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Motorola One Macro review: Missing essentials
Motorola Moto One Macro
What we like
What we don't like
Motorola has been stepping up its smartphone game across segments. Using a combination of near-stock Android and a focus on unique camera features, the devices have found reasonable success. The Motorola Moto One Macro is the latest in the series, and as the name suggests, it puts a clear focus on macro — or close-up — photography. The phone follows up Motorola’s other photography-focused smartphones including the Motorola Moto One Zoom and the Moto One Action.
We explore whether a dedicated macro camera is enough to help the Motorola One Macro stand out against the stellar competition in the Android Authority review.
Moto One Macro review: The big picture
The Motorola One Macro enters an extremely competitive landscape that has a wide range of exceptional devices. Phones such as the Realme 5 and Redmi Note 8 have changed consumer expectations, and it is no longer good enough to be good enough.
A macro-photography capable camera and stock Android are definite draws in Motorola’s favor, but these might not be enough for potential buyers. The phone needs to match up to the performance, battery life, and overall package offered by competing brands.
Some of the most capable options in the price bracket already offer macro and ultra-wide cameras, as well as larger batteries, so I was quite intrigued to see how the Motorola Moto One Macro measures up.
What’s in the box
- Motorola One Macro
- SIM ejector tool
- 10W charger
- USB-C cable
- TPU case
- Quick start guide
Save for a pair of headphones, Motorola includes almost everything you need to get started with your phone. The included TPU case isn’t the prettiest, but you will definitely want to slap it on to your phone to prevent scratches and fingerprints.
- 157.6 x 75.4 x 9mm
- Polycarbonate frame
- Waterdrop notch
- Rear-mounted fingerprint reader
- No Gorilla Glass or similar for protection against scratches
While nearly every brand is making an effort to one-up the competition with design chops, the Moto One Macro looks run of the mill. From the basic appearance to the build quality, the phone was constructed to be utilitarian rather than fashionable.
The front of the Moto One Macro has a water drop notch, which has become semi-normal even on entry-level devices. The bezels on the sides are large by 2019 standards and the chin is prominent. That said, I’m glad Moto decided against placing prominent branding on the chin.
The volume rocker and power button are over on the right side. I found these to be placed too high for comfort. It was a struggle to adjust the volume while holding the phone in a single hand. Meanwhile, you’ll find a hybrid SIM slot on the left edge that can hold two nano-SIM cards or a single SIM card and a microSD card. There’s a USB-C port along the bottom edge, while the headphone jack is housed on top.
The entire construction of the Moto One Macro is polycarbonate with a subtle gradient from top to bottom. The material is prone to catching fingerprints and keeping the phone clean is nearly impossible. A lot of micro scratches developed on the rear during my time with the Moto One Macro, and you would do well to use the bundled cover.
The camera array sits in the top left corner of the rear panel with the macro camera set a bit further up. The camera module layout looks chaotic and there’s no sense of symmetry here. I do like the batwing logo that rests within the fingerprint scanner. The reader is fast enough and gets the job done.
- 6.2-inches, IPS LCD
- 1,520 x 720 pixels
- 19:9 aspect ratio
I could nitpick about the low-resolution display, but it is somewhat mitigated by the fact that this is a very affordable phone. There is a certain haziness to the display that we can blame on the low pixel density. It is highly noticeable in text rendering, in photos, and in icons when you hold the phone close.
There’s a noticeable blue cast to the display, too, which can be irksome if you prefer a warmer tone. Displays options allow you to boost saturation, but in my experience I didn’t notice much of a difference.
Brightness levels, too, are less than stellar. The phone recorded peak brightness of 480nits, which is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum. Outdoor visibility was not too great. The display, like the back, attracts a lot of fingerprints and this further detracts from the experience. Motorola does not mention the use of Gorilla Glass or similar protective glass for scratch resistance.
- MediaTek Helio P70
- 4 x 2.0GHz Cortex-A73 & 4 x 2.0GHz Cortex-A53
- Mali G72 MP3 GPU
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- Hybrid-SIM slot for storage expansion
Running a MediaTek P70 chipset, the phone’s performance is quite decent. Motorola’s near-stock Android build definitely works in its favor. The software remained fluid throughout testing. I did not notice any sluggishness with app launches or when juggling multiple apps. The 4GB of RAM had no trouble keeping up with multitasking under heavy workloads.
Gaming performance is great, and the phone never heated up to uncomfortable levels.
When pit against competing devices such as the Redmi Note 7S, a phone that packs a Snapdragon 660 chipset, the Motorola One Macro comes out ahead. This is particularly evident in graphics processing where the phone performs better in certain benchmarks. This also translates to smooth frame rates in games like PUBG during real-world use. The phone does warm up a fair bit over long gameplay sessions, but the heat is evenly spread out and is mostly manageable.
The phone performs well in synthetic benchmarks and managed to score 158852 points in AnTuTu. This compares well against the 144411 score managed by the Redmi Note 7S. The MediaTek chipset does reasonably well in GPU-focused benchmarks, too, with a score of 1274 points in 3DMark.
- 4,000mAh battery
- 10W charging
- No wireless charging
- No fast charging
Large, 4,000mAh batteries are the norm in entry and mid-range smartphones these days. Predictably, battery life is fantastic. I’ll be honest, my experience with phones running MediaTek chipsets has been less than stellar. The Moto One Macro manages to pair a well-optimized experience with a large battery to deliver all-day longevity and then some.
The phone delivers long-lasting battery life, but takes a while to charge.
In our testing, the phone managed to last well over 16 hours in a standardized video loop test. Meanwhile, you can eke out close to 17 hours of continuous browsing. Your results will, of course, vary based on brightness levels and usage.
Moto bundles a 10W charger in the box. It takes about 134 minutes to top-off the battery from zero, which is more than most phones.
- Android Pie
- Near-stock build without bloatware
One of the best features of Motorola phones is its use of a near-stock build of Android. For users, this means a bloat-free experience that is almost entirely devoid of any unwelcome additions. It also means fast software updates. While the Moto One Macro isn’t part of the Android One line-up, it is expected to receive the Android 10 update shortly.
The interface is exactly what you expect from stock Android Pie, and you won’t find much else other than Google’s standard app suite preloaded on the phone.
The Motorola app adds a range of gestures that are genuinely useful. For example, you can peek at your notifications by waving your hand near the display. The phone can also detect when you’re looking at the screen and adjust the display time-out accordingly. There is a veritable boatload of gestures that you can activate. The Macro will turn down the volume when you pick it up to receive a call, or switch to the do-not-disturb profile if you flip the phone over during an incoming call.
- 13MP primary camera, f/2.0
- 2MP depth sensor, f/2.2
- 2MP macro camera, f/2.2
- Front camera:
- 8MP, f/2.2
- 1080p, 30fps video
- Macro video
A triple-camera set up isn’t out of the ordinary, even on entry-level devices. Lately, we’ve started seeing smartphone vendors experiment with interesting new possibilities. One such variation is a camera dedicated to capturing macro images. The Moto One Macro, as the name suggests, sports a 2MP macro camera that can focus on objects as close as 2cm. This means you should be able to get super close to objects to capture textures and more. But first, the standard camera.
I wasn’t too impressed by the results from the primary camera. Images lacked dynamic range, which appears to be a common characteristic with Motorola phones. The phone has a tendency to blur low-level details, and shutter lag means you’re even more likely to get a blurry image unless you stand absolutely still. I do like the HDR implementation (when it’s on), and it does a nice job of exposing highlights and bringing up detail from shadow regions. However, it doesn’t do much to improve texture detail.
The macro camera is the highlight of the hardware. Now, a 2MP camera isn’t going to capture a lot of detail and that is evident in our samples. However, given sufficient lighting, it is possible to get some interesting images. This is a very basic set up, so you should expect blown out highlights if you are shooting against the light.
Indoors, the macro camera really starts to show its limitations. While you can get close to the subject, images are severely lacking in detail. In fact, you might have better luck simply cropping an image that you captured via the primary camera. I wouldn’t bother shooting with the macro lens in anything less than perfect light.
In less than ideal lighting, images suffer even more from the inherent shutter lag on the regular camera. It is hard to get a sharp shot in anything less than perfect lighting, and even then, there just isn’t much detail in darker regions. Switching on HDR further adds to the delay, making good low-light shots nearly impossible to capture.
Portrait mode does a reasonable job and edge detection is about as good as you can expect in the entry-mid segment. Xiaomi’s hardware does a better job, but the Moto One Macro isn’t too far behind. Video footage looks average at best, with noticeable compression artifacts and blown-out highlights (as was the case for photos). The selfie camera, on the other hand, managed to capture decent looking images with sufficient details and natural-looking colors — provided you hold your hand still enough. We’ve included full resolution samples at the link here.
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- AptX support
Audio output from the Motorola One Macro is a bit of a letdown. Headphone output lacks dynamic range and simply doesn’t sound that great. Even when I plugged in a quality pair of headphones, audio sounded muffled and lacked separation. This is particularly noticeable when you compare it to a phone such as the Redmi Note 7S, which sounds absolutely fantastic via headphones.
Speaker output was satisfactory. The phone is just as loud as any other phone in the category, which is to say that your alarms and podcasts will sound loud and clear. There is a clear focus on vocals and mids here, something common with most smartphone speakers.
The phone supports AptX, but not AptX HD over Bluetooth. If you own a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones, you should be able to get almost CD-quality streaming. In my tests, the phone had no issue streaming to a Bluetooth speaker kept a room over.
|Moto One Macro|
6.2-inches IPS LCD
720 x 1520 pixels
19:9 aspect ratio
Mediatek Helio P70
4x2.0 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x2.0 GHz Cortex-A53
Mali G72 MP3 GPU
13MP primary camera, f/2.0
2MP depth sensor, f/2.2
2MP macro camera, f/2.2
Front: 8MP, f/2.2
Yes (Hybrid SIM slot)
Android 9.0 Pie
157.6 x 75.4 x 9 mm
Value for the money
- Motorola One Macro — 4GB RAM, 64GB storage: Rs. 9,999 (~$141)
Priced at Rs. 9,999, the Motorola Moto One Macro’s clean software experience is a big selling point. While the macro camera is a great marketing tool, I’m not sure if it is enough to counter the otherwise lack-luster imaging performance.
The Moto One Macro goes up against stiff competition from hardware like the newly announced Redmi Note 8. Xiaomi’s phone sports a camera that punches above its price tier. Additionally, the glass and metal build of the phone feels much better and is a lot more aesthetically pleasing. Add to that a Full HD+ display, and you are getting a lot more hardware for your money.
There’s also the Realme 5. Another great option, the Realme packs a similar macro camera, but superior build quality at a similar price point. Suffice it to say that there are umpteen options for people considering a mid-range phone. Motorola will have to deliver on its promise of fast updates to really stand out from the competition.
Motorola Moto One Macro review: The verdict
You could certainly do a lot worse than the Motorola Moto One Macro. While the macro camera functionality might be a case of hype over function, the rest of the package delivers the goods. Between the reasonable performance, great battery life, and clean software with the promise of long-term support, there’s enough here to make the phone a great option for anyone seeking an entry-level device.
I wish Motorola had upped its game as far as build quality is concerned, and the main camera leaves a lot to be desired. The latter, in particular, comes across as a solid reason to recommend competing devices such the Redmi Note 8 that have nailed the camera experience. In fact, even the Moto One Action gives you double the storage, a punch-hole display, and a much more interesting action camera for just 2000 rupees (~$30) more. The screen could be better, as well.
As it stands, the Motorola Moto One Macro is a decent option for someone who wants a bloatware-free software experience. But there’s better hardware to be had for not a lot more money.