The Moto G has long been the hero of affordable phones. In 2017, Motorola - now owned by Lenovo - is stepping things up a notch in the fifth-generation G model, the G5, without causing a greater dent in your wallet.
Yep, not only is the G5 priced at the same £169 (with 16GB storage) as its G4 predecessor from almost a year ago (an increasing rarity in pending-Brexit UK), the new model now comes dressed in a metal jacket. How chic.
The design language across the range is far more sophisticated than earlier G-series models. The G5 does away with fussy vent-like speaker grilles of the G3/G4 models and mimics much of the top-end Moto Z's style, including its circular-enclosed camera on the rear. Thankfully, however, it does so without the litany of various sensor openings in that higher-end model.
With many makers such as OnePlus now pushing harder in the mid-priced market, is the stage set for Motorola to sweep the board in the budget phone department? Having handled the G5 (and its larger, pricier (and all-round better) G5 Plus derivative - more on that here) we think the answer is an definitive yes.
Moto G5 review: Design
- 5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) LCD display
- Front-faced fingerprint scanner
- Removable metal rear shell
- Removable 2,800mAh battery
- 144.3 x 73 x 9.5; 144.5g
Motorola has long been figuring out the G-series' sweet spot in terms of size: the later G3 model was 5-inches, the G4 expanded to 5.5-inches, with the G5 shrinking back down to a more manageable 5-inch scale again (the G5 Plus is an in-between 5.2-inches). The screen is Full HD, so no worries there in terms of quality or viewing angles.
The rear shell is made of metal and can be removed to swap out the 2,800mAh battery. Although, we must say, it looks a lot like plastic trying to look like metal. It's not, though, and how prone it can be to scratches will quickly point out that it's a metal finish by the way these appear. Still, it's better than naff budget blue plastics and the like.
Charging is handled via Micro-USB, with the 10W charger meaning fast top-up times. Not quite as quick as the G5 Plus's 15W TurboCharger though. Oh, and you'll be pleased to know that Moto hasn't done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack just yet. It's neatly slotted on the top of the G5's subtly curved top.
Visually it's a far more accomplished product than previous Moto G-series. The way the camera to the rear sits into a circular emblem, the classic “M” (or “wings” as it's called) logo sat beneath, the textured metal buttons to the side. It's all good.
Moto G5 review: One-touch Nav
- Home key can be used to swipe to control device
- Traditional android home/back/apps soft keys also available
The way the front-faced fingerprint scanner looks - in its new pill-shaped form - is far more pleasing to look at than the square one of the G4 Plus and Moto Z too. Now, in the G5, is has a special trick up its sleeve: One-touch Nav.
You'll be seeing a lot more of this kind of control on Android phones in the future we suspect. One-touch Nav takes the usual trio of soft keys and instead uses gesture to make commands. Swipe to the left of the key to go back; swipe right to open current apps screen; press to return to home screen (or to lock the screen); press-and-hold to activate Google Now launcher (the only feature to provide haptic, vibrational feedback).
At first it might feel a little alien to use, but the fact is you can always revert back to standard controls doesn't force this control mechanism upon you (it's not default out of the box either). There are no capacitive buttons to the side of this home key, however, so if you want Android soft keys on display then you'll have to eat up their visual impact on screen.
Moto G5 review: Storage and power
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
- 2GB RAM, 16GB storage (plus microSD card slot)
- Android 7.0 operating system
- No NFC
Phone processors are getting oh so powerful these days that you don't have to have the best-of-best at the heart of your handset. Especially one that costs under £170.
The G5 opts for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor, delivering up to 1.4Ghz from its main cores, while running other less intensive tasks on its other cores. We've not given the G5 any kind of intensive test - just a flick around a few apps thus far - but don't expect this will have any significantly negative bearing on its performance. Indeed, with Android 7.0 in the background and no excessive bloatware to speak of it'll be a step ahead of where the G4 was.
The only app is called Moto Actions, which allows you to take control of gesture controls. Chop like a ninja with the phone in hand for the flash to activate; swipe upwards to shrink the screen to a miniature OS; pick up the phone to stop it ringing and flip it to activate Do Not Disturb. All these features can be individually controlled from within the app, or switched off. That's the only additional software to speak of, otherwise it's Android clarity all the way.
In the UK the G5 has 3GB RAM - it's 2GB in some territories - with 16GB on-board storage. As the G5 has a microSD card slot, though, expanding storage is no problem at all. And, although not yet official, there's every chance that Moto Maker - the design-your-own Moto system - will add additional built-in storage and memory options.
Moto G5 review: Camera
- 13-megapixel rear camera, f/2.0 lens
- Phase-detection autofocus
- No optical stabilisation present
- 5-megapixel front-facing camera
- Selfie ‘Beautification' mode; Professional mode
Cameras are always a big deal and, well, the G-series cameras have never been all that great. In the G5 there's a 13-megapixel rear camera, complete with phase-detection autofocus and paired with an f/2.0 aperture lens. However, there's no optical image stabilisation (the G5 Plus doesn't offer that either, despite its protruding rear lens).
Interestingly is how the G5 Plus really steps things up: its 12-megapixel offering might be lower resolution, but paired with an f/1.7 aperture lens dual AF pixel technology (pixels on the sensor used for phase-detection autofocus for speed) it sounds a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S6's camera… because, well, it's the same components as that.
As affordable phones go, none can better than Moto G5 from what we've seen of it. That it's an improved device compared to the earlier G4 - both in terms of spec and style - is quite an achievement given that the price point remains a very reasonable £169.
As we alluded to in our opening gambit: with other companies now fighting it out for the mid-level market, the way has been cleared for Moto to dominate with little competition of equivalent quality to worry about. But rather than doing so nonchalantly, Moto has really amped things up for the G-series with this fifth-generation model. You simply won't find a better phone for this amount of money.
The Moto G5 will be available from March in fine gold and lunar grey finishes, priced £169. In the UK, O2 will hold an exclusive “sapphire blue” finish. Ooh err.