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Motorola Moto G31 review: Decent, but you can do better

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
170
inc. VAT

The Moto G31 is a solid budget phone, but smart shoppers can get more bang for their buck elsewhere

Pros 
Incredible screen for the price
Phenomenal battery life
Clean installation of Android
Cons 
Similar performance to last year’s G30
You can get better speeds for less
Video isn’t great
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Last year, we saw an absolute glut of Moto G smartphones, ranging from the G10 all the way to the G100. For 2022, we’ve so far got two new handsets: the G200, which packs in a whole lot of stuff for £400, and this, the budget-friendly Moto G31. 

 

And while the G200 is a follow up to last year’s G100, the Moto G31 is an upgrade to the G30 which, numerically speaking at least, sounds a lot less ambitious. However, does the Moto G31 deserve another recommendation, or is it simply an incremental improvement as the name suggests?


Motorola Moto G31 review: What you need to know

While the Moto G30 played things safe with a budget Qualcomm processor – the 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 662 – the G31 takes a risk by switching over to the MediaTek Helio G85. It’s another octa-core 2GHz chip, so it’s debatable how much of an upgrade it will be, but it’s nonetheless a difference. There’s still 4GB of RAM and a chunky 5,000mAh battery inside, but the screen tech has been upgraded from a simple 720p IPS panel to a 1080p AMOLED affair.

Elsewhere, there are a few downgrades. The 2MP depth sensor has been dropped, and we’re left with a triple-camera array consisting of a 50MP main camera (down from 64MP), an 8MP wide sensor and a 2MP macro lens. 
 
Notably, the G31 remains a 4G-only handset. That’s probably not a deal breaker considering the limited 5G coverage, but it does leave questions about the phone’s longevity.

Motorola Moto G31 review: Price and competition

All of this is yours for £170, which is the same price as the excellent Realme 7.  Crucially, that also represents a £9 increase on the Moto G30’s RRP, though it can now be had for around £150.

If you want a version with 128GB of storage instead of 64GB, then you need to pay £190. That increase makes it more of a competitor for handsets in the £200 to £250 price bracket, which covers everything from the Nokia G50 and Poco X3 NFC (both £200) to the excellent Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro (£250). 

Motorola Moto G31 review: Design

As well as losing a lens on the back, the Moto G31 is marginally smaller than its predecessor, although it’s still not exactly what you’d call tiny, given its 6.4in display and hefty design that tips the scales at 181g. Nonetheless, it’s still 16g lighter than last year’s phone, and only half a millimetre thicker at 8.6mm.

The bezels are still quite prominent, especially around the chin of the device, and once again we’re treated to a holepunch selfie camera at the top of the display in the middle. Flip it over and the drop to three lenses certainly makes for a neater camera array, with the sensors arranged vertically in the top-left corner. They protrude a little, but not enough to result in any serious wobble when the phone is placed on its back.
 
Although it comes with an optional transparent plastic case for added grip, it’s not really necessary, as Motorola has replaced the smooth plastic finish with one that’s finely textured, with curved thin lines cascading out from around the camera section. It’s not the kind of thing you notice unless you’re looking closely, but it’s a nice touch and extra grip is always welcome.
 
There’s a circular Motorola logo on the back, but this time it doesn’t incorporate the fingerprint reader, which instead moves to the power button on the right-hand side. For my money, that’s a sensible move as it’s a far more natural way to hold a handset. Overall, it’s a good-looking phone and I’m pleased to say that despite the reduced thickness, Motorola has still found room for a 3.5mm headphone jack in the top. The SIM card holder supports either a second SIM or a microSD card to expand the storage, which is a good inclusion – especially as the cheaper version of the handset only has 64GB of storage built in.

Motorola Moto G31 review: Screen

The main upgrade for the Moto G31 seems to be the addition of an FHD AMOLED screen. It’s a large one, too, measuring 6.4in from corner to corner, with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080, which equates to around 411 pixels per inch – a big advance on the 720p panel in the G30.

Our colorimeter confirms the huge improvement, measuring 92.6% of the sRGB gamut covered with a volume of 93.5% and an average Delta E (colour variance) score of 1.46. That means you’re getting a tonally accurate screen for the price, and as it’s OLED you’re also getting infinite contrast, which IPS can’t beat. It’s also over 100cd/m² brighter, at 440cd/m² – which isn’t always what you’d expect from a switch to OLED.
 
But it’s not all good news. While last year’s handset offered 90Hz refresh rates on its IPS screen, here we’re back down to 60Hz. That’s certainly a swap worth making in my eyes, but you may favour smoothness over contrast and colour accuracy, especially if you want to play certain games at higher frame rates.
 
However you paint it, it’s an excellent screen for the price, however, and more than you should be getting for £170. Good job, Motorola.

Motorola Moto G31 review: Performance

All that is for naught if the phone doesn’t perform to a satisfactory standard, and Motorola has taken the unusual step of ditching Qualcomm in favour of MediaTek’s Helios G85 SoC.

Like the Snapdragon 662 inside the Moto G30, this is another octa-core 2GHz chip, so performance should be mostly similar on paper.

 
There are two ways of painting the results above. On one hand, while it’s marginally slower on the multicore benchmark, there’s not enough in it that you’d actively notice the difference between the two.
 
But on the other, there’s a question about whether or not actively slipping backwards is good enough, especially when the phone costs more. And as you can see, every other phone in the list is faster than both, which isn’t a good position for the newest phone of the bunch to be in.

 
As you can see, graphical performance is a bit hit and miss, too. With a standardised 1080p resolution offscreen, the Moto G31 is marginally better than the Moto G30, but there’s again very little in it, and it’s still leagues behind the Nokia G50, Realme 7 and Poco X3 NFC.
 
It’s not all bad, though. Battery life is truly astonishing, which makes us think that the MediaTek processor must be remarkably more energy-efficient.

 
The Moto G31 managed nearly a full day of looped video in our standardised test, and while none of the handsets we’re comparing it to is exactly weak on the stamina front, it’s a clear win for the Moto if battery is most important for you.

Motorola Moto G31 review: Camera

As mentioned in my introduction, the Moto G31’s camera setup is a downgrade on the previous generation, with four lenses replaced by three, and the main sensor dropping from 64MP to 50MP.

But it’s better to do three cameras well than four badly, and the specs of the Moto G31’s setup are still pretty promising. The main 50MP camera features an f/1.8 aperture, and it’s supported by a 8MP wide lens with a f/2.2 sensor. The final 2MP lens is for macro photography, and while the specification sounds limited, in truth it’s not the kind of thing you’re likely to use much.

But numbers can only take you so far, and much comes down to how the phone processes images after the hardware has done its stuff, which can’t be measured by specs. So, how does the Moto G31 fare?

With decent light, the Moto G31’s camera is perfectly capable of taking some good-quality shots, as the picture of the church above demonstrates.

When zoomed in, you see that the phone maintains quite a bit of detail, and holds its own against the £200 Nokia G50, which also adds a slightly unnatural yellow tint to proceedings.
 
But this doesn’t tell the full story. There’s a slight but noticeable delay between pressing the shutter and the camera snapping, which can prove frustrating with timings, and this also makes it pretty easy to get blurry images, too.
 
Get around that, however, and even in lower light, the Moto G31 puts up a decent fight. Here’s a photo of my garden just as the sun is beginning to recede for the day.

And here it is zoomed in, and once again compared to the Nokia G50.

Here it becomes pretty clear that the Moto is oversaturating the image to compensate, but it’s not a bad effort. It beats the Nokia G50’s weirdly purple composition, and there’s plenty of detail visible – that’s pretty acceptable for a £170 phone.
 
The front-facing camera is a 13MP snapper with an f/2.2 aperture. Results are perfectly good for video calls and selfies, and pleasingly there’s no overbearing beauty settings by default. Even when enabled, it’s pretty low key.

Unfortunately, the results I got shooting video (1080p at 30fps) weren’t good at all. Blurry, lacking in detail and not hugely stable, either. You can possibly get some reasonable results from it, but you’ll need a lot more patience than me – and probably a gimbal, too.

Motorola Moto G31 review: Verdict

The Moto G31 is quite a likeable phone in many ways. The screen is top notch for the price, and the battery seems to last forever. The camera, while unlikely to win over serious photographers, is also capable of getting good results with a little patience.

  

But even at £170, it’s hard to escape the feeling that your money can go a lot further elsewhere. The Poco X3 NFC now sells for just £10 more, and offers significantly more performance, without losing ground in any other key areas.

The Moto G31 is solid and dependable, but despite a big improvement in the screen, it’s still hard to recommend over the competition – and that’s chiefly down to raw performance. The Moto G30 wasn’t exactly a speed demon, and moving backwards from there at a slightly higher price is simply too hard to swallow.

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