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Moto G5 review: A solid budget phone for just £79 right now

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
170
inc VAT

The Moto G5 is no more

Pros 
Nice design
microSD support
Cons 
Same performance as Moto G4
Camera not great in low light
STILL no NFC
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Deal alert: Motorola Moto G5 now just £79

The Motorola Moto G5 tends to retail for around the £120 mark but thanks to O2 's fantastic pay-as-you-go deal you can pick one up at a discounted cost of £79. That'll leave you with a £41 saving and the flexibility to invest in a SIM-only deal or pay monthly contract of your choosing. Bargain.
O2
Now £79

I got my first glimpse of the new Moto G5 and G5 Plus phones at MWC in February and I must say I was impressed at the time. Not by the features and specification on offer for such a small amount of money, though that remains a key attraction, but by the design and the feel of both handsets.

It’s easy to get carried away with things in the heat of the moment at the launch of a new thing, especially on press day at MWC when so much is going on. However, it’s a mark of the job new owner Lenovo has done with these handsets that, in the cold light of day now I have review samples in my hands, that they look just as good.

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So what’s different this year? Well, the biggie is that they’re both equipped with metal rear panels and although there’s the risk that this will scuff, scratch and dent rather more easily than the textured plastic rear of previous generations, out of the box both phones do look rather slinky.

I’m going to focus on the Moto G5 in this review, updating with battery scores later. I’ll be posting my Moto G5 Plus review later on, but it’s worth pointing out that the phones do look quite different. The Moto G5 has a slightly more rounded, friendly appearance than the Plus and it has a slightly smaller screen by 0.2in.

The Moto G5 is also a little more practical than its pricier brother, with a removable battery, microSD card support (up to 128GB) and dual-SIM support. The Moto G5 Plus has a microSD slot and dual-SIM support but you can’t replace the battery.

Both phones now include a new front-mounted fingerprint reader and have Android 7.0 Nougat straight out of the box, but the Moto G5 still doesn't have NFC, so you can't use Moto’s cheapest handset to pay for goods in place of a contactless credit card.

One key thing to note with the Moto G5, however, is that the screen is 0.5in smaller this year than last year. It's a surprising downgrade but on the plus side there’s no denying  the Moto G5 is more pocketable and easier to use one-handed than before.

In fact, this is a lovely phone to hold – not slippery and with just the right amount of grip – and the fine-grained matte finish on the rear is a big step forward in terms of sophistication. Note, however, that the phone isn’t all metal – only the rear panel is. The edges are constructed from plastic just as before.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best smartphones of 2017


Moto G5 review: Display

So, the screen is smaller than the Moto G4, but that shouldn’t be a problem. The resolution is the same as last year – 1,920 x 1,080 – so it looks just as sharp. Alas, along with the reduction in size, my testing reveals that the Moto G5 has also taken a hit on quality.

Max brightness is down from 540 to 471 as is the amount of the sRGB colour space the screen is able to reproduce (down from 90% to 85.8%) and contrast is lower as well. The result is a slightly duller, less vibrant display than on the Moto G4. It isn’t night and day, but it adds up to an inferior display, nonetheless.

Moto G5 review Performance and battery life

Under the hood, it's a similar story. The base Moto G5 has a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (with that microSD slot available to get you more space). There’s a 3GB version available on the Motorola website, too, and this is the model I was sent for review.

What does this mean for performance? As you can see from the Geekbench 4 figures below, the answer to that question is not a lot. In fact, my numbers indicate the Moto G5 is ever-so slightly slower, although I’m going to be generous here and say the variations are within the margin of error.

More significantly, though, the Moto G5 lags behind the Honor 6x and the Lenovo P2, phones that have emerged from the shadows in recent times to challenge the Moto’s dominance.

I was hoping that the payback for this rather middling performance picture would be improved battery life. Alas, I'm sad to report, that's not the case. In fact, the Moto G5 achieved a tims that fell 1hr 48mins short of the Moto G4's time of 13hrs 39mins. This isn't disastrous, of course, but heavy users may well find that they need to top up the phone's charge during the day to get to bed time. That, for me, is a big disappointment. 

Moto G5 review: Camera

Motorola says it has improved the camera over the G4, though, adding phase-detect autofocus to speed up capture. However, core specifications remain the same with an aperture of f/2 and resolution of 13 megapixels.

These look to be impressive specifications on a sub-£200 phone. They were last year, and the Moto G4's camera was very good indeed at the price. However, on the evidence of our tests the new camera module in the G5 isn’t all that wonderful.

First things first. Outdoors, in brightly lit conditions, the Moto G5’s rear camera performs splendidly. It captures photographs with even crisper details and richer colours than the Moto G4. Exposures are balanced and focus assured.

It’s an accomplished snapper and the improved camera software is a bonus, too. I particularly like its ability to automatically detect hand shake and snap multiple frames, upon which it offers you the choice between two frames, the second of which is often sharper than the first you fired off. Very useful.

Indoors in low light, however, it’s not great. Photographs of our still life scene exhibited significantly higher levels of noise, smearing and hand-shake induced blur than on the Moto G4, and enabling the flash doesn’t help much either. Although it doesn’t wash out the image, it does add an unnatural orangey-pink tinge to the whole scene that looks far from attractive.

READ NEXT: Which phones have the best battery life in 2017?


Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus review: Prices and verdict

Surprisingly, as has been the case with recent flagship smartphone upgrades, the price of the Moto G5 isn’t at issue here. It’s the same as the Moto G4 when it launched and in 2017 I think £170 for the G5 is very tempting indeed.

What concerns me is that, all-round (not taking into account battery life), the new Moto G5 is not a significant upgrade and while Moto’s baby has stood still, even going backwards in some respects, a handful of pretenders have come up on the rails.

There’s the Lenovo P2 with its enormous 5,100mAh battery – well worth the investment at an extra £30 in my view although the camera isn't as good – and the Honor 6X with its dual cameras and sleeker, more attractive chassis. Couple that with worse battery life than on last year's Moto G4 and it looks like 2017’s Moto G5 is one to pass over this year; it's a distinctly disappointing refresh.

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