The Moto G5 is the baby brother to the Moto G5 Plus. Motorola’s G series have been popular for several years amongst Australians looking for outright purchase, value for money phones that don’t compromise on quality.
The newly launched Moto G5 ($299) and Moto G5 Plus ($399/$449) share some features including a stylish metal backing, running Android 7.0 with a light Motorola Skin, supporting 2 SIM’s (4G/3G) plus a MicroSD slot and having excellent front mounted fingerprint sensors.
However there are also quite a few differences. The G5 has 16GB storage, 2GB RAM, no NFC and a Qualcomm 430 chipset compared to the G5+ which comes with 16/32GB storage, 3/4GB RAM, NFC and a Qualcomm 625 chipset. While the G5 is no slouch, this gives the G5+ a speed advantage under multitasking and heavy use as well as optionally more onboard storage. Both phones allow MicroSD cards to be formatted for use as internal storage.
In terms of imaging the G5 has respectable f2.0 13MP rear/5MP front cameras. The extra money spent on the G5+ would get you near flagship level focusing speed and a faster f1.7 12MP rear camera that takes better low light and action photos.
Runtime will be similar for both phones because the G5 has a 2800mAh battery but a slightly smaller screen than the G5+ which has 3000mAh. The G5 has the edge because it’s battery is removable so can be swapped out for a spare full capacity battery. Both are capable of turbocharging but only the G5+ is sold with a turbocharger.
Read on for an in-depth G5 review and details including: hardware specifications, plenty of camera testing sample photos and explanatory screenshots about useful software features.
Moto G5 Hardware
Since my usual phone is a 6″ phablet the 149 gram 5″ G5 feels much lighter in my pocket, so much so that I occasionally had to check to see if there was a phone in my pocket at all. Consequently the G5 is also possible to use for typing and reading one-handed.
Speaking of size the G5 has a 5″ screen and the G5+ has a 5.2″ screen. At 144.3 x 73 x 8.7mm the G5 is 6 mm shorter and 1 mm thicker than its bigger brother.
As you can see below the Moto G5 (left) is slightly smaller than the Moto G5+ (right), though both are quite pocketable and suit readers who are not fans of large phones around 6″ in screen size.
The G5 and G5+ are Motorola’s first go at making the G series seem more premium by using metal backing rather than plastic for all of the phones construction. The G5 manages to seem quite solid despite its back being removable, so you can add 2 SIMs, a MicroSD card and swap out the battery.
Considering what you get for your dollar, hardware wise the G5 is a good deal but won’t set any performance records.
The only clear weaknesses of the G5 are lack of NFC so Android Pay isn’t possible and that of the 16GB storage only 10GB is available for you to use. This gets eaten up quickly by applications, photos and user data like cache files generated by apps.
While we applaud Motorola allowing microSD cards to be formatted so they appear to the operating system as internal storage, if the card gets corrupted or fails and you haven’t backed up the data to the cloud, you will lose it all.
Apart from that the inclusion of a reliable fingerprint sensor on a $299 phone is a welcome move by Motorola, bringing a formally premium feature down to the budget price range.
The enabling of dual SIM 4G/3G functionality and a swappable battery makes the G5 an excellent option for a phone to take on holidays overseas.
The G5 camera does well in daylight and bright indoor lighting, several years ago an f2.0 rear lens and PDAF autofocus would have been considered flagship level. Later on in this review there are plenty of example camera photos I’ve taken for you to examine.
I think it’s a bit misleading of Motorola to mention that the G5 has rapid charging as most customers will assume the included charger supports rapid charging. This is not the case, you have to buy a Moto rapid charger separately.
|Key Specifications:||Moto G5|
|Release date||February 2017|
|Screen technology||TFT LCD|
|Resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
|Core config||8 x 1.4 GHz|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 128GB|
|Android OS||Android 7.0|
|Vendor skin||Moto Stock|
|Dimensions||144.3 x 73 x 8.7 mm|
Moto G5 Camera
The big black ring around the Moto G5 rear camera lens and LED flash is cleverly recessed by a millimetre or two so it is less likely to get scratched when you put the phone down on a table.
The Moto G5 has a best in class camera sensor with a phase detection autofocus enabled 13MP rear camera sporting a reasonably fast f2 lens to let in light, LED flash at the back and a 5MP f2.2 wide-angle front lens with display screen flash and optional Beautification mode for selfies. Quite impressive all round especially for a budget phone costing $299.
The camera software (screenshots below) allows easy use either in automatic mode or professional mode where you can change lots of settings like white balance ISO and shutter speed. Video recording with decent stabilisation is available up to 1080P HD @ 30fps.
By default the camera software takes photos at 9.7MP to allow full screen composition. You’ll have to change Photo Size: Rear manually to 13MP. Also by default the camera software takes photos at 9.7MP to allow full screen composition. You’ll have to change Photo Size: Rear manually to 13MP.
Note the option in Google Photos where Motorola has arranged with Google to give all of its phones up to 2 years free storage at full quality file size.
There was a time when budget phones meant you got a pretty awful camera both in terms of software and hardware. That is not the case anymore since Moto launched the G4 Plus. The G5/G5+ improve the offering again.
There are plenty of Moto G5 sample photos I have taken at full resolution below, click on any individual photo to see it for size and you can download it to view the EXIF data.
Here’s an example of a selfie of me as well as 2 photos of Ausdroid Editor Jason’s cat taken in burst mode.
Definitely keep HDR mode on. As you can see in the first two building photos below HDR in the first photo brings out details in the shadows well compared to the second photo with HDR off. The third and fourth building photos show the Moto G5’s ability to take wide angle and zoomed shots.
Panorama mode is not bad but not great, photos take a few seconds to save as they get processed slowly.
As you can see photos of well lit food and flowers turned out quite well.
Moto G5 Software
Continuing the pedigree of past Moto G phones Motorola Australia has launched the G5 and G5+ with a fast and well optimised implementation of Android 7.0 with a few nicely designed Motorola enhancements which you can see detailed in the screenshots below.
I really liked the useful “one button nav” feature that enables lots more functionality from the fingerprint sensor as well as freeing up screen space for Apps to use by removing the back, home and recent apps buttons at the bottom of screen.
Moto G5 Performance and Battery
For light to medium smartphone users the Moto G5 should last you about 10-12 hours. Keep a spare charged battery with you and you will be able to use the phone heavily until you switch batteries partway during the day.
In terms of performance, to use a motoring analogy, the G5 is akin to a Toyoya Corolla hatchback and the G5+ is a Corolla station wagon with a bigger engine and boot.
I don’t put much weight on benchmarks but for those who do, the Antutu numbers are as follows: Total 44428, 3D 9304, UX 16603, CPU 14409, RAM 4652.
My view is that the operating system and skin makes a lot of difference in this budget price range.
Motorola has used almost stock Android 7.0 on the Moto G5, with a few useful optional customisations. So since they haven’t added a heavy skin that would slow down performance, the phone performs quite well considering it has a Qualcomm 430 chipset.
Of course there are a few lags here and there e.g. loading graphic and ad heavy websites and the phone will drop frames if you run graphically intensive games. However most of the time the phone zips along just fine for day-to-day use.
There are no problems viewing HD Netflix, SBS OnDemand, ABC iView etc on the phone or Chromecast to my TV via my Xiaomi Mi Box 3. In fact the 5″ TFT LCD 1080P screen is quite sharp, bright and pixel dense at 441ppi.
Moto G5 Connectivity
The Moto G5 is CAT4 LTE capable and supports 80211 a/b/g/n WiFi. It had no problems maxing out my fibre to the node (100/40) NBN connection at home.
As before the Moto G series does not have an inbuilt compass but the G5 and G5+ do have an FM radio.
For now the old school headphone jack remains (top right), which is handy. Charging and phone to PC data transfer is via a micro USB port at the bottom (centre). USB-C won’t be missed by budget smart phone owners who have lots of micro USB accessories already.
The Moto G5 has Bluetooth V4.2 (BR/EDR+BLE) which worked fine when used with Google Play Music and Pocket Cast podcasts sent to my home speakers.
Rounding out the audio capability the Moto G5 has a front ported loudspeaker (top centre). It won’t replace a real music speaker but is good enough for speaker phone conversations.
Map navigation lacks the aforementioned compass but once you start moving everything is fine as the Moto G supports A-GPS and accesses American GPS satellites as well as Russian GLONASS satellites.
Moto G5 Conclusion
Thumbs up to Motorola Australia for committing to quarterly security updates for the Moto G5 as well as a definite update to Android version O. During Ausdroid’s in person briefing with Motorola they also confirmed that they consider Android 7.1 to be a maintenance release, not a major OS update – so you won’t be getting that, but Android O is on the cards.
No NFC means the Moto G5 is no use for those of you who regularly use Android Pay. The Moto G5 is rapid charging enabled but you have to buy a separate charger. This is a bit disappointing as this extra cost reduces the price difference between the G5 and G5+ base models.
On the flip side the removable battery, ability to add a large external storage card and use 4G/3G dual SIM’s make the Moto G5 very flexible if you want to use it for travelling or carrying one phone for work and personal use.
Comparing the G5 to higher end $1000 flagship phones which cost 3 times as much is illogical. You also need to remember that the G5+ costs $100 to $150 more, which is still a lot of money if your budget is tight.
Overall the G5 offers good value, a solid package of features including good camera hardware/software and a fast optimised, often updated implementation of Android 7.0 for $299.
We can only hope that Motorola’s relatively new owner Lenovo lets them continue releasing phones with almost stock Android. It’s a huge attraction for Ausdroid readers and helps budget phone performance a lot.
Clever Moto G5 features like the “One Button Nav” feature, double karate chop for Torch and Twist for Quick Capture are exactly the kinds of enhancements Android manufacturers should be making. These make users lives easier while not slowing the phone down with unnecessary heavy modifications to core Android menus and user interface.
I just wish the Moto G5 was slightly more discounted against the G5+ base model. If your smartphone usage is likely to get more intensive over the next 2 years for $100 more at $399 the G5+ offers a substantially better camera and Qualcomm processor.
The Moto G5 is available in Australia with only model that has 16GB storage and 2GB RAM. The gold coloured G5 I’ve reviewing is available only from Motorola Australia online. The grey version is sold in store at retailers such as Officeworks, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi.
Long term review unit, I'll use it occasionally to keep track of OS updates and promised security patches