Lenovo, the company that now owns Motorola and has the full control on what should happen in the company, isn’t taking any focus off and is on the right track to try and maintain the brand value that Motorola has gained in the past few years after being under Google’s eye where it grew to offer the best mid-range phones with super user experience.
Things have changed in the market at a pace where Lenovo hasn’t been able to do much with its own branded devices but they’ve been working on the Moto devices, and the latest one, i.e. Moto G5 Plus is an example of how Lenovo takes almost every aspect of the device seriously, especially because of the tough competition it faces with the reigning devices in the market.
Design, Form Factor
The Moto G5 Plus is quite a different phone when compared to its predecessor, the Moto G4 Plus starting with the build quality. The plastic back is now replaced by a proper metal plate made of Aluminum, and the little squarish fingerprint sensor on the front is replaced by a regressed large one that not looks better but also works well. The entire body is not metallic, though, as the core of it is made of plastic it seems.
Note: The unit we are using has 4GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage.
The phone feels sturdy, the buttons on it are tactile and Lenovo has made sure there are no sharp pointy corners or edges on the phone. No major problems with the design, but the phone is sure a bit slippery because of the smooth and curvy back. Aesthetically, my personal opinion is very positive because this is a big and good leap from the Moto G4 Plus that was disastrous in many ways.
So, what is annoying for someone like me who likes it without a case over the phone? The camera bump. It is a highly raised one as Lenovo has looked to not make the phone thicker and thus, the camera with its large sensor had to pop out, alongside the Dual LED flash. It didn’t hamper the looks even a bit, but the rough usage could lead to scratches on the glass that covers the camera. Fortunately, I haven’t seen even a single one and given the rough user that I am, it has stayed good for the two weeks.
To differentiate between the power button and the volume rockers that are placed on the same side frame, the power button has a textured surface. The top has the SIM tray, which doesn’t limit you to one SIM because there is a separate space for the MicroSD card, on the other side of the tray that can also hold two Nano SIM cards.
The regressed fingerprint sensor on the front is a welcome change here, and Lenovo has been good in saying that keeping things interesting with it. Not just the unlocking of the screen but if you set it up, the same button can become the sole navigation bar with three functions. Tapping it would take you to the home screen, swiping from the left would open up the “Recents” tab, and swiping from right works as a “Back” function. Why do we need to do that? Only if you are someone adjusted with a larger screen and thus want more space on the display for the content, you can take that on-screen navigation bar away and use the fingerprint sensor instead.
The display of the Moto G5 Plus is a neither a big plus nor a fail. It won’t always do the justice because the pictures taken using the phone’s camera don’t seem to show the best on its phone display, but otherwise, the viewing angles are great but only that the colors are a little lesser on output and look paler than what they are naturally. Even having the Vibrant mode active under the Display settings won’t change much, because the colors still don’t do the justice.
The OS and Interface
We are talking about Moto phones, even if under a new parent company, so we totally know what to expect from the OS side of it. The latest OS, at the least, which is satisfactory because Moto phones run stock Android OS with some features added to it, but it wouldn’t change things to an extent that Lenovo, Xiaomi, Samsung, or any such brand would do. Some might find it too boring but we know Android is all about the possibility of customization and personalization, so I’d choose plain Android where I am not forced into unnecessary gestures, animations, and features that would take a load on the internals. Another advantage here is the ease of getting the major Android updates.
We know that Motorola phones were the first to get Android updates after the Nexus family, but it will be interesting to see if Lenovo is able to make the software team work at the same pace now, and this will be crucial on their part after seeing the criticism for the Lenovo phones, not just for pushing out OS updates but also the security ones that are always important. Though, the influence of Lenovo on Moto is clear on the security side as the last security patch on the phone is from Jan 1, 2017. Lenovo can impress and win the trust back if there are regular security updates and if the Android O update arrives on time, whenever released.
Android Nougat is what the Moto G5 Plus runs, and under the Moto app is where the bunch of important gesture features are available. Chop, Twist, and lift the phone for the different functions, and the Moto Display is carried from the previous Moto phones. A simple nudge would show a black display only to an extent where a simple widget would show the time and date, and summary of notifications without waking it up completely. More of a battery saving feature because we tend to wake the screen several times in a day just to check the time or the notifications.
Google Assistant is active and working on the unit that we got, but we’re told that a new phone out of the box will get an update and it will make the Google Assistant active and running. There is Tap & Pay, thanks to the NFC inclusion that is not there in the units being sold in U.S. More than that, the NFC feature might come to use for Android Beam file transfer in places like India where wireless payments are not up at a good pace.
To keep the basics right, the Moto G5 Plus has got FM Radio available through an app, and Lenovo thankfully hasn’t changed much in the interface and thus, it is all easy-peasy.
Taking it forward, that interface we liked for being easy and simple, is also responsible for a very smooth usage. Of course, the internal hardware also comes into account and the Moto G5 Plus has Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 under the hood, and the unit we are testing has 4GB of RAM. It is the same chipset that powered the Moto Z Play as well, and that particular power is known for two big reasons – smooth performance, and great battery optimization.
Playing high-end games was at ease, and it is much noticeable that the Moto G5 Plus does not heat up as much as the Moto G4 Plus with Snapdragon 617 did last year. Partly contributed by the chipset and its management, the G5 Plus is much cooler and it does get warm during gaming, and more when the 4G connectivity is active and you are browsing aggressively or even watching videos. But, that is all dependent on the conditions you are using the phone in and the stress you are putting it under. So far, the phone has been strong enough to hold it well during multitasking and while gaming as well.
The Battery Life
Well, another compromise that can be seen while Lenovo kept the phone slim, is with the battery capacity. A 3000 mAh battery is what powers the phone and it might look easily lesser than what is offered in the competition, i.e. Redmi Note 4, Honor 6X, and the ZenFone 3s Max. But, looking at how the performance is, there is no need to complain about it. I could easily get about 5-6 hours of screen-on time, on average where there was occasional 4G connectivity usage and several hours on Wi-Fi. The battery can last for more than a day on moderate usage, and having the support for fast charging helps when you have less time to charge the device but want to still get it charged enough so it lasts for a few hours.
Finally, the Camera!
The word went out that the Moto G5 Plus has the same sensor as the one on Samsung’s 2016 flagship, the Galaxy S7, but let’s be clear. Having a sensor on the camera is not enough to produce similar results. The ISP is important as well, and the post-capture optimization is what decides things in the end. The Moto G5 Plus has a super camera, to be fair to it, but it isn’t one that can compete with the flagships, something that many were expecting to do. A 12-megapixel f/1.7 sensor is what the G5 Plus offers, and it does capture excellent pictures with top color reproduction, especially in HDR, in broad daylight. Even with the artificial light source, or with the light on the background, the exposure is maintained well. But, the fact is that you will be a fan of its job only when there is sufficient light around.
Check: Moto G5 Plus Camera Samples (Full Res pictures)
Low light photography is where it struggles. With the larger pixel size, you’d rather expect the camera to take in more light and would sometimes compensate for the absence of OIS, but it is clear here that the software is not able to optimize the pictures well when there is scarcity of light and you’d have to resort to the Pro mode and adjust the settings manually, which also requires that you have the phone sit steadily for one good capture in low light. Just taking the phone out and capturing pictures on auto mode in the night would take pale photos.
Moreover, the video capture results too are similar to the photos. 4K video recording is possible at 30 fps and the slow-motion videography too is, with 120 fps videos coming out at 720p resolution. Overall, the camera is indeed one of the highlights of the Moto G5 Plus and if you are giving it a use in daylight, it has enough to beat most of the competition in its price range, but it isn’t reliable in low light.
How good is the connectivity?
Lenovo has given whatever except the IR blaster if connectivity is at a question. 4G with VoLTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, and the other standard ones in the list. While the call quality is great, the unit that we have doesn’t show up VoLTE / HD calling option for the first SIM slot, and we confirmed it with a few other users too who had a similar issue. It is only about the SIM number as things work fine on the second SIM where VoLTE is active.
The speaker on the front is just at the same place where the earpiece is. It isn’t the loudest of the ones seen in this price range, and interestingly, even the Xiaomi Redmi 4A with less than half the price of this has been able to have a better sound output level.
Verdict – Is camera the only highlight?
Well well, here we are in the price range where choosing the best one is always quite a task. I would’ve always kept one of the Moto phones on the list but last year, the thought changed with Moto G4 Plus. Good for Lenovo that they made a wonderful phone this year, as the Moto G5 Plus has done exceptionally well with the performance, and it would be unfair to call the phone a choice only for its camera.
The design, except for the camera bump, is decent and the performance is top-notch. The phone ticks almost all the boxes but there are some obvious points where it should’ve been better, especially the low-light photography and the speaker performance.
But then, there are no more than 2-3 good challengers to the Moto G5 Plus in this category, and only the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and Honor 6X come into good contention, for some reasons. If there’s a battery powerhouse that you need with no big changes in the UI, there’s Moto Z Play to consider as well. But, all in all, the Moto G5 Plus is a phone that shouldn’t be known only for its camera. That camera might overshadow the design, performance, and the battery life of the phone but they are equal contributors to why we would recommend it.