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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  • Barkuti - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Welcome to another member of the now ever increasing @#$% slabphone family, comprising in the following sizes to fulfill not so everyone's needs: mammoth, beluga, Moby-dick, Jahre Viking…
    For the love of God, @#$%!!!
  • Teknobug - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    I'm somewhat interested in the G4 Plus, however it has an IPS display, kind of hard to go back to that after using an AMOLED for a long time. I still have my Moto X 2013 which is 4.7", the display is fantastic.
  • WPX00 - Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - link

    The dimmest display ever tested by phoneArena and among the dimmest according to AT, and also one of the brighest at lowest setting plus color rendering issues is fantastic?
  • raju516 - Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - link

    Moto x 2013 has good color calibration when compared to moto x 2014 which is worst. Also moto x 2013 dose not use pentile layout for its panel. However display is dim but I like it
  • jb14 - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Thanks for the interesting review Brandon and well timed for me. I am looking for a phone under £200 after my trusty Samsung SII's WiFi finally failed this week. I've noticed in my search for a replacement that the Nexus 5x 16GB has now dropped to £200 (argos) so has now surprisingly joined the competition. It seems the 5x is a significant step up in most categories compared to these phones?
  • cbf - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Brandon --

    I think you're doing a disservice to your readership by not covering Motorola's software update policies in your article, the ways Ars has: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/07/motorola-co...

    I strongly advise my friends and family to avoid any vendors that aren't diligent about releasing Google's monthly security updates to Android -- which unfortunately, is just about all the Android OEMs. (Some, like Samsung, are pretty good for their flagship phones, but ignore most of their less expensive models.) Maybe if more journalists made this an important aspect of a review, we'd get better behavior from the OEMs (and yes, the carriers as well).

    Otherwise, it's only Nexus phones for me and mine.
  • Lau_Tech - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    Thanks for the good review Brandon! And timely as well.!

    I repeat my opinion: You and Matt Humrick should do the flagship phone reviews. Anandtech has had a very odd year where most of the flagship phone reviews are late and the entry-level phone reviews are not.
  • WPX00 - Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - link

    Untrue about Samsung ignoring budget devices. I have a $150 Galaxy J2 that gets those updates once every so often, maybe not every month but once every 2 or 3. But then again you can say the same about my GS7's updates.
  • aryonoco - Monday, August 15, 2016 - link

    It would be great if Anandtech started to pay a little bit of attention to the Android Security Patch level that a device ships with as well.

    It should be noted that these phones are already well behind Google's monthly security patches, which mean that Motorola is selling devices with known remote root vulnerabilities, something that is definitely anti-consumer and borderline unethical in my opinion. Furthermore, Motorola has said that they won't be releasing monthly security updates. Their 2015 phones have also been very tardy in receiving Marshmallow, and have gotten security updates only very irregularly.

    With all the attention to detail that AT pays to small details like the pixel size of the camera, I find it baffling how the update situation and how of timely security patches are completely ignored on this website.
  • Teknobug - Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - link

    If this is true, then my concerns of Motorola getting sold to a Chinese firm was legit.

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