(Pocket-lint) - The Moto G has long been the king of affordable phones. But things have changed in recent years, with a wider array of choice and price points available. To combat the shifting market, the fifth-generation G-series comes in G5 or larger G5 Plus flavours, slightly bending the established affordable pricing in the case of the latter.
Key to the G5's appeal is that it's not bumped up its price point since the previous G4, settling at £169 (an increasing rarity in pending-Brexit UK). What it has done, however, is seriously bump up the build quality, with a removable metal rear now part of the phone's make-up, giving it a teaser taste of a higher-quality handset. How chic.
Which, ultimately, positions the Moto G5 in a strong position; a spot in the market that's now barely touched by the competition - such as OnePlus, among others - which have spent the last few years creeping into the mid-range space.
Does that set the stage for the Moto G5 to sweep the board in the budget phone ranks? Well, yes and no. It's an impressive phone considering the price, but one that its G5 Plus bigger brother inadvertently gives a back hander.
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Moto G5 review: Design
- Removable metal rear shell
- 2,800mAh battery
- 144.3 x 73 x 9.5; 144.5g
The design language used in the G5 is more sophisticated than earlier G-series models. The new model 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 it does so without the litany of various sensor openings in that higher-end model).
Then there's that metal-clad removable back, which actually feels more like plastic but, hey, that's a box ticked nonetheless. The physical buttons, on the other hand, do feel entirely metal under the fingers - which is something you wouldn't expect to find on a phone at this budget level.
Size-wise we think Motorola has found the sweet spot too. The later-gen G3 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). That screen is Full HD resolution too, so no worries in terms of visible quality.
Visually speaking the G5 is a far more accomplished product than previous Moto G products. It's killed off the G-series' cutesy image for a more grown-up look overall.
The problem, however, comes from the G5 Plus: the larger-scale model doesn't have a removable back, so it feels more solid and genuinely metal by comparison; and the way everything joins together is simply more elegant. But, of course, you'll need to find an extra £80 for the Plus - which is almost half the cost of the standard G5 alone.
Lenovo Moto G5 review: Display
- 5-inch IPS LCD screen
- Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution
When it comes to the display, we think Moto has found the G5's calling at the 5.0-inch mark. Sure, the G5 Plus is 5.2-inches, but with both phones side-by-side the difference isn't hugely significant to look at, nor in the hand.
The panel's Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution is ample for this size, not that it could be called flagship. But there's no need for any greater number of pixels at this scale, not with the limited processing power and battery capacity that's available.
As the G5 has an IPS LCD panel the screen delivers decent viewing angles, so there's none of that contrast fall-off you might have seen on cheaper devices - the kind that would otherwise leave you cocking your head from side to side. We're yet to see the new Moto C handset and how well that will hold up for its £90 asking price.
As we said of the G5 Plus: compare the G5's screen to a flagship's panel and you'll clearly spot differences, as it's not as vibrant or punchy. But if you're buying a £169 phone then you won't have a cupboard full of comparisons, so you'll never notice any shortcoming because there's ample auto-brightness here to cater for all your needs, without things looking dismally drab by any means.
Overall, then, the G5's screen is as good as you could expect at this price point - and we're particularly pleased it's not lower-resolution than its bigger brother G5 Plus. There's enough resolution to watch Netflix HD-quality flicks close-up to your face and, well, that's one of the great pleasures of life unlocked right there.
Moto G5 review: Fingerprint scanner & One-touch Nav
- Front-faced fingerprint scanner (no NFC)
- Home key can be used to swipe to control device
- Traditional Android home/back/apps soft keys also available
- No NFC for payments (only available in Plus model)
One thing the G5 gets really right is its fingerprint scanner design. The awkward square-shaped one of the G4 has seen its last, with the new pill-shaped format not only great for quick fingerprint-based login, but also for a brand new trick: gesture control (or One-touch Nav as Moto calls it).
This mode takes the usual trio of Android soft keys off the screen - home, back and recent apps - and instead uses gesture input. 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.
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When first firing-up the G5, fingerprint registration is prompted, but the gesture-control isn't - you'll need to dig into the pre-installed Moto app to switch this on. It's activated along with a mini tutorial to help ease you into its operation, which is certainly helpful and, after a bit of practice, we think it's among the better gesture-based Android systems that we've used.
The only problem, as such, is that gesture controls don't speed up navigation. We feel that it's marginally quicker to use the phone with the Android soft keys instead. That said, removing the need to touch the screen as often keeps it cleaner - both in terms of more real estate for content and fewer smeary fingerprints.
The fingerprint scanner's shortcoming is the lack of an associated feature: there's no NFC (near field communication). That's a shame, as it'd be handy for mobile payments and data transfer. Its absence is all the more apparent as the UK version of the G5 Plus does have NFC (few other regions offer it), so you'll need to fork out the extra cash if it's an essential to your daily life demands.
Moto G5 review: Performance, software and battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
- 2GB RAM, 16GB storage (plus microSD card slot)
- Removable 2,800mAh battery
- Android 7.0 operating system
Phone processors are getting oh so powerful these days that you don't necessarily need to have the best-of-best at the heart of your handset. And if budget is your goal then you're not likely to expect one for under £170 either.
The G5 opts for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor, delivering up to 1.4Ghz from its main four cores, while running other less intensive tasks on its remaining four cores. It's less powerful than the G5 Plus model and that shows in use: it's not nearly as snappy, load times are quite a lot longer and games don't run with the same degree of fluidity. Everything works, however, so it's not as if the G5 is incapable - again, it's just knocked back a step by the Plus model.
Perhaps the biggest issue we had was the lack of on-board storage. A 16GB phone just isn't ample for our needs nowadays, so it's good to see an easy-access microSD card slot (found behind that rear cover, above the battery). We added 32GB, which Android 7.0 is able to assimilate as if it's on-board storage - but beware slow card speeds, which the device will forewarn you about.
Speaking of Android 7.0 - which is Google's almost-latest iteration of its operating system - it acts as a decent base for the G5. Lenovo/Moto don't muck about too much with the software experience either, leaving it in familiar form without excess pre-installs and gimmicky apps.
Indeed, the Moto app - the very same access point for the aforementioned One-touch Nav control - also includes control for a variety of action-based gestures, which will further help you avoid touching and smearing that screen. There's double karate chop to activate the torch; twist for a quick camera capture; swipe across the screen to shrink the interface; pick up the device to stop it ringing; or flip the phone over to auto-activate Do Not Disturb. Each of these actions can be switched on or off independently as you choose.
The other thing that Android 7.0 does is let the phone "go to sleep" when it's not in use. Known as Google Doze, when the phone detects it hasn't been moved for a given period of time, it will reduce strain on the battery. This will happen overnight, or when the phone's set down for a couple of hours while you're busy.
That helps to ensure battery life remains strong - an essential here, given the so-so 2800mAh battery capacity (given the scale of the phone, we'd have thought there's space for a greater capacity) - and we've been seeing a full charge dip to around 20 per cent over 14-hours of use. Fairly good innings, helped along by the limited on-board processor not draining the battery as hard as in a flagship model.
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, but ample. Avoid low power sockets, though, like those on planes, as it takes many hours to even tickle a little extra juice into the phone.
Lenovo Moto G5 review: Cameras
- 13-megapixel rear camera, f/2.0 lens
- Lacks the G5 Plus's Dual Autofocus Pixels
- No optical stabilisation present
- 5-megapixel front-facing camera
- Professional mode
Cameras in phones are an increasingly big deal and, well, the G-series has never been all that great. In the G5 there's a 13-megapixel rear camera, complete with an f/2.0 aperture lens.
It all works pretty well - but it's not as high-performance as the camera in the G5 Plus. The reason for this is fairly simple: the sensor in the G5 lacks Dual Autofocus Pixels, which means when in Pro camera mode you won't get the light-up autofocus areas quickly snapping subjects into focus.
That's not the say the G5 camera is a write-off, though, it could just do with a few software nips and tucks to give it some extra oomph. The app is straightforward, so easy to tap-to-focus, and while the touchscreen is responsive enough the focus point isn't always pinpoint accurate - in particular, it struggles with close-up subjects.
Get the right shot in reasonable to good light and the G5 shows it's a step ahead of where the earlier G4 left off, however, but it over-sharpensshots so they don't look great when looking at them in greater detail. And when the light really dips the results aren't great, becoming smeary and lacking in detail.
However, for £169 you couldn't buy a decent standalone camera - and in the G5 you're getting a perfectly serviceable one, along with a decent all-round phone, for the one price.
With other manufacturers pushing into pricier brackets, the Moto G5 sticks to its £169 guns and delivers a fairly knock-out performance for the price point. It's more sophisticated to look at than its G4 predecessor, will handle all manner of tasks easily, and has a nifty fingerprint scanner too.
In the same breath, the G5's issue is that the bigger brother G5 Plus model knocks it down from being the budget king, given the larger handset's more fluid performance, addition of NFC (in the UK), greater memory (3GB RAM) and storage (32GB), larger battery, better camera and more refined build quality. Sure, it's £80 more - but if you can scratch together that extra cash then we'd thoroughly recommend you go with the Plus.
If price is everything to you, however, then for a quid shy of £170 there's nothing else on the market that will offer such a breadth of features and performance. Don't expect a flagship phone by any means, but the G5 is still royalty among affordable phones.
Alternatives to consider
Moto G5 Plus
For the extra £80 the G5 Plus might not look dramatically different to its smaller brother, but it adds a bunch of small but important features and runs far better too.
Read the full article: Moto G5 Plus review
Another from Lenovo's stable, but also well worth the look. It's only £30 more than the G5 and comes with a much beefier battery that will last on and on and on. It's chunkier, too, but the design otherwise isn't a million miles from the G5's new sophisticated image.
Read the full article: Lenovo P2 review