Motorola One Zoom full review

Motorola presented us with two new phone models at IFA, which took place this September. The first of these is a lower mid-range device with very decent specs, and a price that is even better.

We liked the Moto E6 Plus (that’s what the budget model is called) for its good battery life, strong performance and good value for money.

The second of the phones that Motorola presented (and the one which we will be talking about in this article) is the Motorola One Zoom, a new entry in the One family, known for their Android One operating system, which is used on the One Action and One Vision models.

The One Zoom, as you can guess from the name, attracts attention for the quadruple camera setup, of which the telephoto lens stands out.

Price and availability

You can buy the Motorola One Zoom direct from its website for £379.99/US$449.99.

It’s available in only one variant: 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can choose from three different colours: Cosmic Purple, Brushed Bronze or Electric Grey.

If you decide to buy the Motorola One Zoom on Amazon, it will come with dedicated Alexa applications pre-installed.

Design and build

In truth, the Motorola One Zoom has quite a risky design: whether you like it or not, they’re not settling for the middle ground. It differs from the trend we have seen recently in this year’s smartphones of iridescent finishes which can easily get fingerprint marks.

Instead, we get a glass finish, but with a matte coating (no fingerprint marks!)
The configuration of four cameras in a rectangular structure on the upper middle part of the phone is eye-catching.

If you use your phone on a flat surface (for example an office table), you should know that the camera module protrudes too much for it to stay flat on the table.

However, if you try it with the transparent case included with the purchase of the Motorola One Zoom, the back cover of the phone is smoothed, if this is something that really matters to you.

Under the cameras there is the Motorola logo, which really is an LED that lights up to announce notifications. We found it very practical when we had the phone on silent, but still wanted to receive notifications. If someone calls you, the LED will flash to warn you of an incoming call.

The edges are curved, something characteristic of Motorola phones. In our opinion, it gives it quite an elegant touch to this mid-range handset.

To write this article, we used the Electric Grey model, which in reality is a dark grey, almost black. The other colours, which you could see at the IFA launch event, also seem quite original and elegant at the same time.

The only physical buttons on the One Zoom can be found on the right side. We are referring to the power button (with a rugged texture) and the buttons to raise and lower the volume.

It at at the bottom where, as in almost all phones, we find the charging port, in this case USB-C. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack, which we are pleased to see.

Finally, the top of the phone house the SIM card tray (for two SIM cards or a micro SD card), as well as the speaker.

Specs and features

With regards to performance, we were expecting it to be very different. We find a Snapdragon 675 processor here, a chip that was launched a year ago and has several newer and more powerful alternatives.

However, we must remember this is a mid-range phone, so it makes sense here as the Snapdragon 675 has always worked well.

We have noticed the phone heating up quite quickly, even when not using demanding applications. This is something that has improved quite a lot on newer processors, so it makes us more disappointed with the 675.

We have the same feeling with the RAM on the One Zoom; the 4GB can feel a bit outdated, especially now we have phones with 6 and even 8GB.

Even so, the 4GB, along with the Android One operating system (which we will talk about later), is a good combination which will give the phone enough power, at least in our testing.

In our performance tests with the One Zoom, the results have not been bad. It ranks higher than the Nokia 7.2 another mid-range phone (£249) with a slightly worse processor, but still highly recommended.

It also performs very similarly to the Motorola One Action (£219), another device in the Motorola One family. That model was an attempt by Motorola to include an action camera ona smartphone.

On the other hand, we would like to compare it to the Xiaomi Mi 9T in terms of performance, which despite costing almost 100 euros less offers much more powerful performance.


To conclude regarding performance, we can say that the results in our tests are more than acceptable for a mid-range phone such as the Motorola One Zoom

Screen

If we start with the negative aspects of the screen, we can say that Motorola still has work to do on the bezels. They still look too thick, especially the large forehead and chin.

This becomes even more notable considering this is an AMOLED panel, which is known for being more flexible than LCDs and so gives manufacturers the opportunity to fine-tune the bezels.

The teardrop notch is located in the centre of the upper part of the screen. It houses a selfie camera, which we will talk about later.

Although we know that many people are annoyed by notches, which prevent an infinite display, but it’s been easy for us to get used to.

The viewing angles could also be improved, but this is something you’ll only notice if more than two people want to see the One Zoom screen at the same time.

The maximum brightness for use is something many smartphones usually struggle at.
According to our indoor testing, the One Zoom reaches a brightness of 441.05 nits.

When testing it outdoors with natural light, we were able to see the screen fine, although it’s worth mentioning that we were in London at the time of testing, a city known for its few sunny days.

Having mentioned the weak aspects of the screen, let’s now talk about its positives. We still have the feeling that the One Zoom has a very good screen, since it’s still rare to see AMOLED Full HD+ (1080x2340) in mid-range phones.

Another point in favour of the screen is its 84.6% screen-to-body ratio, a very good figures. It is 6.39in, with the same 19:9 aspect ratio that we see in almost all phones.

At the same time, the screen has a good level of contrast, with detailed colours which are well calibrated. Android One gives you some (albeit quite basic) options to customise the colour scheme according to your preferences.

The last thing we would like to highlight with regards to the screen is how fast it responds to touch, thanks to the optimal latency. We have been able to test this using writing applications, and we feel it will be very useful when playing games with tactile controls.

Cameras

Let’s start with the specs. The quad camera set up on the back is as follows:

  • A main 48Mp main sensor, capable of taking photos at 12Mp with Pixel Binning
  • An 8Mp 3x telephoto, with optical image stabilisation
  • A 16Mp wide-angle
  • A 5Mp depth sensor, used to achieve the bokeh effect

Before we take a look at some samples, it is worth noting that the processing in the One Zoom is quite good. The HDR, although not as perfect as we would like, is capable of doing its job quite well.

Upon opening the camera we found a great variety of options within each of the modes. For example, within ‘portrait mode’ you can choose the amount of background blur and whether you’d like a filter.

Although the separation between the subject and background might look somewhat artificial, we can say that as a mid-range phone it does a good job.

As you can see in the example below, when you take the blur to the maximum, the effect is quite artificial.

Something we loved is the ‘cut mode’, which allows you to remove the subject from a shot and place it on a new background. This is great for quick photo montages, but cannot compete with dedicated photo-editing software. We had a lot of fun with it though!

The ‘Night Vision’ mode allows you to take high-quality photos in low-light. However, in our experience photos in normal mode actually turned out even better than with the night mode on.

Night mode activated:

Night mode off

Here is the same photo from another phone (Honor 20 Pro), to illustrate the low-light conditions we were working with.

There is a button next to the shutter which allows you to switch between the standard, telephoto and wide-angle shooting modes. We know that it’s quite difficult to get the colours right across the three different lenses, so we must say Motorola has done quite well in calibrating the colours.

Standard Mode:

Telephoto:

We must remind you that the telephoto lens features OIS, which means the camera moves to the opposite side of your hand to stabilise the image so it doesn’t move. This is very useful when zooming, as the more you zoom the more you see your hand shake.

Wide-angle:

As you can see, all three photos are very detailed, the sharp images having plenty of contrast and shadows.

Despite not having a dedicated macro lens, it manages to take good photos from close-up, complete with good detail and sharpness as can be seen below.

The camera app has a relatively simple interface, but you can still easily access all the modes mentioned. There’s an icon next to a camera icon to toggle between modes, while at the top there are the regular options such as HDR, Flash and Timer.

The 25Mp front-facing selfie camera has a f/2.0 aperture and Quad Pixel technology. This allows the camera to increase exposure in low light conditions such as indoors, at night or on cloudy days.

This same technology is included on the main rear lens, and it’s surely the reason why photos in low-light conditions produce such good results.

As with many phones, you can choose to activate beauty mode. At its maximum, this is very artificial, as is often the case.

The front-facing camera also features ‘portrait mode’, which does a decent job of separating the subject from the background. While not perfect, this is quite good for a mid-range mobile.

As for the video, you’re getting fairly standard features, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You get 4K video up to 30fps, but we were expecting better stabilisation, particularly considering the rear lenses have OIS.

Connectivity and audio

In terms of connectivity, it’s worth mentioning the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is something that, as you are probably aware of, is slowly disappearing from modern smartphones. We’re pleased to see the option here.

Another all too rare feature is the FM radio function, which is retained on some low-medium range phones. We still love it!

Unlike most smartphones, the speaker on the One Zoom is located on the top of the device. We were again pleasantly surprised, this time by the sound quality. It sounds great!

We tested several songs by Spanish singer Rosalía. Her voice is clear, with good detail in her higher notes (in flamenco a capella for example), and the bass is surprisingly convincing. We loved listening to reggaeton at full volume with the One Zoom, as it sounds very loud.

At its maximum there is a slight distortion, but we think it’s rare you’ll want to take the speaker to this extreme.

To conclude the audio section, the One Zoom has one of the best speakers among the mid-range phones we have tested.

Battery

In terms of battery, the Motorola One Zoom is very well stocked. The 4000mAh battery means you can use the phone throughout the day without having to charge it.

It may even be the case that it will last more than one day, provided you are not playing videos at maximum brightness or video games consistently.

In our battery tests, the One Zoom managed to last 12 hours and 58 minutes with the screen on, so in everyday life this would be even longer. This result means the One Zoom is one of the best in our rankings, outlasting the Asus ROG Phone 2 by two minutes and only being surpassed by the Vivo Nex 3 by two minutes.

Charging speeds are also very good: the included 18W adapter will allow you to charge the device very quickly. In our case, the One Zoom charged 23% in 15 minutes, 60% in 45 minutes and was fully charged in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Software

The Motorola One Zoom comes with Android 9 Pie, customised subtly with the Android One skin, that we personally loved. It offers a simple and very intuitive interface, which is practically the same as Google’s Pixel devices.

Motorola has introduced small changes to the interface and in the phone’s settings, such as custom icons and apps that technically constitute bloatware but are everyday applications (Google, Photos, Settings etc).

In truth, Android 9 offers an almost impeccable user interface. In our opinion, Motorola has managed to add its personal touch without taking away from everything that makes Google’s software great.

However, Motorola has included an app called ‘Moto’, which explains several extra functions and tools it offers. The section known as ‘Moto Actions’ relate to the gestures that allow you to use the phone more easily.

For example, you can open the camera by a quick double twist of the phone, shake twice from top to bottom to turn on the flashlight, or touch the screen with three fingers to take a screenshot. We found the latter to be particularly useful.

Motorola has managed to pay attention to the needs of users with all of the new functions integrated into Android One. We liked the option to navigate with a single button, something especially practical in one-handed situations, such as on public transport.

It’s worth mentioning that you can choose which of these functions you’d like to activate, so simply toggle them off in the app if you don’t like them.

‘Attentive Display’ stops the screen from auto-locking if it detects a face looking at it, while ‘Interactive Display’ allows you to deal with notifications from the lock screen. These are perhaps the features that caught our attention the most.

Finally, it’s worth knowing that if you buy the One Zoom through Amazon, the phone will come with Alexa features built-in to the device.

Verdict

The Motorola One Zoom is a good mid-range phone with many points in its favour. We are impressed by the quadruple cameras (taking into account its price), with the OIS on the telephoto lens a highlight.

We’re also delighted to see that it maintains the 3.5mm headphone jack, without having to reduce the capacity of the fast charging enabled battery.

On the software side, we love the touch of Android One over the stock operating system, while the custom ‘Moto Actions’ have been useful during our time with the phone.

However, Motorola will have a tough time competing in a mid-range market where its specs continue to look outdated. We were expecting at least a 700 series processor.

Even so, our final verdict after testing the Motorola One Zoom is very positive. It’s a solid phone, with cameras, performance, screen and tools that are all more than decent.

Specs

Motorola One Zoom: Specs

  • 6.39in Full-HD+ (2340x1080, 19:9) OLED display
  • Android 9.0 Pie
  • Snapdragon 675 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 608
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB storage
  • splashproof (P2i) design
  • 48Mp + 16Mp wide-angle + 8Mp telephoto + 5Mp depth quad-lens camera, OIS, PDAF
  • 25Mp, f/2.0 selfie camera 4,000mAh battery with 18W TurboCharge
  • USB-C 3.1
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • NFC
  • 75x158x8.8mm
  • 190g
  • available in Electric Gray, Cosmic Purple or Brushed Bronze 

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