Review: Moto G5 Plus – solid, super cheap smartphone, but don’t expect miracles
It’s not a sexy device by any means, but if you want to keep your phone budget as low as possible then Motorola’s latest addition to its G series is one of your best options
At a time when phone makers big and small try to outdo one another in the specs war – “Oh, you’ve got a 20-megapixel camera with 6GB of RAM? Here’s our 21-megapixel camera with 8GB of RAM!” – the Moto G series is a breath of fresh air. Since its inception in 2014, the line seems to be “budget phones that get the job done with no frills”.
The latest device, the G5 Plus, is unremarkable in every facet. But priced at just HK$2,299, it’s likely to be good enough for most.
Design and hardware
There’s no getting around it: the G5 Plus is not a sexy device. Mostly made of plastic, save for a metal back plate, along with chunky bezels, this is a device that feels out of place in 2017, the year of curved displays that stretch to the edges (I’m also not a fan of the garish gold colour, but that’s just an opinion).
Putting the G5 Plus next to a Samsung Galaxy S8 is like putting a Toyota Prius next to a Ferrari. But at least the device feels good in the hand. The rounded corners are easy on the palms, and at 155 grams it is light enough to be held for long stretches without straining a wrist.
The 1,080p 5.2-inch LCD display is solid. Colour accuracy is good, but it suffers from the usual LCD panel shortcomings – it’s hard to use in direct sunlight and it cannot display true deep blacks.
Powering things is a Snapdragon 625 chip, with 3GB or 4GB of RAM (this review unit has 3GB). And unlike just about every other phone company, Motorola did not jump on the dual-camera bandwagon – there’s only one camera on the back, a 12-megapixel shooter, with a five-megapixel selfie lens on the front.
Software and features
Motorola (which was purchased by Lenovo in 2014, making it essentially a Chinese company) has always offered a clean, pleasant Android software experience, and the G5 Plus continues the trend. Though the version of Nougat here is slightly dated (7.0, as opposed to the latest 7.1.2), it’s mostly stock Android, so expect the Pixel’s “slide up” app drawer here instead of the button with six dots that had been a staple of Android for years.
The few software features Moto did add to Google’s software are mostly positive contributions. For example there’s Ambient Display, which is a black and white interactive notification menu that shows on the display even when the phone is locked. This is a very useful feature for desk jockeys, who can glance over at their phone to see incoming e-mails or WhatsApp messages without needing to physically “wake” the phone.
The camera here, however, is disappointing: photos taken in broad daylight turn out solid with good colour saturation, but in low-light situations the photos look grainy and lack detail. I didn’t compare the G5 Plus to, say, a Samsung Galaxy S8 (it wouldn’t be a fair fight, considering the latter’s premium status) – instead I compared the G5 Plus’ photos to a mid-tier device from 2016 (the OnePlus 3T). In the samples below, taken inside a coffee shop on a cloudy day, notice that the G5 Plus’ shot has soft, blurry edges.
Moto G5 Plus:
Performance and battery life
Because the software is so lean, the G5 Plus remains quite speedy despite the dated processor. Doing “normal phone things” here – such as making phone calls, going on Facebook – won’t be a problem at all. But fire up a graphics-intensive game or open one too many apps and the phone begins to stutter.
Battery life is fine – in five days of use the 3,000mAh battery gave me an average of four hours of screen-on time a day.
Other than the camera and looks, the Moto G5 Plus is a very solid performer. But those two things aren’t exactly unimportant. For many, the camera is arguably the second most important feature of a smart device.
I get that the G5 Plus sells for such a low price that it’s hard to nitpick. But for just a little more money, consumers can get, say, a Xiaomi Mi 6 (HK$3,000) or OnePlus 3T (HK$2,800), which have much better cameras and more powerful processors.
If you must keep your phone budget as low as possible, however, then the G5 Plus is probably the best of the bunch.
Dimensions: 150mm x 74mm x 7.7mm
OS version reviewed: Android 7.0
Processor: Snapdragon 625
Cameras: 12-megapixel with f/1.7 aperture; 5-megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.2 aperture
Memory: 32GB ROM, 4GB RAM (Hong Kong market)