Moto G5 Plus review: The best budget smartphone
Motorola, under Lenovo ownership, has a good thing going with the Moto G series. You'd think its simple goal – give consumers the best phone possible for a reasonable price – would be more prevalent in the mobile world. As it stands, though, that consumer-friendly blend of quality and cost makes the Moto G5 Plus stand out in a thicket of phones that are most often either expensive beasts or underwhelming cheapies. Read on for New Atlas' Moto G5 Plus review.
A first for the Moto G line, the G5 Plus has a metal panel on its back: It's still a far cry from the premium designs you often get in $600+ flagships (Motorola's edges are still plastic), but any touch of premium materials on a $230+ phone is a welcome and unexpected bonus.
While this makes the phone look more premium, your more-sensitive fingertips will typically rest on the plastic edges of the phone, while less-sensitive parts of your hand and fingers will usually grip the aluminum back. So in regular use, it will probably feel a bit less high-end than it looks. (Though if you slap a case on, it won't matter either way.)
It gives you a high-quality 1080p display, mostly-stock Android Nougat (a big differentiator between the Moto G and many other phones in this price range, which often have bloated custom UIs) and pleasantly-smooth, lag-free performance. Note, though, that we reviewed the $300 version with 4 GB RAM; the $229 model only has 2 GB and we can't comment on its performance.
Its camera (which is the same on both models) is solid for this price range, but we pitted it against the iPhone 7 and, predictably, Apple's current flagship came out way ahead in most settings. While the Moto G5 Plus has an impressive ƒ/1.8 aperture, which can lead to better low-lit shots, the iPhone – with flash turned off – lit the scene much better in a nearly-pitch-black room:
The Moto G5 Plus came in closer in brightly-lit outdoor shots, though the iPhone had noticeably better contrast and color range. Flash shots in the same dark room were the only place where we didn't see the Moto falling clearly behind the iPhone.
Of course nobody expects the camera in a $230 phone to beat one of the top $650 flagship cameras, but it does accentuate that there's a big difference between Motorola offering a surprisingly good camera for this price range and being a direct competitor to the best flagship shooters out there. It clearly isn't.
Battery life is great. In our standard benchmark (streaming video with screen brightness set at a consistent luminance), the G5 Plus dropped a mere 7 percent per hour. This is one area where the Moto upends those more expensive flagships: Under identical conditions, the Google Pixel XL dropped 11 percent, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus each dropped 12 percent, the Pixel dropped 14 percent, and the Galaxy S7 lost 9 percent per hour. One of its closest foils, the $439 OnePlus 3T, dropped 8 percent.
Like most modern Android phones, the Moto G5 Plus supports fast charging.
What don't you get if you opt to save money on the Moto G5 Plus? You miss out on the significant water resistance found in the latest iPhones, Galaxies and LG G6. (The Moto only protects against light splashes.) As we mentioned, you also don't get flagships' higher-quality photography, nor their ultra-sharp QHD screens (though we think its 1080p display looks very good), NFC-based mobile payments (no Android Pay support here), VR support or the latest processors.
As far as user experience goes, though, I think many shoppers will be happy to save $300-400 and go with this tamer – but still very solid – all-around package in the Moto.
When you go up a notch in the pricing scale and compare it to the OnePlus 3T, things get a little fuzzier. The OnePlus adds a flagship-level processor and better camera (though still not quite iPhone, Galaxy or Pixel-quality), along with a fully-premium design. But it also starts at $210 more than the Moto, as OnePlus has moved its latest model's pricing out of budget territory and into its own middle-ground between budget and flagship.
If saving cash is your priority and you want to keep your smartphone purchase down to $300 or less – with no installment payments or carrier strings attached – you can't beat the Moto G5 Plus. It's one of the most consumer-friendly smartphones, prioritizing value above all else. Perhaps most importantly, it's also a pleasure to use – delivering the basics with a no-frills, workmanlike efficiency.
It will be available in the US starting on March 31 on Motorola's website, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, Costco, Walmart and several other retailers. Pre-orders begin today through at least some of those retail outlets.
The Moto G5 Plus starts at $229 for 2 GB RAM/32 GB storage, but the model we handled rings up for $299 with 4 GB RAM/64 GB storage.
Product page: Motorola