ZenFone 2 v Moto G

Once again, we're putting two budget priced Android phones — the Moto G 2015 and the ASUS ZenFone 2 — against each other to see who comes out on top.

We have four major criteria a smartphone needs to get right before we can recommend them to anyone: Performance, Display quality, Battery Life and Camera. We chose these categories based on the results of a recent poll where we asked everyone what they thought was most important, and I think it's a great mix.

See how these two phones matchup, and which one gets crowned the winner.

Performance: It's complicated

ZenFone 2

You have two phones that perform well above what the price tag says they should. But they are also very different in how they act, and how you'll use them. A quick look at the specs.

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As for why we're pitting two phones with wildly different specs against each other, it's because they are popular models and each are one of the inexpensive phones that we recommend whole-heartedly and equally. You won't go wrong with either choice — and that's the most important thing.

ZenFone 2 Moto G 2015
Operating system Android 5.0 Lollipop Android 5.1 Lollipop
Display 5.5-inch 1080p LCD 5.0-inch 720p LCD
Processor Intel Atom Z3580 Snapdragon 410
Storage 64GB 16GB
microSD Yes Yes
Front camera 5MP 5MP
Rear camera 13MP 13MP
Battery 3000 mAh 2470 mAh
Dimensions 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm 142.1x72.4x6.1-11.6 mm
Weight 170 grams 155 grams
Wifi 802.11 b/g/n/ac 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0LE 4.0LE
Price $299 (Amazon) $219 (Motorola)

Motorola also sells a version of the Moto G 2015 with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, but the table above is for the 2GB and 16GB version, which is what we're using for this comparison.

ASUS also sells a cheaper version of the ZenFone 2, with lower specs. While it's not a terrible performer in its own right, we're using the popular model and the one we would recommend.

Yes, these phones have very different internals. That becomes obvious (and important) in a minute. But for some of us, there's not as much difference in real world use as you might think.

If you're a power user, the ASUS ZenFone 2 is one of the Android elite

Pull both out of the box, sign into your Google account and start using them, and you'll see that the Moto G easily outperforms the ZenFone 2. Crazy, right? Our best guess is that Motorola has meticulously optimized every part of the "stock" experience of their software on the Moto G, and until you add more to the mix, it does an iPhone like magic trick of being superbly fluid with low-end specifications. It's literally one of the smoothest phones (budget or otherwise) of 2015.

Things change quickly once you start doing more than the basics. ASUS' software is a bit bloated and can be slightly janky at times, but there is a ton of raw power under the hood. The Atom Z3580 plows through most any task you point it at, and 4GB of RAM keeps redraws and paging to the bare minimum.

Which one is "better" is going to depend on how you use your phone. If you're only looking for a smartphone to use for calls, messages, contacts and calendar (and maybe some gaming or a bit of Youtube on occasion) the Moto G does these basic tasks better. Even the "stock" apps are better than ASUS' offerings.

If you're a power user, the ASUS ZenFone 2 is one of the Android elite. There's nothing it can't handle well, and it easily outperforms phones costing hundreds and hundreds more.

Force me to pick a winner, and I'll pick the ZenFone 2 because of what it's capable of, not how it works out of the box.

Display: ASUS' color modes to the rescue

ZenFone 2 display modes

The Moto G 2015 has a decent 5-inch 720p screen, and it's perfectly capable of showing off photos or video, or playing the games that play well on the Moto G. The viewing angles are acceptable, and it's OK outside in the sun.

You will notice the Moto G has a 720p display if you get close

The ZenFone 2 has a decent 5.5-inch 1080p display, and it's perfectly capable of showing off photos or video, or playing any game you throw at it. It kind of sucks in the sun, but we've seen worse.

I could stop there and explain how these phones are inexpensive and aren't going to rival the screen you see from Samsung or LG. They are both adequate, and I don't hate using either. But I have used much better, and we can't deny that.

Having said that, and I think that's the most important thing to take away from a side-by-side of the displays, we have to mention ASUS' display color settings. You'll find them in the display settings, and they do a very nice job of "correcting" the color on your screen.

The viewing angles and touch response on both are about equal (and perfectly fine) but you will notice the Moto G has a 720p display if you use it close to your eyes. Because of this, and the display color settings, the ZenFone 2 gets the nod here.

Battery life: Hello Moto

Moto G 2015

When it's good, the battery life on the ZenFone 2 is very good. It's just not always good

I'll be blunt — the ZenFone 2 can be pretty squirrely when it comes to the battery. Something in the software causes it to go off-kilter from time to time, and to be safe you would be smart to carry a charger or power bank with you if you can't afford to be without your phone. I've heard that custom ROMs (both the Moto G and the ZenFone 2 are easily bootloader unlocked) have been able to "fix" this, but I need this company phone to stay unmodified. There are a million and one different theories about why and how all of this goes down, but the important thing to know is that it can happen. Even to you.

The Moto G hasn't shown any widespread issues that drain the battery, and you'll be able to use it all day, every day. Having a 720p display helps, and so does the smaller feature set. It even does well when you're in spotty coverage areas, which are notorious battery killers.

When it's good, the battery life on the ZenFone 2 is very good. It's just not always good. Until ASUS can sort this out and (hopefully) fix it with an update, the Moto G wins this one, easily.

Camera: The one where a Motorola phone has a better camera

Moto G

Both the ZenFone 2 and the Moto G have decent cameras. I think we're past the point where any new smartphone has a camera that just won't cut it. Pictures you take with either can be spectacular at times, and will usually be pretty darn good. Definitely better than the price tag would suggest.

The ZenFone 2 camera is great with plenty of light, but the low light shooting mode leaves a lot to be desired. You can switch things to manual mode for much better pictures, but that doesn't help when you need to grab a quick pic of something that's not going to sit still while you adjust things.

We're past the point where any new smartphone has a camera that just won't cut it

The Moto G also does things very well in bright settings, and the low light mode also does a decent job. I've said it before — the Moto G 2015 has the best camera on any Motorola phone (released in the US) so far. Yes, I need to mess with a Moto Play. Canada, here I come?

The camera apps are as different as night and day. Motorola's is simple, with a few filters and shooting modes. ASUS' is a beast with 17 separate shooting modes, and filters and settings. I can't say which will be right for you, and luckily ASUS' settings are all buried and not in your face while you try to get a picture of the kids or the dog doing something stupid.

The Moto G has the better camera here because of the better low-light performance without fiddling with any settings. And this is the first time I can ever remember a Motorola phone winning anything with the word "camera" attached.

Odds and ends: More important stuff to consider

ZenFone 2 v Moto G

  • The ZenFone has volume buttons on the back. You'll love them or hate them. I love them, and Andrew hates them. But he is wrong.
  • Moto Maker means you can get your Moto G done up in the colors of your choosing, and get something silly engraved on the back from the factory.
  • Both of these phones have some of the best radios you'll ever come across in them. They latch on to a signal and stay attached longer than any other phones sold in 2015.
  • The ZenFone 2 has NFC. The Moto G does not.
  • The ZenFone 2 has dual SIM capabilities.
  • The Moto G is waterproof. The ZenFone 2 is not.
  • The Moto G has better plastic. It will feel more solid in your hand. It's really not, but it feels that way because of the materials and textures used to build it.
  • The ZenFone 2 is about $60.00 more (after taxes) than the high-end Moto G. You get plenty of specs and real-world performance for that $60 though.

The winner: The ZenFone 2

ZenFone 2

No surprise here. The ZenFone 2 truly is a flagship phone with a mid-range price tag. We have no idea how ASUS is doing it, but we're glad to see it being done.

I have some issues with the ZenFone 2 (all software related) but won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone reading Android Central over the Moto G. Or most other phones for that matter.

For the more casual user, who isn't going to shut down services and uninstall bloatware, I might recommend the Moto G, but I have a feeling most reading this aren't that user. If you are that user, don't be afraid to ignore my recommendation here and pick up a Moto G 2015. You'll love it.

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