(Pocket-lint) - Motorola's biggest sin over the last few years has been the sheer volume of phones it's thrown into the market. However, despite such high volumes, the company has been delivering some superb handsets in among those.
Now it's turned its focus to affordable 5G, promising to offer future-proofed super-speedy connectivity in a device that's about a quarter the price of many modern flagships. That device is the Moto G 5G Plus.
With a big screen, smooth software experience, solid battery life, plus some of the mod cons you'd expect from a much pricier phone, can the G 5G Plus do no wrong? We've been using one for some weeks to bring you the full ins and outs.
- Dimensions: 168 x 74 x 9mm / Weight: 207g
- Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Finish: Blue
Dressed in a plastic blue coat, there's no escaping the fact the Moto G 5G Plus looks visibly plasticky. But it's not offensive in its choice of materials: a textured finish sits beneath the plastic back to add some dynamism; curved edges see light capture the surface in a way that gives subtle gradation and reflection; it all elevates it from being a simple blue to something altogether more eye-catching.
There's no hulking great camera unit either, despite the G 5G Plus donning four lenses to their rear. These are contained in a rounded-off square enclosure, with the flash/torch sat to the side. We think the phone would fare just fine with two lenses rather than four, but in 2020 there's a bit of a race on to cram more cameras than needed into devices.
There's one thing about this Moto's design that has rather irked (and it's something you wouldn't usually think about): the SIM tray. It's so elongated that by the time you get a SIM into it, it'll pop out before you've managed to fix the tray back into place. It took us dozens of attempts to get the SIM into this phone. At least once it's there you're unlikely to need to remove it!
Being a more affordable phone there are certain features lesser found in more premium devices - the 3.5mm headphone jack being one such major one (or use Bluetooth for wireless headphones connection - the choice is yours). However, there's no official IP rating for waterproofing, so it's splash-proof at best here.
When it comes to logging in to the device the side-mounted fingerprint scanner - which lives over the power button - works about as well as you'll find from such a type. It's rare for it to fail, which is great. That said, we much prefer the position of in-screen scanners - especially as apps promote the on-screen fingerprint symbol and we've all too many times tried to press the screen before realising that's not where the scanner actually lives.
You may also be wondering why this handset is called the 'Plus'? Motorola isn't saying, but it has a habit of releasing the Plus model first, then the 'normal' version, for even less money given an even lower spec. We did say Moto can't help but out excessive handset volumes, so it'll be no surprise when this occurs.
As a whole, though, the Moto G 5G is a well sized, well made (despite being a bit plasticky) and well specified handset. For the asking price it hits every note that's needed.
- 6.7-inch LCD display (16:9 aspect ratio)
- 1080 x 2520 resolution
- 90Hz refresh rate
Big is on trend. But the G 5G Plus isn't too big - despite what that 6.7-inch screen specification might have you think - because of its elongated aspect ratio. There's no excess need to perform thumb gymnastics to tap what you need on the screen during one-handed use.
The panel is an LCD type, not the better-yet OLED that you'll find in many top-end devices, which actually does a sterling job in this instance. It's got plenty of resolution, it's bright (although the auto-brightness can be a little over-reactive to keep things dim) and there's ample colour (including the ability to select between Saturated, Boosted, Natural).
What's particularly impressive is that it's a 90Hz panel. While having a faster refresh rate screen is very much the in thing for 2020, it's not a common feature in affordable phones. Motorola is showing off what it can deliver for a very fair price indeed.
So why is 90Hz a good thing? It means the panel can cycle through 90 frames every second, which is 50 per cent higher than the usual 60Hz. That will translate to a visually smoother experience - you'll see this with text scrolling on backgrounds in particular, such as when using Twitter - and many gamers swear by having a higher refresh rate (some phones have 120Hz and 144Hz panels, but cost far more) for a heightened experience.
This Moto doesn't have the ocassional hiccup where things stutter - something that we found with the Moto Edge - so, based on our experience, it's been a better performer than its pricier cousin.
Performance & Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 processor (octa-core), 4GB/6GB RAM
- 5,000mAh battery capacity, 20W TurboPower fast-charging
- Android 10, Moto app (Display, Actions, Gametime, Tips)
- 5G connectivity
About the whole 5G thing: do you really need such speedy connectivity? Well, not really. It's one of those nice-to-haves rather than an essential - not least because you can't often access 5G networks in many towns and cities anyway. Plus you'll need to pay more to your network provider to have a 5G contract.
However, whereas some manufacturers will tag on an extra couple of hundred to the asking price of a 5G variant, the Moto G 5G Plus shows that this isn't necessary - this is an affordable phone with 5G and that's that. Which is great for future-proofing without the need to overspend, for when 5G becomes even more commonplace and widely available.
Being that it is 5G, however, the Moto G 5G Plus is married to a Qualcomm platform to deliver such capability - here the Snapdragon 765G. No, it's not the top-end in the series - there's the SD865+ for that - but it's a very capable performer that, we think, will deliver performance across the board for everything that you'll need.
That's the thing about this Moto G. It's not really the 5G part that's the biggest sell, despite it being in its name. It's just how well it sits with its features across the board.
Spoiled as we are with super-powerful devices, there's an increasing argument that the level the G 5G Plus sits at is the sweet spot. It's not like its sportscar overpowered - and think about how much fuel they drink - rather it's got a cheeky turbo under its bonnet for when it's needed, not for all the time.
As such you'll be able to browse, play games, do all the admin and fun things you need, without worry. Want to play PUBG Mobile? No problem. Just want to send emails and not much more? No bother. The G 5G will do all this - and keep on doing it, as the processor is supported by a huge battery capacity that sees this phone last on and on.
Just how long can you expect? We got 15 hours of use with 20 per cent remaining in that tank. That included almost 90 minutes of gaming, close to four hours of screen time throughout the day, and zero concern that the device would run dry before the day was done. Realistically you could squeeze more use time out by going easier - but a basic minimum of 18 hours won't be a problem to achieve.
Software is well considered too: Motorola uses Google's Android operating system and doesn't muck about with it much. There's only the Moto app installed, which handles Display settings (always-on notifications, sensitive notifications, and so on), Action settings (flip to answer call, karate chop to activate flash light, and so on), Tips (walk-through for gesture navigation and Android 10 features), Personalise (to choose styles, wallpapers, layouts and animations), and Gametime (for Do Not Disturb and gaming specific options).
- Quad rear camera system
- Main (26mm equiv.): 48-megapixel, f/1.7 aperture, 0.8µm pixel size, Quad Pixel technology
- Ultra-wide (0.5x, 13mm), 8MP, f/2.2, 1.0µm
- Macro: 5MP, f/2.2
- Depth: 2MP
- Dual front-facing camera system:
- Main: 16MP, f/2.0, 1.0µm
Wide: 8MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm
- Main: 16MP, f/2.0, 1.0µm
As we said before: the presence of four rear cameras in the Moto G 5G Plus is excessive because two of them aren't of much use. Having a main and wide-angle on the rear is great for versatility, but the macro for close-ups and the depth sensor for software-derived blurred backgrounds just aren't that useful or needed really. We'd much rather have a zoom lens instead - or just the two main cameras if that meant keeping the phone's asking price down.
The cram-in-all-the-cameras approach is echoed around the front, too, where there's a wide and ultra-wide pair of cameras for selfies. That's unusual in any phone (at the time of writing), so it's a bonus to have here for sure - although having a double punch-hole cutout in the screen doesn't look great compared to having just one.
But back to those rear cameras for a moment. There's a 48-megapixel main sensor, which uses an oversampling method to compress four 'pixels' into one, for increased sharpness and dynamism. It works, too, as shots have good detail.
The 0.5x ultra-wide can fit twice as much into a frame, which brings some additional creative shooting opportunities. Images aren't as sharp as the main camera, and you'll see edge softness and aberrations ('shadows' around certain objects) but it's a camera worth having nonetheless.
A variety of modes also feature, including Night Mode, which adds extra to the G 5G Plus' bow. So largely ignore the excess cameras and the main unit delivers strong results across its variety of shooting modes.
The Moto G 5G Plus isn't just a good phone because it offers 5G future-proofing for speedy connectivity now or later down the line if/when you decide to connect. It's simply just a good phone.
We gave the game away up top, really, as this big-screen device, with its smooth software experience and long-lasting battery life, hits all the right notes that potential buyers will be looking for. Most importantly, however, it doesn't cost a fortune. Indeed, it's on par as being the most affordable 5G phone you can buy.
Yes, Motorola releases too many phones in too short a period of time. But credit where it's due: the Moto G 5G Plus delivers a stellar performance across the board - whether or not you're actually interested in 5G connectivity.
Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite
One of the only competitors to this Moto is from Xiaomi. And don't let the 'Lite' name fool you - it's a real heavyweight in terms of delivery, offering more power and an OLED screen. It, too, oversells the camera experience though, while its software just isn't as sleek as the Moto.