- So much tech for your cash
- Good performance
- Jazzed-up design
- A Moto G4 downgrade in some ways
- 5.5-inch 1080p display
- 1.4 GHz octa-core processor
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB storage
- 2800 mAh battery
- 13MP camera
- Android 7
- Manufacturer: Motorola
- Review Price: £169/$253
WHAT IS THE MOTO G5?
The Moto G5 is, like every model in this series, a great budget Android phone. It’s the near-perfect solution for people who want a phone they can buy outright or on a cheap contract.
It also makes the least impact of just about any Moto G to date, though, so if you find a Moto G4 at a bargain price you should consider that too. There’s little progress here, and a few minor downgrades.
Don’t feel the need to hesitate if you just want a good phone you can pick up on the high street and can’t find the Moto G4 anymore, though.
If you’re new to the Moto G series, the Moto G5 is a perfectly inoffensive, pleasant looking phone with some elements that give it a touch of class. For those already familiar with this phone family, there are some important changes.
The Moto G5 is a much smaller phone than the Moto G4, because it has a 5-inch screen rather than a 5.5-inch one. It’s much closer to the size of the old Moto G3. I had a chance to compare the two directly, and the Moto G5 is actually a bit wider, but slightly slimmer.
That extra width is what stops the Moto G5 from seeming like a phone radically more expensive than its price: bulk means ‘budget’. Those bits of screen surround are rather chunky, and highlighted by the chromed outline.
These chrome bits characterise what Lenovo has tried to do with the series, to glam it up a bit. To date all Moto G phones have been almost relentlessly practical, mostly-plastic and wallflower-like, but the Moto G5 has a lot more metal on show.
The main panel on the back is aluminium, but this is not a metal unibody phone. Pull off the removable back to investigate and you’ll find the metal is actually just a sliver of aluminium locked into a plastic frame. Realising this is slightly disappointing when companies like Honor and Huawei make affordable phones where metal dominates more.
That said, Lenovo has styled-out the design well. The curves between the metal and plastic parts look good, as does the contrast between the black camera circle and the silver or gold back. It may not really be the radical build upgrade it seems, but the style is much more deliberate. Older Moto Gs look plain in comparison, although like many I have a lot of affection for the no-nonsense style of the first three Moto G generations.
I’d recommend getting a case for the Moto G5 as after a few weeks of use I’ve managed to put a few scratches in the aluminium and a couple of nicks in the chrome screen border. The parts likely to wear the best are the glass on the front and the plastic on the sides. You’ve been warned.
Beneath the screen is a very good fingerprint scanner. As standard it’s not used as a Home button, but dig into the Moto app and you can make it replace all the home keys. Swipe left for ‘back’, right for ‘recent apps’ and a tap for Home: it works well. It’s also much prettier than the Moto G4 Plus’s ugly scanner, too.
There’s no NFC, so you can’t use Android Pay, which lets you use a phone like a contactless debit card. The Moto G5 also uses a microUSB rather than the newer USB-C, which over the last six months has become the norm for new phones. It dates the G5 a little, but for most people it ultimately doesn’t matter.
Fast charging doesn’t rely on USB-C (this phone has fast-ish charging) and USB-C doesn’t even guarantee super-fast file transfers. The main benefit in budget phones is being able to jam the plug in either way. Hardly a life-changer.
The Moto G5 has 16GB of internal storage, which is as much as you could expect at the price, and has a microSD slot. You can also remove the battery, a rarity these days. I tend to recommend investing in an external battery rather than spares for your phone, but many of our readers love the idea of being able to replace the cell when it starts losing capacity two years down the line.
The Moto G5 has a 5-inch screen. That’s a good size for just about anything, from reading articles to playing games and watching Netflix, without the pocket bulge of a 5.5-inch display like the Moto G4’s.
Its specs are perfect for the money, with 1080p resolution where the older Moto G generations with this size of screen used 720p panels. It’s sharper than an iPhone 7, with the same number of pixels as the iPhone 7 Plus. No complaints there.
On first turning the Moto G5 on, I could tell it doesn’t quite have the depth of colour as, say, a £500/$750 phone. However, the undersaturation is very, very slight and I stopped noticing it within a few hours.
There are actually two different colour modes, Standard and Vibrant, and if you use the latter the Moto G5 doesn’t look too far off a phone twice the price or more. ‘Standard’ is an sRGB-like mode, giving a relaxed look, but I think most people prefer the punchier mode.
The IPS LCD doesn’t have contrast or black level of an OLED, but only display obsessives and those that regularly watch Netflix in bed with the lights off will notice much. I’d be happy to live with this display, even if I had a top-end phone lying around waiting to be used.
Viewing angles are great, with only minor brightness drop-off at an angle and brightness is good enough to cope with outdoors use. Is it a downgrade from the Moto G4? It’s smaller and slightly less bright, but I’d put them in the same class. It’s also on-par with some phones well over £200/$300.
The Moto G5 runs Android 7.0 Nougat, in just about the purest form you’ll find outside of a Google Pixel phone. It’s a good-looking, intuitive piece of software.
If you’ve used Android but haven’t tried 7.0 yet, there are many changes, but the ones I’ve noticed most are the way the basic nav and notifications have changed. A quick flick up on the home screen brings up the apps menu, rather than using a button on the icon dock.
It sounds like a minor change, but gives Android more of the swooshy sense movement Google added to the system with Android 5.0’s Material interface.
Notifications are now more collapsible too. At first they look more complicated, but really just let you see and do more in the notifications drop-down.
There are a few Moto additions, but they sit outside of the core Android experience and can be switched off if you like. When you get a notification, the Moto G5’s screen phases in and out intermittently, letting you see them while the phone’s on a desk without eating up too much battery.
Additional gestures are present too. You can double ‘karate chop’ the Moto G5 to toggle the flashlight, and double twist to open up the camera. They’re such specific gestures many may not even realise they’re there.
One of the obvious disappointments of the Moto G5 is that it uses a lower-end processor than the Moto G4. It has the Snapdragon 430, the G4 a Snapdragon 617.
These two chipsets were announced by Qualcomm at the same time back in late 2015, so the newer phone doesn’t have the excuse that it uses a newer chip, even if it is less powerful.
I’ve always found these two chipsets odd, though. They’re both octa-core CPUs with Cortex-A53 cores, the most common kind for affordable phones at present, but where the 617’s CPU side is clocked higher, the 430 actually has a newer-generation graphics processor.
While the Moto G4 has greater productivity power, the Moto G5’s more recent GPU bridges the gap in clock speed when playing games.
If you’re a tech-head who hates the idea that Lenovo has actually downgraded the processor, I can understand feeling miffed. In Geekbench 4 it scores 2440 where the Moto G4 manages around 3000. However, in use I’ve found very little sense of compromise. The only major lag I’ve experience is when an app has stopped responding, and even high-end games run very well.
Asphalt 8 at High graphics settings plays well with only occasional, minor frame rate drops. Despite sounding like an entry-level processor, the Snapdragon 430 handles Android games much better than, for example, MediaTek’s Helio P10.
I’d still recommend keen gamers either try to get hold of a Moto G4 or the slightly larger, more expensive, Moto G5 Plus, though. The extra screen size is welcome, particularly in the much larger oldie Moto G.
The one caveat to these positive impressions is that I’ve been using the 3GB RAM version of the Moto G5, which also adds a second SIM slot. There’s also a ‘standard’ version with 2GB RAM. While this shouldn’t theoretically kill the generally good performance, it will reduce the number of apps kept in cache memory, meaning they’ll need to be reloaded fully more frequently.
The Moto G5 has a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with a single LED flash. Like the phone’s CPU, there’s not really much progress here compared with last year’s Moto G4 but the results are still perfectly good considering the price.
Almost all the positives and criticisms levelled at the Moto G4 remain. Let’s recap.
This is a generally nice-to-use camera. The Moto camera app is one of the most distinctively customised parts of the phone, and these days it works very well.
It’s a fairly simple app that wants you to focus on picking a subject, fiddling with the exposure if needed, but then leave the rest to the phone. Right by the aim reticle there’s a little exposure control. It’s very handy if you’re shooting in conditions with a lot of light variance.
For example, shoot during a gig and the Moto’s exposure brain will tend to overexpose as everything but the stage will seem near-black (all phones do this). Flick down the exposure dial and you’ll get much better results, and the Moto G take on this works well.
In good lighting you can take great photos, and when taking non-HDR shots the Moto G5 camera feels fast. I noticed no white balance blunders and detail is reasonably good.
This isn’t a phone camera I’d use to take holiday photos to print out on canvas for the wall (which I’m assured some people do). But when I experience a lot of my photos a year down the line when Google or Facebook reminds me I took them, these photos are at least good enough for that kind of photographic memory jog.
This phone also has a powerful HDR mode that lets you shoot in very tricky variable lighting conditions without ending up with an image that’s 50 per cent near-black.
There’s a lot of progress that hasn’t been made here, though, and it’s really a wider indication of the next steps I want to see from budget phones in general. This phone’s camera isn’t miles better than the Moto G3’s, really.
First, HDR shooting is significantly lower than normal shooting. Use the Auto HDR mode and it kicks-in reliably when needed, but the shift in shooting lag is jarring.
I’d also like to see smarter gradual use of HDR, using it to the extent needed. High-end phones have done this for a while, but the Moto G5’s seems to be less intelligent.
Low-light photo quality is also uninspiring. Colour fidelity goes out of the window with indoors lighting and detail drops a lot in indoors and night shots. This is no surprise. With no optical image stabilisation and an entry-level sensor, there’s no way the Moto G5 could dramatically improve performance. Here are some samples to give you an idea of real-life image quality:
A high-end phone camera would do a better job of rendering these branches, but it’s otherwise a solid shot
Here’s another look at the fine detail possible. Not bad for a £150/$225-odd phone
Without HDR this building would be almost black as the sun was peeking right behind its walls
Night image quality isn’t terrible but the shots end up quite dark The cut-out shows the kind of detail you can get after some post-processing. Not ugly, but soft
Here’s another HDR shot in action. Very strong light source to the right, but the blossoms in shadow are still very clear. Not bad.
There are some minor signs of the middling sensor quality even with daylight photos, with a slightly less clean, granular texture. You do need to get right down to pixel level to see this, though, so don’t worry about it too much.
I’d also like to see future versions of the Moto G use a wider lens aperture. The G5 has an f/2 lens. While I don’t think this alone would fix the low-light photo issues, it would let you take more dramatic close-ups.
The wider the lens aperture the blurrier a photo’s background will appear, using the same-size sensor. You can create slight blurry background effects here, but only slight ones.
The Moto G5 isn’t that great at isolating close-up subjects like this flower
Just a few years ago, the Moto G5’s camera performance would have bowled us over in a budget phone. And it did, in the Moto G3. However, entry-level camera quality appears to have plateau’d. It’s a phone camera I’d be happy to use day-to-day, but those expecting real progress will be disappointed.
This is largely true of the front camera too. The Moto G5 has a 5-megapixel selfie camera, and it can’t render beard hairs convincingly in a reasonably well-lit room like the best £150-250/$225-375 phones. It’s a bog-standard camera.
The Moto G5 has a 2800mAh battery that, unusually, can be removed. This means if it stops holding a good charge 18 months after buying, you can simply buy another.
It’s already readily available, as the GK40 unit is the same used by the Moto G4 Play.
The phone has semi-fast battery charging, with a 5.2W 2A (10.4 watt) charger. It’ll get you most of the way charged in an hour, but the more powerful Motorola TurboCharger used with higher-end Moto phones ramps up to 15 watts.
Stamina is acceptable, but not much more than that. With normal use it’ll last a full day, but on several occasions I’ve run it down by night-time after streaming one too many podcasts, or a bit too much Spotify. It would be good to see the next Moto G use a more power-efficient processor, as the 28nm process of the Snapdragon 430 is similar to that used in the Snapdragon 400, used in the very first Moto G back in 2013.
As with several elements of the Moto G5, it’s an issue common among budget phones. The Samsung Galaxy S8 has a 10nm processor while cheaper ones are still left with old 28nm. For those not deep into the tech, this refers to the size of transistors used in a processor: smaller ones enable power efficiency savings.
Finally, there’s just the speaker to look at. It sits on the front, doubling as the earpiece speaker. While useful for YouTube watching and podcast listening, it’s nothing to get excited about. It sounds thinner than the best budget phone speakers, so can’t cut through much ambient noise that well.
SHOULD I BUY THE MOTO G5?
If you find the Moto G4 at the same price as the Moto G5 or cheaper, there’s a very good argument for buying the older model unless you prefer the design of the new model. The screen’s bigger, the processor a little faster and the camera similar in terms of image quality.
However, assuming the Moto G5 will nudge the G4 off many shelves, this phone is still very easy to recommend. And it’ll be supported longer than the Moto G4, which is definitely worth considering.
The lingering issue is that any progress here is subjective. A more premium look and feel will be welcomed by many and using a smaller but still 1080p screen may appeal to those who found the Moto G4 that bit too big. It’s not a better phone than the Moto G4, but it’s still one of the best phones at under £200/$300.
As much as we complain about the Moto G series treading water, that this is still a great buy is what matters most.
There’s little progress but the Moto G5 is still a budget star