A few years ago, the Moto G (Review), with its solid build quality, fluid software and capable internals, changed the definition of budget smartphones. Now Motorola has launched the sixth generation of the G series in the form of the Moto G6 (Review) and Moto G6 Play (Review), both of which embrace the 18:9 display trend that has swept the smartphone industry.
We have already compared the Moto G6 to its competition, and now we're pitting its younger sibling against the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1, which received top marks from us at Gadgets 360 and offers tremendous value for money.
We spent a considerable amount of time with the Moto G6 Play and the ZenFone Max Pro M1. Both run near-stock builds of Android and feature 18:9 displays. Can Motorola's newest offering challenge the best budget smartphone from Asus in ages? Let's find out.
On the design front, the Moto G6 Play and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 look very different. Asus's offering has a metal backplate with plastic inserts at the top and bottom. In comparison, the back panel of the Moto G6 Play is made of plastic with a high-gloss finish that's trying to imitate glass.
While the ZenFone Max Pro M1 feels more premium, the Moto G6 Play comes out ahead when it comes to one-handed usability. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is a fair bit wider and taller than the Moto G6 Play, which makes it more cumbersome to handle.
When it comes to build quality, both feel reassuringly solid. However, the Moto G6 Play's plastic back gets scratched very easily, which might deter some buyers. One common problem with both phones is that the backs are fingerprint magnets.
At a time when the industry is moving towards USB Type-C, both smartphones use the older Micro-USB standard for charging and data transfers. On a positive note, both the Moto G6 Play and the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 feature dedicated slots for both Nano-SIMs and a microSD card. Both also feature rear-mounted fingerprint sensors which are more or less equal in terms of speed and accuracy.
The Moto G6 Play is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC clocked at 1.4 GHz. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 on the other hand is powered by the Snapdragon 636 which is much more powerful. Both manufacturers promote the large batteries that they have used. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 has a 5000mAh battery and the Moto G6 Play makes do with a smaller but still impressive 4000mAh unit.
The ZenFone Max Pro M1 straddles multiple price categories with three variants on offer. The base variant, which is the one we tested, retails for Rs. 10,999 and has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage costs Rs. 12,999. Another version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage as well upgraded front and rear cameras will be priced at Rs. 14,999, but has not been released yet.
The Moto G6 Play in comparison is only available in a single configuration with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, priced at Rs. 11,999. Both phones allow for storage expansion using a microSD card.
Connectivity options for both phones include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS/ A-GPS, a Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headphones socket. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 supports Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX audio, and the Moto G6 Play supports the slightly older Bluetooth 4.2 standard. Both phones allow you to use two 4G SIMs at the same time, but only one runs at 4G speed at any time. The ZenFone Max Pro M1 supports dual 4G VoLTE, a feature missing in the Moto G6 Play.
The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 ships with a 10W charger, a USB cable and a cardboard accessory called the Max Box. This foldable stand has a cutout in its base that supposedly amplifies sound. The stand does increase volume slightly but not to an extent that justifies its use.
The Moto G6 Play in comparison comes with a 15W Turbo Charger, a USB cable, and a pair of earphones suitable only for calling and listening to podcasts. No screen protector, or a case of any kind is included with either of the smartphones.
Most popular smartphones these days feature an 18:9 display, and the Moto G6 Play and ZenFone Max Pro M1 are no exception. While the 18:9 aspect ratio does make content look immersive, it must be noted that the screens on both smartphones are not exactly borderless. Both smartphones also lack Gorilla Glass protection.
The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 has a 5.99-inch full-HD+ display which delivers punchy and vivid colours. The viewing angles are just about okay, but the screen is bright enough for outdoor use. The biggest issue with the Moto G6 Play's 5.7-inch display is the lacklustre HD+ resolution which just does not cut it in this day and age when most competing smartphones feature full-HD+ panels. The screen is also very reflective, which hinders legibility outdoors. On a positive note, the viewing angles are decent and the Moto G6 Play has one of the best always-on displays around, which allows for quick replies to messages right from the lock screen.
The Moto G6 Play pulls through basic tasks with relative ease but struggles when pushed. We experienced keyboard lags, stutters while browsing through heavy websites, and prolonged load times in heavy games such as Asphalt 8. The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 in comparison tackled everything we threw at it. Even the base variant, with 3GB of RAM, was impressive during our review.
The Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 outscored the Moto G6 Play in all the benchmarks we conducted, which was more or less expected thanks to its higher-end processor.
Ever since Google acquired Motorola back in 2011, the company has been known for its clean but feature-laden software. The Moto G6 Play runs a near-stock version of Android 8.0 Oreo with Motorola's trademark gestures such as a chop to turn on the flashlight, and double-twist to launch the camera app.
In a surprising move, Asus ditched its heavy and bloated ZenUI in favour of stock Android 8.1 for the ZenFone Max Pro M1. Both smartphones have fluid interfaces, but the offering from Asus does feel slightly snappier. Both phones have a few applications pre-installed which somewhat dilutes the point of stock Android.
Asus has told Gadgets 360 that it intends to update the ZenFone Max Pro M1 all the way till Android Q. Motorola has not announced any update plan for its current crop of smartphones but history suggests that the Moto G6 Play will be updated to Android P at the very least.
The face recognition system on the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 is a bit slow and doesn't work particularly well in dim light. The Moto G6 Play in comparison lacks this feature altogether and so you'll have to make do with the fingerprint sensor, plus the usual passcode options for security.
On paper, the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 should easily trump the Moto G6 Play in terms of battery life. In reality, there is very little difference between them. In our HD video loop battery test, the ZenFone Max Pro M1 lasted 12 hours and 2 minutes. The Moto G6 Play in comparison gave up the ghost after 11 hours and 30 minutes. In terms of real-world performance, both phones easily got us through a day of moderate-to-intensive use, with around 20 to 30 per cent left in the tank.
The currently available ZenFone Max Pro M1 variants have a 13-megapixel primary camera with a five-element lens, an aperture of f/2.2, and an 80-degree field of view, along with a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. On the front, there's an 8-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2 and a viewing angle of 85.5 degrees. Both the rear and front cameras are accompanied by single-LED flashes.
The Moto G6 Play has a single 13-megapixel rear camera with an aperture of f/2.0 and a single-LED flash. At the front, the smartphone has an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with an aperture of f/2.2.
The ZenFone Max Pro M1's rear camera outshines the one on the Moto G6 Play across all lighting conditions. Motorola's offering produces dark and muddy images at night, and has has a tendency to bump up the ISO in unfavourable light, which makes images look unnaturally bright. The camera does perform much better in the daytime. Photos have a decent amount of detail and colours are accurate. Shots taken with the ZenFone Max Pro M1 are more vibrant and slightly more detailed.
The ZenFone Max Pro M1 has a secondary sensor at the back that allows for depth-of-field effects. The gradient between the foreground and background is smooth, but things do get a bit fuzzy at night.
The front camera of the ZenFone Max Pro M1 captures more detail and recreates skin tones in a more natural manner. The Moto G6 Play's sensor takes in more light at night but the results still lack detail and clarity. The Moto G6 Play has the edge when it comes to video capture though. Videos taken by the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 suffer from considerable focus shifting and the lack of any form of stabilisation means that you get shaky footage. Motorola's electronic image stabilisation in comparison helps to keep things steady.
The camera application on the Moto G6 Play is also miles ahead in terms of both usability and design. Asus's camera app is confusing and cluttered, with basic controls such as the flash toggle buried within a menu.
It is hard to recommend the Moto G6 Play (Review) over the ZenFone Max Pro M1(Review). Not only does the ZenFone Max Pro M1 have better cameras, a sharper display, and a significantly more powerful processor, it actually costs less than the Moto G6 Play when considering the 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage variants. Its software package is clean and fluid, and the battery life is solid.
The newer Moto G6 Play does have some merits though. Its design is undoubtedly striking, it is compact and easy to use with one hand, and Motorola's software additions are excellent. However, it is hard to look past the sheer value for money that Asus brings to the table.
The ZenFone Max Pro M1 is an extremely well-rounded budget smartphone - if you can buy it, that is. Availability issues continue to plague this smartphone and it is extremely difficult to grab one when it is in stock. While the Moto G6 Play is readily available online and from Motorola's Moto Hubs, the slightly more expensive Moto G6 (Review) and Oppo's Realme 1 (Review) are better alternatives to the ZenFone Max Pro M1.