Moto G5 Plus review: Back to being the best mid-range phone

Over the last couple of years, a massive number of consumers around the world have shifted their buying preferences for phones. It’s no longer guaranteed that the biggest and most expensive phones should be the only ones considered. That change in philosophy can be credited in large part to the Moto G line, which was started by Google and lives on today under Lenovo’s lead.

When Lenovo took over the Moto brand, it started changing another perception: a low price doesn’t have to be for a low quality phone. The Moto G5 Plus doesn’t borrow anything from the competition. It carves out its own spot in the sub-$300 field while competing with phones that cost $400 or more. Lenovo created value here, and it’s why this phone will likely end up being one of 2017’s best overall.

Hit the break for our review of Lenovo’s Moto G5 Plus.

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It’s no secret that I didn’t care for last year’s Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus. Both of those took away from what I loved about 2015’s edition. Rather than being perfectly mid-range, the Moto G4 family started out lost. There wasn’t an identity.

Lenovo tried doing way too much with a formula that was working fine. So I was relieved when the Moto G4 Play came about and acted as the real successor to the Moto G (2015). The Moto G4 Play was, like the Moto G (2015), a simple and affordable phone that just nailed the basics.

In 2017, the Moto G5 Plus brings Lenovo’s mid-range line back to reality. But it’s pushing boundaries, too. This isn’t just a phone that nails the basics anymore. It actually gets close to being the high-end phone without the high price Lenovo tried for in 2016. Now I’m actually believing that a mid-range phone could be stretched far enough, while staying true to itself, to be a viable option for someone who would normally choose a $700 phone.

Design

Modern elegance is the direction design has been going in over the last couple of years, at least for high-end products. Companies are learning that consumers love metal and glass above all else. With a mid-range phone, you can’t really use those materials due to costs. The big price tag you see on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 is because they’re expensive to make. The cost for them gets passed to you.

Lenovo somehow proves that, no, your mid-range phone doesn’t have to be cheap plastic or rubber anymore. And not being modern doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful. The Moto G5 Plus is industrial. It’s made of metal with a small, shiny plastic frame of shiny plastic. If it were released in 2014, you’d think the phone is high-end. People would’ve chose this over the Samsung Galaxy S5 or LG G4 for sure. Believe it or not, the design as a whole gives me flashbacks to the Galaxy Nexus from 2011.

Up front, you get a pretty smooth appearance protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. The Moto G5 Plus doesn’t have a physical home button as Lenovo believes in on-screen navigation buttons. All you see is the display, the earpiece/speaker, the front-facing camera, and the ambient light sensor. Near the top, too, is a Moto logo to let you know and everyone else know whose device this is.

Prior to its announcement at MWC 2017, we thought Lenovo would give its mid-range a USB-C port. Nope. It didn’t happen. The Moto G5 Plus rocks the classic micro-USB port for charging and data transfer. Though, impressive technology is in there that we’ll get to in a bit.

While industrial, the engineers at Lenovo realized a 5.5-inch display is a little too big for a mid-range phone when the high-end phone is already that size. So the Moto G5 Plus has been tightened to a small body. It measures 150.2 x 74 x 7.7mm and weighs 155g, the latter being the same as its predecessor. Cutting the display to 5.2 inches had a lot to do with the downsizing of the phone’s overall footprint.

Remember my review of the Moto G4 Plus? Wasn’t a fan of the design, particularly the rubber back. It was way too slippery even for the driest of hands. The root of that, despite the Moto G (2015) being secured in your hand with a rubber back, was the lack of any texture. The Moto G4 Plus could wick away moisture with ease, but you couldn’t comfortably get the phone in your hand and not worry about it going airborne. The metal on the Moto G5 Plus isn’t slippery, fortunately. Between the premium-feeling material and the compact body, the Moto G5 Plus is easy to hold in one hand or two.

Major props to Lenovo for going with its own vision of what a mid-range phone looks and feels like; therefore, apps like Android Pay can’t be used.

Hardware

 Lenovo Moto G5Lenovo Moto G5 Plus
AnnouncedFebruary 26, 2017February 26, 2017
ReleaseSpring 2017Spring 2017
Display5-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD5.2-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 425Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
RAM2GB / 3GB2GB / 4GB
Storage16GB / 32GB (with microSD card)32GB / 64GB (with microSD card)
Rear Camera13MP with autofocus, LED flash12MP with autofocus, dual-LED flash
Front Camera5MP5MP
Battery2800mAh (removable)3000mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB with fast chargingmicro-USB with TurboPower charging
SoundFront-facing speakerFront-facing speaker
SoftwareAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.0 Nougat
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/nBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprintAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprint
Measurements144.3 x 73 x 9.5mm150.2 x 74 x 7.9mm
Weight145g155g
ColorsLunar Grey, Fine GoldLunar Grey, Fine Gold

Performance

You’re not getting an incredible display. You’re getting a ‘good enough’ display. It’s merely average and far from bad. There aren’t many complaints I have about the 5.2-inch screen because it’s the perfect size, doesn’t show noticeable pixels or any signs of fuzziness, and can get really bright. I just don’t like the LCD panel at all, frankly. The Moto G5 Plus portrays light, cool colors all the time. Personally, I’m much more into AMOLED panels for the vibrancy. Put the Moto G5 Plus next to one of Samsung’s flagships, open the Play Store, and observe the green banner (or any color present). The Moto G5 Plus looks so bland, especially next to a phone with an AMOLED panel. Though, again, that’s a personal preference.

If you see the Moto G5 Plus’ display, maybe you’ll disagree with me. Over the years my preference in display technology has transitioned from being indifferent to strongly siding with AMOLED panels. LCD panels consistently disappoint me. Anyone who doesn’t think about display technology will have no problem with the Moto G5 Plus. It’s clear, it’s sharp, and it’s accurate enough. Not much else to ask for from a mid-range phone.

Whatever optimization Lenovo does with Qualcomm’s processors is working perfectly. The Moto G5 Plus, like the Moto Z Play, packs the Snapdragon 625. And going through daily activities or slightly more intense apps doesn’t make the phone flinch. Maybe that’s because the unit I tested included 4GB of RAM; however, I’m willing to reward both Lenovo and Qualcomm for the achievement. It’s not like this is the only device with the Snapdragon 625 to sail smoothly throughout the day.

Unlike Moto G4, the Moto G5 Plus’ display and processor inside an attractive body make for a winning formula once again. This reminds me of the glory days with the Moto G (2015).

One thing that I need to add about the phone’s performance is the speaker’s excellence. You only get one, but it’s front-facing and built into the earpiece. It can get very loud yet stay clear.

Just a little note before we move on to the next section: the Moto G5 Plus doesn’t have NFC support at least in the United States model; therefore, Android Pay is off limits for most.

Battery

Lenovo’s Moto G5 Plus has a 3000mAh battery. I’d be slightly worried if this was a high-end phone with a big, Quad HD display and Snapdragon 800 series processor. Luckily it’s a mid-range phone! The Moto G5 Plus doesn’t have anything particularly power-hungry about it.

Generally, battery life claims are to be taken with an extra grain of salt that you’re already recommended to take. Lenovo’s claims, meanwhile, seem accurate. You can truly get 6 hours of battery life after using the included charger for 15 minutes. Yes, that’s because TurboPower charging technology is present. Getting a full charge from this phone took about 100-120 minutes.

On a single charge, the Moto G5 Plus can go the distance. You can’t quite reach two full days of use, but I didn’t have any problem exceeding one full day of use and getting through half of another day. If you follow me on Twitter, you have an idea of what I’m typically doing on my phone. Most of my time is spent on Twitter seeing what’s trending, sending messages/emails, checking Instagram and Snapchat, and playing Threes sporadically.

Software

When you buy a Moto phone, you know you’re getting what’s widely regarded as the best non-Google software for Android. The Moto G5 Plus, like other devices from the brand, gives a clean experience throughout. It’s based on Android 7.0 Nougat, and you won’t find anything that makes it look like heavy tampering or alterations were made. Lenovo knows people like stock Android. So that’s exactly what you (almost) get. There’s even a chance you think nothing at all is different between this phone’s software and that of the Google Pixel. Lenovo just adds minor-yet-useful enhancements.

Before I get into what Lenovo added to Android here, I’d first like to say that the Nougat-specific features perform perfectly on this mid-range phone. And that’s a treat because, honestly, you probably would expect a $229 phone to struggle getting through more intense workloads. On the Moto G5 Plus, you can have a split-screen of two apps, call upon Google Assistant, and type messages within notifications all without ever having memory overwhelmed and shutting down tasks.

The always-on display may not have been invented by Motorola, but its phones did launch a trend. And it’s still the very best always-on display in the business. Samsung, LG, and others are trying to figure it out but only Lenovo has a useful implementation. Rather than literally always being on, the Moto G5 Plus’ screen lights up with the date, time, battery percentage, and any notifications at select moments. If you flip the phone over or pick it up, the screen will turn on.

Each time you get a notification, the screen will turn on with the corresponding app’s icon shown. Then you have quick actions at your fingertips without ever having to unlock your phone. The Moto G5 Plus lets you quickly unlock your phone as usual, launch the app from the lock screen, or dismiss the app’s notification from one place.

Lenovo, by the way, is keeping its love for quick gestures going as well. This phone can still have the camera activated by a twist of the wrist and the flashlight turned on by chopping. There are others, too, but no one but the Moto faithful are searching for them. But it’s important they’re present because they’re useful. Once you have them, you may never want another phone without them.

Now, as I mentioned before, the Moto G5 Plus doesn’t have a physical home button. Well that’s only a half-truth. You see, the on-screen navigation buttons can actually be deactivated. The fingerprint scanner, if you decide you want more space on the screen, becomes an all-in-one gesture-ready pad. Tapping is for home, swiping left is for back, and swiping right is for multitasking. Still it’ll be able to act as a fingerprint scanner in applicable situations. That’s a handy feature barely anyone is aware of.

All of this praise, however, cannot overshadow a big problem Lenovo faces: software updates. Not a single person, even those employed by Lenovo, can deny that the company struggles to deliver software updates in a timely manner. And there’s no excuse for it. Lenovo’s phones are shipping with the lightest software overlay in the world, and it can’t get software updates out before Samsung, HTC, and LG. The Moto X Pure Edition, which is very similar to the Moto G5 Plus, remains without Nougat despite being as stock as you can get without Google making the phone itself. Similarly, the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus only recently got the software update for the latest version of Android.

If you buy the Moto G5 Plus, you should be thrilled about the software today. Tomorrow, it might be a different story. Everyone should cross their fingers that Lenovo starts taking software updates more seriously.

Camera

Lenovo says it went all-in on the Moto G5 Plus’ camera. The results aren’t a letdown, but you might be expecting shots better than what you get. The phone has a 12MP said to be 60% faster than its predecessor. That’s true. The Moto G5 Plus’ camera is way faster than the Moto G4 Plus’ camera. And it does perform better in many ways. Yet I continue to not be satisfied with most of the results. If you have really decent lighting, the Moto G5 Plus gets the job done. But, under tough lighting conditions, you’re in for a struggle.

That being said, you have to accept the results for the price. You’re honestly getting what you paid for at $229. Think about the phones capable of pulling off great images in different environments. What comes to mind? Now check how much they cost. Getting a phone with a terrific camera costs at least $400. So, today, Lenovo gets a gentle pat on the back for including an above average camera on the Moto G5 Plus. You have to appreciate what was done at this price.

Closing

The Moto G5 Plus looks way out of its class. Where else are you going to pay $229 for a phone that’s made of metal? Better yet, where else are you going to pay $229 for a phone that’s anywhere close to the Moto G5 Plus on paper? Lenovo’s latest mid-range offering is one of a kind. The design is remarkable considering the price, the performance is as smooth as a $400+ phone, and the battery life goes the distance. Not a single company or phone can compete.

It’s 2017, and Lenovo is standing atop the mid-range mountain like it did before. The Moto G5 Plus is the definitive best mid-range phone in the world today. It’ll likely remain the segment’s best for the rest of the year. There’s just no beating this value.

Buy it now: Motorola, Best Buy, Amazon


About the Author: Justin Herrick

Born and raised in New Jersey, Justin is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University where he studied marketing with a focus on digital marketing. He's very talkative and enjoys discussing anything from technology and sports to video games and television. As for Justin's current device rotation, he carries around the Google Pixel and Nexus 9. In the rare case that his phone or tablet is not in his hand, he is either flicking through cards on his Moto 360 (2015) or typing away on the Microsoft Surface Book. Justin is patiently waiting for the day that Google replicates the Galaxy Nexus with modern day specifications.


  • bradley lawerence

    Really a big brand bring amazing smartphone in the market. Before launch in MWC we thought lenovo bring USB- C port. With 5.2 inches phones,it’s a one handy phone. I am using this smartphone without any issues. But i don’t like the stock rom UI, why did they do this. Front camera is just a 5MP. If they provide with 8MP it will be better and competitive in the market. But know whole situation changed. Xiaomi redmi note 4 is the best competitor for lenovo G5 plus in price as well as specification. For best cover check ebay thematys store