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Motorola Moto G5 Plus review: Simply the best budget phone

The Moto G5 Plus puts premium smartphone features like a metal body, new shortcuts and 4K video into a budget package.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple | iPhone | iOS | Android | Samsung | Sony | Google | Motorola | Interviews | Coffee equipment | Cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
5 min read

Editors' note, April 3: The Motorola Moto G7 is now out and improves on the Moto G6 and G5 Plus in a few ways with an increased battery life, a faster processor and larger display. It costs $300 which is $50 more than last year's Moto G6. While it is a significant increase, we think all the improvements are worth it. In fact, the G7 earned a CNET's Editor's Choice award. Check out our in-depth Moto G7 review here.


Motorola Moto G5 Plus

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.

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. FYI, in 2020 there's now both the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power as budget Moto options. 

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

PriceStorageRAMNFCAmazon Prime Price
(UK) £249 32GB3GBYesNA
(US) $229 32GB2GBNo$185 + lock screen ads
(US) $299 64GB4GBNo$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.

The Motorola Moto G5 Plus ventures out

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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.

The Moto G5 Plus camera is ready for your closeup

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Enlarge Image

Selfie beauty mode comparison: the right side has it turned on.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Low-light photography is always a challenge, which is one reason why Apple and Samsung have optical-image stabilization built into their flagship phones. The Moto G5 Plus doesn't. Overall image quality is still very good compared to other entry-level and midrange phones.

Video on the Moto G5 Plus is also good. Digital stabilization helps smooth out small shakes and you have the option to shoot either HD or 4K video -- both with nice results. The camera defaults to HD video.

The 5-megapixel selfie camera has a wide-angle lens with beauty mode that smooths your features and hides blemishes -- if you're into such things (this is typical on Android phones). The pics are nice and my skin never looked so young!

Times when it felt like a budget phone

The Moto G5 Plus does a good job overall, but there are places where the trade-off between price and features shows. I should add that none of these are a deal breaker for me, but you should be aware of the shortcomings:

  • The US version doesn't have NFC (but the UK version does)
  • The UK version only comes in with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM (instead of 64GB and 4GB RAM)
  • Music and audio over the G5 Plus' built-in speaker sounds thin and tinny
  • No optical-image stabilizer for the camera -- which would really help in low light
  • The display worked well indoors and in direct sunlight, but the Adaptive Brightness seemed to make the screen too bright inside so I found myself disabling the feature

Moto G5 Plus versus other phones

At the end of the day, I really enjoy the Moto G5 Plus. I honestly don't know of a phone that strikes a better balance between features and cost.

Other competitors to the G5 Plus are the Huawei Honor 6X and the Nokia 6 , which may not be sold in Australia. On paper, the Honor 6X gives the G5 Plus a run for its money, but until we finish up our testing, we can only compare specs:

Comparison of the Moto G5 Plus, Moto G5, Moto G4 Plus, Huawei Honor 6X and Nokia 6

Motorola Moto G5 PlusMotorola Moto G5Motorola Moto G4 PlusHuawei Honor 6XNokia 6
Display size, resolution 5.2-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels5-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels5.5-inch, 1,920x1080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels
Pixel density 424ppi440ppi401ppi403ppi403ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.9x2.9x0.3 in5.7x2.9x0.37 in6x3x0.39 in5.9x3x0.3 in6.06x2.98x0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 150.2x74x7.7 mm144.3x73x9.5 mm153x76.6x9.8 mm151x76x8.2 mm154x75.8x8.4 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.5 oz, 155g5.1 oz, 145g5.47 oz; 155g5.7 oz, 162g5.96 oz, 169g
Mobile software Android 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowAndroid 7.1.1 Nougat
Camera 12-megapixel13-megapixel16-megapixel12-megapixel + 2-megapixel16-megapixel
Front-facing camera 5-megapixel5-megapixel5-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 4K1080p1080p1080p1080p
Processor 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6251.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 4301.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6172.1GHz Huawei Kirin 655 octa-core1.3GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Storage 32GB, 64GB16GB, 32GB32GB32GB32GB, 64GB
Expandable storage 128GB128GB128GB 128GB256GB
Battery 3,000mAh (non-removable)2,800mAh (removable)3,000mAh (non-removable)3,340 mAh (non-removable)3,000mAh (non-removable)
Fingerprint sensor Below screenBelow screenBelow screenBack coverYes, location TBA
Connector Micro-USBMicro-USBMicro-USBMicro-USBMicro-USB
Special features Splash-proof, NFC on UK model onlyDual-SIM, splash-proofWater-resistantDual-lens camera, dual-SIMNFC, dual speakers

First published April 19, 5 a.m. PT.

Update, 6:30 p.m.: Adds comment about Moto G5 Plus Wi-Fi band support.

Correction, 6:30 p.m.: The Moto G4 Plus battery is non-removable.

Update, May 8 at 10:24 a.m.: Adds comment about dual-SIM support.


Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9Camera 8Battery 8