Moto G5 review

‘Premium for All’ is Motorola’s new motto for its G5 phones, the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus, which aim to offer the build quality and feel of a flagship device at decidedly non-flagship prices. That’s especially true of the G5, which offers a metal body, rapid charging, and fingerprint sensor controls - all at a sub-£200 price. 

The Moto G4 was one of our favourite budget phones last year, so can the G5 repeat the trick? If you want to find out if it's premium for all or cheap and cheerful, find out in our G5 review.

Before we get too carried away gushing about the current Moto G, it's worth pointing out that we could see premium versions of the Moto G5 and G5 Plus launching any day now as the G5S and G5S Plus. Motorola has a launch event planned for 25 July, which may be the day it unveils the new handsets.

With that in mind we would recommend waiting a couple of weeks before taking the plunge and buying this phone, though to be fair we think it's a pretty sweet deal even if something newer does come along.

You can read all about the Moto G5s and Moto G5s Plus here, or read on for our in-depth Moto G5 review.

UK pricing and availability

The Moto G5’s best feature is arguably its price: the handset retails in the UK for just £169 for the 2GB RAM model, and £179 for a version with 3GB, with prices even cheaper from some retailers. That puts it squarely in the budget smartphone market, and right in line with the usual pricing for the Moto G range.

The G5 is out now in the UK, and you can buy the 2GB model from Carphone Warehouse, Argos, and John Lewis - while O2 is also selling the 2GB G5 in an exclusive blue colour. Meanwhile the 3GB version is sold by Amazon, which also has the 2GB in stock now.

Right now, there’s no plan for the G5 to come out in the US - only the G5 Plus.

At the beginning of August, Motorola announced new versions of the Moto G5 which you might be interested in if you're considering this phone. The Moto G5S is a 'special edition' and might be more expensive but has upgraded specs. This also might mean the normal G5 will get a price cut soon.

Design and build

Design is where the G5 has seen the biggest overhaul from its predecessor. The G5 features an aluminium body - instead of the G4’s plastic - which means it immediately feels like a more expensive phone than it is. The 5.0in display stretches most of the way to the sides of the body, though there’s still plenty of bezel at the top and bottom - it’s not quite Galaxy S8 premium.

The rear of the phone is dominated by the large camera aperture, which sits above a brushed metal Motorola ‘M’. At 144.5g, it’s a comfortable weight (though has that reassuring heft of any metal-bodied device), while it measures 144.3x73x9.5mm - small enough to very comfortably use in one hand. It’s available in grey or gold (and that O2-exclusive blue model) - our review unit was the Lunar Grey model, which is attractively understated.

The G5 doesn’t boast the sort of striking design that’s likely to turn heads - at least not until you tell someone how little you paid for it. It’s mostly straightforward, unassuming stuff, but it’s the feel of the phone, and its build quality, that really sells it. This is a phone that feels and looks well-made - ‘cheap’ never once sprang to mind. It’s simple, it’s elegant, and there aren’t many better looking phones that will cost you this little.

Features and specifications

Offering that sort of design and build quality at less than £200 comes at a price of course, and the Moto G5’s internal specs are where it lives down to its price.

It’s powered by a Snapdragon 430 with a 1.40Ghz octa-core CPU and 450MHz Adreno 505 GPU, and our review unit came with 3GB RAM, though you can also get it with 2GB. With only a £10 price difference, we’d find it hard not to recommend opting for the higher-spec model.

To be blunt, the benchmark results aren’t great. We were especially surprised to see slightly worse results than from last year’s G4, likely because it runs the more recent - but less powerful - Snapdragon 430, compared to the G4’s Snapdragon 617. Even a better GPU and more RAM weren't enough to make up for the CPU gap.

Even so, in day-to-day usage the G5 never feels sluggish or slow, and it should be more than enough for average usage, including streaming video and light gaming. The G5 never feels like it's underperforming, despite the benchmarks.

The 5.0in display is full 1080p and 441ppi, with crisp, bright colours, though it has no Gorilla Glass protection. Below that you’ll find the fingerprint sensor, which doubles up as a replacement for Android’s on-screen buttons through some nifty swipe controls.

In the UK, the G5 comes with a disappointingly small 16GB of on-board storage, but there’s support for MicroSD cards up to 128GB.

The rear camera is 13Mp with LED flash and phase detection autofocus, while the front camera is 5Mp. Taking photos with the autofocus was almost instantaneous, and for the most part we were able to capture crisp, clear photos even in challenging lighting.

There’s a 2800mAh battery, which should provide a full day’s usage pretty comfortably. The most we managed to wear it down to was 20% after 16 hours of usage, including some heavy camera and internet usage - you can trust the G5 to last the day, but you will want to charge it each night.

It comes packaged with a 10W Micro-USB rapid charger, which is able to provide a few hours of battery life after just 15 minutes or so of charging - as long as the battery is low to start with. It also supports TurboPower charging, which can offer six hours of battery in the same time, but you’ll have to buy the charger separately.

There’s also 2.4 & 5GHz Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, and a water-repellent coating. One big omission is NFC, so you won’t be able to use Android Pay or its equivalents.

Don’t worry though - you do get a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Software

The G5 comes loaded with Android 7.0 Nougat, and runs a version that’s close to stock, with a few ‘Moto experiences’ added on (more on those in a moment). What that means is that if you’re looking for something not far from the pure Android experience, but don’t want to splash out on the Google Pixel, the G5 could be a good option.

It’s also one of the first phones included in Google’s new expansion of the Google Assistant services, previously limited to only a handful of handsets - though it's not on the G5 at launch. Eventually you can probably expect the new AI assistant to be ubiquitous across Android, but for now this will be one of the cheapest ways to get your hands on it.

The big difference from stock Android is the inclusion of the gesture-based ‘Moto Actions, some of which may be familiar from other Motorola phones, but some of which are entirely new. They’re all optional, and are activated or deactivated from the included Moto app.

You can do a double ‘karate chop’ motion to turn on the torch, and quickly twist the phone backwards and forwards twice to activate the camera. Placing the phone face down on a table sets it do ‘Do Not Disturb’, while picking it up while it’s ringing will silence the ringtone.

You can also swipe up from the bottom of the screen to shrink the display for easy one-handed use.

The most welcome addition is the use of the fingerprint sensor as a one-button replacement for Android’s normal on-screen controls. You can now swipe left across the sensor to go back, tap it for home, and swipe right to open the list of recent apps.

It’s an intuitive system, and within seconds we were comfortably swiping away - it really speeds up loads of basic tasks, and is a feature not many other Android phones have yet. Occasionally it can be a bit fiddly - registering your swipe as a press, or vice versa - but for the most part it works well, and it feels sluggish switching back to on-screen buttons.

It’s especially helpful here given the G5’s relatively petite 5.0in screen - the extra screen real estate gained by removing the on-screen buttons makes the display feel more expansive than it really is.

Moto G5: Specs

  • Android Nougat 7.0
  • 5.0in 1920x1080 touchscreen, 441ppi
  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 505 graphics
  • 2 or 3GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 13MP main camera, LED flash, support for 1080p video at 30fps
  • 5MP front camera
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • 2800mAh removable battery
  • Micro-USB rapid charging
  • MicroSD support up to 128GB
  • Water-repellent nano-coating
  • 73.0x144.3x9.5mm
  • 144.5g
  • Android Nougat 7.0
  • 5.0in 1920x1080 touchscreen, 441ppi
  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 505 graphics
  • 2 or 3GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 13MP main camera, LED flash, support for 1080p video at 30fps
  • 5MP front camera
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • 2800mAh removable battery
  • Micro-USB rapid charging
  • MicroSD support up to 128GB
  • Water-repellent nano-coating
  • 73.0x144.3x9.5mm
  • 144.5g

OUR VERDICT

There’s plenty of competition in Android’s budget market, but the Moto G5 is the best around right now. The build quality alone feels like it belongs on a much more expensive phone, while the fingerprint gesture controls genuinely improve the Android experience.

The benchmarks and battery hold it back, but they're not unreasonable given the price - and you won't find a much better looking phone at £169. All that said, it may be worth holding on until 25 July when Motorola may be announcing a premium version of the G5 and G5 Plus.

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