Moto G5 vs G5 Plus: new budget smartphone king revealed

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Moto G5 vs G5 Plus: new budget smartphone king revealed
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Motorola Moto G5 Plus review

The Moto G series has been on a diet since last year’s 5.5in phablet-pushing outing. The Motorola Moto G5 Plus has lost relatively little in size, though, coming in at 5.2in to the Moto G5’s 5.0in. Put them side by side and they look pretty similar, with a little more curving on the top and bottom of the Plus model.

Both have had a makeover as well. Gone is the cheap and cheerful plastic, and in its place is a thin metal. The new style further blurs the already quite hazy lines between budget and flagship, even if the Moto G5 Plus has plastic caps at the top and the bottom of the device. It’s a good look, all the same. Micro USB charging is the order of the day, and both models sport a 3.5mm headphone jack, going against the trend in keeping the decades old, but extremely useful, port.

There are a couple of curious design differences between the Moto G5 and G5 Plus. The most obvious is that while you can remove the back and change the battery on the smaller Moto G5, that option isn’t available on the Moto G5 Plus. We can’t see any clear reason for that, but it has the small knock-on effect as to where you put your SIM card: the G5 Plus has a SIM tray accessible from the outside, rather than hidden away out of sight.

On top of this, the G5 Plus has NFC, while the G5 doesn’t. That means the G5 Plus can make contactless payments with Android Pay, while the cheaper G5 can’t.

Another difference is arguably even stranger. While the Moto G5 has the headphone jack on the top of the handset, the Moto G5 Plus keeps it on the bottom. It’s a matter of personal preference, ultimately, but it’s a weird discrepancy between the two models.

Other than that, the Moto G5 Plus looks every bit as good as the Moto G5. The difference is that with the Moto G5 Plus, it offers more value on the inside too.

Screen

To get the most out of these beautiful snaps, you’ll want to find another screen to enjoy them on. And unfortunately, while the Moto G5’s display isn’t terrible, it’s not going to win any awards any time soon.

Let’s get the positive out of the way first. You’re looking at a 5.2in screen, which is 0.3in smaller than last year’s model with the same 1080p resolution. That means it’s ever so slightly sharper – but if you can tell the difference between 424ppi and 401ppi, then you likely have the kind of super-human eyes that could read this review from across a room.

The viewing angles are also decent, but sadly that’s where the positives end. The colours feel quite murky, and even with the display set to Vibrant, it never lives up to that description. These feelings were confirmed when we took our professional testing equipment to the screen. Not only did it reach a pretty low top brightness of just 401cd/m2 (last year’s model reached 486cd/m2), it also covered just 73.4% of the sRGB colour gamut – a big drop from last year’s 90.6%.

At 1,149:1, the contrast is pretty good, but any IPS screen is facing an uphill battle to match AMOLED’s perfect contrast.

Performance

Things are significantly better when you get to the raw performance. Powering the Moto G5 Plus is a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, backed by either 3GB of RAM and 16GB or (for an extra $50) 4GB and 32GB. Both versions support microSD cards of up to 128GB for additional storage.

That means it feels suitably nippy in day-to-day use, and that performance level is backed up when compared directly to its nearest rivals.

Benchmark performance scores

  Geekbench 4
multi-core
Geekbench 4
single-core
GFXBench
Manhattan 3.0
native) fps
Moto G5 Plus 3852 801 10
Moto G5 2379 578 7
Moto G4 2453 632 7
Samsung Galaxy A5 4054 767 14
Samsung Galaxy J5 1948 555 4

Looking at these results, the Moto G5 Plus is clearly a standout performer for phones under $500. It even gets reasonably close to Samsung’s $649 Galaxy A5 with its octa-core Samsung Exynos 7880 processor. But then the G5 Plus costs $150 more than the standard G5.

The battery sealed away inside the Moto G5 Plus is a 3,000mAh affair, and it copes pretty well with the daily strains of smartphone usage. Our standard test for these things involves a looped 720p video on airplane mode, at a uniform screen brightness of 170cd/m2. In those conditions, the Moto G5 Plus lasted a respectable 13 hours 13 minutes.

That means it should last a full day under what most people would consider typical smartphone usage, but it’s well behind the Galaxy A5’s incredible 22 hours 5 minutes.

Camera

The G5 Plus’s camera is its secret weapon – you simply won’t find a camera anywhere near this good for the price.

If we were ranking smartphones by their cameras, the Google Pixel is the top dog, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S8. At less than half the price, the Moto G5 Plus has no right to be alongside such distinguished company, but it manages it. In fact, it has same camera module as the Galaxy S8’s, which if you don’t know is a 12-megapixel snapper with a bright f/1.7 aperture and phase-detect autofocus.

Now, a phone’s camera is more than just the hardware: it’s ultimately the software that performs the scene analysis and auto-exposure calculation, for example. Fortunately, the Moto G5 Plus holds up brilliantly.

In good lighting conditions, the Moto G5 Plus is almost a match for the best of the best. The colours aren’t quite as vibrant as the Pixel XL, and if you look really hard you might spot some smearing, but the pictures are still nothing short of excellent, especially given the price of entry.

Like the Galaxy S8, the Moto G5 Plus’s camera performs well in low light. The camera maintains good control over image noise, and hardly any detail is lost to over-compression. If you were to be hyper-critical, you could complain that low-light photos can be a little dark, with some greys merging to black, but overall this is among the best you can buy.

Conclusion

The Moto G5 Plus has some shortcomings – in particular, its lacklustre screen. But, overall, based on what we’ve seen, it’s the best smartphone on the Australian market for under $500. It’s a good performer, with decent battery life and features such as NFC and fingerprint reader.

The caveat here is that unless you buy from ‘grey-market’ importers, the Australian market lacks strong mid-range contenders available elsewhere, such as the Lenovo P2, Huawei Honor 6X and OnePlus 3T.

That said, the G5 Plus is very good value. And if you’re a keen photographer, nothing in this price bracket (or under $1,000 for that matter) comes close to the Moto G5 Plus. We really can’t overstate how great the camera on this phone is.

Next: Moto G5 review

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