For years now Motorola has led the mid-range with their G range of Android Phones, offering a great value for money and substantially better specs every year. Combine that with widespread Australian retail availability and it’s not hard to see why the Moto G range is their best selling line in Australia.
Unsurprisingly, the Moto G5 is one step better again this year and I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks with the Moto G5 Plus 4GB model. For a few years now, I have been searching for an affordable Android device that delivered a solid performance package, with just the right compromises made for an overall great Android experience that won’t break the bank, image a Nexus 5 with a good camera.
Could the Moto G5 Plus be the device that has finally delivered the correct mix of price, quality, specs and reliable performance? Nay, could it even herald the arrival of a reliable decent camera into the middle of the Android Market? Read on to find out.
Moto G5 Plus Hardware
I had the Lunar Grey Moto G5 Plus, we’ll just be calling it the G5+ from here on out, and I have to say to look at it is a lovely device.The metallic finish design is well finished and the glossy silver bezels catch the light and make for a distinctive look.
Measuring in at 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm and weighing only 155g, the 5.2-inch device is neither small nor overly large. It’s ever so slightly smaller than a Pixel XL in width and quite a bit shorter in length. Overall I found it easy to use one-handed.
The G5+ is no slouch in the specs perspective; sure you won’t find the top chip from Qualcomm inside, but the Snapdragon 625 paired with the 4GB of RAM in the 32GB model (and 3GB of RAM on the 16GB) delivers a device that runs Android 7.0 seamlessly.
I can honestly say that in two weeks of use I found little performance difference in daily usage between the G5+ and my Pixel XL both of which were configured as close to identically as an Android backup allows. Now, I’m not saying the G5+ would perform the same as the Pixel, what I’m saying is, I never really noticed a difference in my normally daily use. I think this is a reflection of two things.
Firstly, Android 7.0 is clearly well optimised and the Pixel is running with a lot of room to spare, secondly, the Snapdragon 625 might just be a great chip with more than enough power to run Android’s daily functions. Additionally, perhaps Motorola worked hard on optimisation with the G5+?
Rounding out the specs you’ll find a couple of very nice to have features, firstly a front-mounted fingerprint sensor, which I found routinely accurate and rarely had issues with it. Making its first appearance in the Moto G line is NFC, yes, finally you can use Android Pay, along with other NFC functions, with Motorola’s mid-range device.
Check out the full specs below:
|Key Specifications:||Moto G5 Plus|
|Release date||February 2017|
|Screen technology||TFT LCD|
|Resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
|Rear camera||12 MP|
|Core config||8 x 2.0 GHz|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 128GB|
|Android OS||Android 7.0|
|Vendor skin||Moto Stock|
|Dimensions||150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm|
This display is clear and bright, and more than adequate in my mind. Being an LCD panel it’s a bit of a pain as a bedside clock, I use the clock screensaver in a dock instead of a clock, as my bedroom gets saturated in a wife disrupting dull haze that an AMOLED simply doesn’t do. This isn’t a fault of the G5+ rather just normal LCD behaviour.
The Audio performance on the G5+ was decent, with its single front facing speaker the audio was more than loud enough in quite environments, and could even handle competing with moderate background noise. Overall it was maybe a little quite but the quality of the sound was excellent, with a warm rich experience.
The front facing speaker actually helped with the volume as the audio was coming right at you. Overall, while I;d still prefer a stereo front-facing speaker system on my phone the G5+ holds it own against the majority of the other devices on the market.
If I had to chime in on any one spec being disappointing it would have to be the lack of USB C instead of Micro USB. This may just be because I have already started the transition, however, the standard change is coming and I think it’s up to market leaders like Motorola to drive that new standard across their whole range.
That said, I would wager that many people would be glad to get one more year out of their Micro USB cables and accessories, so in the end, I don’t think it makes a big difference.
Does this phone feel “top end”? No, it doesn’t, however, for the price, it does feel much better than other devices in this price range. You’re never going to mistake this for an all metal phone, both the hand feel and weight tell you that, however, like all phones, it should go in a case anyway, so what real difference does it make?
Make no mistake, this device doesn’t feel “cheap” or “plasticky”, I think it has hit the mid-tier of hand feel just as well as it has hit its price range. Little features like the texture power button and two-tone finish show that Lenovo just didn’t chuck this phone in a casing, it was intentionally crafted.
Moto G5 Plus Camera
Ok, let’s face it, cameras in the mid-tier of the market have traditionally been only reasonable at best, and outright awful at worst. Can the G5+ deliver a great camera experience? Yes, it can and in fact, it did.
Now, when I talk about camera experience I’m not talking about shooting a well-lit, well-framed shot of a still scene. I’m talking about time to load, time to focus, time to shoot, shooting multiple images, burst mode, shooting movement and even to some degree low light images. For me to say your camera has a great experience it needs to deliver all that, and by golly the Moto G5+ basically did.
Now before you go comparing this to the Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S8 just remember the significant price difference, we’re talking ⅓ the cost. No, the Moto G5+ does not deliver a camera experience on par with those. What it does do is deliver the best camera experience in its class, and a more than acceptable performance all around.
The 12MP f/1.7 rear camera (the same sensor found in the Samsung S7 line) with dual LED flash and phase detection auto-focus really lets the G5+ take fantastic images. Clearly, the DSP in the Snapdragon 625 has reached the point where the mid-range can just handle the taxing task of taking photos, fast.
While the time to launch may have been a moment or two longer than the market leaders, both the double tap power button or “corkscrew” motion would start the camera while you were raising it to take a photo, as such it was typically ready by the time I was. Basically, I never missed a shot because it was still loading.
Right along with this was time to focus and time to shoot. Honestly, the G5+ did a great job, you can whip that phone around, change focal lengths and shot with minimal delay, that’s all I ask of a smartphone camera. Taking successive shots never caused an issue with the camera shutter lagging, even when using HDR, and the inclusion of burst mode is welcome, I routinely use burst mode taking shots of my daughter because kids are rarely still.
How did the G5+ handle action shots? Well I say, I’ve added both a shot of my daughter on her bike and one of here zipping down a slide, these were just shot “from the hip” so to speak. I think the results are more than acceptable, I’ve had much worse from more expensive devices.
The one area the G5+ may lack is low light photography. This is where I differ from many tech reviewers. I just don’t expect low light photography, maybe it’s my age, but growing up cameras didn’t work in the dark so I don’t expect them too on my phone.
That’s not to say it doesn’t work in the dark, however, the lack of OIS does mean you get a lot of noise in lower light situations. For a sub $500 device, I think its performance is right where we can expect it to be, at least this year, I’ll expect more next year!
Overall the G5+ has delivered the camera experience I’ve been waiting for in the mid-tier. The combination of the f/1.7 aperture, the Snapdragon 625 and Moto’s efforts on the software side have delivered an excellent camera experience that I honestly would be happy using as my primary camera.
All of the below images were captured using a Moto G5 Plus.
Moto G5 Plus Software
One of the great things about Motorola for years now has been it’s very light handed modifications to stock Android, and the G5+ is no exception to that. In fact, to a causal nexus user, this phone would appear completely stock.
Even apps like the Dialer and Contacts appear to be stock, I can tell from the package name that they are technically different apps, but as far as I’m concerned they’re identical. The only app that’s not stock is the camera app, and even that has the feel of a stock app, and it uses Google Photos as its gallery.
The G5+ is basically bloatless, there are no duplicate apps I could see, no pre-installed Facebook or other insipid apps, just what you need to make a phone work, hell, they even use Android Messages for SMS and GBoard for the keyboard, this is basically a pure Google app experience.
The only extra apps I found were the FM radio app, and the Moto app which is a simple guide and quick settings for the few Moto unique features, some of which are cool and I would dearly miss (like the chop chop to turn on the light, seriously this needs to be in AOSP!!) if I ever stop using this phone that is. As is their way Motorola do offer a few optional tweaks to Android that really can enhance the experiences.
I now no longer use the “default apps” like the launcher. I took a quick look, it’s a launcher, it has an app draw, it looks great. However, that’s not how I Android, and I’m assuming it’s not how most of you do either, we all have our standard suite of apps. This thing got my standard deploy of Nova Launcher, Today Calendar, Inbox etc, and it works exactly how I wanted it to, Android FTW.
With the 32Gb of storage and my standard app install I still end up with 13.82 GB of free storage. What this means is that if you’re a heavy app installer then I’d suggest going for the 32GB model. Not only will you get the extra RAM but you won’t have to worry about using the adaptable storage offered by the MicroSD card.
If you can’t afford the extra money for the 32GZB variant then I’d suggest installing you most critical apps first. After this insert the SD card and assign it as storage. That way if you remove the card or it fails you won’t have lost any data from “critical apps”.
Moto G5 Plus Android Security and Updates
These days no review of an Android device would be complete without a discussion about Security updates and Software updates. In my opinion, while Monthly security updates are fantastic, they are also costly, and we need to be realistic about the expectations we put on OEMs especially those playing at the more affordable end of the spectrum.
I feel that even a commitment to quarterly updates would be acceptable. The other thing that is important is the longevity of updates. For how long will the device receive security patches, one year, two years five years?
At the time of this review in April, my Moto G5 Plus was still on the January 2017 security patch. Considering it wasn’t technically released when I had it I’m going to reserve judgment for a few weeks. Let’s hope Moto pushes out a security update, soon.
The other half of the update discussion is, of course, the version of Android. The Moto G5+ is running Nougat, but it’s Android 7.0, not a later version. Will the Moto G5 Plus get Android O or even Android P?
Again it comes down to the OEM’s commitment on updates, I wish it was clearly set out at launch, this device will get Security patches for x years and platform updates for y.
We have asked Motorola Australia for comment on the frequency and longevity of updates they have confirmed that they will be rolling out quarterly security updates, I’m happy with that. As for the longevity of security updates they didn’t give a specific commitment they hinted at at least 2 year.
As for OS updates Moto said that point updates such as 7.1 are maintenance releases not OS updates, which is great but I’m still unsure if the G5+ is in line for it. What was exciting was confirmation that the G5 line will get Android O.
Overall I think this is good news for a device like the Moto G5 Plus. It looks like Lenovo has struck the right balance between cost and affordability of ongoing updates.
Moto G5 Plus Performance and Battery
As discussed the daily performance of the G5+ was excellent, it never stuttered, it never “needed restarting” it was just reliable. Yes, I had wonk from time to time, yes I had apps crash, but I get that on my Pixel.
I am honestly struggling to find a daily task that pushes the Moto G5+ to its limits.
I just couldn’t fault the G5+ and it’s 3000mAh battery. When conducting a review I slightly modify my daily habits. Normally I dock my phone in a car charger whenever I drive anywhere, as well as using Android Auto on the phone and a fair bit of Google Maps navigation for traffic updates. For reviews, I do none of that. I use the phone from getting out of bed until going back to bed, with no charging but also no unfair Android auto usage.
As you can see from the screenshots below I never ran out of battery, it lasted from 0500 until around 2130 every day, no top ups. With over 3 hours of screen on time and a minimum of 15% still left in the tank the G5+ looks like an all day phone, even with moderate use.
All day battery is great, and very welcome, however, we all know batteries loose oomph over time, and I like to have a little more in reserve. Don’t get me wrong the battery is great, I just want a little more and I’d be willing to sacrifice width and weight to get it. Still, the battery on the G5+ is impressive as the rest of the device.
Moto G5 Plus Connectivity
The G5 Plus is now not missing anything. With the inclusion of NFC, the G5+ is really a no-compromise device as far as connectivity goes. With dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, GPS, NFC and even an FM radio the G5+ can keep you connected wherever you are.
The non-removal of a headphone jack is a welcome move on Motorola’s behalf, I’ve already used the headphone jack more times than I can remember. While I would have loved to have seen Qi charging included, let’s face it I’m one of the only people still stuck on that bandwagon.
Again switching to USB C would have really shown that Lenovo was out not just to make a well selling device but a true market leading mid-tier phone. The use of Micro USB instead of USB C will likely make little difference this year, however, especially considering it comes with a Moto fast charger in the box.
Moto G5 Plus Conclusion
When I first saw the Moto G5 Plus at the launch event in Barcelona I was excited. To be honest it was the phone of the show for me. Why? Because it offered the promise of a truly great Android Device at a more affordable price point. Android as a platform needs that. Consumers of all means deserve a good experience, and it was my hope that the Moto G5 Plus may just have been the herald of such a time, and I think it is.
Great hardware, check, no missing features, check, good camera experience, check, reliable Android performance, check, stock Android without out bloat, big CHECK. I can honestly say this is the first mid-tier Android device I have used without compromises, or should I say with all the right compromises.
From this point forward the answer to the “What phone should I get my child/spouse/parent/aunt/dog” question will be the Moto G5 Plus, and if they can afford it the 32GB version.
With Motorola committing to quarterly security updates perhaps for at least 2 years I can happily recommend this phone. While longer updates may be nicer, for a device that costs between $399 and $449 but will still get all of the security updates quarterly that sounds like a good compromise to me, and with Android O confirmed as coming that is an added bonus.
Sure, if you’re the ultimate tech nerd who has the financial means to get the latest and greatest you may just want to get the new hotness. However, if you’re an Android fan in search for a great stock Android device like a replacement for your Nexus 5 for instance, look no further, the Moto G5 Plus has arrived.
In fact, I think the Moto G5 Plus is so significant I’d be willing to use it as my daily driver for the next few months, or longer, to really road test it. See how the G5 Plus performs on the long road. Yes, I’d put aside my Pixel to truly test out the Moto G5 Plus, I think it’s that good and that important.