Motorola Moto G8 review: Great value, but display could be better

Motorola has turned the diversification of its budget Moto G smartphone family into something of an art form. At the time of writing, it comprises the £179.99 (inc. VAT) Moto G8 reviewed here, the £219 Moto G8 Power, the £149.99 Moto G8 Power Lite and the £239.99 Moto G8 Plus. There are variations in design as well as specifications, so making the right choice could prove challenging. On the other hand, perhaps there’s no need to go further than the baseline Moto G8. Let’s find out. 

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The 6.4-inch Snapdragon 665-based Moto G8 has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, and weighs 188.3g.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Motorola has done a decent job of making the Moto G8 look like a far more expensive handset than it is. It may not feel like it’s made from premium materials (not surprising, because it isn’t), but nor does it look as though build costs have been cut to the bone.

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The screen isn’t curved, and there are noticeable bezels, particularly at the bottom of the screen. A small punch-hole selfie camera sits in the top left of the screen, so there’s no front-camera notch. 

There are two colour options for the backplate — Pearl White and Neon Blue, which I was sent. It’s a nice shade of blue, and while there’s no shimmering reflectiveness, there is a thin vertical stripe effect that adds a touch of visual interest. The polycarbonate material used is not quite as slippery as a glass back, but the handset still slid off my armchair more often than I’d like.

The circular cutout at the back bearing the Motorola branding houses the fingerprint sensor, which sat very comfortably under either forefinger. Even after using an in-screen sensor for a long time, I find the rear-mounted sensor position intuitive and in some ways preferable as it’s more ergonomic to use.

There is a 3.5mm headset jack on the top edge of the phone, which some will find handy, while charging is via a USB-C port at the bottom. 

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The Moto G8 measures 75.8mm wide by 161.27mm deep by 8.95mm thick and weighs 188.3g, and it’s clear that the build materials have been chosen to meet a tight budget. That said, it stands up well enough compared to other budget phones, and there are no glaring industrial design issues.

According to Motorola’s website the Moto G8 has a ‘water repellent design’, but there’s no formal IP rating. The small print says “Advanced water-repellent design creates a barrier to help protect against moderate exposure to water such as accidental spills, splashes, sweat or light rain. Not designed to be submerged in water, or exposed to pressurised water, or other liquids. Not waterproof.”  

The 6.4-inch screen is a somewhat lacklustre IPS panel — even switching between ‘natural’, ‘boosted’ and ‘saturated’ colour themes doesn’t make the display any more scintillating to look at. But that’s not the main issue: the resolution is just 1,560 by 720 pixels (269ppi). A higher-quality screen would obviously boost the price, but it’s worth noting that text on the Moto G8 can look a bit rough around the edges. For many activities it will be fine, but if you are a big reader of email, web pages, ebooks or other words on your phone, you may well want a higher quality screen.

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The Moto G8 runs on Android 10 and is a clean, bloatware-free installation. The usual range of Motorola goodies and gesture controls sit under a Moto app icon. Attentive Display uses the front camera to know when you’re looking at the screen and keeps it switched on. Peek Display gives you a quick look at notifications when the screen is off if you swipe. Gametime offers various tweaks to notifications, call and screen settings so you can game more immersively. There are also Moto Actions such as a dual karate chop to activate the flashlight, and a double twist of the wrist to open the camera.

The core specifications are relatively basic, as you’d expect for a budget smartphone. 

The Moto G8 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 chipset with 4GB of RAM. I found there were short waits while web pages loaded and apps decided to run, which is to be expected with a mid-range processor. It managed Geekbench 5 scores of 312 (single core) and 1402 (multi core). The last handset I reviewed with this processor, the Oppo A5 2020, which had just 3GB of RAM, scored 313 and 1384 respectively. (Flagship handsets based on the top-end Snapdragon 865 chipset turn in Geekbench scores of 800+ and 3000+.)

There is just 64GB of internal storage, of which 14.6GB was already in use on my review handset out of the box, leaving just 49.4GB free. MicroSD storage is available, but you’ll have to choose between this and the second SIM slot.

The Moto G8’s 4,000mAh battery did well under the PC Mark battery rundown test, blasting away for 16 hours and 40 minutes before giving up with 18% of charge remaining. In everyday use the battery should get most people through a full day.

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There are three cameras on the back of the Moto G8: 16MP f/1.7, 2MP f/2.2 macro and 8MP f/2.2 118° ultra-wide angle. The front selfie camera is an 8MP f/2.2 unit. The main and macro lenses shoot decent enough photos, and the ultra-wide angle lens is only disappointing when compared to those on much higher specified handsets. If most of your photography is outdoors in good lighting conditions, you should have few complaints.

One notable absentee from the spec sheet is NFC. This rules out contactless payments, which might be a deal-breaker for some.

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Conclusions 

Budget handsets are all about managing the trade-offs between adding features and meeting a challenging price point. With the Moto G8 the most obvious savings have been made on the screen, whose relatively low resolution affects text readability in particular. The build quality is nothing special, but perfectly OK, while the lack of an IP rating isn’t really surprising in this market segment. The absence of NFC may be more problematic for some.

The 3.5mm headset jack and serviceable cameras are welcome, but the big plus is a 4,000mAh battery that ensures plenty of handset usage between charges. All in all, the Moto G8 delivers a good set of features and capabilities at a competitive price.

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