Display Analysis

One of the standout features of the original Moto G was its display. It was a 4.5" 1280x720 display, which gave you a higher pixel density than many other smartphones at the same price which still used 960x540 displays. It certainly wasn't the best calibrated display, but for its time it was one of the best you could find in a mid-range smartphone.

Fast forward to 2016, and we now have $200 mid-range phones shipping with 1920x1080 LCD displays. Phones have also continually gotten larger, with 5.5" seemingly being the new norm for mid-range devices. The Moto G progressed from its original 4.5" display to a 5" one with the 2014 and 2015 models, and has now gotten even larger with the 5.5" display on the Moto G4. Like competing smartphones, the Moto G4 also moves to a resolution of 1920x1080. I really feel that this continued increase in size has been at the expense of usability, but I've already mentioned that in this review, and at this point consumers don't really have any smaller alternatives at this price point anyway.

While the first three models of the Moto G maintained a 720p resolution, Motorola improved the accuracy of their displays as well as other attributes like the peak brightness and black levels. With the Moto G4 moving to a 5.5" 1080p display, I'm curious to see if there have been similar improvements to attributes beyond size and sharpness. To examine the display in greater depth than what is presented on a spec sheet, I've run our standard suite of display tests. As always, measurements are performed with an X-Rite i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, and managed using SpectraCal's CalMAN 5 software.

Display - Max Brightness

Display - Black Levels

Display - Contrast Ratio

Both the Moto G4 and G4 Plus achieve a high peak brightness, as well as a relatively low black level relative to that brightness. This leads to the G4 achieving the highest contrast ratio that I've seen on a device at this price point. Among the mid-range devices that I've chosen for comparison, the Moto G4 definitely has the best display as far as brightness and contrast is concerned.

Display - White Point

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

Moto G4 Plus DeltaE 2.92

SpectraCal CalMAN

Moto G4 DeltaE 4.45

Having two devices with the same LCD presents an interesting situation where the two can be compared to examine the degree of variance with the calibration. It was clear to me right after I turned on both phones that the normal Moto G4 exhibited a slight green tint and was warmer than the Moto G4 Plus, which was definitely shifted more toward blue than our target white standard of D65. In both cases gamma is a bit high, although this is more pronounced on the Moto G4 Plus. It's also clear that between these two units, the Moto G4 Plus exhibits a greater level of accuracy. For a phone that starts at $200, I would consider both results to be acceptable, but the greyscale accuracy on the G4 Plus unit is definitely a step ahead of the normal G4 unit.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

Moto G4 Plus DeltaE 3.71

SpectraCal CalMAN

Moto G4 DeltaE 3.25

The tables turn when examining saturation accuracy, as the normal Moto G4 demonstrates a slightly greater level of accuracy. The Moto G4 Plus has higher error levels with blue, cyan, and magenta due to the blue-shifted greyscale. Again, in both cases the display is more than acceptable for a $200 smartphone, but it is interesting to see what tolerances Motorola has for display variance from one unit to another.

Display - GMB Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

Moto G4 Plus DeltaE 4.1

SpectraCal CalMAN

Moto G4 DeltaE 3.88

Accuracy in the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker test is very similar between both Moto G4 units, but the normal G4 again has a slight advantage. This difference is mostly academic, and I would actually argue that you'd be better off with the G4 Plus because in this case the normal G4 has a critical error in the light skin shade, which is a color you're likely to come across more so than others. Ultimately both displays are very good for the price, and I don't think users are going to have any issues with the level of accuracy if it can be assumed that all Moto G4 and G4 Plus phones have similar calibration.

Drawing conclusions about displays can be a bit difficult when you have two devices to compare. On one hand, my less accurate unit could be exceptionally poor. On the other hand, my more accurate unit could be exceptionally good. I can only make concrete conclusions based on the data I've collected, and so it's probably best to evaluate based on the worst results. In this case both devices were similar enough, although the G4 Plus has the display I favor because green shifting in the greyscale is something I find much more bothersome than blue shifting, as I've gotten used to the latter due to its pervasiveness on WLED-backlit LCD displays.

The fact that both displays were relatively close in their accuracy hopefully indicates that users can expect this level of accuracy on any Moto G4 device, although I can't say that for certain. Based on the information I have, I'd say that users buying a Moto G4 should be getting a display that is exceptionally bright, with good black levels, and decent color accuracy, and I think that makes for a pretty good $200 smartphone display.

GPU and NAND Performance Camera
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  • Geranium - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    You know, even on same platform different version gives different result. PC Mark running on Android 4.4 and Android 5.1 will show different results on same device let alone different platform. And many benchmark favours iOS.
  • Brandon Chester - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    It's not surprising that two versions of Android with completely different app runtimes have different performance. Nobody programs their benchmarks to favor a given platform. When iOS devices do well in a given test it's because they have faster hardware/software than competing Android devices, and when Android devices do well it's because they have faster hardware/software than competing iOS devices.
  • invinciblegod - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    What source states that benchmarks discriminate against android? If you are saying that iphones consistently get better scores and that is your basis, then I think the problem isn't the benchmarks. Also, anandtech has many custom benchmarks so there is that.
  • Brandon Chester - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    This isn't a review of Snapdragon 617, it's a review of the Motorola Moto G4. The applications on the Moto G4 use the available APIs on the Android platform, and applications on the iPhone SE use the APIs available on the iOS platform. If one platform's APIs are better/faster (and as a mobile developer I will tell you that is very much the case) then apps using them will be faster than their counterparts on the other platform.

    Performance is not independent of software. We have tests like SPEC for SoC reviews, but for a smartphone it's perfectly valid to compare across APIs and operating systems when that reflects what the apps on those platforms also use. For example, modern games on iOS use Metal, and games on Android use OpenGL ES 3.0/3.1. Why would it somehow be unfair or not comparable to run a benchmark that uses Metal on iOS and OpenGL ES on Android? Isn't that exactly representative of the real apps that those benchmarks are trying to emulate the actions of? You cannot isolate the performance of a smartphone from its operating system and APIs. Tests that are mostly software-agnostic can be interesting from an academic point of view, but such tests are worthless when describing the performance of an actual device.
  • Geranium - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    On same hardware Metal will performe better hhan OpenGL ES.
    Aren't we use same setup to benchmark cpu, gpu or SSD. Even use same version of OS.
  • Brandon Chester - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Yes, and games on iOS use Metal while games on Android use OpenGL ES. The benchmark reflects the performance of the device when playing games, which is exactly what they're supposed to do.
  • greyhulk - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Unless I missed it, I didn't see much mention of the overheating issues that a lot of people are reporting. Did you encounter any during your testing? It seems to occur during camera use or when the phone is run really hard.
  • Brandon Chester - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    That could be why PCMark battery won't complete, but I never noticed the phone getting uncomfortably hot during my usage. I never even thought to monitor temperatures on an S617 device.
  • mrdude - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    The only time I've noticed that it gets hot is when it's turbocharging.
  • zeeBomb - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Ah yes, Brandon delivered. I've been waiting for this review for WEEKS!

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