Motorola brings the Moto G5 Plus to the US, and hits yet another home run in the Moto G series.
Motorola is continuing with the Moto G lineup, after having released four rather stellar smartphones, especially at very competitive price points. And now they are back with the fifth generation Moto G. This year, instead of offering the Moto G in three different models, they have slimmed it down to just two. And in most regions it's either one or the other. In the US, there's the Moto G5 Plus which is the more high-end and slightly larger model of the two. The Moto G5 Plus will be priced at $229 in the US for the 2GB/32GB model and the 4GB/64GB model will cost $279. Those are some very aggressive price points, can Motorola still bring the heat with the Moto G5 Plus? Let's find out.
The Moto G5 Plus is running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor. This is an octa--core processor that is paired with the Adreno 506 GPU. It's a slightly upgraded version of the Snapdragon 617. This comes with either 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, or 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There is a micro SD card slot that allows for adding another 256GB of storage (and it does support Android's Adoptable Storage). There's a 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display which is covered in Corning's Gorilla Glass 3, this gives the display a 424 ppi.
For optics, Motorola is using a 12-megapixel camera on the rear, which uses dual autofocus pixels and has an aperture of f/1.7. There is also dual-LED flash included, along with 8X digital zoom. On the front, there is a 5-megapixel camera that has an aperture of f/2.2. There's no flash on the front, instead Motorola uses your display as a flash. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack included on the Moto G5 Plus, but there's no NFC. There is also Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, as well as GPS, AGPS and GLONASS for location services. Motorola has also added a fingerprint sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor and a proximity sensor. Dimensions are 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 and it weighs in at about 155 grams. Finally, it's powered by Android 7.0 Nougat, along with a 3000mAh battery that is non-removable.
In the Box
When it comes to unboxing the Moto G5 Plus, there's not a whole lot to the unboxing experience. As soon as you open the box, you see the smartphone. Below that you'll find the micro USB cable and wall adapter, and that's about it. There is also some paperwork and a SIM ejection tool, both of which you'll likely use just once. There's no case included, but the wall adapter is a TurboPower charger, even though it looks somewhat small. Which means you do get a charger out-of-the-box that supports Quick Charge 3.0. That is definitely handy to have around.
Motorola has never really skimped out in terms of build quality, when it comes to the Moto G series. And this time, the Moto G5 Plus is all-metal. Now there is a bit of plastic on the backside, but that is mostly to allow the signal to come in and out of the phone. Motorola has also added plastic in a way that most people won't even know the difference between it and the metal on the device. By fusing metal and plastic together, they have also managed to get rid of those antenna lines which we see on most smartphones, making the device look just that much better.
Before the Moto G5 Plus was announced, the device was leaked quite a bit, and many didn't like how it looked. But those leaks definitely did not do it any justice. The Moto G5 Plus is definitely a good looking device, now it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it does look nice. Our review unit here is the "fine gold" color, there is also the "lunar gray" which has a black front and a silver back. Motorola did a good job, at least with the fine gold color, in making the front the same color as the back. Many smartphone makers like to make the front a plain black or white and have interesting colors for the back (like the recently announced Product(RED) iPhone 7).
Design-wise, besides the colors, the biggest change to the Moto G5 Plus is around the camera. It's a fairly big camera bump and module. Now the actual sensor is fairly small, and near the top of the module, with the flash near the bottom. But the rest of that area hides the other sensors needed to get some pretty fantastic photos. The Moto G5 Plus measures in at 9.7mm thick at the camera bump, and the rest of the phone is 7.7mm. Obviously, it would be better if Motorola had made the phone a tad thicker to make the camera flush, like the Google Pixel and LG G6, but they didn't. That would have allowed them to make a slightly larger battery for the Moto G5 Plus. Now with this camera bump, the Moto G5 Plus does wobble a bit when you are tapping the screen with it sitting on a table or another flat surface, but that mostly only happens near the top of the display.
The SIM card and micro SD card slot is located at the top of the phone this time around, with the volume rocker and power button on the left. At the bottom of the phone you'll find the (rare) 3.5mm headphone jack and micro USB port. On the front you'll find the single speaker (which is located in the earpiece) and the fingerprint sensor that is below the display. You'll notice that Motorola has given the Moto G5 Plus some rather slim side bezels, despite the top and bottom bezels still being quite large. This is actually pretty normal for the Moto G series.
Again, Motorola has tossed a 1080p display onto the Moto G this year, and there's not a whole lot to complain about. Considering this smartphone is priced at under $300, a 1080p display is pretty impressive. However, Motorola did drop the size of the display this year, from a 5.5-inch panel on the Moto G4 last year to a 5.2-inch on the Moto G5 Plus. But that means we get a higher pixel density, and it makes the display look even more impressive.
This panel that Motorola is using is actually really good. It gets pretty dim, while still getting very bright, bright enough to use the display outdoors. Now IPS panels do typically suffer when it comes to deep blacks, and that's the case here, especially when compared to an AMOLED display, but it's not too bad. The color temperature is pretty accurate here, although you can't do much to change it this time around. On the Moto G5 Plus, you can choose between "Standard" and "Vivid" for the color modes. For the purposes of this review, we kept it on Vivid, as we felt that gave a better looking picture than standard did.
Motorola does also allow you to adjust the size of the display, with smaller text and elements, to allow you to see more on the screen, you can also make it larger, which is definitely useful for older people or those that might have some issues with their eye-sight. There's not a whole lot to complain about when it comes to the display, we'd love to see a QHD display here, but given the price point, Motorola would have had to cut other corners to make that happen, so it's a good thing they kept a full HD display here.
The Snapdragon 625 processor here is a slightly upgraded version of the Snapdragon 617 which powered the Moto G4, Moto G4 Plus and Moto Z Play last year. In our reviews of those phones, we found that the Snapdragon 617 was actually pretty good, even though it wasn't quite the fastest processor from Qualcomm. And we're finding that again this year with the Snapdragon 625. It's a great octa-core processor that no only performs in day-to-day usage, but it also works really well in gaming. Of course, having the Adreno 506 GPU definitely helps with the gaming performance.
This processor does clock up to 2GHz, so it's definitely no slouch. Our model here is the 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage model. And with 4GB of RAM, we had more than enough memory. In fact, on average our unit was only using under 2GB of RAM. Which leads us to believe that even the 2GB of RAM model would be fine (although not very future-proof). There was no real slowdowns in our experience with the Moto G5 Plus, even while gaming and using some rather resource-intensive applications. Now the real advantage that users get by picking up a smartphone with the Snapdragon 625 processor is in battery life. Since it uses less power, you'll get longer battery life, and better standby time. Which was definitely the case here, but more on that in a minute.
When it comes to storage, this is the 64GB model, and about 53GB of storage was available to the user out of the box. That's about the standard for most phones with 64GB capacity, and even more than some like the Galaxy Note 7, which has a whole slew of apps and other features pre-installed. Keep in mind that the Moto G5 Plus does support Adoptable Storage, so you can toss in a 256GB micro SD card and really have a ton of space available.
Motorola has opted to keep the fingerprint sensor on the front of the Moto G5 Plus this time around, and actually added the ability for it to work as the back, recents and home soft-keys, which is pretty neat. The fingerprint sensor is very accurate, but it's not the fastest, and that's not a bad thing. It's fast, just not the fastest. For the majority of people, the fingerprint sensor will be fast enough, and that's what is important.
Now when opting to use the fingerprint sensor as the "one button", you'll need to enable it in the Moto app. When you swipe left to right that will open up recents, while right to left is back. But you can also swap these in the settings. Allowing you to really customize it how you want. Just touching the button results in going back, while long-pressing it will act as the power/sleep button. This implementation actually works really well, and it's a great way for users to get a bit more of that 5.2-inch display real estate back.
Obviously when you buy a smartphone with a price tag of under $300 you aren't expecting it to have award-winning audio, and the Moto G5 Plus definitely does not offer that. But it does offer some pretty decent audio. The speaker is actually in the earpiece, and there's just one this time around, instead of dual speakers. Which means that the sound isn't as loud, but it does still sound great. The mids and highs are crystal clear, while the lows are nice and boomy. It doesn't sound tinny at all, which was one of my instincts when I heard this had just one speaker and it was in the earpiece. Usually speakers in the earpiece are a bit tinny (usually because they are cheap), but that's not the case here.
Phone Calls & Network
The main advantage that Motorola has over just about every other smartphone in this space is actually the compatibility with carriers. The Moto G5 Plus, like its predecessors, is compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon in the US. Nothing needs to be done, all you have to do is swap in your SIM card and you are good to go. It really can't be any easier than that. Which is a great thing, especially if you're buying a phone for your mom or dad, or even your kids, as this phone just works.
When it comes to phone calls, there is Wi-Fi Calling support, but not VoLTE or HD Voice. So this means that when you are unable to connect to your carrier's network, you can still make a call. But you won't be able to make a call over the internet or get high quality voice. Both of which are still pretty new technologies, and some carriers haven't even rolled it out yet. But when it came to phone calls, those we called on the Moto G5 Plus said that we sounded nice and clear, and it was the same on our end.
On the data side of things, we did spend a week using the Moto G5 Plus on T-Mobile's network here in the midwest and it worked as expected. We got speeds similar to other unlocked and even T-Mobile branded smartphones in the area, and while on Wi-Fi, we got the same speeds as on other devices. So it's clear that the modem in the Moto G5 Plus is pretty good.
On the benchmark front, we ran AnTuTu and GeekBench 4 on the Moto G5 Plus. For AnTuTu, it scored a 64,055, which put it at the bottom of the pack in the standings, but it's important to note here that the majority of the devices in these rankings are sporting higher-end internals, so it makes sense that the Moto G5 Plus is so far down. Then there's GeekBench 4. In the single-core test, it scored a 790, with a 3683 in the multi-score test. You can see the full results below.
When it comes to battery life, Motorola quotes that you can get around 24 hours out of the 3000mAh battery that's inside. Of course that is "mixed usage", so heavy users won't quite see that much. But in our testing, we did get pretty close to that, and even exceeded it a few times. The battery life on the Moto G5 Plus has lived up to what we've seen on previous Moto G smartphones, which is phenomenal battery life.
Of course, the Moto G5 Plus does also support Quick Charge 3.0. Which means some pretty fast charging, and it'll allow you to go ahead and top off your device pretty quickly, before heading out for the evening. Charging from 0 to full was completed in about 90 minutes. That's a pretty similar time to what we've seen with other Quick Charge 3.0 smartphones with similar battery capacities. It's also great that there is a Quick Charge 3.0-compatible wall charger included in the box with the Moto G5 Plus.
Over the past few years, basically since Google bought them (who then sold the company to Lenovo a couple years later), Motorola has kept their software rather simplistic. Keeping it stock Android, with a few added features on top. This makes it easier for Motorola and Lenovo to send out updates, but it also means that users aren't bombarded with a ton of features that they likely won't ever use. And perhaps most importantly, it keeps the software lightweight, which is great for phones like the Moto G5 Plus. At the time of this review, the Moto G5 Plus is running on Android 7.0 Nougat, and is sporting the January 1st, 2017 security update.
A quick word about software updates for the Moto G5 Plus. While Motorola is still pretty good at sending out updates for their smartphones, they are not doing the monthly security patches. Instead of sending out 12 of them a year (which is a pretty large number, all things considered), they are wrapping up several security patches together and pushing it out as one update. Basically what this means is that when a pretty critical vulnerability is found and patched, you'll get an update pretty quickly thereafter. However, the smaller, less critical vulnerabilities may not get fixed as quickly. So you should still see quick updates, but perhaps not as quick or as often as the Nexus and Pixel devices.
The Moto G5 Plus typically doesn't have a slew of features, compared to its high-end brother the Moto Z (before 2016, the Moto X). As usual, the majority of the features are found in the "Moto" app on the Moto G5 Plus. However, there is just the "Actions" and then Moto Display found here. In the Moto Actions section, you'll find all of the usual actions that you've come to know over the past few years with Motorola devices. This includes the chop twice gesture for the flashlight, twisting for quick capture, and so forth. A new one is the One button navigation. And what this does, is it allows you to get rid of the on-screen buttons for back, home and recents, and put all of that into the fingerprint sensor. So you can touch the sensor to go home, swipe left to right for recents and swipe the opposite way for going back. You can also switch those gestures if you'd like, in the settings.
Moto Display is back, and it's changed slightly, but the overall functionality is mostly the same. Allowing you to see the clock, date, battery percentage and what notifications you might have. Of course, you can swipe up to the notification to see what exactly it is. So for instance, on a Gmail message, you can swipe up and see who the email is from, instead of only seeing the icon letting you know that there is a new email from Gmail. In the Moto app, you can choose which apps appear on Moto Display. For instance, if you have an app that sends you notifications, but you don't want it to make Moto Display start "breathing" you can block that app from working on Moto Display. But it's really just that simple.
Motorola also debuted a new launcher on the Moto G5 Plus. So instead of the Google Now Launcher being installed here, you get something similar to the Pixel Launcher, but the main difference here is that the app drawer is actually transparent instead of white. Everything else is the same. No actual app drawer button. Instead you have an arrow that you can either tap, or swipe up from to open the app drawer. To the left of the home screen is also Google Now, as you'd expect. Now, as was reported shortly after the Moto G5 Plus was announced, Google Assistant isn't shipping on the Moto G5 Plus out of the box. It'll be coming in an update a bit further down the road. So those that were hoping to buy the Moto G5 Plus and get your hands on Google Assistant are out of luck for right now. Motorola has not said when it'll be available, but it shouldn't be too far down the road.
Software has always been a strong suite for Motorola, particularly on the Moto G series. They've perfected giving users somewhat minimal features and lightweight software, but still differentiating themselves from Nexus, Pixel and their other competitors devices. Android 7.0 Nougat absolutely flies on the Moto G5 Plus, and that's to be expected with an octa-core processor clocked at 2GHz, and 4GB of RAM. But it is definitely nice to see.
Motorola hasn't had the best track record when it comes to their cameras, but in recent years they have really taken some big steps to improve their cameras on their more high-end devices like the Moto X and Moto Z smartphones. And now we're starting to see that trickle down to the cheaper devices like the Moto G5 Plus. This smartphone here features a 12-megapixel camera on the back, with dual-LED flash, and a few other bells and whistles. There's no laser autofocus or phase detection autofocus, but it is a more than capable camera for sure. And after spending about a week with the device, we're pretty impressed with the camera here.
The app hasn't changed much. The camera app is still fairly minimal. Swiping in from the left brings up your settings, while swiping in from the right takes you to your recently taken photos. You do have shortcuts to the timer, flash and HDR settings though. There are only a few modes available on this camera, which include a manual mode (perhaps the most popular), as well as slow-motion, panorama and of course auto. In manual mode, you can adjust the white balance, the ISO, shutter and so much more. Which is why it's a pretty popular feature for many professional photographers out there.
The images that come out of this camera are definitely not perfect, but they are pretty good looking as long as you don't zoom in to far. Motorola has done a great job with color correction on this camera as well. There are a few pictures that were taken outside near dusk, and typically some of those shots would have blown out backgrounds, or be a bit oversaturated, but it actually looks really good. Indoors in less than perfect lighting, the camera does suffer a bit, but it's nowhere near as bad as you might expect given Motorola's history. There's not a lot to complain about here with the camera on the Moto G5 Plus, there's a lot more to love about it, to be honest. As always, you can see the full resolution version of the images we took with the Moto G5 Plus (all of them, even the bad ones) in the Flickr gallery linked below.
Micro USB connector instead of USB-C
Smaller Display than its predecessor
No Google Assistant out of the box
The Moto G series has been Motorola's most popular line of smartphones, ever. It even beat the RAZR which was hugely popular, back in the day when feature phones reign supreme. This is largely because Motorola put together a smartphone that had all of the necessities and none of the bells and whistles of the flagships, and priced it pretty low. Sure, the price has gone up a bit since the first generation debuted in 2013, but it has only jumped from $179 to $229, which is pretty impressive, especially given what Motorola is offering in the Moto G5 Plus (just for kicks, the original Moto G had a 4.5-inch 720p display with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage). The Moto G5 Plus is unfortunately the only model that is coming to the US, with the smaller Moto G5 sticking to Europe mostly, but it is the better of the two, so that's a good thing.
Should I Buy the Moto G5 Plus?
Yes, definitely. Motorola has another winner here with the Moto G5 Plus. Many people were a bit skeptical with the design of the Moto G5 Plus when it was leaking out ahead of the official announcement. But after using it and carrying it around for a week, the design is actually fairly decent. Of course, most people will pop a case on this smartphone, so that's not really a big deal. It's what is inside that counts. And there's a lot going for the Moto G5 Plus inside as well. If you are someone that doesn't need NFC, but does need a phone that has great battery life, and a somewhat small display, the Moto G5 Plus is definitely the way to go.