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Motorola Moto G5 Plus review:

Simply the best budget phone

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The Good The splash-resistant Moto G5 Plus has a near stock version of Android Nougat, a good camera and video, and a metal build -- and it's extremely kind to your wallet.

The Bad There's no NFC on the US model, and audio sounds tinny through the built-in speaker.

The Bottom Line With a long list of features you want and only a few that you don't, there is no better budget phone than Motorola's Moto G5 Plus.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 8.0

The thing that makes the Motorola Moto G5 Plus the best budget phone on the planet is that, for the most part, it doesn't feel like one at all. It looks, feels and operates like a much pricier phone, which means that wallet-watchers are getting a great deal.

This is just Moto continuing its trend of providing more features than other inexpensive Android phones. This year's model improves on last year's Moto G4 Plus with a modern, metal body; more storage; Android 7.0 Nougat; Google Assistant; new Moto gestures; NFC (in the UK model); a really good camera and 4K video: all while remaining delightfully affordable (prices below).

But this generation of the Moto G family also includes the slightly cheaper Moto G5. Both phones have a similar metal body design, but the G5 has a smaller screen, half the storage and a weaker processor. The G5 isn't offered everywhere, for example it won't be sold in the US. But even if it were, the G5 Plus would be the better value.

Lots of Moto models

The Moto G5 Plus costs $229 (32GB), $299 (64GB) or £249 (32GB), depending on the model. Each model differs slightly when it comes to storage, RAM and NFC. Motorola hasn't yet announced an Australian model, but the US price converts to AU$300 and AU$390.

Moto G5 Plus US and UK models and pricing

Price Storage RAM NFC Amazon Prime Price
(UK) £249 32GB 3GB Yes NA
(US) $229 32GB 2GB No $185 + lock screen ads
(US) $299 64GB 4GB No $240 + lock screen ads

Since the G5 Plus is a universally unlocked phone, it will work on all major US and UK carriers. It's worth checking compatibility with your carrier if you're unsure. The dual-SIM option on Moto G5 Plus is only available in select regions globally in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

The magic touch of one-button navigation

One of my favorite features is the G5 Plus' fingerprint sensor. It's on the front below the display and works as well as Apple's Touch ID on the iPhone. But Motorola did something really cool: it added a handful of shortcut gestures that turn the fingerprint sensor into a mini touchpad, a feature it calls One Button Nav.

Once you turn it on in the Moto app, tapping the fingerprint sensor brings you home. If you swipe left, it shows your recent apps. If you swipe right, it goes back. If you long press, you lock the phone and if you tap and hold, Google Assistant pops up.

It's all quite easy and intuitive and I like that I didn't need to make any extra moves reaching for separate onscreen buttons. In fact, after using the Moto G5 Plus, it was difficult not to instinctively try Moto's shortcuts on other phones.

Peppy performance across the board

The Moto G5 Plus has a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, which is also inside the Moto Z Play. My review unit had 4GB of RAM (some have 2 or 3GB). The G5 Plus supports both 2.4GHz + 5GHz band Wi-Fi. In use, the phone was fast and responsive. The camera was peppy, playing games like Super Mario Run was smooth, and social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat worked without a hiccup -- even when adding filters.

The battery lasted 13 hours and 22 minutes in our looped video battery drain test: 2 minutes longer than last year's Moto G4 (13 hours 20 minutes) and 1 minute longer than the new, premium LG G6 (13 hours and 21 minutes).

Good camera with a dark side

The camera uses a 12-megapixel sensor similar to the one in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8 (it's a dual-pixel sensor if you're following along) -- that makes autofocusing fast and accurate. In most situations, I got good sharp photos. But in darker locales, for example inside a bar, the autofocus slowed and I started to see noise in the pics (blurry specks and sprinkles).

Take a look at some of the snaps I got with the Moto G5 Plus in the gallery below.

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