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Motorola One Macro review: a budget phone with a great macro camera

If you take a look at last few Motorola One series devices, there is an unmistakable pattern that the brand is following. Apart from offering stock Android and decent specs, these phones flaunt a niche camera feature as their key highlights. The Motorola One Vision (first impressions) featured a powerful 48MP camera with enhanced low-light imaging. The Motorola One Action (review) that followed had a 16MP Action Camera with a 117-degree field of view and enhanced video stabilisation that lets users record landscape video even in portrait orientation. Then came the Motorola One Zoom, flaunting a quad-camera setup with a dedicated telephoto camera offering  3X optical zoom and 10X hybrid zoom. The latest to join the series is the Motorola One Macro, which was launched in India today. As the name suggests, the phone comes with a dedicated macro lens that can click stunning close-up shots. I have been using the smartphone for a while now and here’s my detailed account of the experience.

Design and display

There’s a saying that goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and it’s still relevant today, especially in the smartphone industry. Design-wise, the back panel of the Motorola One Macro resembles its siblings from the One series, except for a subtle gradient finish and the camera placement. The form factor is quite similar with curved edges, a plastic chassis and a tall 19:9 display with a waterdrop notch on the front. To jog your memory, the Motorola One Zoom features the same display, while Action and Vision models had punch-hole designs.

Unlike the 21:9 displays of the One Vision and One Action, the 19:9 aspect ratio of the Motorola One Macro is more manageable in one hand. What I didn’t like was the glossy finish on the back, which attracted plenty of smudges. I would advise slapping on the transparent case provided with the phone. The One Macro is being offered in a single Space Blue hue, which is rather attractive.

On the topic of the back panel, there is the usual recessed Motorola logo in the center with the embedded fingerprint scanner. The sensor is pretty fast and accurate as is expected from a capacitive module. There is an integrated face unlock as well, which was fast too, but had trouble recognising my face in low-light. The One Macro also offers reassuring vibrating feedback when the feature recognised my mug and unlocked the phone. The triple camera setup is situated on the top left corner with dual 2MP cameras, a laser autofocus module and LED flash in a pill-shaped module. The primary camera sensor is situated separately on top of the module.

Other design elements on the phone are pretty standard with 3.5mm audio jack on top, hybrid SIM slot on left, physical buttons on the right and USB-C charging port with a speaker grill on the bottom.

As I mentioned before, the Motorola One Macro ships with a 19:9 display that measures 6.2-inches. The Max Vision display features a screen resolution of 1,520 x 720 pixels, which translates into a pixel density of 270ppi. The phone comes with the stock Android interface, which means you get basic display features like night light, colour temperature adjustment and adaptive brightness. The screen offers decent sharpness and colour accuracy, but the brightness is on a lower side and you will need to bump it to 100 when outdoors. On the bright side (no pun intended), the phone features Widevine L1 certification, which means you can watch video content in high resolution on popular streaming platforms like Prime Video or Netflix.

Cameras

The highlight of the Motorola One Macro is the dedicated 2-megapixel macro lens with f/2.2 aperture and a 1.75um pixel size. Motorola claims that the dedicated lens allows users to get five times closer to the subject as compared to a normal camera, offers a bokeh effect in the background as well. The macro lens is accompanied by a 13-megapixel f/2.0 primary camera, 2MP f/2.2 depth sensor, laser autofocus and an LED flash. The selfie camera on the front is an 8-megapixel unit with f/2.2 aperture and screen flash.

The camera app is loaded with features like Shot optimisation, Smart composition, Auto smile capture, Cinemagraph, Portrait mode, Cutout, Panorama, Manual mode, RAW photo output, Active photos, Spot colour, Best shot, Slow motion video and more. For selfies, you get  Face beauty, Auto smile capture, Cinemagraph, Portrait mode, Group selfie, and Spot colour, among others.

Let’s talk about the highlight of the phone first. The dedicated macro lens does what it promises (as you can see in the gallery above) and lets you get up close with objects to get impressive details. The caveat here is that you need to have extremely stable hands for the camera to be able to lock focus. I had to move the camera away from the object and bring it back repeatedly to get the perfect focus. However, when the camera did lock focus, the results were impressive. You also get the option to record videos in macro mode, but because of the focus issue, it’s better not to use this feature if you are trying to record a moving object (which in my case was my pet Betta Imbellis fish).

Moving on to the actual camera performance, the primary 13-megapixel shooter is capable of capturing highly detailed images during the day. The dynamic range, colour production and sharpness in images are on point when the sun is shining bright. However, the details tend to wash out after sundown and lots of noise creeps into the images as well. The portrait mode, Spot Colour, and other features work as intended. There is an AI scene optimiser as well, which was able to accurately detect the scene and optimise settings. However, I was impressed with portrait mode in particular as the depth sensor is able to accurately detect edges and create aesthetic blur in the background. The option to control the amount of blur in real time comes in handy too.

As for the selfie camera, the 8-megapixel sensor on the front captures impressive self-portraits in ideal lighting but struggles in low light. I would suggest not using the portrait mode in the selfie mode as it tends to overexpose the images slightly, resulting in unusable images.

Performance, software and battery

In terms of performance, the Motorola One Macro is equipped with MediaTek’s mid-range octa-core chipset, the Helio P70. The 12nm processor comes with an ARM Mali-G72MP3 GPU and a dedicated AI processing unit. Motorola is offering its latest phone in a single variant with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, which is expandable up to 512GB through a microSD card.

In my day to day usage, I found the Motorola One Macro to be snappy and smooth. Thanks to the octa-core processor ticking at the core and 4-gigs of RAM, the multitasking is smooth, apps load and close faster, and animations are slick as well. The performance can also be attributed to the stock avatar of Android 9 Pie, which is devoid of any unnecessary bloatware. You do get Moto-specific features like Moto Actions, Peek Display, Attentive Display, One-button navigation (which is a lot like Google’s pill navigation) and more. However, these features are more useful in nature and thus I didn’t mind their presence.

As for gaming, PUBG starts in Medium graphics settings by default and I suggest you stick to it.  I played one game in the High Graphics setting and faced several instances of lags and frame drops. Moreover, the smartphone also starts heating up after a while. I also played the newly launched Call of Duty: Mobile on the One Macro and it certainly does play better than PUBG on the phone, but that could be due to the app’s lower spec requirement.

Fuelling the phone is a beefy 4,000mAh battery, but there’s no fast charging support. In my usage, I could easily go through an entire day on a single charge, and usually had 30 percent juice left at the end of the day.

The competition

The Motorola One Macro has been launched for Rs 9,999 in India and as such, finds itself amidst some of the best budget phones from Realme and Xiaomi. From Xiaomi, you have the Redmi Note 7s (review), which is priced exactly the same but offers a 48MP camera, Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, 13MP front camera, and USB Type-C port. If you choose the 3GB variant of the Redmi Note 7S, you will have to spend Rs 1,000 less, which, again is a no brainer. On the other hand, you have the Realme 5 (review) featuring Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 CPU, 12MP + 8MP + 2MP + 2MP quad-camera setup, a 13MP front shooter and a massive 5,000mAh battery to boot. The Realme offering is currently retailing for Rs 8,999 and once again is more value for money as compared to the Motorola One Macro.

Verdict

To conclude, the Motorola One Macro’s standout feature is mainly its macro imaging capabilities. If you are keen on the stock Android interface and click a lot of close up shots, the Motorola One Macro will be right up your alley. However, if these are not requisites for you, there are more competitive offerings in this price segment.

Pricebaba’s rating: 7 / 10

What works:

  • Impressive macro camera
  • Stock Android interface
  • Good battery life

What doesn’t:

  • Performance is slightly sub-par
  • No fast-charging support

Photos by Raj Rout

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