For years now the Moto G5 has been the pinnacle of budget smartphones. Others have crammed in more specs and often a lower price, but none have constructed a phone that actually works like something that’s double the price.
MOTO G5 PLUS – DESIGN
I always quite liked the unabashed ruggedness of the Moto G series. They were plastic phones done well, and they withstood serious amounts of wear and tear. They were never ugly though, they were just simple and got the basics right.
That’s all changed with the Moto G5. Well, mostly. Moto and Lenovo are clearly trying to match budget options from Honor and Huawei by replacing the plastic body with metal. It’s true; there is metal here, but there’s a lot of plastic acting as metal, too, and I think it sort of looks ugly.
It’s lost the charm, instead looking like any other budget phone. The difference between the metal portions and the plastic are obvious when you hold it and it doesn’t feel that durable. The colour options too are poor; with the gold model being a very tacky shade. I’d suggest you stick with the less offensive Grey model.
But, I can live with a slightly dodgy design when there’s so much else to like about this phone.
My main issue with the Moto G4 Plus was its size. It was huge, ungainly and too big for the budget-conscious customer Moto was aiming at. Thankfully, the G5 Plus rights this wrong, ditching the 5.5-inch display for a much more manageable 5.2-inch version and while there’s still a chunky bezel running around the display it can be comfortably used in one hand.
You’ve got a Micro USB port on the bottom, which might seem like a step-backwards in the era of USB-C, but I think it suits a phone like this aiming for a wide market, and a very fast fingerprint scanner on the front. Like Huawei, Moto has added a number of gestures to the pad that lets you ditch the on-screen buttons if you so desire, but they’re a bit fiddly and involve lots of swiping in precise directions.
MOTO G5 PLUS – DISPLAY
The 5.2-inch, 1080p LCD display that sits on the Moto G5 Plus is good and it’s hard to quibble for the price for the phone. Colours are accurate, and there’s plenty of detail, but it can often feel a bit dull when compared to the G4 or the Honor 6X. Photos and videos look washed out and there isn’t isn’t a huge difference when you jack the brightness up.
But it gets the job done and I think I am being overly picky simply because there isn’t much to mark the G5 Plus down for. Moreover, one way to solve this is to switch to the Vibrant screen mode, and this makes a clear difference by upping the punch and saturation of the colours. I would immediately set this option as the default, as it looks a whole lot better.
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MOTO G5 PLUS – PERFORMANCE
The performance of the Moto G5 Plus makes me question why the majority of people would need anything faster. It’s that impressive.
The Snapdragon 625 CPU is one of my favourite chipsets, as it combines plenty of speed with fantastic efficiency. It can comfortably handle anything I throw at it and even processor hungry games like Asphalt and Modern Combat are smooth and fast.
Even on high settings, these games run just as well as a higher-end Snapdragon CPU and more so than, say, the Helio P10. Which, considering the price, is very impressive.
Benchmarks aren’t the best way to judge a phone’s performance, but they can give a nice overview. While the Moto G5 scored 2440 in Geekbench 4’s Multi-core tests, which was actually lower than the Moto G4’s 3000 score, the Moto G5 Plus scored a much more respectable 4214. Having used both versions of the G5, the Plus is faster in more intensive tasks.
If you mainly use your phone for Twitter, sharing photos on Instagram and messaging, then you won’t notice any difference in speed between this and a top-tier device like the LG G6. In day-to-day-use this feels like a flagship phone.
It always annoys me how Moto has multiple different versions of the phone with varying RAM and storage, but my review sample has 3GB and 32GB of internal storage which seems to be the sweet spot.
There’s a 4GB model too, with 64GB of storage, but I can’t see that extra gig being all that useful. Finally, there’s a version with 2GB RAM that probably should be avoided if you plan on utilising those multitasking features.
There are also differences in the models that have NFC – a much more important feature now considering how popular Android Pay is becoming. American versions of the phone seem to lack NFC, but all other variations do include it. As someone who uses contactless payment from my phone nearly every day, I would struggle without it.
There’s a decent front-firing speaker, making use of that large bezel, that pumps the sound at you rather than getting blocked by your hand. It’s not the crispest sounding, but it’s loud and perfectly capable.
Call quality is excellent, as is the microphone, and it’s noticeably better than both the iPhone 7 and LG G6 for actually making phone calls.
MOTO G5 PLUS – SOFTWARE
Moto’s version of Android is one of the best versions of Android. It’s 7.0 Nougat at its finest, with only a smattering of extra features laid on top. The G5 Plus, like Google’s Pixel, ships with the Pixel launcher, ditching the typical app drawer button for a swiping gesture.
Moto has updated a bunch of usual array of tweaks, too, like Moto Display and deeper gesture integration.
Moto Display is a nice idea, basically showing you the time and any outstanding notifications when you nudge the phone, but it’s hampered slightly by the dull screen. I still love the quick shake of the phone to open the camera, and feel that should just be part of stock Android.
There’s no bloatware here, just the typical selection of Google apps, and that makes everything feel clean and simple. Coming from a Huawei phone preloaded with numerous duplicate apps, awful games and extra Office suites, it’s hard not to love Moto’s approach.
Split-screen multitasking is here, though it’ll push the 2GB RAM version to its limits if you’re watching a YouTube video and browsing an image heavy website, and Doze helps improve standby times noticeably.
While other OEM skins from the likes of Samsung, LG and Huawei are finally getting better, there just isn’t anything out there that works as well and looks as good as Android the way Google intended it.
My one slight concern regards updates, something Lenovo has been pretty terrible with since it gained control of Moto. Hopefully we’ll see a quick transition to Android O when it’s properly unveiled later in the year.
MOTO G5 PLUS – CAMERA
I have been constantly surprised by the camera on the Moto G5 Plus, but considering even last year’s model had an impressive snapper I probably shouldn’t have been.
On paper there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the 13-megapixel sensor inside the regular Moto G5 and the 12-megapixel sensor in the Plus, but you’ll see the difference in the results.
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Pictures taken with G5 Plus far outweigh its price tag, especially when the light is good. Daylight shots are detailed, with impressive contrast and even a surprising amount of depth.
Landscapes are where shots look the most natural, and the colours picked out by the sensor are good even when the sun starts to set.
Detail is impressive
The Auto-HDR balances strong light very well
Pictures are colourful. and have surprising amount of depth
If there’s some light, results can look good
Portraits look good, too, although zoom in a bit once the picture has been taken and soft areas appear.
I would like to see a bit more of a colourful punch, though, and exposure can be all over the place if you’re in really sunny conditions. But the majority of pictures the camera shoots are usable.
Things fall apart a bit when the light goes down. The larger pixels and the wide f/1.7 aperture don’t make it noticeably better than the G4 Plus. Noisy spots are common in darker photos, and the focussing goes from very accurate to all over the place. Decent bar shots can be achieved, but you’ll be play around a bit.
Impressively, Moto has added in 4K recording but the lack of proper stabilisation means the footage is seriously shaky. I’m more taken with the video captured at 1080p 60fps, with the higher frame-rate making up for that lack of OIS.
What Moto has done very well is craft a simple to use, yet fairly feature rich, camera app. It’s quick to open, and has some nice extras like QR and barcode scanning. The auto-HDR mode isn’t quite as successful as on pricier devices, but it still works, and there’s a deep Pro mode with ISO and white balance controls.
The front-facing 5-megapixel camera is okay, but selfies are a bit lifeless and murky.
MOTO G5 PLUS – BATTERY LIFE
While the smaller and cheaper Moto G5 packs a removable battery, the Plus model has to make do with a sealed in 3000mAh cell. Considering the rather impressive stamina that shouldn’t really be an issue.
The Moto G5 Play can comfortably make it through the day, and throughout my time with the device I can easily have 20-25% juice left when I go to plug it in.
It manages intensive tasks well too, most likely down to that very efficient processor, and playing an hour of Mario Run only ate through 12% – a figure that seems very impressive.
Another bonus is the turbo charger that comes in the box – another thing missing on the cheaper model – and this can charge the phone fully in around 70-80 minutes.
Moto has stuck with Micro USB rather than switching to newer USB-C. Whilst it’s not the forward-thinking approach I like to see, I can sort of understand that the majority of people still have a bunch of Micro USB cables in a drawer and there aren’t huge benefits to changing it on budget phones like this. I’m sure we’ll see the switch next year.
SHOULD I BUY THE MOTO G5 PLUS?
Once again Moto is owning the budget smartphone space, going for usability over flashy marketing and bloated specs.
The G5 Plus offers a good camera, clean software and a day-long battery all all for $233. The design isn’t quite to my taste and the display could be a bit more colourful, but really you’re not going to get better at this price. My only other suggestion would be the excellent Lenovo P2, but that’s a very large phone.
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- Feels as fast as a flagship
- Great software with some handy tweaks
- Decent storage and RAM
- Slight backwards step in design
- No NFC in USA