Inexpensive smartphones have become more affordable and more capable over the past few years. When Motorola first unveiled the Moto G product line, the device targeted emerging markets such as Brazil. And in Brazil, Motorola found tremendous success with the G lineup.
As technology continues to evolve and get less expensive, and Motorola packs more into each Moto G iteration, the company has wound up with a smartphone that rivals devices costing much more.
I’ve spent the past week using the $299 Moto G5 Plus with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage, a $70 bump over the $229 starting price for half the storage and memory, and it’s the best budget-friendly smartphone I’ve ever used.
An inspired design
The Moto G5 Plus looks a lot like the Moto Z, only it’s not nearly as thin. You either love or dislike (hate is too strong of a word) the circular camera hump on the back of the phone; I’m firmly in the dislike camp.
I didn’t like the look and feel of the bump in my hand on the Moto Z, and I still am not sold on it on the G5 Plus.
That said, the G5 Plus isn’t ugly by any means. A metal backing —either gray or gold—encases the 5.2-inch 1080p display. On the right side of the phone, you find the power and volume buttons. A microUSB port and 3.5mm headphone jack adorn the bottom.
It’s disappointing Motorola is still using microUSB for charging and syncing the G5 Plus, especially when you consider how common USB-C is becoming.
Just below the display is a touch sensitive home button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor and a trackpad of sorts.
Moto software enhancements
Converting the home button into a trackpad is done through the pre-installed Moto app on the phone. Within that app, you can enable customizations and enhancements Motorola has long included in its nearly-vanilla version of Android.
With the G5 Plus, you can do things such as enable Moto Display to quickly check and triage notifications, or get rid of any onscreen navigation buttons — using gestures over the home button instead.
For example, when one-button navigation is enabled, swipe to the left over the home button replaces the back button, and swipe to the right displays recently used apps. A quick tap on the home button goes home, with a long press locking the phone.
Additionally, holding the G5 Plus and making a chopping motion as if you are holding an ax toggles the flashlight.
Overall, the features that Motorola includes with its Moto app are optional and in addition to the standard features found in Android 7.0 Nougat. Some of them I can’t live without when using a Moto device, such as the flashlight or camera shortcuts, while others (Ex: one button nav) is better left turned off.
Camera and performance
I was in New York during my time testing the G5 Plus to learn more about Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch. I had some free time one night, so I walked around Times Square and snapped some low light photos with the G5 Plus and its 12-megapixel camera. With an f/1.7 aperture, it should have excelled.
On the Moto G5 Plus display, I thought the photos came out clear and crisp. I was more than impressed with its performance. At least, that’s what I until I sat down at my computer to view the results.
The picture of a taxi driving by, for example, has washed out colors in the signs over the shops and the people walking in the crosswalk are a little blurry.
It’s not a bad photo at all; it’s just not what I was expecting after viewing it on the phone’s display.
Under normal lighting conditions, the G5 Plus performs well. Color reproduction is accurate, and pixelation is minimal. What I love most about using the G5 Plus camera is the ability to quickly launch it with a turn of the wrist, regardless if the phone is locked or you’re in an app.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 processor is fast enough to carry out everyday smartphone chores, but not powerful enough for intense gaming sessions. I played Minecraft with a few hiccups or stutters here and there.
Battery life on the Moto G5 Plus is phenomenal. Using PCMark’s battery life benchmark test, the G5 Plus clocked in a score of 10 hours and 17 minutes; over four hours longer than the ZTE Max Pro.
My real world usage matched up with the battery benchmark results, with the phone offering enough power to get through two days worth of traveling, randomly used as a hotspot, snapping photos, and replying to emails.
Worth every penny
Try as I might to reconcile the $229 price tag for the G5 Plus, I can’t. Indeed, I have been testing the $299 model with double the RAM and storage, but the point stands: The G5 Plus is priced way below its value. From the metal housing and fast camera to battery life that’s enough to get through even the heaviest of work days, there’s a lot for Motorola to be proud of here.
Despite its extreme value, the G5 Plus would greatly benefit from adding NFC and swapping USB-C for its microUSB connector.
Whether you’re on a budget and looking for an affordable smartphone or you want to get something inexpensive for your child, the Moto G5 Plus is worth every penny.
Heck, I’ve even debated getting rid of my kids’ iPod touch, and getting them each a Moto G5 Plus that I can control with Google’s Family Link app.