BARCELONA—When we reviewed Motorola’s Moto G4 and G4 Plus phablets, we liked the combination of hardware and price, but we still felt build quality and camera performance left something to be desired. Not anymore. At MWC, we went hands on with the 5-inch G5 and the 5.2-inch G5 Plus and were blown away by their style and performance. Clad in metal, with beefed-up specs and camera capabilities, the two unlocked phones could very well set the new bar for what constitutes a “flagship” budget phone.
Availability and Physical Features
In a choice that may prove disappointing to some US customers, Motorola will only launch the Moto G5 Plus (above, right) in the US; the G5 (above, left) will be reserved for other international markets. A company rep explained that when they looked at the sales of the Moto G4 and G4 Plus, the latter proved significantly more popular in the US market despite being more expensive.
Given that the Moto G5 Plus will launch in the US for just $229, it’s still an affordable phone, priced in the same range as the Huawei Honor 6X, but more consumer choice is always a good thing so this feels like a bit of a letdown.
But I quickly got over it when I got my hands on the two phones. The G5 Plus is a lightweight and attractive metal unibody slab that measures 5.9 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.5 ounces. The G5 is similar, except in a smaller form factor (5.7 by 2.9 by 0.4 inches, 5.1 ounces). Both phones have fingerprint sensors below the display that are easy to reach, and I didn’t have trouble using either phone with one hand.
When it comes to screen space, one unique thing Motorola has done is allow for the fingerprint scanner to be enabled as a small navigation touchpad. You have the option of disabling on-screen buttons and using a series of swipe motions in order to go back, turn off the screen, or return to home. It’s an innovative feature and surprisingly easy to get used to once you get the hang of it. I enjoyed the option of being able to take advantage of more screen real estate.
However, these additions aside, there is one important difference to note. While the G5 Plus has a metal unibody and a sealed-in 3000mAh battery, the G5 has a hybrid build. Its sides and back panel are made out of metal, but a section of the corners is made out of resin, allowing the back panel to be removed while retaining the metal feel. Peeling the G5’s back give you access to a slightly smaller 2,800mAh removable battery, along with the SIM card slot and a microSD card slot that supports up to 128GB of storage.
The G5 Plus also allows for expandable storage, but the slot is up on the top edge. The power button and volume rocker are both on the right, and on the bottom, you’ll see the 3.5mm audio jack and a micro USB charging port.
Motorola has decided not to transition over to USB-C because adoption in parts of Latin America and Asia remains relatively low. You can still take advantage of fast charging, however. The G5 Plus comes with Motorola’s proprietary TurboPower 15W charger, which lets you get six hours of usage with 15 minutes of charge. The G5 has a 10W rapid charger included which should top you up fast, but not quite as fast.
Hardware and Software
Both phones have 1080p IPS displays with great viewing angles and well-calibrated colors. Blacks seemed dense and inky, whites were stark, and bright colors like red and green stood out. The resolution works out to 441ppi for the 5-inch G5 and 425ppi for the 5.2-inch G5 Plus. At maximum brightness, both panels were visible outdoors, but became reflective under direct sunlight.
I didn’t get the chance to run any benchmarks, but the G5 Plus and the G5 have refreshed chipsets. The G5 Plus boast the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 clocked at 2.0GHz. It’s a solid midrange chipset that I expect to outperform Snapdragon 617-powered devices in benchmark testing. The Snapdragon 430 clocked at 1.4GHz on the G5 isn’t as powerful, but it should still do better than the gaining Snapdragon 410 chipset.
Both phones were fast and responsive while multitasking and launching apps. They seem especially smooth because they benefit considerably from running a nearly stock version of Android 7.0 Nougat. As a result, there’s no real changes to the UI and little to no bloatware. Fans of Motorola’s quick launch features like twist to launch camera and chop to turn on the flashlight will be pleased to find those all present.
Storage configurations depend on region, but the Moto G5 Plus should be available in 32GB and 64GB models. RAM will also differ. The G5 will have 2GB and 3GB options, and the G5 Plus will be available in 2GB and 4GB options for the US, with several different regional variations for the rest of the world.
Camera performance is another area on which Motorola has drilled down. The G5 Plus has a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera with a dual LED flash. According to the representative I spoke with, it’s the same camera module found on the Google Pixel, though actual low-light performance will depend on post-processing and camera optimization. That said, the shots I took outdoors in a shadowed area were crisp and the camera sensor focused quickly. It’s capable of recording 4K, but the quality was hard to judge on the phone itself.
The G5, by contrast, has a 13-megpixel rear-facing sensor. It’s not quite as good as the G5 Plus and takes a bit longer to focus and take a snap. I noticed that it also didn’t lock on as accurately when I did a brief shootout between the two devices. It’s capable of recording 1080p video. The 5-megapixel front sensor performs similarly on both devices and includes post-processing options to soften facial features.
Connectivity protocols include dual-band Wi-Fi and NFC (for the international G5 Plus), both rare features to find on budget phones. NFC, unfortunately, won’t be on the US version, presumably because there isn’t a widespread implementation of Android Pay yet. Both phones support Bluetooth 4.2. Like their predecessors, both phones operate unlocked and the G5 Plus supports CDMA bands for Verizon and Sprint customers.
I was impressed by the performance of both the Moto G5 and G5 Plus while I was using them. With premium metal build’s, more powerful processors, better camera’s, and more connectivity protocols, both phones have the potential to outshine their predecessor. Stay tuned for more details and our full review.