‘Premium for All’ is Lenovo’s new motto for its G5 phones, the Moto G5 and G5 Plus, which aim to offer the build quality and feel of a flagship device at decidedly non-flagship prices. That’s especially true of the G5, which offers a metal body, rapid charging, and fingerprint sensor controls – all at a sub-£200 price.
Design is where the G5 has seen the biggest overhaul from its predecessor. The phone features an aluminium body – instead of the G4’s plastic – which means it immediately feels like a more expensive phone than it is. The 5in display stretches most of the way to the sides of the body, though there’s still plenty of bezel at the top and bottom – it’s not quite Galaxy S8 (page 44) premium.
The rear of the phone is dominated by the large camera aperture that sits above a brushed metal Motorola ‘M’. At 144.5g, it’s a comfortable weight and has that reassuring heft of any metal-bodied device, while it measures 144.3x73x9.5mm, which is small enough to use in one hand. It’s available in Lunar Grey, Sapphire Blue or Fine Gold – our review unit was the grey model (pictured), which is attractively understated.
The G5 doesn’t offer the sort of striking design that’s likely to turn heads – at least not until you tell someone how little you paid for it. It’s mostly straightforward, unassuming stuff, but it’s the feel of the phone and its build quality, that really sells it. This is a handset that feels and looks well-made – ‘cheap’ never once sprang to mind. It’s simple, it’s elegant and there aren’t many better-looking phones that will cost you this little.
Offering that sort of design and build quality at less than £200 comes at a price, of course, and the Moto G5’s internal specifications are where it lives down to its price.
It’s powered by a Snapdragon 430 with a 1.4GHz eight-core CPU and 450MHz Adreno 505 GPU. Our review unit came with 3GB RAM, though you can also get it with 2GB. With only a £10 price difference, we’d find it hard not to recommend opting for the higher-spec model.
To be blunt, the benchmark results aren’t great (see opposite). We were surprised to see slightly worse scores than from 2016’s G4, likely because it runs the more recent – but less powerful – Snapdragon 430, compared to the G4’s Snapdragon 617. Even a better GPU and more RAM weren’t enough to make up for the CPU gap.
Even so, in day-to-day use the G5 never feels sluggish or slow, and it should be more than enough for average usage, including streaming video and light gaming. The G5 never feels like it’s underperforming, despite the benchmark results.
The 5in display is full 1080p and 441ppi, with crisp, bright colours, though it has no Gorilla Glass protection. Below that you’ll find the fingerprint sensor, which doubles up as a replacement for Android’s on-screen buttons, through some nifty swipe controls.
The Moto G5 comes with a disappointingly small 16GB of onboard storage, but there’s support for microSD cards up to 128GB.
The rear camera is 13Mp with LED flash and phase detection autofocus, while the front camera is 5Mp. Taking photos with the autofocus was almost instantaneous, and for the most part we were able to capture crisp, clear photos even in challenging lighting.
There’s a 2800mAh battery, which should provide a full day’s use pretty comfortably. The most we managed to wear it down to was 20 percent after 16 hours of usage, including some heavy camera and internet use – you can trust the G5 to last the day, but you will want to charge it each night.
It comes packaged with a 10W Micro-USB rapid charger, which is able to provide a few hours of battery life after just 15 minutes or so of charging – as long as the battery is low to start with. It also supports TurboPower charging, which can offer six hours of battery in the same time, though you’ll have to buy the charger separately.
There’s also 2.4- and 5GHz Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2 and a waterrepellent coating. One big omission is NFC, so you won’t be able to use Android Pay or its equivalents. Don’t worry though – you do get a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The G5 comes loaded with Android 7.0 Nougat, and runs a version that’s close to stock, with a few ‘Moto experiences’ added on (more on those in a moment). What this means is that if you’re looking for something not far from the pure Android experience, but don’t want to splash out on the Google Pixel, the Moto G5 could be a good option.
It’s also one of the first phones included in the search giant’s new expansion of its Google Assistant services, previously limited to only a handful of handsets, though it wasn’t on the G5 at launch. Eventually, you can probably expect the new AI assistant to be ubiquitous across Android, but for now this will be one of the cheapest ways to get your hands on it.
The big difference from stock Android is the inclusion of the gesture-based ‘Moto Actions’, some
of which may be familiar from other Motorola phones, while others are entirely new. They’re all optional, and are activated or deactivated from the included Moto app.
You can do a double ‘karate chop’ motion to turn on the torch, and quickly twist the phone backwards and forwards twice to activate the camera. Placing the phone face down on a table sets it do ‘Do Not Disturb’, while picking it up when it’s ringing will silence the ringtone.
You can also swipe up from the bottom of the screen to shrink the display for easy one-handed use.
The most welcome addition is the use of the fingerprint sensor as a one-button replacement for Android’s normal on-screen controls. You can now swipe left across the sensor to go back, tap it for home, and swipe right to open the list of recent apps.
It’s an intuitive system and within seconds we were comfortably swiping away – it really speeds up loads of basic tasks, and is a feature not many other Android phones have yet. Occasionally, it can be a bit fiddly – registering your swipe as a press, or vice versa – but for the most part it works well, and it feels sluggish switching back to on-screen buttons. It’s especially helpful here given the G5’s relatively petite 5in screen – the extra screen real estate gained by removing the on-screen buttons makes the display feel more expansive than it really is.
There’s fierce competition in Android’s mid-range market, but the Moto G5 is a strong contender. The build quality alone feels like it belongs on a much more expensive phone, while the fingerprint gesture controls genuinely improve the Android experience. The benchmarks and battery hold it back, but they’re not unreasonable given the price – and you won’t find a much better-looking phone at £169. You might want to spend the extra to get the Moto G5 Plus with more storage, a better camera and more.
The G5 takes clear and crisp photos