Motorola Moto G5 Review: Inexpensive can be exciting

Alex Kidman 9 May 2017 NEWS

Quick Verdict
Motorola's Moto G5 isn't a fancy phone, but it's entirely suitable within its price bracket if you want a budget phone with a better than expected camera.

Strengths

  • Low asking price
  • Camera exceeds expectations
  • NFC built in
  • Good fingerprint sensor
  • Removable battery

Could be better

  • Ordinary battery life
  • Mediocre performance
  • Very plain look


The Moto G5 is the ute of phones, and that’s a good thing.

If you want excitement in a smartphone, you’re typically looking northwards of $1,000 to get it, because truly premium smartphones attract serious price points. It’s the equivalent of buying a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, in that a good part of the fun is in showing off your shiny new gadget.

The problem is that for many of us, premium smartphones are an aspirational ideal, but they’re not exactly a sensible buy, even if they’re not quite in supercar pricing territory yet. What you might want is a more practically priced, practically featured everyday phone.

If the Galaxy S8 or iPhone 7 Plus is a Ferrari, then budget phones, are, logically speaking, utes. Practical, hardworking, maybe not the fastest or the prettiest, but a good option at the right kind of price. In fact, that’s pretty much exactly what the Motorola Moto G5 is, excluding any ability to fit sheep in the back. There's an Android app for that, right?

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Motorola Moto G5: Design

Motorola’s design language tends towards the plain, as we already saw with the Moto G5’s bigger sibling, the Motorola Moto G5 Plus. The Moto G5 itself follows almost exactly the same design recipe, albeit with a little more plastic and a little less metal. Measuring in at 144.3x73x9.5mm and 144.5g, it’s an inoffensive but ultimately rather bland looking handset that at least fits well in the hand.

Motorola Moto G5 Plus XT1685 Dual SIM

Motorola Moto G5 Plus XT1685 Dual SIM from Dick Smith Electronics

Stunning pictures and unrivaled battery life!

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One interesting design difference between the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus is in the fact that the Moto G5 supports a removable battery where the Moto G5 Plus is entirely sealed. There’s a slight design trick here, because the rear of the Moto G5 looks as though it should pop off around the camera lens. Instead, it’s the entire rear of the phone that comes off to pop the 2800mAh battery into the Moto G5’s body.

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Motorola Moto G5: Camera

The Motorola Moto G5 is priced to sell, and that’s the clear consideration when it comes to every factor of its construction and delivery. It’s also the only sensible way to assess what it’s offering, because buying a phone like this and expecting iPhone-level performance is just setting yourself up for disappointment.

The camera onboard the Motorola Moto G5 is a good example of this. It’s equipped with a 13MP f/2.0 rear camera and 5MP f/2.2 front selfie camera. By themselves that’s nothing to get all that excited about, and even the larger Moto G5 Plus can at least sport dual autofocus pixels to help it on its camera journey.

Still, while we didn’t have huge expectations for the Motorola Moto G5’s camera, it actually managed to impress us with what it could make of what it’s got. Yes, it struggles in low light, or indeed with any kind of brightness balancing if you’re shooting from the hip. If you’ve got time to tap to focus, however, it’s entirely feasible to come out with some surprisingly decent shots from the Moto G5’s camera:

Motorola G5 Sample Photos
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Motorola Moto G5: Why you’d want one

  • Sells on price rather than features: Motorola knows entirely well what it’s selling in the Moto G5, and that’s a cheap phone. It doesn’t try to dress it up in fancy marketing clothes, or for that matter useless software gimmicks. That’s a plus, because it leaves you with a mostly blank slate Android device that just so happens to be running Android 7.0 already. Most Android phones, and especially the budget models, rarely see full point upgrades, so being (essentially) up to date out of the box is a big plus.
  • Good Fingerprint sensor: There was a time when the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor on a phone was something that you only saw in the top-tier premium space. That was a number of years ago now, but they’re still not common in budget phone devices. The Motorola Moto G5’s fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate for unlocking, which is all you really need out of this kind of device. We’re still fans of front-mounted fingerprint sensors as found on the Moto G5, too.
  • Removable battery: The Moto G5's 2800mAh battery isn't massive, but it is removable, which means that if it does start to die out after a while, you can always simply buy another and pop it into the case without requiring full disassembly of the phone.
  • NFC support: Some budget phone makers (why yes, I am looking at you, Oppo), eschew NFC in their handsets, which means you’re cut off from the world of contactless phone payments via Android Pay. NFC is built into the Moto G5, which means that while it won’t cost you much to acquire, you can use it for any number of additional expensive purchases as long as your financial institution supports it.
  • Full HD display: There are still plenty of phones in the budget space that keep matters inexpensive by opting for 720p or lower resolution displays. Motorola equips the Moto G5 with a Full HD 5 inch display, so it’s quite well equipped for small scale Full HD Netflix or Stan viewing.

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Motorola Moto G5: Why you might not want one

  • Ordinary battery life: We have seen some budget models with a huge battery focus, such as the LG X Power. The Moto G5 doesn’t play in those spaces, instead playing it essentially conservative with its 2,800mAh battery. Motorola describes it as an "all day" battery, and for the kinds of users it’s designed for, that’s probably a fair description. Push the Moto G5 and you can send it flat in a day, as we found using Geekbench 3’s older battery test:
    Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score
    LG X Power 14:50:30 5714
    Huawei Nova Plus 13:21:20 8013
    Motorola Moto G5 Plus 11:15:40 6756
    Samsung Galaxy J2 10:05:20 2689
    Motorola Moto X Force 9:46:50 3914
    Motorola Moto 4G Plus 9:44:10 3977
    Motorola Moto G Play 9:36:00 3840
    Alcatel Pop 4 9:20:30 2490
    Alcatel Idol 4S 8:14:20 4943
    LG Stylus DAB+ 8:11:40 3278
    Alcatel Go Play 7:21:10 2941
    Motorola Moto G5 6:32:50 3833

    While it’s acceptable without being outstanding within its price range, we do feel compelled to point out that the Moto G5 Plus performed considerably better in this regard, and would be a better pick if your budget can stretch to it.

  • Mediocre performance: We’re willing to give the Moto G5 a certain amount of leeway based on the asking price, but the very practical reality here is that you are fairly likely to hit a performance wall at some point. The Moto G5 runs off the very budget-centric 1.4GHz Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor with just 2GB of RAM. That’s not a recipe for great performance, and even the inclusion of Android 7.0 ("Nougat") can’t give the Moto G5 grunt it simply doesn’t have. That’s reflected in both anecdotal use, which was serviceable if a little slow, and in benchmark terms, where against a sea of other budget choices it didn’t do all that much to stand out. Here’s how it compared using Geekbench 4’s CPU test:
    Handset Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
    Moto G5 Plus 842 4180
    Motorola Moto X Force 1352 3581
    Huawei Nova Plus 843 2985
    Motorola Moto Z Play 799 2648
    Sony Xperia X 1122 2626
    Moto G5 630 2605
    LG X Power 554 1482
    Motorola Moto G Play 522 1334

    And here’s its comparative performance running 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test:

    Huawei Nova Plus 13969
    Motorola Moto Z Play 13958
    Moto G5 Plus 13753
    Oppo R9s 13691
    Oppo R9 11053
    Motorola Moto G4 Plus 9757
    Moto G5 9532
    LG X Power 4953
    Motorola Moto G Play 4475
    LG Stylus DAB+ 4321
    Alcatel Pop 4 3863
    Samsung Galaxy J2 3469
  • Water repellent, not resistant: Like the Moto G5 Plus, the Moto G5 features a water repellent coating, but don’t be mistaken into thinking that this means it’s suitable for a touch of in-pool photography. There’s no specific IP rating for immersion for this particular phone, so while a little light rain shouldn’t be an issue, it is highly unlikely to live after an untimely dip.

Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

Motorola has enjoyed a lot of success with the Moto G line, and it’s not hard to see why. The Moto G5 isn’t a stellar handset in performance terms, but it’s an entirely suitable one for essential smartphone tasks, priced in a way that makes it appealing on its own terms.

However, it’s far from alone in this space. If your budget can stretch just a little further and you want to stay in the Motorola family, the Moto G5 Plus is a considerably better handset option, and you can read our review of that phone here. Outside the Motorola family, there are numerous options from makers such as Oppo, Alcatel and even the big names in the premium space such as Samsung, HTC or Sony.

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Where can I get it?

The Motorola Moto G5 is on sale in Australia now through Motorola’s web site for $299 outright. It’s also available to purchase through Harvey Norman, The Good Guys or Officeworks.

Motorola has no announced carrier partners for the Moto G5, but at this kind of price point it’s very rare to see carriers offering contract options rather than straight outright purchase.

Motorola Moto G5 Specifications

Motorola Moto G5
Display 5in
Resolution 1920x1080
ppi 441
Software Android 7.0
Storage 16GB+microSD
RAM 2GB
Battery 2800mAh (removable)
Front Camera 5MP
Rear Camera 13MP
Processor 1.4GHz Snapdragon 430 octa-core
Size 144.3 x 73 x 9.5mm
Weight 145g

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