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Motorola One Action Review

For several years, the Moto G series kept setting the benchmark for how to make a solid smartphone and sell it at an affordable price. However, over time, Motorola lost its edge, and competitors such as Xiaomi and Realme have taken the lead. The company is now looking to leave its mark in a slightly more premium segment, in which competition is not as cutthroat. The Motorola One Vision was the first attempt in this direction, and now the company is upping the efforts with its latest launch — the Motorola One Action.

The Motorola One Action borrows heavily from the Motorola One Vision (Review) in terms of both aesthetics and internal hardware, but ups the ante with a dedicated wide-angle action camera. The overall package looks quite appealing for an asking price of Rs. 13,999, but is it enough to beat value champions such as the Realme X (Review), Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review), Oppo K3 (Review), and Vivo Z1 Pro (Review)? We find out in our in-depth review.

 

Motorola One Action design

In terms of design, the Motorola One Action is a carbon copy of the Motorola One Vision, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The phone stands out with its tall profile, and has the aesthetics of a premium device. The rear panel is made out of glossy plastic and has thin lines running beneath its surface, while the corners and edges have a dotted pattern to provide a contrast.

We have the Denim Blue version of the Motorola One Action in for review, which glistens when light falls on it, but the effect is understated compared to the prismatic looks and garish colour shifts we’ve seen on many phones of late. Motorola has also launched a more appealing Pearl White option in India, while some overseas markets also have an Aqua Teal colour option.

motorola one action back Motorola One ActionThe phone’s rear panel is made of polycarbonate, which gets scuffed and smudged quickly.

 

The rear panel has curved corners and merges seamlessly with the polycarbonate frame to provide a comfortable grip. However, the rim is slightly raised along the top and bottom of the phone, and protrudes outwards. We like the phone’s narrow design as it fits snugly in the palm of one’s hands.

The fingerprint sensor with the Motorola batwing logo is positioned at the ideal resting spot for either index finger, while the triple rear camera module is in the top left corner. It bulges out enough to make the phone wobble when it is lying on a flat surface. Also, you might want to protect the Motorola One Action with the supplied silicone cover, because its rear panel attracts scuff marks and smudges quickly.

The volume and power buttons are located on the right, while the hybrid dual-SIM card tray is on the right. The 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top, and on the bottom, you’ll find a speaker and a USB Type-C port.

Interestingly, the power button has horizontal lines running across it, but it does not actually have a ridge-like surface pattern, unlike the one on the Motorola One Vision. Also, the buttons are slightly wobbly, but they provide decent clicky feedback.

The Motorola One Action has a tall display with an unorthodox 21:9 aspect ratio, which Motorola calls a CinemaVision display. There is a hole for the front camera in the top left corner, but it has a thick black outline and is hard to ignore. The area occupied by the hole is significantly bigger than what we’ve seen on the Vivo Z1 Pro (Review) and the Honor 20 (Review).

motorola one action front hand Motorola One ActionThe 21:9 display on the Motorola One Action is sharp, but the large hole punch somewhat takes away the appeal

 

Aside from being an eyesore, it also looks to have forced the UI designers to stretch the status bar further down to prevent it from interfering with the content on the screen. We also saw light bleeding in the area between the camera sensor and the circular border around it, especially while looking at the screen in dimly lit surroundings. If you look beyond all that, the display is a treat to watch content on, especially videos shot natively in the 21:9 format, which are difficult to find. On the other hand, it is quite difficult to reach content at the top of the screen.

Motorola One Action specifications and software

The Motorola One Action packs a 6.3-inch Full-HD+ (1080×2520 pixels) IPS display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 432ppi. The phone is powered by Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 9609 SoC paired with 4GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of internal storage. This can be expanded by up to 512GB using a microSD card, but at the cost of dual SIM functionality. Motorola offers the phone in a single configuration priced at Rs. 13,999.

This new Motorola offering is the first phone from the company with three rear cameras. It packs a 12-megapixel (f/1.8) primary camera, assisted by a 5-megapixel depth sensor and a dedicated 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle (f/2.2) “Action Camera” with a 117-degree field of view. The latter employs pixel binning to combine four adjacent pixels into a single unit in order to produce brighter and more detailed results.

On the front of this phone is a 12-megapixel (f/2.0) camera that can shoot 4K videos at 30fps. There are a host of camera features to play with such as portrait mode, studio lighting, spot colour, and more. The phone comes equipped with a 3,5000mAh battery, and a 10W adapter is supplied in the box.

motorola one action back hand Motorola One ActionMotorola One Action’s narrow profile makes it quite comfortable to hold the phone in one’s hands

 

The Motorola One Action is a member of Google’s Android One programme, which means assured OS updates up to Android 11 and three years of security patches. The phone runs stock Android Pie, with the only additions being the Moto Help and Moto apps. The latter provides access to custom gestures — or Moto Actions, as they are called — such as a double-chop to turn on the flashlight and a double-wrist-twist to open the camera app.

Our review unit was running the July security patch. Aside from the usual stock Android features such as Digital Wellbeing, Adaptive Brightness and Adaptive Battery, Motorola has added a custom navigation gesture interface called ‘One Button Nav’. It is the same Android Q-esque style that we saw on the Motorola One Vision, and is actually better than Android Pie’s navigation gestures.

Motorola One Action display and performance

The Motorola One Action’s display is identical in quality to that of the Motorola One Vision, which means you get good viewing angles and sunlight legibility. The screen is sharp, and colour reproduction and contrast are also decent, but it has a somewhat cold colour temperature and a slightly washed-out appearance.

For a small premium, the Samsung Galaxy A50, Oppo K3, and Realme X offer OLED displays that produce punchier colours. Since Motorola is extolling the virtues of the 21:9 display for a superior multimedia experience, a higher quality panel would have served well.

motorola one action sides Motorola One ActionThe rim running around the edges of the Motorola One Action is also made out of polycarbonate and has a glossy finish

 

With that being said, the phone’s Full-HD+ display is sufficiently bright. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the white balance manually but, you can choose between natural, boosted, and saturated colour profiles.

Watching 21:9 content without any letterboxing on the Motorola One Action’s display is an enjoyable experience. Even though the camera hole comes in the way, we got used to it over time. This extra-wide aspect ratio also proved to be advantageous when reading, browsing the Web, or multitasking with split-screen apps.

There’s some amount of 21:9 content on streaming platforms, but for videos shot in any other aspect ratio, you’ll have to tolerate a huge black bar. You might also encounter some scaling issues with apps that don’t support the 21:9 format, as they will run in their own floating windows, leaving the wallpaper and home screen elements clearly visible.

Also, not all games are tailored for the 21:9 aspect ratio, so you will have to live with a thick bar to hide the camera hole. Moreover, there are some games such as PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 in which you might have to reposition an on-screen button to prevent the camera hole from overlapping it.

As far as performance goes, the Motorola One Action won’t leave users complaining. It is powered by Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 9609 SoC, which can also be found under the Motorola One Vision’s hood. Interestingly, Motorola is still the only company using this processor in its phones. Not even Samsung has released a phone that utilises the Exynos 9609.

motorola one action softwarest Motorola One ActionThanks to the tall aspect ratio, it is quite difficult to reach for content at the top of the display

 

Day-to-day usage was a breeze for the Motorola One Action, and we did not encounter any stutters while multitasking with 10 to 15 apps running in the background. The phone even handled graphics-intensive games such as PUBG Mobile and Mortal Kombat X without any lag or heating.

When it comes to synthetic benchmarks, the Motorola One Action scored 1,609 in Geekbench 4’s single-core test and 5,399 in its multi-core test. The phone’s AnTuTu tally stood at 146,230, which is lower than the scores posted by Snapdragon 675-powered phones. The One Action reached 1,339 in 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme, and 22,626 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited.

Motorola One Action cameras and battery life

The Motorola One Action misses out on the One Vision’s 48-megapixel primary camera and downgrades to a 12-megapixel snapper, but adds a dedicated 16-megapixel Action Camera. The latter has been mounted at a 90-degree angle, allowing it to record landscape videos while the phone is held vertically. This makes it more convenient to shoot videos in some situations, and has no visible impact on the quality of videos.

Disappointingly, the dedicated Action Camera can only record wide-angle videos and can’t be used to take stills in photo mode. This basically means that you can’t take advantage of that 117-degree field of view to capture a wider area in one frame, despite having a wide-angle lens at your disposal. Moreover, if you want to record a vertical wide-angle video for platforms like Instagram or TikTok, you have to hold the phone horizontally to do so.

motorola one action camera Motorola One ActionThe dedicated 16-megapixel action camera has been mounted at an unorthodox 90-degree angle.

 

The Motorola One Action takes crisp photos in daylight with a healthy amount of detail and good dynamic range. Our photos turned out a bit oversaturated, but the overall output was pleasing to look at. Macro shots looked good as well, retaining nice contrast and surface detail. However, there was some colour bleeding at the edges, and the focus lock proved to be a bit finicky at close range, which often resulted in hazy shots.

Portrait images captured by the phone exhibited decent subject separation and depth, but edge detection could have been a little more accurate. We quite like the fact that this phone does not overprocess or smoothen out fine textures. Indoor shots, on the other hand, lacked detail and had muted colours.

As far as low-light shots go, the phone produced grainy photos with a lot of visible noise and suppressed colours. The Motorola One Action lacks a dedicated night mode, but the company tells us that it is currently exploring options to add it with an update in the future.

The 12-megapixel front camera also proved to be a decent performer. Selfies turned out sharp and vibrant, and we were particularly relieved to see that this phone does not overprocess or smoothen out skin textures. Selfies had ample amounts of detail and looked bright, but outdoor background elements tended to appear overblown.

Portrait selfies looked good too, and edge detection was spot-on for the most part, provided we held the phone steady for a proper focus lock. There are a host of filters and studio lighting effects to play with. Users can adjust the blur intensity while taking a selfie, and can also tweak brightness, saturation, and sharpness after it has been saved. It is worth mentioning that the camera app takes some time to switch between modes.

Tap to see full-sized Motorola One Action camera samples

 

The main camera can shoot full-HD videos at up to 60fps and 4K at 30fps, both in regular and 21:9 aspect ratios. There is no OIS here, but the EIS does a good job of cancelling out hand movements, resulting in smoother videos. In fact, the stabilisation produced by the Motorola One Action was quite good for a phone in this price bracket. As for overall quality, we found the colour reproduction in videos decent, but there was a lot of focus hunting. 4K videos, despite having better dynamic range and more detail, were visibly more jerky.

The action camera maxes out at full-HD 60fps for recording video, but videos shot using this sensor had more accurate colour reproduction. Impressively, the front camera can also record 4K video at up to 30fps and full-HD videos at 60fps. The quality of these videos can be described as average at best, with overall shaky output.

The 3,500mAh battery fitted inside the Motorola One Action is barely enough to last through a full day of ordinary usage. During our review, the phone was connected to cellular data throughout the day and we used several social media and productivity apps, and streamed music from YouTube Music for at least three hours. We also watched a few videos, and played games for around an hour. With such usage, the phone usually had only around 10 percent of its power left at the end of the day.

If you want to stream a couple of TV show episodes, or work on your gaming time, the battery level will drop more quickly. In our HD video loop test, the Motorola One Action lasted for 11 hours and 39 minutes, which is well below average. To add to this phone’s battery woes, the supplied 10W charger is quite slow, taking around half an hour to take the battery up to 30 percent, and nearly two and a half hours to charge it fully.

Verdict

The Motorola One Action tries to ape the Motorola One Vision’s (Review) formula but adds an extra sensor for its “action camera” cred. The phone’s build quality is solid and it also stands out for its aesthetics, but the hole-punch design is not fully taken advantage of.

We have no complaints regarding raw performance, and camera output is decent as well, save for a few quirks such as the inability to take wide-angle still photos. Battery performance is downright disappointing, and slow charging is another downer. So, we come to the most important question: is the Motorola One Action is worth Rs. 13,999?

The answer is yes. This phone stands out because of its unique aesthetics and supports that with reliable performance, decent cameras, and clean software. If you want to look at the competition, the quad-camera-toting Realme 5 Pro, Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review), and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 (Review) are worth considering. But in the crowd, the Motorola One Action is definitely an interesting as well as capable choice.

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Maikel Du

I worked in many technical fields, but I always resort to blogging which has become an addiction to me
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