Motorola One Zoom review: one of the best phone cameras at this price

A quad-lens camera and decent specs for half the price of a flagship

Motorola One Zoom
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

If you're shopping at the budget end of the market but you want a camera that won't let you down, then get the Motorola One Zoom on your shortlist.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Impressive camera, and 3x optical zoom

  • +

    Nicely designed screen and chassis

  • +

    Clean, lightweight Android software

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No waterproofing

  • -

    Camera doesn't quite match the Pixel 3a

  • -

    Mid-range processor

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Motorola continues to push out smartphones that try to redefine what value-for-money means, seemingly cramming in more features and better specs each year for the same sort of low prices. The latest of its handsets to follow this trend: the Motorola One Zoom.

Here the headline spec is a quad-lens 48MP+16MP+8MP+5MP camera – on paper, at least, enough to trouble the best flagships on the market, but inside a phone that's a lot, lot cheaper. We've been putting the phone through its paces to see what it's able to do.

Check out the widgets on this page for the very latest prices on the Motorola One Zoom, but at the time of writing you can pick up the phone SIM-free for £380 or thereabouts direct from Motorola, as well as from other retailers including Amazon and John Lewis.

That's not a bad price at all when you look at the competition – that's even less than the Pixel 3a from Google, which the Motorola One Zoom obviously has in its sights. Is it able to produce enough to topple Google's phone? Read on to get our thoughts on the phone.

Motorola One Zoom review: design and screen

Motorola One Zoom

(Image credit: Future)

The Motorola One Zoom comes with a 6.39-inch Super AMOLED screen running at a resolution of 1,080 x 2,340 pixels, and we've certainly got no complaints with the display – it's sharp, it's vibrant, and it shows off everything from websites to movies very well indeed. As far as the screen goes, the handset really does give you more than you would expect from the price.

Around the sides of the screen the bezels are slightly thicker than on the very best-looking phones of the moment, and there is a teardrop notch up at the top of the screen, but those are concessions we're perfectly willing to make for the lower price. The fingerprint sensor is embedded under the display as well.

As far as the overall aesthetics of the Motorola One Zoom go, we're reasonably happy, if not exactly blown away. The quad-lens camera housing and large-ish Motorola logo take up a significant amount of the back of the phone, and add a significant bump to the thickness of the handset as well (that thickness comes in at a respectable 8.8 mm or 0.35 inches, by the way).

Your colour choices are grey, purple and bronze, and you do get a 3.5 mm headphone jack (something of a rarity these days) as well as a USB-C data and charging port. Overall we'd say the design and build quality of the Motorola One Zoom is solid but not spectacular, and it certainly feels comfortable and secure to hold.

Motorola One Zoom review: specs and features

Motorola One Zoom

(Image credit: Future)

The internal components are perhaps the most obvious area where Motorola has tried to save money and keep the cost of the phone low. You get a mid-range Snapdragon 675, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD card). Those aren't top level specs, but we must say we didn't notice any lag or slowdown in most phone operations – this has plenty of power for all the standard day-to-day phone operations.

Let's talk about that camera, which gives you both 0.5x ultra-wide framing as well as 3x optical zoom when you need it – those two modes are particularly impressive, and it's fair to say you're going to be able to get some seriously good snaps with the Motorola One Zoom. Maybe not as good as those you can get with the Pixel 3a, available at roughly the same price though without the zoom and ultra-wide features.

Most of the time we were really happy with the Motorola One Zoom's pictures, even in low light, but in a few really dark and varied lighting conditions we noticed quite a bit of noise and haze on a couple of shots. Overall we were pleased with the camera, it's worth emphasising that, but there are some misses among the hits – and more misses than you would expect from the Google Pixel 3a.

Meanwhile, you get splash resistance but no waterproofing with the Motorola One Zoom, and there's fast charging here but no wireless charging. Battery life was very good, with usually 20-25 percent of a charge left at the end of each day (a hefty 4,000mAh battery is installed). Thankfully the Android software is pleasingly bloat-free and intuitive – Android 9 comes installed on the phone, with just a few extra flourishes provided by Motorola.

Motorola One Zoom review: price and verdict

Motorola One Zoom

(Image credit: Future)

At significantly less than £400, the Motorola One Zoom is an appealing buy for those who want decent specs and camera performance for around half the starting price of a flagship phone. You can get really nice photos most of the time, and the battery life is good enough for you not to have to worry about finding a charger during the day, even if you're using the handset quite intensively.

So why is this phone half the price of something like the Samsung Galaxy S10? Well its aesthetics aren't quite as gorgeous, the camera isn't quite as good (even with those four lenses), and the internal components don't give you as much power under the hood – most apps might be lag-free now, but over time and on the most demanding apps, that cheaper processor will tell in the end.

Whether those caveats are worth the hundreds of pounds you could save on your next smartphone purchase... well, that's a decision you'll have to make for yourself. Every phone purchase is a compromise between how much you're willing to spend and how well designed and equipped your phone is going to be.

We can't tell you whether the Motorola One Zoom is going to be the best phone for you and your needs, but we can tell you that you get a lot of phone for your money here. It's up against some very tough competition at this price point, but it definitely manages to hold its own – and for camera trickery it might just be the best of the bunch.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.