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Motorola Moto G7 review: The best budget phone just got better

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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.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 8

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.

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 ($520 at Amazon) or Galaxy S9 as far as attracting smudges. Seriously, look out, CSI and Law and Order.

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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.

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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.

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