Moto G5S Plus review: This is the mid-range phone you want

Lenovo announced the Moto G5S Plus as a sort of special edition of the Moto G5 Plus from last year with similar, but slightly improved specs. It bumped the screen size up to 5.5-inches and added a dual-camera system, but otherwise kept most of what we loved from the regular budget-friendly option.

So while it isn’t a significant improvement over the previous iteration, it isn’t supposed to be. It’s improved in all the right places, but is that really worth any extra cash over the Moto G5 Plus? Let’s find out.

Design

If you’re familiar with Lenovo’s current Moto G line, you pretty much know what to expect out of the Moto G5S Plus. Don’t take that the wrong way, though; for less than $300, you’re getting an extremely well-crafted device that arguably feels better in hand than other phones in higher price ranges.

The device is cut from a single piece of high-grade aluminum and features an all-metal, unibody design. It’s smooth and polished, but most importantly, it feels really sturdy.

The Lunar Gray matches the tone of the build perfectly, offering a stern, gunmetal-esque finish that just looks fantastic. I haven’t seen the Blush Gold color in person yet, but if you want something a little softer, you’ve got options.

The face of the phone is pretty typical 2017 Lenovorola. Bezels are small and manageable with a decent screen to size ratio.

Above the screen you’ll find a light sensor, LED flash, and front-facing camera. Below the screen houses the fingerprint scanner.

You’ll find the power button and volume rocker on the right side of the phone, with the SIM card tray on the bottom left side. The 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top of the phone, and the microUSB charging port is on the bottom.

The back of the phone is where the Moto G5S Plus really shines in the design department. Lenovo’s rounded camera bump looks like it was made for a dual-camera system and the concept gives the phone a sleek, symmetrical aesthetic. Antenna lines run horizontally across the top and bottom of the back of the device, and again, they really add to the symmetry.

The usual indented Motorola logo is still here, but otherwise, the back is plain and shows off the metal manufacturing and color of the device.

It’s a very industrial looking phone, but it’s seriously one of the best looking and feeling phones you’re going to find in this price range. It’s also pretty easy to hold thanks to the rigid edges of the chassis. Some people prefer smoother finishes on their smartphones, and that’s fair, but the slightly beveled finish here just blends in so well with the rest of the design language.

Hardware

 Lenovo Moto G5S Plus
AnnouncedAugust 1, 2017
ReleaseSeptember 29, 2017
Display5.5-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 625
RAM3GB / 4GB
Storage32GB / 64GB (with microSD card)
Rear Camera13MP + 8MP with autofocus, dual-LED flash
Front Camera8MP
Battery3000mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB with TurboPower charging
SoundFront-facing speaker
SoftwareAndroid 7.1.1 Nougat
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprint
Measurements153.5 x 76.2 x 8mm
Weight168g
ColorsLunar Grey, Blush Gold

Performance

The Moto G5S Plus sports a Snapdragon 625 CPU paired with either 3 or 4GB of RAM. Like pretty much every other phone I’ve reviewed with a Snapdragon 600-series processor, the G5S Plus strikes a perfect balance between solid performance and battery life with minimal compromise.

Sure, it’s not a Snapdragon 836 pushing a 2k resolution display, so it won’t be as good at showing off cutting edge games to your friends. But in daily usage? You’ll be hard pressed to find anything that this phone can’t do.

Gaming is smooth, multitasking is a breeze, and you’ll rarely, if ever, run into any UI lag or slowdown. There’s only a 1080p screen to deal with, and that really helps the processor stay up to speed without sacrificing much in the way of visual clarity or eye candy.

Battery

The Moto G5S Plus has a 3,000mAh battery, which is actually the same capacity as the regular Moto G5 Plus. Since the G5S Plus has a slightly larger screen, you can’t quite squeeze the same longevity out of its smaller brother. The good news, though, is that battery life is still pretty great here.

Standby time was great thanks to the relatively untouched software and Android Doze, and actually using the Snapdragon 625 just sips power all day. Can you stretch it out to three days? Probably not, but I struggled to run it completely dead in a single day. Light users will easily see two days of use, while medium users will always have some extra juice to spare.

The phone offers quick charging, too, so you’ll be able to pull several more hours of usage out of a brief wall charge. The only drawback is that you’re using a microUSB cable to charge up, not USB C. I get it, it’s a sub-$300 budget phone that offers a ton of other great features, and you have to cut corners somewhere. It’s still disappointing.

Software

Lenovo has pretty much completely abandoned any kind of skin on their Moto line of phones. The Moto Z, Moto X, Moto G, you name it. They all more or less have the same software features and look just about identical, with few exceptions.

You won’t find very many exceptions here, at least compared to the smaller Moto G5 Plus.

Software is very, very close to stock Android Nougat, with this currently running Android 7.1.1. You’ll see Google’s new favorite round icons, the home screen with a Google feed on the far left, and a design that looks just about identical to what you’ll get on a Nexus or Pixel phone. If you like Google’s design language, as always, you’ll enjoy this particular Moto phone. If you like OEM skins with tons of extra features, you probably won’t be happy here.

Those nifty Moto Actions are present, like chop for flashlight, twist to open camera, and things like one-handed mode and do not disturb shortcuts. These are all pretty classic Motorola software features that Lenovo has fully adopted.

The fingerprint scanner at the bottom of the phone that is technically not a home button can be used for one button navigation throughout the OS. Normally, resting your finger on the button turns the screen off, but with this mode turned on a single tap is home, swiping left goes back, swiping right opens recent apps, and a long press opens Google Assistant. It also drops the navigation bar from the bottom of your phone, so you get a little more screen real estate.

Moto Display is here, too, so you’ll still be able to see notifications, the time, and battery life without having to turn your screen on. Most flagship phones have some kind of always-on display in 2017, but Motorola was one of the first and they still have a pretty great implementation, especially in their more budget-friendly models.

The software is great. Really. Lenovo’s biggest struggle has been keeping that software updated, though, and as of right now we’re still on Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Will this thing get Android Oreo in a timely manner?

Who knows.

Camera

If there’s an area where the Moto G5S Plus is disappointing, it’s probably going to be the camera. It is a good reminder that a dual-camera system isn’t necessarily going to take incredible photos, though.

To be clear, the phone doesn’t have a bad camera. The quality of photos are about what you’d expect from a phone in this price range, maybe a bit below average.

Outdoor shots are okay, although the phone has a tendency to keep contrast too low and wash out an image.

Indoor shots were a pleasant surprise, and considering that’s where most cheap phones end up flunking the camera test, Lenovo deserves some credit here. It’s not always perfect, but the dual cameras manage to capture low light details that tons of other phones would miss. If you take more photos indoors or in poor lighting, you’ll want to take note here.

The camera setup also enables depth in your photos where you can apply effects after you’ve taken the shot, but that ends up being more frustrating than it’s worth. Processing the image in this mode takes several seconds with every shot you take, and it struggles in non-perfect conditions. It’s a great glimpse at the future of dual cameras on cheaper phones, but right now it feels more proof of concept than anything.

The camera software is good enough, especially if you like minimalist interfaces. There are a few extra modes hidden behind a settings menu, including a professional mode that gives you granular control over your shots. It feels like a camera app from a much nicer phone.

Closing

None of us here know exactly where Lenovo is putting their money, but if I had to guess, I’d be pretty comfortable saying they care much more about their mid-range and budget-friendly phones than the flagship stuff.

The Moto Z line with all of their Moto Mods are excellent, don’t get me wrong, but the most standout phone in that entire family is the Moto Z2 Play because it maintains compatibility with the Mods at a much better price.

Go down in price a bit more, and Lenovo makes some absolutely killer phones at great price points. Not because they’re better than a Moto Z2 Force or a Galaxy S8, but because the price to performance ratio is better than most flagship phones. That still holds up with the Moto G5S Plus.

At $279, you’re getting a phone that’s 90% as capable as devices that cost three times as much. It’s got plenty of internal storage, RAM, and a processor that’s going to be just fine for the next several years, and it’s compatible with all major networks in the US. On top of that, Lenovo is running an early adopter discount that brings the cost down to just $229, seriously undercutting even cheap competition from the likes of OnePlus.

On top of it just being a better phone than its contemporaries, you’re also getting all-metal construction and build quality that you just don’t see in phones at this price point.

It’s not perfect, but if you’re the market for a mid-range device, it’s hard to recommend anything besides the Moto G5S Plus.

Buy it now: Motorola, Best Buy, Newegg

 


About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.