Moto G5

Update: The Moto G is currently our best cheap phone in the world, which shows you just how good this affordable handset is.

Motorola's G series is the firms best selling phone range ever, and the latest installment in the budget line is the Moto G5. 

Manufacturer Lenovo (the new owners of the Moto brand) has decided to kick things up a notch with a more premium, metallic design and an impressive host of extras that you wouldn’t usually expect to find in a phone this cheap.

Just like last year’s Moto G4, the Moto G5 starts at sub-£200, but the plastic has given way to aluminium and there’s a snazzy fingerprint sensor now too (although the larger, and pricier G4 Plus was the first G series handset to the introduce this tech). 

The Moto G5 also runs the latest version of Android, 7.0 Nougat, with some handy gestures and options via the Moto app.

But the chipset has oddly had a downgrade and the screen is smaller, so is the G5 really a worthy successor?

Moto G5 price and release date

  • Starts at £170 (AU$ 299)
  • Not available in the US
  • It’s £10 more for 3GB of RAM

The basic version of the Moto G5 with 2GB of RAM is available in the UK for £170 from John Lewis, Carphone Warehouse and a handful of other retailers, while you're looking at AU$ 299 in Australia.

It usually comes in gold or grey, but O2 stocks an exclusive blue version. You can pay an extra £10 to get 3GB of RAM and dual SIM support if you buy online via Motorola or Amazon and we recommend that you do.

That £170 would be around $ 200 in the US, but the bad news is that the Moto G5 is not going to be released Stateside. Bargain hunters in the US will have to make do with the Moto G5 Plus.

Some markets will only get the version with 2GB of RAM, but our review unit has 3GB under its grey exterior, along with space for a second SIM card.

Premium for all?

  • More expensive look and feel
  • Great camera on paper

Lenovo’s tagline is “Premium for all” and that idea is immediately apparent in the design of the Moto G5. 

While the Moto G series has always been lauded for packing great specs into affordable handsets, it has never been known for style. That changes with the Moto G5.

This is a good-looking phone with a satisfying heft, thanks to the aluminium rear panel. It has a seriously slick, indented fingerprint sensor below the screen on the all-glass front, with a subtle sliver of metal around the speaker at the top.

A silver circle surrounds the large camera module on the back with a classy M logo etched into the metal panel. This is easily the most attractive Moto G we’ve ever seen.

It also boasts a 13MP main camera with phase detection autofocus and a 5MP selfie camera with a wide-angle lens for group shots. That’s an impressive set of specs on paper.

Throw in rapid charging and the usual suspects in terms of connectivity and it’s clear the Moto G5 brings a lot to the table. At first glance, the only obvious omission here is NFC.

Premium for all indeed.

Design and display

  • Classy gleaming metallic frame and brushed metal finish
  • Decent 5.0-inch 1080p display

While the design of the Moto G5 is impressive, it’s not going to catch your eye in the way that something like the Samsung Galaxy S8 will. We can say it looks good, but we always have to add the qualifier “for the price”.

If we compare it to last year’s Moto G4, which was all plastic and lacked a fingerprint scanner, the forward strides are obvious. 

The metallic back looks and feels nice, and the metal panel gives way to a plastic bumper section at the top and bottom, which will be more durable in the event of a fall.

It's not, however, as premium as the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, which boast full metal bodies crafted from a single piece of aluminium. 

On the bottom edge, you’ll find the micro USB port and a small indent to help you prise the back off to reveal the removable battery, SIM slots, and the microSD card slot (up to 128GB).

There’s a standard 3.5mm headphone port up top and the right spine has a smooth volume rocker with a textured power button below it.

On the glass front, there’s the front-facing camera and speaker at the top, with a Moto logo, and at the bottom there’s the concave fingerprint sensor and microphone.

The display is a 5-inch IPS LCD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s sharp, in fact, at 441 pixels per inch, it’s a touch sharper than the display on the Moto G5 Plus. It’s also bright and vibrant and will serve you well for reading, watching videos, or gaming. 

The big bezels around the screen are one of the few clues that this is a budget phone, but you can’t have everything.

Interface and reliability

  • Near stock Android but with a handy Moto app
  • Slick fingerprint sensor can replace nav buttons with swipes
  • Runs Android Nougat complete with Google Assistant

It’s nice to see the latest, near stock Android 7.0 Nougat on the Moto G5, and we’re glad Lenovo has gone with Google’s suite of apps. Chrome is a solid browser, Photos allows you to automatically back up your precious pictures and videos, and there’s simply no need for the inferior duplicate apps that a lot of manufacturers include.

Android is slick, attractive, and accessible nowadays, with plenty of useful features baked in, so there isn’t any need for a lot of extras on top. It’s quick and easy to navigate around on the Moto G5 and we had no problems with the interface.

If you’ve used Android before, everything will be familiar. The settings and notification shade are the same as stock, the only major interface tweak in this version is the fact that you swipe up from the bottom dock to open your app drawer.

What Lenovo has added is mostly good. The Moto app gives you the ability to use some handy gesture shortcuts and have the display show basics like the time without you having to bring the full screen to life. We’ll go into detail on the camera app later.

The star of the show here, without a doubt, is the fingerprint sensor with something Lenovo calls “One-button nav”.

It allows you to reclaim some screen real estate by removing the on-screen navigation buttons and using the fingerprint sensor instead. Simply tap it to return to the home screen, swipe left to right to go back, or right to left to open recent apps.

Movies, music and gaming

  • 5-inch display is crisp and colourful
  • Speaker sounds terrible, but there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Snapdragon 430 is not the smoothest for gaming

While it isn’t going to blow you away, the Moto G5’s 5-inch screen is perfectly adequate. We didn’t have any issues reading or watching videos on it. 

Crank the brightness up outdoors and it remains legible. It doesn’t hit Super AMOLED highs, but the colours look convincing enough and it works just fine for YouTube or Netflix.

The single speaker is an obvious weakness. It sounds tinny and rumbly and it vibrates the Moto G5 if you turn the volume up beyond halfway. 

That’s not much of a surprise in a budget phone, but you will definitely want to use the 3.5mm headphone port for listening to music or enjoying movies.

For casual gaming, the Moto G5 will suffice. We had no issues with Super Mario Run, for example, but Asphalt 8 didn’t fare quite as well. We were able to play on the highest graphical settings, but it did drop frames from time to time. The loading speeds for games were also quite slow.

One issue that you might bump into, especially if you like to load movies or music onto your phone or install big games, is the lack of storage space. 

The Moto G5 has a 16GB capacity, but only 10GB is available out of the box. Thankfully, there is a microSD card slot that supports cards of up to 128GB.

Benchmarks and performance

  • Plenty of power for basic tasks
  • A little slow to load and quit apps and games

The Moto G5 pairs a Snapdragon 430 chipset with an Adreno 505 GPU. It feels like enough power for the majority of basic tasks. Browsing the web, typing messages, and swiping around is hitch-free, the only time we felt any lag was coming in and out of apps and games. It’s a little slow to load and a little slow to quit.

Our Moto G5 review handset is the 3GB version, and we’d definitely advise spending the extra £10 to get it. We suspect the app switching delays will be worse on the 2GB model.

With an average score of 2,377 in our Geekbench 4 test, the Moto G5 disappointed us a little. Last year’s Moto G4 managed to score 3,104, and the Moto G5 Plus hit 3,824 in the same test. The Honor 6X scored 3,275.

But the Moto G5’s score isn’t that bad. The slightly more expensive Wileyfox Swift 2 X has the same chipset and 3GB of RAM and it only managed an average of 2,016.

Battery life

  • The rapid charging is very fast
  • Daily charging is required

The battery life of the Moto G5 is typical. On a normal day of mixed use, you’re going to want to charge it up at night. We never dropped below 10% before bedtime, even on a busy day of shooting photos and gaming, but it also never lasted beyond a day and a half.

At the end of our 90-minute HD video test the Moto G5 had lost 22% of its battery power, which is a perfectly respectable result, though not quite as good as its predecessor, which only lost 17%.

That might be explained by the fact that Lenovo has shrunk the capacity slightly from 3,000mAh to 2,800mAh, though it has also shrunk the display by half an inch.

Gaming tends to drain batteries quite quickly and that’s true for the Moto G5. It lost 8% in 20 minutes playing Asphalt 8, and 7% in 20 minutes of Super Mario Run.

The 10W rapid charger is impressive though. If the battery is low it climbs extremely fast, but it slows down as the percentage ticks up. Just 20 minutes plugged in was enough to go from 20% up to 50%. 

Overall, Lenovo’s claim that you can get hours of power in minutes of charging holds up.

Camera

  • Low light performance is poor
  • Camera app includes a professional mode
  • 5MP wide-angle front camera is good for group selfies

On paper, the 13MP main camera in the Moto G5 sounds impressive. However, it doesn’t have the dual-LED flash of its bigger brother, the G5 Plus, or the large f/1.7 aperture which improves low light performance.

The G5 Plus camera may only be rated at 12MP, but it’s a superior Sony IMX260 sensor.

The camera in the Moto G5 is decent, but unremarkable. In good lighting conditions, when you take your time, it’s possible to capture some stunning shots. The off-the-cuff performance, which is how most of us really use our cameras, is not as good.

If there’s any movement, then shots come out blurry, and noise creeps in when there’s anything less than bright daylight.

The Moto G5 does have the same camera app as its more expensive Plus variant though. It’s straightforward to use and supports automatic HDR. You can tap and hold to lock in a subject to focus on and there’s a brightness wheel around the reticle.

There’s also a professional mode, which lets you adjust ISO, white balance, and a few other bits and pieces. Slow motion and panorama are present, too, but neither is very good. Video recording is basic at up to 1080p and 30 frames per second.

The 5MP front-facing camera has a wide-angle lens for group selfies and we like the option to tap anywhere to capture, so you don’t have to do contortions to reach the shutter button.

Camera samples

Verdict

If you’re not willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar brand, then the Moto G line remains the best value Android smartphone in town.

There are significant improvements over the Moto G4 in terms of the design, with the shift from plastic to metal. The inclusion of an excellent fingerprint scanner is also very pleasing, as is the rapid charging capability.

However, the Moto G5 has taken a small step back in terms of performance, as battery life and processing power are merely average.

Who's this for?

Anyone on a budget who still wants a decent level of performance and a handset that they won’t be embarrassed to pull out of their pocket.

The latest version of Android, along with a solid build, camera and fingerprint sensor make this great value for your £170 (around $ 200, AU$ 275), though we think it’s worth stretching to £180 (roughly $ 220, AU$ 290) for the extra 1GB of RAM.

Should you buy it?

There isn’t a better Android smartphone in the sub-£200 price range, so if that’s your budget, then yes, you should buy the Moto G5.

If you want to play demanding games, or you’d like NFC for mobile payments, then you’re likely going to have to spend a fair bit more.

The Moto G5 is one of the very best phones you can get at this budget, but the following three are great options if you're up for spending a little more or less.

Moto G5 Plus

There wasn’t a great deal of difference between the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus, but this year’s siblings have more to separate them. The G5 Plus costs £250. 

The metal design and the excellent fingerprint sensor are almost the same, but the extra £80 buys you the superior Snapdragon 625 chipset with the Adreno 506 GPU, a slightly bigger 5.2-inch display, and 32GB of storage.

Perhaps most importantly, the G5 Plus has the 12MP Sony IMX260, f/1.7 camera, which is much better than the G5’s camera in low light conditions. It’s actually the same camera module that’s in the Samsung Galaxy S7, though it doesn’t hit the same highs.

The G5 Plus also has a bigger, 3,000mAh battery, which seems to outlast the G5 based on our testing.

Moto G4

Last year’s Moto G will be available even more cheaply now and it might prove to be more tempting for bargain hunters than the G5. The G4 has a bigger 5.5-inch screen, better battery life, and a faster Snapdragon 617 chipset.

Lenovo has put some effort into giving the Moto G5 a premium feel, but the fingerprint sensor is by far the best addition. It’s something that was completely absent from the Moto G4. However, the Snapdragon 430 feels like a compromise and we would have preferred to see the same Snapdragon 625 that’s in the Moto G5 Plus.

If money is tight and you prize performance over style, then there’s a case for buying the Moto G4 instead of the G5.

Honor 6X

The Honor 6X, from Huawei, is definitely worth considering in this price bracket. It costs around £230 and it also has a metal body with a good fingerprint scanner, though it’s on the back with the Honor 6X.

To tempt you further, there’s a 5.5-inch full HD display, an octa-core Kirin 655 chipset, and 3GB of RAM. As if that wasn’t enough, Huawei also throws in 32GB of storage, a big 3,340mAh battery, and a dual 12MP and 2MP main camera, with an 8MP selfie camera.

If you can find the extra £50 or so, then the Honor 6X is a compelling alternative.

First reviewed: April 2017

TechRadar – Technology Reviews

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