Motorola has managed to hit a rich vein of form with its budget smartphone lineup. With the latest flagship prices steadily spiralling into four figures, Moto’s wallet-friendly alternatives are a safe choice for consumers who are put off by how much Samsung and Apple are charging for their own top-end smartphones.
In recent months, we’ve seen Motorola change course slightly, dipping its toes into the mid-tier and further away from its budget roots with a new range, which includes the Motorola One and One Vision. These souped-up budget phones typically cost slightly more than Moto’s usual output, providing fancier features that are more closely aligned with their flagship counterparts.
The freshly-squeezed Motorola One Action is the cheapest of the bunch, although it confusingly costs exactly the same as the Moto G7. With a few extra bells and whistles, is the G7’s affordable crown beginning to slip?
Motorola One Action review: Design, key features and first impressions
Motorola isn’t setting out on a radical departure on the aesthetics front, but that’s certainly not to the Action’s detriment. The contoured “4D” glass-coated design is an industry-standard at this point, but the One Action looks as swish as ever, fitting snugly in the hand despite its large size. Meanwhile, the pin-hole notch in the top-left corner of the screen – which houses the 12-megapixel selfie camera – provides a nicely tidy viewing experience.
Likewise, the One Action’s two stylish colour choices – “Denim Blue” and “Pearl White” – softly glisten whenever the light catches the rear panel and sides of the phone, looking more like something you’ve paid twice, or perhaps even three times, as much for.
The One Action benefits from a 6.3in FHD+ (2,520 x 1,080) IPS screen. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 uses a display that’s the same size and resolution, but costs almost four times the price. This further diminishes the Note 10’s phablet credentials, and I certainly know which phone I’d rather spend my money on. Still, as this is an IPS panel, you won’t get the same sort of high-quality viewing experience as its OLED-fitted counterparts (which, incidentally, includes the Note 10).
However, just like the One Vision, this display is stretched out to an elongated aspect ratio of 21:9. This means you should be able to squeeze more of your Facebook and Twitter feeds onto the screen, and you can also watch 21:9 content on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video without having those pesky black bars above and below the footage.
The Samsung comparison is even more relevant when you begin to look at the One Action’s internal components. Rather than sticking with the Qualcomm standard, the Moto One Action uses one of Samsung’s homebrew mid-tier chipsets, more specifically the octa-core Exynos 9609.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this processor, which first powered the Moto One Vision, but we’re yet to spot this mobile CPU inside one of Samsung’s own handsets, which is odd. Regardless, if the One Vision’s benchmark figures offer any indication of performance, this should be a remarkably nippy handset for the price.
Lastly, Motorola is finally following the multi-camera trend, equipping the One Action with a trio of rear cameras. Rather than use the Vision’s 48-megapixel sensor, Motorola’s latest handset incorporates a 12-megapixel (f/2.2) camera, alongside a 5-megapixel depth-sensing lens for more effective blurred background portrait photography.
The third camera is what makes the Moto One Action slightly special. This “action” camera uses an ultra-wide, 117-degree lens to squeeze four times more of the scene into one frame. This camera has also been rotated by 90-degrees, allowing you to film landscape video while holding your phone in portrait mode.
It’s a unique proposition of course, but I don’t think portrait video will go completely extinct because of it, and I can’t imagine many smartphone manufacturers will want to adopt a similar approach. Likewise, if you did want to film in portrait, you’re forced to hold the phone horizontally, which is a bit awkward.
Nevertheless, the Moto One Action benefits from a long list of recording features. This is perhaps the most feature-rich budget phone yet, allowing you to record 4K video in 21:9 format and Full HD footage at a silky smooth 60fps. Rock-steady video stabilisation is available for all shooting modes, too.
Motorola One Action review: Early verdict
Despite the gimmick, the Moto One Action could deliver the death knell for the Moto G7. Filled to the brim with niceties, but costing the same price, the One Action is perhaps its most well-rounded phone yet, and I certainly believe it has all the credentials to go toe-to-toe with smartphones that cost much, much more.
Stay tuned for my full Motorola One Action review in the very near future.
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