Motorola Moto G5 review
If there’s one area where the new Motorola Moto G5 gets plenty of praise, it’s for the design. For the first time, Lenovo has jettisoned the day-glo colour plastic of previous Moto phones and joined the modern convention for high-end smartphones – which is to say, a partially metal case.
It feels suitably weighty in the hand, if perhaps a little more slippery than you’d expect. It also probably makes it a magnet for house-key scarring over time, but at least it will look the part when you take it out of the box for the first time.
What’s also impressive is that this change hasn’t come at the cost of a removable battery. At a time when pretty much every manufacturer has said goodbye to letting consumers keep a spare or replace a tired old battery, that’s pretty impressive – and strangely something that isn’t matched by the Moto G5’s slightly larger sibling, the Moto G5 Plus.
Other than that, this is smartphone business as usual. There’s a fingerprint scanner on the front, a 3.5mm headphone jack and both front- and rear-facing cameras. The back is slightly curved, but not to the degree that it won’t stay still when placed on a desk. The bezel is reasonably chunky, but then this is a $300 phone, not a $1,000 one, so you shouldn’t expect miracles.
There are three more things worthy of note about the design. The first is that Lenovo has not made the jump to USB Type-C yet. There are reasons why that could be considered bad, but one upside is that Micro USB cables are readily available – even around your house, most likely. The second is that, although the Moto G5 supports fast charging, there’s no fast charger in the box, which is a pity. Finally, unlike the Moto G5 Plus, the Moto G5 still doesn’t have NFC, which means no Android Pay.
The first thing you’ll want to do on booting up the Moto G5 is change the default wallpaper. The weird coloured lines thing isn’t pretty in itself, but the blurring it goes through when you swipe across screens makes it worse.
But that’s down to taste rather than screen quality, so let’s get to brass tacks. The Moto G5 has gone on a bit of a diet since last year’s Moto G4, losing 0.5in from its screen size in the process. That makes the screen – which stays at a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution – a tiny bit sharper than its predecessor, giving it a pixel density of 441ppi rather than 401ppi. Unfortunately, in every other sense, it's a step backwards.
Top brightness has dropped from 540cd/m2 to 471cd/m2, and the percentage of the sRGB colour gamut covered has also taken a hit, falling from 90% to 85.8%. To complete the hat trick, contrast is also lower.
To be clear, the difference isn’t huge on any of those metrics, but it’s still disappointing that we’re taking a step backwards from 2016. The least you’d expect is for the phone’s screen to tread water, rather than to actively get worse.
Unfortunately, it’s a similar story when you get to performance. On paper, the Moto G5 looks like it has comparable specifications to the previous model. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 instead of a Snapdragon 617, but both are octa-core chips. Last year’s model was a mix of 1.5GHz and 1.2GHz Cortex-A53s, while in this year’s version, all eight are 1.4GHz A53s. It still has 2GB of RAM, although there’s also a 3GB option available – in fact, this is the one we tested in our benchmarks.
The result, as you can see from our performance scores on the previous page, is that the Moto G5 is no faster than the G4. In fact, the Moto G5 comes out a touch slower than last year’s version, although the differences involved are small enough that they fall into the margin of error.
Surely there must be an upside to these shortcomings, though: the smaller, darker screen and limited performance must give the phone incredible stamina, right? Nope. In fact, the Moto G5 loses out to last year’s model here, too, falling a full 1 hours 48 minutes short of last year’s Moto G4.
The final time of 13 hours 39 minutes is quite reasonable in the greater scheme of things, especially when you can change the battery easily enough, but it is yet another step backwards for this year’s handset.
On paper, the Moto G5 should offer an improvement in camera quality over its predecessor. Although they share the main core specifications – both are 13-megapixel snappers with an f/2 aperture – the manufacturer has added phase-detect autofocus this year, which should speed up capture.
In practice, it’s a mixed bag. As is so often the case with smartphones – and especially budget phones – outdoor shots aren’t really a problem. In fact, they’re damned good on the Moto G5. Look at the picture below for an example of the crisp details and rich colours that the Moto G5 can pick up in ideal conditions:
Unfortunately, for indoor shots, things have taken yet another backwards step. Take a look at the still-life scene below to see just how poorly things come out: there’s plenty of noise, smearing and blur in the shot:
Adding flash helps a little, but it also adds a strange orangey-pink tinge to proceedings.
So, overall, the Moto G5 doesn’t fare all that well when compared to the standard G4. But then maybe the Moto G5’s true predecessor is the G4 Play. It has a higher-resolution screen and camera and faster processor than the G4 Play, yet it costs only $50 more.
It’s also significantly faster than the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy J3, although the latter has a better-quality AMOLED screen and sells for under $250.
Still, at $299, the Moto G5 offers a lot of phone for the money. It also looks much slicker than the previous generation Moto Gs. It’s just a shame Lenovo didn’t put as much effort into improving the things that really matter: the screen, performance, camera and battery life.