Moto G 5G Plus review: this is how you do 5G
Super-fast speed and extremely short latency - surfing on a mobile device in Europe should be as reliable as it is from the home. On paper, the 5G global wireless standard is supposed to be 100 times faster compared to the existing 4G network. As you can never quite get enough speed when it comes to the Internet, especially in the age of YouTube, podcast streaming as well as video conferencing via virtual calls, it is inevitable that we move along with the times. With starting price of £299 attached to the new Moto G 5G Plus from Motorola in the UK, you will be able to embark on your 5G journey without having to break the bank. As this smartphone has certainly made a mark for itself in this review, holding one in your hands (with a proper 5G connection) is a potent combination that makes you want to remain online at all times.
- Fast performance with 5G-SoC
- Great display with 90Hz refresh rate and HDR 10
- One of the best executions of Android
- Good camera performance under good lighting conditions
- Large battery capacity
- Plastic housing without IP certification
- Image quality decreases sharply without light
- Poor audio with built-in loudspeaker
Who should buy the Moto G 5G Plus?
The Moto G 5G Plus is not a smartphone to consider if you are only on the look out for a 5G-capable device. With its 21:9 display and a large 5,000 mAh battery, the smartphone delivers yet another two unique selling points for its price point. Thanks to the Snapdragon 765 processor running underneath the hood, the phone is also fast and future-proof (to a respectable degree). Those who would settle for nothing less than an OLED display or constantly shoot using a telecamera should refrain from picking this model up though.
If you don't care about these two aspects, you can pick up the Moto G 5G Plus in a single color (no choices here) and in two memory configurations: 64GB and 128GB of internal storage. The recommended retail price is €349.99 in Europe and £299 in the UK for the 64GB version, but you should be able to pick up some bargains on the Internet - albeit in the form of a small discount considering how this is such a new handset.
Here the Moto G5 Plus convinces
Speed and power
A Snapdragon 765G chipset is able to deliver the necessary speed for the Moto G 5G Plus to purr when running all kinds of applications. The very same SoC is also found in the Oppo Find X2 Neo, the OnePlus Nord, and the Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite, among others. Motorola is certainly playing it safe here, where there are two choices: either 4GB or 6GB of RAM. For this particular review, we were toying around with the 64GB model that is mated to 4GB of RAM.
With only 4GB of RAM, the SD 765G in this particular configuration might seem to be rather limited. Both OnePlus and Xiaomi have at least 6GB of RAM to work with, while the Find X2 Neo has an even more generous count - up to 12GB of RAM as standard. So, how does this translate when it comes to practical usage of the Moto G 5G Pro? For starters, it does not feel throttled or limited right from the start, where the pre-installed Android 10 runs smoothly and loading times of apps aren't particularly noticeable to a frustrating degree. Of course, it goes without saying that when there are additional apps installed down the road, it will definitely use up more memory in the background - and with that, do expect a decrease in system speed.
The effects of a lack of RAM might be more pronounced if animation in the Android developer settings is activated. However, deactivating that option would surely make using the Moto G 5G Plus a delight. Apps will surely launch faster than the amount of time you require to pronounce the long, drawn-out name of the smartphone itself, while the handset is more than capable of handling the existing crop of mobile games with aplomb. In fact, Call of Duty: Mobile almost looks like an older console title running at the highest graphic settings on this device.
Software and gestures
In every review of a Motorola smartphone, I fall in love time and again with the minor adjustments that the manufacturer has done with the stock version of the Android operating system from Google. Motorola managed to integrate its My UX interface in such a subtle and meaningful manner that gestures become quick and easy. In addition to the typical gestures required for turning on the flashlight (tapping gesture) and launching the camera (circular gesture), Motorola's game mode and clever use of the fingerprint sensor are also part of the setup. Not only does it provide more secure login and doubles up as an on-button, but a double tap opens a bar that makes it easy to access your slew of apps. Each gesture will send haptic feedback to the user via a high-quality vibration motor that indicates the Moto G 5G Plus has received your command and is more than ready to do your bidding.
Motorola users can also customize the minimally modified Android 10 with their own design. For example, the background image and the font can be changed, app icons and layouts can also be spruced up after making the necessary adjustments. At the root of it all would be Google's latest operating system version, Android 10, but compared to a Google Pixel 3XL, Motorola is a few months behind when it comes to ensuring the latest security update from Google is available for their device. During the review in September, the smartphone informed us that the last update was in May. So far, there are only rumors going around that Motorola will roll out Android 11 for the Moto G 5G Plus without any confirmation. In the update overview from Motorola, it seems that there is but a new security update for Android 10 - without revealing anything else about what the future might bring.
Battery life and fast charging
The Moto G 5G Plus is a workhorse that is full of endurance, courtesy of the large battery that boasts of 5,000 mAh capacity. This makes perfect sense especially when you have to factor in the fact that this device takes advantage of the zippy 5G modem. It is also necessary as the latest mobile standard is considered to be a real power guzzler, hence having a generous power reserve works to the advantage of the device.
Using this handset, I decided to venture outdoors for a photoshoot project without any worry even with 30% of battery power remaining. After going around snapping approximately 50 test shots at full-screen brightness, there was still 20% of battery life left to spare. It was during this review session that I also indulged in a mobile game known as "Traffic Rider", finding myself glued to the front of the screen for hours on end and on virtual highways when dusk fell. During all these times, I always ran the device at full brightness level, and my gaming efforts saw a mere 3% of battery life drained in 15 minutes of gaming activity.
Predicting battery life for the general public is always a balancing act that hinges on many factors. However, it cannot be denied that the Moto G 5G Plus is one of the most long-lasting smartphones in terms of battery life. With normal everyday use, which comprises of a few phone calls, plenty of WhatsApp messages pinging back and forth, and snapping the occasional photos, the smartphone should last for over a day for the average user. This is good value, especially as the battery can be recharged quickly courtesy of the quick charging technology.
After an app for battery discharge worked on the 5,000mAh battery after a while, the included power supply managed to replenish the battery from 10% to 50% in a matter of 50 minutes. In practice, the battery life can be juiced up every evening without any worries as you disable power-saving mode. These are not record-breaking figures such as Oppo's SuperVOOC technology with 20 watts of power, but a quick charge function is always useful and practical. However, the Moto G 5G Plus does not offer the possibility of wireless charging.
Daytime camera performance
The camera on this 5G smartphone delivered surprisingly good results. Although Motorola uses the same main 48-megapixel sensor as in the Moto G Pro, the results of the Moto G 5G Plus are significantly better. This is probably due to the better post-processing performance courtesy of the more powerful processor. The older Snapdragon 665 is used in the Motorola device that comes with an integrated stylus.
This may reveal a disadvantage of the quad-pixel technology Motorola has been using in its smartphones for some time. The processor computes the 48 megapixels of the main sensor into an image with 12 megapixels. Both smartphones use this trick, but the more powerful model does the job better. Nevertheless, it is still a plus point for the 5G model despite the shortcomings. The complete arsenal of six cameras are as follows:
- Main sensor: 48 megapixels, 1.6µm
- Wide-angle camera: 8 megapixels, 1.12µm
- Macro camera: 5 megapixels, 1,12µm
- Front camera: 16 megapixels, 1µm
- Front camera (wide angle): 8 megapixels, 1,12µm
The fifth and sixth cameras of the Moto G 5G Plus are located on the front. Just like the Google Pixel 3 XL, you are able to choose between a normal selfie camera and a wide-angle lens for group shots. But Motorola solves the placement of two cameras in a far more elegant manner by using a couple of punch-hole notches that are located on the display flows. This is an elegant solution that even beats the elliptical cutout styling found in the Honor 30 Pro Plus.
The recordings of both selfie cameras are decent, but there are shortcomings. The portrait mode (selfie) is especially impressive, which also does virtual backgrounds to boot. This integration is not perfected yet and is rudimentary in nature - so do not expect it to be as refined as perhaps Zoom or other video conferencing software. However, the consolation is this: at the very least, I could beam myself back to the set of our IFA live stream.
Moto G 5G Plus: here the spirits are at war
Not good: display in 21:9 format
Displays in the 21:9 format were considered the next big thing some time back. Television manufacturers tried to make us believe that movies only look good when they are shown at that ratio. In practice, however, the ultra-wide television format only made sure that 16:9 movies were shown with bold stripes appearing on each side. This format is now experiencing a renaissance in current smartphones, although it should actually be called 9:21 here.
Just like in the Sony Xperia 1 II, the display of the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus is narrow and also very tall. As a result, the smartphone can be easily held in the hand, never mind the remarkably large display size of 6.7-inches being a mere four fingers wide. You will be able to grip the handset firmly as the phone rests between your fingers and the lower thumb. As good as the smartphone is when held in this position, it becomes slippery when the notification bar is pulled down, for example. Even those with relatively large hands (like me) and nimble joints gained from ten years of playing the guitar, the upper third of the screen remains almost inaccessible for me.
Very good: display with HDR10 and 90 Hertz refresh rate
The handling of the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus can feel as though it is somewhat slippery, but that fact takes a back seat whenever you place the display in a horizontal position and watch YouTube videos or movies on your smartphone. Thanks to HDR 10 certification and a pixel density of 409 PPI - the exact resolution is 1,080 x 2,520 pixels - which makes multimedia content look really good. In addition, the LCD display achieves a refresh rate of 90 Hertz, which, driven by the fast processor, performs smoothly without a hitch.
Here the Moto G 5G Plus is not convincing
Camera performance at night
As good as the quad-camera setup on the back of the Motorola device performs during the day, the results at night are nothing impressive. Here, the image processor does seem to overdo things by quite a bit, as it tries to reduce as many colors as possible from dark areas of the image. This results in unattractive pictures that lack any kind of natural looks. At the same time, the pictures do end up with a whole lot of noise.
With a little light, however, the results end up rather decent. Here, the smartphone shines in terms of performance with greater detail and more realistic color fidelity. The stark drop in quality in night mode could most probably be attributed to the software processing. Perhaps Motorola will improve this with an update or you can install a camera app that works better in low-light conditions by cleaning up as much noise as possible.
With a single mono speaker located on the underside, Motorola won't knock anyone off their perch in 2020. The loudspeaker can be quite loud, but it starts to sound scratchy and flat throughout when volume levels come close to the maximum. It's only of limited use when it comes to music playback, and whoever decides to turn on the hands-free function might end up sounding like Optimus Prime instead. The use of Bluetooth headphones or a similar speaker is recommended with the Moto G 5G Plus. Fortunately, Motorola ensures that this smartphone still comes with a 3.5 mm jack.
Dedicated button for Google Assistant
Some of you might be happy about the button that is located on the left side of the device. Directly above the slide for either two SIM cards or a SIM card with an additional memory card, this is a dedicated button for Google Assistant. Although the voice assistant is one of the better ones in the market, having a separate button can be considered to be overkill.
The location of this button is too far up for the voice assistant anyway, that it is not all that accessible. Motorola also provides you with the possibility to reassign the button according to your own preference by mating it to a specific function. For instance, the position of the button would be perfectly positioned as a trigger for the camera shutter.
When using the Motorola Moto G 5G Plus daily, I ended up quickly forgetting that I am carrying a mid-range smartphone. This is mainly due to the fast processor and the speedy performance combined with the 90-Hertz display. Not only that, but the operating system version also helps as minor tweaks made to it by Motorola further enhances the useability of the smartphone.
However, in order not to dispel this upper-class illusion, you should ensure that this handset is well protected by a protective cover. This is because the plastic back does exude a rather cheap look, even though other manufacturers charge a lot of money for plastic backs. In addition, the 21:9 format used in its display makes handling the device more challenging, where in the case of a fall, the cover becomes especially important to make sure that you do not have to fork out any more extra money for repairs. It may also protect the phone somewhat from dust and water intrusion, as the Moto G 5G Plus lacks an IP certification. You should also ignore the loudspeaker and I highly recommend hooking it up to a pair of headphones or speakers via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm audio jack. Motorola also provides some room for greater useability with the dedicated Google Assistant button that can be assigned some other function should you so desire.
Alternatives to the Moto G 5G Plus
If you are looking for alternatives, you should, first of all, consider whether you want to jump aboard the 5G mobile phone standard at this point in time. This is because choices remain limited at the moment, falling within a price range of somewhere between €300 and €400. Equivalent alternatives are the Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G and the Huawei P40 Lite 5G. The latter, as a current HMS smartphone, will not come with Google Play Store though, so that is something that you need to take into consideration. If you can still live with 4G networks over the next few years, the mid-range smartphone market, in particular, has become an interesting battleground due to offerings such as the Apple iPhone SE (2020), the OnePlus Nord, and the Google Pixel 4a. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro also proved itself worthy in its review.