Reviews

Moto G4 Plus review

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There are a daunting number of choices when it comes to “good but cheap” smartphones.

Lenovo, now the owner of the Motorola brand, makes a compelling argument if you need the basics covered well and on the cheap. Its near-stock software with the promise of upgrades doesn’t hurt the Moto G4 Plus, either.

Plastic unfantastic

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There’s a soft disappointment to the Moto G4 Plus that can be seen, not felt. We don’t mind the plasticky feel too much; hell, other manufacturers come out with unapologetically plastic phones all the time. Its design, if you haven’t noticed yet, is a sticking point, especially at a time when fairly attractive budget phones (with metal all over the place, mind you) represent an emerging trend in many markets.

[irp posts=”4774″ name=”Moto Z Play first look”]

It just looks sort of… out of place to us — as if somehow a Samsung Galaxy clone from 2012/2013 has made its way to the present, and is taking over retail shelves. A couple of clever design features we take for granted today are nowhere to be found in the G4 Plus, like curved 2.5D glass and sides and bezels that reduce the overall footprint, resulting in a device that isn’t as comfortable to hold and operate as others.

The G4 Plus has plastic on it like it was made in 2012… by another OEM. Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and even Samsung have shown time and again, this year and before, they could offer more — and ask less. But to be fair, the plastic all around the G4 Plus seems to be of the durable kind, and there isn’t any creak or hollowness in the bodywork.

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There’s no obnoxious branding or design flourishes other than the Motorola dimple in the near-center of the textured back cover.

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Which peels off easily enough to reveal the microSD and SIM card slots.

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The thick plastic frame looks cheap, with its matte-silver finish.

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The front houses a speaker that doubles as an earpiece. The audio is better than we anticipated and loud and clear enough to watch movies without resorting to headphones.

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There’s also a front-facing fingerprint reader that wakes the phone with a tap. It doesn’t double as a clickable home button, though, even if it looks like one, and the square design doesn’t quite match the rounded shape of the body.

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All hardware buttons (power/lock key and volume rocker) can be found on the right portion of the G4 Plus. Regrettably, they feel mushy and provide little tactile feedback to the user.

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A USB charging port is on the bottom for when the G4 Plus inevitably dies after a full day’s use. The good news: Topping up the 3,000mAh battery won’t take too much of your time — around 90 minutes from zero to full using the bundled quick charger, at least from what we’ve seen so far. Like other fast chargers, it charges hard out of the gate, but slows down as the battery approaches a full charge.

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Screen’s a plus

The LCD panel has a resolution of 1080p, which represents an improvement over the 720p display of previous Moto G iterations. But unlike the standard G4, the G4 Plus squeezes a larger, 5.5-inch screen into the front. It’s par for the course in the segment, although the G4 Plus produces bright colors, rich contrast, and deep blacks.

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It also has viewing angles that are categorically superior to those of most budget handsets and affordable midrangers we’ve used. You can see what’s on the screen no matter where you look at the display from, is the point we’re trying to make here.

Ditto for the cameras

The rear camera has a 16-megapixel sensor that captures good photos in mixed lighting, even in auto mode. It gets fancy with laser-assisted autofocus to judge the distance between the handset and the subject and to help the camera perform better overall. Tap the screen to lock onto someone or something, press the shutter key, and you’re generally good to go.

The 5-megapixel selfie snapper is quick to focus and shoot, and results tend to have lots of detail and vitality. Even more so when HDR mode is activated. It comes with a screen flash option, which briefly brightens the display to allow the camera to capture more light; it works like the one on Apple’s iPhones.

Moto’s camera UI is both simple and intuitive. Swiping from the left-hand portion of the screen brings up the settings menu; swiping up or down on the screen applies digital zoom. You can tap and hold on the screen to freeze focus and tweak exposure values.

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There’s also a manual mode for the adept and knowledgeable photographer.

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What about gaming and performance?

Most games should run without hiccups; however, hardcore users wanting to play the latest graphics-intensive games at high visual settings may find the phone’s mid-level processor inadequate. Everyday performance is relatively hitch-free, with nary a slowdown as you glide through screens and switch between apps.

Partly to thank for that is Motorola’s decision to stick with mostly stock Android (Marshmallow, for the time being) for the G4 Plus. We must say, after using it extensively, this phone does indeed feel unencumbered by features you don’t need and pre-installed applications you don’t want.

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Many of Moto’s own software tweaks aim to make your life a little easier. Twisting your wrist twice, for example, will launch the camera app.

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Raising the G4 Plus to your face will show you notifications without having to wake up the phone.

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You can likewise perform a chopping motion twice to toggle the flashlight.

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Is this your GadgetMatch?

Motorola’s G4 Plus picks up where previous generations left off. It’s just a terrific value for the price, with the 16GB version starting at $249. For $50 more, you’re looking at enough storage space (64GB) and RAM (4GB from 2GB) to last you until the next upgrade. The bottom line is that should consider the Plus, largely because of its display, camera, and unencumbered performance.

And if you’re a big fan of stock Android, you may want to ready your wallet and mouse-clicking finger already; look no further if you want an affordable Nexus/Pixel alternative in 2016.

[irp posts=”7615″ name=”Best of 2016: Budget phones under $300″]

Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

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It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

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Drones

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Review: 1 month in

Not a perfect drone, but…

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We won’t bore you with a rundown of its specs, but instead, we’ll give you the lowdown on DJI’s new drone — what works, what doesn’t, and what’s there to love. This is our DJI Mavic 2 Pro review.

 

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Reviews

Apple iPad Pro (2018) Review: Not just a laptop replacement

It can be so much more

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Apple’s new iPad Pro is more beautiful, more powerful, and more useful. In this review, we answer the question in everyone’s head: Can it replace your laptop?

To see the iPad Pro as merely a possible laptop replacement is an injustice to the purpose it serves. It’s already a given that this is a great tablet, but this is a pro device and is more than just that. Its premium price tag can be justified by what it can enable creative professionals, business people, and even journalists to accomplish.

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