C port. There’s a single speaker on the bottom which serviceably played some Louis Prima in the kitchen while I made dinner, but it often sounded tinny. And the Moto G7 is rated IP54 for dust and water resistance. You can’t submerge it, but a little spritz should be fine.

Dual rear cameras, 4K video and slow motion on a $300 phone

There are dual rear cameras (a 12-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel depth camera). They won’t compete with the likes of the Pixel 3, iPhone XS or even the more modest OnePlus 6T. But the Moto G7 offers a solid C- camera experience — and that isn’t a knock. The cameras are impressive for $300, especially considering they can shoot 4K video, portrait mode photos and slow-motion video. Overall photos from the G7 have decent image quality. But Motorola seems to follow Samsung’s belief that brighter photos are better. This is also in line with the blind camera test Marques Brownlee did in December where people overwhelmingly chose brighter photos as the best photos.

moto-g7-7

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I was surprised by how many decent photos I got with the Moto G7.

Patrick Holland/CNET

HDR mode definitely improved the photos in most situations. But the live view can be frustrating in use because it shows a low-quality preview of the photo that doesn’t look like the final HDR picture, which almost always looked better. You have to put a lot of faith in Moto’s camera mojo every time you press the shutter. It seems processing might be the culprit here.

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In good light, the Moto G7’s cameras are capable of some good photos.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Some photos showed signs of moire, a ripple effect that appears on patterns or textures. Photos taken in low light can appear painterly due to all the noise correction the Moto G7 applies.

There are a bunch of fun modes: There’s portrait mode, time lapse, cinegraphs and color removal. It also has Google Lens, which displays relevant information about objects, landmarks and animals in photos taken with the camera.

Portrait mode works well on the whole but it occasionally had trouble with edges. Thankfully you can change the focus point and amount of blur after the fact to really make portrait photos pop.

small-portrait-mode-abrar

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This portrait was taken using the auto-smile capture feature on the Moto G7.

Patrick Holland/CNET

If you’re a heavy phone video shooter, the G7 won’t be for you. Videos look OK in good light, but they suffer from noise and a limited dynamic range. Videos are oversaturated. But if you want to occasionally record a fun moment with friends or something adorable that your child does, this phone is more than capable.

For more photos and camera features from the Moto G7 take a look at this gallery:

But here’s an interesting wrinkle. If you’re savvy enough to install the Google Camera app (Gcam apk), which is essentially the camera app used on the Pixel 3, you’ll be rewarded. The results are eye opening. Photos taken with the Google Camera app on the Moto G7 have more detail, dynamic range and better color. They’re still not as good as the Pixel 3, but using this app takes the Moto G7 camera from C- to a solid B for photos.

Take a look at the two photos above of my cat. In the one taken with the native Moto G7 camera app the details in her fur look muddy and over sharpened. In the photo taken with the Google Camera app, her fur has much more detail and dynamic range. There are crops of the photos below.

Here are 100 percent crops of the photos above. The one from the Moto G7’s default camera app is on the left and the Gcam version is on the right.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The selfie camera is OK. There’s an auto-smile setting where it won’t take a photo until everyone in the frame is smiling — this also works on the rear cameras, too. The feature worked imperfectly but it did allow me to capture some goofy photos of me and my friends. Selfie photos, particularly people’s skin, were often undersaturated. There’s also a portrait mode on the front-facing camera that yields decent results.

While I do have criticism about the cameras, keep in mind that this is a $300 phone.

Android 9 Pie and a Snapdragon 632 processor

The Moto G7 runs Android 9 Pie with few customizations, and that’s good if you’re a fan of stock Android. Overall the experience is simple and straightforward, which makes the Moto G7 so appealing. There are also all the fun shortcuts Motorola adds. Twist your wrist twice to open the camera — my favorite way to open a camera on any phone. Lay the Moto G7 face down to trigger Do Not Disturb mode. There’s One Button Nav, which adds a small bar on the bottom of the screen that you can tap, hold or swipe to trigger different actions. There’s an always-on screen where you can hover your hand over the display to see the time.

The Moto G7 supports the Call Screen feature found on Pixel phones, which lets you monitor calls from an unrecognized number via Google’s service. A transcript is shown of the conversation in actual time. The idea is to minimize the number of robocalls you get.

The Snapdragon 632 processor makes the Moto G7 much faster than the Moto G6. In everyday use, I didn’t notice any lag or stutters in animations or apps opening.

I played a few games on the Moto G7, including Alto’s Odyssey and PUBG (in low-quality mode). I was impressed how well the phone handled the graphics in Alto’s Odyssey and the fact that after playing about an hour’s worth of PUBG the phone was barely warm.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Moto G7

941

Moto G6

818

iPhone 7

3,694

Google Pixel 2

4,424

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Moto G7

14,803

Moto G6

12,792

iPhone 7

35,662

Google Pixel 2

39,267

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

Moto G7

1,260

Moto G6

740

iPhone 7

3,500

Google Pixel 2

1,917

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

Moto G7

4,772

Moto G6

3,940

iPhone 7

5,977

Google Pixel 2

6,396

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

The Moto G7 gives you even more battery life

Probably my biggest complaint about the Moto G6 was its battery life. In our tests, the G6 lasted 9 hours and 51 minutes playing a looped video in Airplane mode. The Moto G7 on the other hand lasted 12 hours and 51 minutes. That’s a 3 hour improvement.

The Moto G7 doesn’t have wireless charging but can be charged fast via its “Turbopower” charger. The phone took 25 minutes to go from 2% to 48%.

Moto G7 vs. G7 Play, G7 Power and G7 Plus

Aside from the Moto G7 I tested for this review, Motorola also makes three other variations. There’s the Moto G7 Plus which isn’t sold in the US but adds better rear cameras, optical image stabilization and a faster processor. The Moto G7 Power is all about that battery. It has a 5,000-mAh battery as opposed to the 3,000-mAh one in the Moto G7. And the Moto G7 Play is a paired down Moto G7 that starts at $200.

For an in-depth comparison of the Moto G7 family of phones check out this CNET article.

Google Pixel 2 vs. Moto G7

The Pixel 2 launched in October 2017, but a new one is still available on Amazon for $340. You get the same amount of storage and a better camera but a smaller screen. The Moto G7 looks more modern than the Pixel 2. And the screen and plastic body of the Pixel 2 shows more scratches and wear and tear than the glass body of the Moto G7.

Google’s phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, but at $340 it’s hard to pass up. If taking photos is a priority, I’d go for the Pixel 2. Otherwise, the Moto G7 seems like the smart choice.

iPhone 7 vs. Moto G7

It’s been easy for the past few years to cite the Moto G line of phones as one of the best bargains you can buy. But obviously if you’re used to iOS one consideration is whether the low price justifies switching to Android.

Right now, the most affordable phone Apple sells is the two and a half year old iPhone 7 ($630 at Walmart). It has a faster processor and a better camera. However, it costs $450, has a smaller screen, comes with half the built-in storage and gets over 3 hours less battery life in our tests.

As someone who owned an iPhone 7 for two years, it’s hard for me to say that it’s worth one and a half times the cost of the Moto G7. Of course, if your friends and family are on iMessage and FaceTime, the iPhone 7 is the smarter buy. But if you can live without those services, the Moto G7 deserves your consideration.

Moto G7 specs vs. Moto G7 Plus, G6, iPhone 7, Pixel 2

Motorola Moto G7 Motorola Moto G7 Plus Motorola Moto G6 Apple iPhone 7 Google Pixel 2
Display size, resolution 6.2-inch LCD; 2,270×1,080 pixels 6.2-inch LCD; 2,270×1,080 pixels 5.7-inch LCD; 2,160×1,080 pixels 4.7-inch; 1334×750 pixels 5-inch; 1,920×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 403ppi 403ppi 424ppi 326 ppi 441 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.18×2.96×0.31 in 6.18×2.96×0.33 in 6.1×2.8×0.3 in 5.44×2.64×0.28 in 5.7x 2.7×0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 157×75.3×8 mm 157×75.3×8.3 mm 153.8×72.3×8.3 mm 138.3×67.1×7.1 mm 145.7×69.7×7.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.07 oz.; 172 g 6.2 oz.; 176 g 5.9 oz; 167 g 4.87 oz; 138 g 5.04 oz; 143 g
Mobile software Android 9.0 Android 9.0 Android 8.0 Oreo Apple iOS 10 Android 9.0
Camera 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel 16-megapixel, 5-megapixel 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 12-megapixel 8-megapixel 7-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 1080p 4K 4K
Processor 1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 1.8 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 Apple A10 chip Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Storage 64GB 64GB 32GB, 64GB 32GB, 128GB 64GB, 128GB
RAM 4GB 4GB 3GB or 4GB N/A 4GB
Expandable storage Up to 512GB Up to 512GB 128GB None None
Battery 3,000-mAh 3,000-mAh 3,000-mAh 14 hour talk time on 3G, 10 days standby, 12 hours internet use on LTE 2,700-mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back Back Below screen Home button Back cover
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes Yes No No
Special features Water repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging Water repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging Splash-proof, 15-watt fast charger Water and dust-resistant, Taptic Home button Squeezable sides
Price off-contract (USD) $299 300 euros, converts to about $340 $249 $449 (32GB), $549 (128GB) $330 (64GB)
Price (GBP) Converts to £231 Converts to about £265 £239 £449 (32GB), £549 (128GB) Converts to £250
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$421 Converts to about AU$480 AU$399 AU$749 (32GB), AU$919 (128GB) Converts to AU$465

Originally published April 3 at 3 a.m. PT

Update, April 6: Added Google Call Screen feature.

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