The Moto G5 Plus is the best budget smartphone you can buy right now. It makes fewer compromises than ever, and will set you back less than a third of what you'll pay for a top of the line flagship. If you want an affordable, reliable smartphone that just works, the Moto G5 Plus should be your first port of call.
What we love
- Superb value
- Clean take on Android
- Nice aluminium build
- Solid battery life
What could be improved
- Average lowlight camera performance
- Slow security updates
- Tinny speaker
- Not water resistant
What Is It?
The Moto G5 Plus is one of the two new devices in Motorola's commercially and critically successful G series of budget-to-midrange smartphones. Thanks to bloat-free Android software, good hardware under the hood, and bang-for-buck price tags, the G series devices have been our recommendation for someone who's after a new smartphone without breaking the bank.
A new phone typically means better hardware, but this year's biggest change is a move away from plastic to a mostly metal design. The Moto G5 Plus doesn't have the kind of wow factor seen from this year's increasingly minimalist line-up of flagship devices, but it's nice enough to compete against the likes of OPPO and Huawei who are now cranking out solid aluminium-clad devices priced at under $300.
The G5 Plus is available in two different configurations: a 16GB model with 3GB of RAM for $399, and a 32GB model with 4GB of RAM for $449. We were provided with the 32GB model for this review.
There's a lot great things to say about the Moto G5 Plus, but its bangin' display steals the show; it's certainly one of the nicest panels I've seen in this price range. The 5.2-inch screen runs at 1080p, goes bright enough to work well in sunlight, and is vivid without being nauseatingly colourful. It's almost on par with displays in much pricier phones, such as the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S8.
5.2-inches might seem a little small for a smartphone with "Plus" in its name, but I've found the Moto G5 Plus much more comfortable to use when compared to last year's 5.5-inch Moto G4 Plus. Motorola's smartphones tend to have a bit of bezel around the glass, so downsizing to a 5.2-inch screen makes it feel just about right for pocketability and one-handed usage.
The Moto G5 Plus is Motorola's first "affordable" smartphone to tout an aluminium build and it feels good. I don't know if you can actually call aluminium premium anymore, given that everyone and their mother is now making their smartphones out of it, but it's a big step up from plastic in terms of feel. There's a sizeable looking camera bump on the back, but while it's quite large in diameter, it's roughly the same height as what you'd find on the iPhone 7.
Motorola's been kitting out its smartphones with a mostly unfettered Android experience for quite some time, and the Moto G5 Plus is no exception. It looks and feels like stock Android, and even features the modern Pixel-style launcher where you swipe up to access your app drawer, rather than having a dedicated icon.
That being said, Motorola's take on Android isn't without customisation, but this mostly comes in the form of gestures, such as the karate chop motion you can make to turn on the flashlight, or the twist that will launch the camera app.
Since the Moto G5 Plus doesn't waste resources dealing with useless bloatware, the clean take on Android also helps with performance. It my time with the phone, I didn't encounter any hitches or slowdown, whether I was scrolling through social media or playing games like Super Mario Run and Hearthstone.
It's worth noting that the there's two versions of the Moto G5 Plus, a 3GB model and a 4GB model. I haven't used the 3GB of RAM version, but my average RAM utilisation has hovered around 2GB, so I can't see this difference making too much of a difference in terms of day to day usage. Personally, I'd opt for the 4GB model anyway, given that 32GB of storage is much more reasonable than 16GB. And $50 more isn't a terrible upsell.
While the Moto G5 Plus' battery is no longer removable, you'll definitely get at least a day of usage out of the phone. I found I had around 40% left at the end of a standard day, and 30% left of a heavy day of usage.
What's Not So Good?
Out of the box, the Moto G5 Plus' fingerprint reader isn't a home button, which is a bit weird. Tapping it will unlock the phone or put it back to sleep, but it won't take you to the home screen. Instead, there's another layer of on-screen buttons above it.
If you'd prefer a physical home button, there's a setting that lets you make the fingerprint reader do just that, but it also removes the software buttons. Since the Moto G5 Plus doesn't have any other capacitive buttons, you need to swipe across the fingerprint reader to bring up the multitasking menu or go back to your previous app. It works well enough, it just doesn't feel natural.
The Moto G5 Plus' speaker and earpiece are a little tinny, but there's no real issue when it comes to call quality. You probably won't want to use it watch anything longer than a short YouTube video though.
While Motorola deserves applause for using a mostly unmodified version of Android, there's still room for improvement when it comes to security updates. Motorola previously committed to bundling up three months Google's security updates for quarterly releases, but at time of writing, my Moto G5 Plus is still stuck on January's patch. These monthly updates address vulnerabilities in Android; the April update, for example, addressed a critical vulnerability that would allow malicious actors to remotely execute code on your phone through the use of email, website, or MMS.
Camera quality is typically one of few things you'll compromise on if you opt for a cheaper smartphone. Unfortunately, this is also the case with the Moto G5 Plus, and is the one potential deal breaker. If you're shooting outdoors throughout the day or in a reasonably well-lit environment, you'll get great detailed photos. If you're shooting at night or even in a slightly dark room, you're going to have a much harder time getting a sharp image. The Moto G5 Plus is especially prone to motion blur as soon as you start losing light; it took me three or four goes to get a clear shot of a wine bottle under 1000 lumen bulbs at home.
Ultimately, this comes down to a question of how you use your smartphone's camera, and what you take photos of, but for the time being, you're going to have similar issues with most phones in this price bracket.
Who's It For?
Do you want a budget smartphone that doesn't feel like a budget smartphone? Do you want to buy it outright? If so, the Moto G5 Plus should be at the top of your list. Starting at $399, the Moto G5 Plus has a lot going for it: a wonderful display, solid battery life, and a clean Android implementation. The only compromise you'll make is when it comes to lowlight photography.
In some ways, the Moto G5 Plus is Motorola's most important phone for the year. While the flagship space is crowded by the likes of Apple, Samsung and LG, Motorola maintains a reputation for making some of the best affordable phones around. It's going to have to fight to keep it, thanks to increasingly competitive offerings from the likes of OPPO and Huawei, but luckily for Motorola, the Moto G5 Plus has it holding onto the bang-for-buck crown for a little longer.
What Else Can I Buy?
At 5.5-inches and retailing for $598 outright, OPPO's R9s is a little bigger, and a little pricier than the Moto G5 Plus. It's camera does perform better in lowlight, but if you want OPPO's best camera smartphone, spend another $100 and go for the massive R9s Plus.
Huawei's GR5 2017 is another solid budget offering, priced at $399 outright. We don't love Huawei's heavily customised Android UI, but the GR5 has a unique feature worth considering: a dual lens rear-facing camera. Touting 12MP and 2MP cameras on the back, the GR5 2017 uses the two in tandem for faster focus, dynamic depth of field, and wider-angle shots. Essentially, it's a stripped down version of the Leica branded system found in Huawei's latest flagships.
If you're happy spending a little bit more, Samsung's $650 Galaxy A5 (2017) brings some high-end features down to a more reasonable price bracket. These include a mostly glass build, IP68 water-resistance, USB Type-C charging, and a pretty solid camera.