- Great value
- Much improved build
- Good daylight photos
- Slow, slightly buggy camera
- Review Price: £269.99/$404.99
- 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen
- Octa-core Snapdragon 625 CPU
- 3GB RAM
- Android 7.1.1
- Dual 13-megapixel rear camera with flash
What is the Moto G5S Plus?
The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus is a new alternative to the Moto G5 Plus. Arriving just a few months later, it makes you wonder: “why?”
Whatever the answer, even though we think the original G5 Plus is great, there are real improvements here. The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus is a full-metal phone, unlike its predecessor, making it one of the most pleasant to use and affordable large-screen phones around, with pricing starting at just £269.99. Yet again, the Moto series has come up with a budget champ.
Moto G5S Plus — Design
The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus is different from the Moto G5 Plus in two key ways. First, it’s much larger. Lenovo’s last wave of Moto G phones had relatively small screens: five inches for the Moto G5 and 5.2 for the Moto G5 Plus. The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus has a 5.5-inch screen, making it a good size for gamers, people who watch video on their mobiles and more-or-less any phone enthusiast. Second, the Lenovo Moto G5S Plus is a true all-metal shell phone. The Moto G5 and G5 Plus have metal backs, but plastic sides, but the G5S has is a proper unibody aluminium design.
The metal is great and makes it feel almost as premium as a phone twice its price. You can get the Moto G5S Plus in gold or grey and, as you can seen from the photos here, it’s not too garish a gold shade.
Below the screen sits a fingerprint scanner. It’s just like the one seen in the Moto G5 Plus. It’s fairly quick rather than lightning fast, like some mid-price Huawei phones, but is still quicker than using a pin code or password. You also get 32GB storage, and the option to add a microSD card. A lot of mid-price phones have just 16GB.
Lenovo has also fixed one of the long-standing complaints about Moto G phones. The G5S Plus has NFC, letting you use it for wireless payments.
It has a water-repelling inner nano coating, and the design is simply a lot nicer than that of the G5 Plus. The one missing feature is a compass, which is what lets apps like Google Maps swivel around based on the direction you face.
Moto G5S Plus — Screen
The Moto G5S Plus has a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS LCD screen. It’s not OLED, it’s not incredibly high-res, but it is close enough in-person to a higher-end screen to make this a non-issue for most people.
Colours are vivid, sharpness is great and aside from a little bit of brightness loss viewing angles are solid.
Some more affordable phones struggle in bright daylight, their displays not powerful enough to compete. However, the Moto G5S Plus handles the sun pretty well. You won’t have to squint just to read a WhatsApp message.
There are also a few extra features. You can alter the Moto G5S Plus’s colour profile, for a more vivid or natural look. There’s not a world-changing difference between these modes as this is not an ultra-wide gamut display, but it’s a nice touch for screen nerds.
Lenovo has also added a custom night mode. These are now common, and change the display temperature at night. You’ll see the screen get warmer towards bed time, to make staring at the phone easier on your eyes.
Lenovo Moto G5S Plus — Software
The Moto G5S Plus runs Android 7.1.1. An upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo has been confirmed, with an ETA of December 2017. If you’re reading this in 2018 and it still hasn’t arrived, don’t blame us.
As usual the Moto series uses a mostly-standard version of Android. You get the same “pull up” apps menu used in the Google Pixel phones, but the background of this menu uses a dimmed version of your home screen wallpaper rather than the Google-standard plain white sheet.
There’s no bloat, no attempt to stamp a loud Moto personality on Android beyond adding some custom wallpapers. There’s just one extra app, called Moto. It lets you customise the small handful of extra features added to Android.
These are Moto Display and Moto Actions. Moto Display simply fades notifications in and out for a while when the phone’s in standby. It’s designed to subtly grab your attention if, for example, you work with the phone on a desk.
Moto Actions is the reason most of the Moto phone owners I know end up complaining their torch turns on randomly. It’s a series of gestures, and one of them turns the torch on and off with a double karate chop action.
Others include stopping the phone ringing when the Moto G5S Plus is picked up, and sitting it on its screen to active the Do Not Disturb feature. The newest addition to the Moto Actions family lets you replace soft keys with swipes across the fingerprint scanner.
This works fairly well, although after a week I ended up switching back because, well, virtual buttons are just simpler.
Lenovo Moto G5S Plus — Performance
The Moto G5S Plus is generally a quick and responsive phone. Over a couple of weeks’ use it has had a couple of spates where waking from standby has taken a little longer. And compared with a more powerful phone like the Google Pixel apps are slower to load.
However, as with the Moto G5 Plus performance is great for a phone that costs hundreds of pounds less than top-end models. Games also run very well and there’s just the slightest occasional frame rate jitter in Asphalt 8, but nothing to make it seem a cut-price experience.
This is an excellent gaming phone, and even the speaker is fairly good. It’s just a single driver on the bottom, so you don’t get stereo or perfect sound dispersal when you’re playing ‘landscape’ but it’s loud and has enough power to avoid sounding weedy.
The Moto G5S Plus uses the Snapdragon 625 processor, an octa-core CPU with all-Cortex-A53 cores. This tells you it’s a mid-range chipset at best, but it does the job for a phone with a 1080p screen and well-optimised software. The Moto G5 Plus uses the same core hardware.
The 4460 points in Geekbench 4 is respectable and the 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM is pretty standard for phones at this level.
Moto G5S Plus — Camera Hardware
The Moto G5S Plus has a different camera array to its closest sibling, the Moto G5 Plus. Instead of using a single 16-megapixel rear camera it has two 13-megapixel rear cameras, with a lens aperture of f/2.0.
More expensive phones use dual cameras for lossless zooming, offering wide-angle shooting or improving dynamic range and general image quality. The Moto aim is a little less ambitious. Dual cameras are used here for background blurring.
Offset cameras let the Moto G5S Plus create a depth map of a scene, to separate the background from foreground and process them independently. Phones like the Galaxy Note 8 get you awesome results with the same concept. The Moto take isn’t quite as good, fluffing the outlines of complicated objects more than the best. It’s also probably the slowest part of the phone.
You need some patience as processing takes a few seconds. However, the results can still be great, with proper progressive blurring that can fool people into thinking you took a picture with a DSLR if you work the framing properly.
Camera performance is an issue across the board. Even when shooting using the standard mode, there’s a bit of a delay between pressing the shutter button and a) the shot being captured and b) being able to take another.
This is the part of the Moto G5S Plus I have most issue with. Earlier Moto G phones are faster. Of course, this may well be improved with future software updates.
Moto G5S Plus — Camera Image Quality
General image quality is very good, in part thanks to a powerful Auto HDR mode. This lets you shoot in any condition, no matter where the sun is, and end up with good results. The Moto G5S Plus may not have an ultra-high quality sensor, but in daylight at least photos don’t compare too badly to shots taken with phones up to twice the price.
Colour in particular is very pleasant: well-saturated without appearing overcooked.
I was actually expecting more of a drop-off in quality compared to the Moto G5 Plus. In theory that phone has has a better camera. It uses the Sony IMX362, which has fewer, larger sensor pixels and a better f/1.7 aperture. This phone’s sensor type has not been publicised, but it likely a slightly lower-end Sony model.
However, both G5 Plus and G5S Plus struggle a little at night. Photos lose quite a lot of detail, ending up looking soft. In the Moto G5 Plus there’s an argument the Moto software was partly to blame. But this sort of degradation is exactly what I expect from a phone with a fairly conventional 13-megapixel sensor, f/2 lens and no optical image stabilisation.
There is a Night mode designed to improve low-light photography. However, this further slows down the shooting process and doesn’t radically improve results.
Auto HDR does a good job of bringing up the mid-tones in tricky lighting. You can improve this further with a post-shoot edit.
Night shots look fine zoomed-out, but don’t hold up too well to close scrutiny. For example, the track gravel looks much softer than the same scene shot with the Sony Xperia XZ1.
Here’s a demo of the depth mode. Note the area below the railing where the object recognition/depth mapping has failed.
In a lot of ways the Moto G5S Plus gets you an experience close to a phone twice the price. However, it also isn’t close to the best in terms of shooting performance and low-light image quality.
There are a few good video extras, though. You can shoot at up to 4K resolution (30fps), and both 30fps and 60fps at 1080p. The Moto G5S Plus also has a 120fps slow motion mode, which can be fun to use when taking videos of friends/puppies/babies being friends/puppies/babies.
The front camera has a, 8-megapixel sensor, and can produce decent if not standard-setting photos. It also has a front LED flash. This is well above average: some front flashes barely seem to make a difference with dim indoor lighting, but this one really does.
Moto G5S Plus — Battery Life
Having a high-capacity battery is not a guarantee for good battery life these days. I’ve used 3000mAh-plus phones that have struggled to last through a day’s use. The Moto G5S Plus is one of the longer-lasting phones I’ve used this year, though. With normal use, including a couple of hours of audio streaming, I’ve seen the phone survive with up to 40% battery left by bed time which is pretty impressive.
30 minutes of Real Racing 3 takes 9% off the battery, suggesting you’ll get a respectable 5.5 hours of gaming out of a charge.
Like the Moto G5 Plus, the G5S Plus supports Motorola Turbo battery charging, This will replenish most of the battery in 30-40 minutes, using 12V voltage instead of the usual 5V.
The phone still uses a microUSB port rather than a newer USB-C one. This is connector has gone from industry standard to flat-out retro in the last year. However, it’s no reason to discount the Moto G5S Plus. Fast charging is what actually matters, and this phone has it.
Should I buy the Lenovo Moto G5S Plus?
The Moto G5S Plus is a great choice for those who want a large phone without a high price. It’ll go on sale next to the Moto G5 Plusand Moto G5, but this version has a much better frame and a larger screen.
If you think a 5.5-inch screen will be too big for you, the Moto G5 and G5 Plus are still good choices. However, the all-metal build it so much nicer it’s hard to go back to the Moto G5 Plus, which is only a little cheaper.
The one drawback is that at present the Moto G5S Plus camera app is a little slow, and less stable than the Moto series norm. Teething problems? Hopefully.
The Moto G5S Plus is an update or two away from perfection but is still our large-screen, lower price phone of choice.