Moto G5 hands-on: Has Motorola done it again?
- Moto G5 price: £169
- Moto G5 release date: March
It looks like the Moto G4's time as king of the budget phones may be about to come to an end. Yes, the Moto G5 has arrived, and it seems to have improved on its already stellar predecessor with an updated metal design. And, most importantly, it's smaller.
In fact, aside from the new aluminium case, the first thing you'll notice with the G5 if you're used to last year's model is the smaller screen. Lenovo-owned Motorola upped the display size to 5.5-inches on the Moto G4, bringing the _phone_ into full-on phablet territory. It didn't make for the most comfortable _phone_ to use, but that's changed this year.
The G5 comes with the much more comfortable 5-inch display of the Moto Gs of days past. It's a welcome return that fixes one of the only real issues we had with last year's phone. Holding the phone feels a lot more comfortable, and the smaller size combines with the metal design to make everything feel just that little more compact and refined.
Related: MWC 2017
And while the reduced size is a change for the series, much of what made the G4 great returns this time around. The display is a Full HD offering which looks just as vibrant as the excellent panel from last year. And with the smaller screen size, things only look sharper.
There's also a fingerprint scanner, previously only available on the Moto G4 Plus. It's a useful addition that gives the Moto G5 another great feature to help it stand out in the mid-range market. The presence of the fingerprint scanner also adds a home button, or rather a recessed circle, to the front of the device, meaning it's almost indistinguishable from the larger Plus model when viewed from the front.
Of course, the home button looks like it's days are numbered, with the newly launched LG G6 doing away with the physical feature, and companies such as Samsung and Apple tipped to do the same. In that sense, Motorola's attempts to provide a more premium feel have been slightly undermined by the home button/indented pad on the front. It's not an issue now, but it could make the phone look dated once the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8 arrive.
The camera is another 13-megapixel setup, with phase detection autofocus and an f/2.0 aperture. I have to say, in my brief time with the phone, the camera app was very responsive and things generally seemed to run smoothly. Whether the G5's camera will manage to overcome the low-light problems of last year's phone remains to be seen, however. And with the G5 Plus coming with a camera upgrade, it's likely the standard model will still come with the odd issue. But having taken a few shots at the launch, I can say things don't look too bad.
The selfie-inclined among you have been provided with a 5-megapixel offering round the front this year. That's the same setup from the Moto G4, and should make for adequate, if not quite stunning shots.
On the performance side of things, Motorola has neglected to up the G5's RAM from 2GB. It has, however, packed this year's model with a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor, and considering the G4 provided outstanding performance for a phone under £200, the new entry in the series looks set to offer even quicker speeds. I found that apps opened immediately and everything worked very smoothly in the brief time I spent with the G5. It's not quite
Interestingly, Motorola has decided to use a smaller battery this time around. Whereas the 2016 model came with a 3,000mAh cell, this year's update only packs a 2,800mAh battery. It's not a big issue, and shouldn't make much difference to the overall battery life, especially as the cell itself doesn't have to power the larger 5.5-inch screen.
What's more, Motorola has provided a 10W rapid charger which it says can give you four hours of charge after just 15 minutes. I obviously haven't been able to test that claim just yet, but it certainly bodes well for yet another feature that will help the phone stand out.
Storage-wise, you'll be getting the same 16GB as last year, but once again, there's the option to add a Micro SD card to expand the storage up to 128GB. That card slots in the back, which, despite the metal body, is still removable. That means you'll also be able to replace the battery this time, another welcome new feature.
One of the Moto G range's biggest selling points, beyond the affordability, is a stock Android experience. Motorola refrains from adding skins or extra apps and features, and things are no different this time around. The OS is as clean as Google intended, and this time Motorola has used the latest Android Nougat, which adds a load of useful new features. It ran perfectly well when I used the phone, with apps opening instantly. And I can confirm, this is as close to a stock Android experience as you'll get.
There's also support for the new Google Assistant, so you'll be able to send messages, make calls, navigate, manage everyday tasks and more, just by holding the Home button. Motorola says it's worked with Google to make sure the Google Assistant works well on the new handset, so it should be a useful addition, but we'll have more once we've reviewed the phone in full.
Motorola says the phone will be available in Lunar Gray or Fine Gold "beginning in March". Miles Norman, General Manager UK & Ireland & European Operators at Motorola, told me the phone would retain its £169 price tag, too. That's a welcome development in the post-Brexit world when companies are hurrying to up their prices.
Motorola has consistently impressed with the Moto G range, offering great hardware at a very reasonable price. This year it looks to have done exactly that once again. The Snapdragon 430 is a bit of a letdown, and it remains to be seen how much performance will be impacted. For the most part, though, the Moto G5 keeps everything that made last year's model great, and brings a new design along with a load of new features that should be enough to keep the Moto G series at the top of the mid-range market.