Since 2013, the Moto G series has mostly been the answer to many people’s queries for a good phone in the sub Rs 15,000 budget segment. Moto’s brand equity, stock Android, decent enough specifications and a bloody good price – all of them have added up to make the Moto G one of Motorola’s stars in India. Devices with better specs and better performance have always been around but the goodwill of the brand and the sheer loyalty towards stock Android has made the series a popular choice amongst mainstream users, many of whom tend to be wary of newer brands. To carry forward this legacy, Moto has added two new members to the G family; the Moto G5 and the higher-end Moto G5 Plus. We received the latter for review – the 4 GB RAM/32 GB storage edition. Will the smartphone take the legacy forward or will it sink in the sea of high expectations?
A breath of fresh air, an apple among oranges…Hello, Moto
At the time when most smartphones look like identical twins of one another, the Moto G5 Plus comes as a breath of fresh air. We complained about the absence of a differentiating enough design in many budget segment smartphones, but the Moto G5 Plus has sailed beyond the set typical pattern. And not just in terms of the competition, the G5 Plus has also broken some stereotypes when it comes to its own series as well. The Moto G5 Plus comes with a metal body and unlike many other “metal” smartphones, it stands out in terms of looks. The G5 Plus lands more on the curvy side than on the block-y side, which provides a lot of grip. The phone just sinks into your hands as if it was made for you, although it is not a small device (size-wise). And thanks to that metal, it looks very solid too. What more do you want at this price point, huh?
The front of the smartphone is dominated by the 5.2-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass 3 – yes, we know there are newer versions around, but it seems sturdy enough. The 5.2-inch display is an interesting move by Moto as this seems to be the era of 5.5-inch displays – hey, even the Moto G4 Plus had a 5.5-inch display. That said, the display of the smartphone is bright and colorful – even on the lowest value, it is bright enough to be used in a well-lit room and when pushed on the highest value can be easily used on a bright sunny day.
The front of the smartphone also sports the fingerprint sensor which is present just below the display. There are no capacitive touch buttons on the smartphone for navigation but there are three on-screen navigation buttons which we did not really like, for the simple reason that on-screen buttons eat up our screen space. The earpiece, speakers, the front camera, the proximity sensor and the Moto logo, all on the top.
The back of the smartphone sports the camera and the dual tone LED flash. It is interesting to see how Moto has placed the camera set up inside a big circular ring along with the flash on the back. The camera set up also bumps outwards a little and all this may remind many people of the Moto Z Play, although there is alas, no modularity here. All this definitely makes the phone an apple in the sea of oranges (pun SO intended). Moto has also placed the good old Moto “M” just below the camera set up on the back.
Unlike many companies that place the SIM card holder on the right or the left side, Moto G5 Plus comes with a SIM card holder which pops out from the top which has a latch-like mechanism to hold a microSD card (which can expand the storage by up to 128GB). The base of the phone holds the 3.5 mm jack, the mic and the micro USB port. When it comes to the sides, Moto has kept one side (left) of the smartphone plain and clean while the other side (right) carries the volume rockers and the power button.
There are some negatives in the looks department too. The smartphone measures 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm and weighs 155 grams. With such measurements, we think Moto either should have provided the users with a bigger display or could have cut down on the size, as it just offers a 5.2-inch screen. The thick bezels around the screen also detract from its appearance.
Scoring on speed, but not horsepower
The Moto G5 Plus is powered by 2 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor which is majorly known for its battery management and is coupled with 4 GB RAM. Although such specifications do not really lean towards a great gaming experience, the Moto G5 Plus performed reasonably well even when put through some difficult challenges.
Multitasking was all fun and games on the phone. The smartphone did not show any signs of lagging or stuttering even when there were as many as 15 apps running in the background. Similarly, when we headed towards casual gaming, the G5 Plus easily ticked all the boxes. We played games like Candy Crush, Colour Switch and Dr. Driving on the device and all the games worked smoothly and launched in seconds – Dr. Driving, in particular, launched swiftly, something that does not happen with other devices in this segment.
Yes, we experienced some lags while we were playing high-end games like NFS No Limits and Asphalt 8 Airborne and they did not run as smoothly as they did on the Lenovo Z2 Plus (which is actually available in the same price range) but the smartphone actually managed to pull through and provided us with a decent enough gaming experience, if you are ready to put up with lags – the games never really got stuck at one place, which can happen with other devices. The Moto G5 Plus got a mediocre score of 61773 on the AnTuTu benchmark which is a tad lesser than what Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 had received (62431).
That camera, that large aperture
Ever since Moto launched the Moto G5 Plus at MWC 2017, one of the most talked about USPs of the device has been its camera. The Moto G5 Plus comes with a 12-megapixel primary camera and a 5-megapixel secondary camera. That may sound like a step down from its predecessor, the Moto G4 Plus which came with a 13-megapixel camera, but the G5 Plus has got many other tricks up its sleeve to counterbalance the one megapixel lost. The 12-megapixel primary camera on the G5 Plus comes with Dual Autofocus Pixels for sharper focus and has a large f/1.7 aperture and bigger pixels to let in more light in darker conditions.
The camera of the G5 Plus actually looks impressive at first glance but as we dived deep, we faced some camera blues in the smartphone. The G5 Plus has got a relatively large aperture of f/1.7 which actually helped when we wanted to click pictures in low light. It allowed more light to enter the camera and provided us with more colors comparatively even in extremely low light conditions. The camera produces images with decent detailing and hence zooming in – even digitally – is not really that painful in the G5 Plus. The close ups on the smartphone are very good too, and we got some great bokeh shots when we clicked from up close.
That said, the large aperture has its own drawbacks.
Because the G5 Plus’s camera is so focused towards getting the maximum light inside the camera, the images captured in well-lit environments appear to be a little washed out. While many of the cameras in the segment saturate colors, the G5 Plus produces a washed out contrast as compared to the actual contrast. Also, as the smartphone runs on stock Android, the camera offers just some very basic moves and modes. There are five basic modes in the camera: Professional Mode, Slow Motion, Panorama, Video, and Photos. All of the modes work well but the pictures or videos taken through modes like Panorama and Slow Motion take a bit of time to process.
The Moto G5 Plus comes with a 5-megapixel front camera and just like its primary camera, the front camera is also very basic. The camera app offers the basic Beauty Mode option and one can choose to turn it off, run it on Manual Mode or run it on Auto Mode. Mind you, we actually thought the Beauty Mode was on even when we had turned it off. The front camera was not able to produce detailed images and blended the imperfections of our face and produced a very smooth and clear picture, which was a little bit of a letdown because the Beauty Mode did the same thing but just took matters up a notch – there hardly was any major difference. The smartphone also offers a front flash for the selfie camera which works well and offers a bit more detail.
Note: Click the image to open the full resolution version on Flickr.
But is it the USP of the device? Well, we think the camera on the G5 Plus is so far the best camera we have seen on any Moto G (yes, better than the Moto G Turbo) but looking at the devices the poor thing has to compete with, we think it still needs to take out some more rabbits from its magic hat. Stock Android may be all very cool for the geeks, but for anyone who loves photography, it can be severely limiting.
Small but efficient battery
The Moto G5 Plus is powered by a 3000 mAh battery which may sound like a very small number when you consider that there are phones in the market offering better battery numbers at the same or even lower price. But then Moto has coupled the 3000 mAh battery with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 which is known for its great battery management. The smartphone can easily last for a day under heavy usage and can last for about a day and a half when used moderately which is plus point as it comes with a 3000 mAh battery. The phone also supports Turbo Charging which provides us with 6 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes (on paper). Because of that, the Moto G5 Plus can go from 0 to 100 percent battery in about 100-120 minutes. The smartphone heats up just a little when on charging. Nothing alarming, though.
The call quality on the G5 Plus is pretty much on point and the phone comes with 4G LTE support. Another plus in terms of connectivity is NFC which is present on the G5 Plus and is kind of a rarity at this price point. That apart, you have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, although there is no Infra-red and most importantly, no magnetometer (compass) which is a rarity at this price point.
The stock Android rose…with thorns!
The Moto G5 Plus runs on stock Android 7.0 Nougat and hence there are almost no third party apps in the smartphone, which is a positive and a negative at the same time. A positive because the interface is as clean and clutter-free as it gets, and a negative because the interface can be a little too plain in some cases like the camera per se, where there were not as many modes as we would have liked.
When it comes to gestures, Moto has included the Moto App on the home screen which allows the user to add shortcuts on the phone using various gestures. For instance, making a chopping motion twice in the air will turn on the flashlight or lifting the phone will stop the phone from ringing and switch to vibration immediately. And remember that we have criticized the on-screen navigation buttons? Well, Moto has provided us with a solution in the Moto App which is one button navigation. This means one can use the fingerprint scanner for navigation purposes. One can tap on the sensor to go back on the home screen, swipe right to see recent apps and swipe left to go back to the previous page, amongst other gestures. It is convenient even though it feels a little odd because that fingerprint scanner is not actually a button.
Better, much better, but the best? Well…
Priced at Rs 14,999/Rs 16,999, the Moto G5 Plus is a great device in the budget phone segment but faces a lot of competition from the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Honor 6X, and the Nubia N1, all priced considerably lower. Interestingly, each of those has an ace up its sleeves (the Note 4 and N1 have huge batteries, the 6X dual cameras and so on), and this is where the Moto G5 Plus lags – it does a lot of things very well but nothing really jumps out at you as being, well, specially special. The phone also faces stiff competition from the smartphone from its sister brand, the Lenovo Z2 Plus which comes with a hell of a spec sheet in the same price point. But then, just go back to what we said at the beginning:
“Devices with better specs and better performance have always been around but the goodwill of the brand and the sheer loyalty towards stock Android has made the series a popular choice amongst mainstream users, many of whom tend to be wary of newer brands.”
Many of its competing brands might not be as “new” as they were when the first Moto G was launched, but Motorola’s brand equity remains formidable. And the G5 Plus carries forward the tradition of being a device that well, just works, without getting into the eye-popping territory. It does represent a big step forward from the G4 Plus (especially in terms of design and camera) and we think many will be attracted to its new metal frame and different looks and of course, there is the lure of stock Android for the geek brigade.
Smells like Moto G spirit, to paraphrase Nirvana. And that is not a bad thing at all, you know.