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The Motorola Moto G5 Plus works hard for your money

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Words such as "cheap," "affordable," "bargain" and "budget" are often slapped onto products that are good in their own right but still inexpensive. I adore these value products because when I buy one, I feel smart for getting something that works well enough and didn't kill my wallet.

For years, Motorola has been the king of the budget market. The company's Moto G phones offer plenty of features and are wonderfully affordable.

The newest family member is the Motorola G5 Plus, which somehow adds even more premium features. It's got a metal body, more storage, new Moto gestures and even 4K video. All this without raising the cost.

The G5 Plus is $229 (32GB) or $299 (64GB) in the US, and will start at £259 in the UK. Australian details haven't been announced, but the US prices convert to AU$300 and AU$390. If you're an Amazon Prime member you can snag a G5 Plus with lockscreen ads at a $45 discount, making the 32GB model only $185.

So, where's the catch? Are you sitting down? There isn't one.

While I still have a lot more testing to do with the G5 Plus, here are my first impressions so far.

Papa's got a brand new look

motorola-moto-g5-plus-10.jpg

Bye bye plastic, hello metal.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The Moto G4, G4 Plus and G4 Play were defined by a clean design and a charming plastic back. The G5 Plus trades in the plastic for shiny metal all around and it looks damn good -- like upgrading from a Men's Warehouse suit to a tailored sharkskin suit that fits you perfectly.

The body has a wide fingerprint sensor on the front and is splashproof. Motorola says this protects it against accidental spills, splashes or light rain. However it's "not designed to be submersed in water, or exposed to pressurized water, or other liquids" and "not waterproof."

The Moto G5 Plus rocks a 5.2-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution display. It's sharp and looks nicer than you'd expect for a budget phone. Seriously, my cat pics look sweet.

The G5 Plus comes with either 32GB or 64GB of storage and either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. It has the same 3,000-mAh battery as the G4 Plus and hopefully it'll yield a similar good result when we run our looping video battery drain test.

This is a universally unlocked phone and will work on all major US and UK carriers. But when in doubt, it's always wise to check with a carrier to ensure compatibility.

Swipe to shrink and other awkward names

swipe-to-shrink.png

You can graphically shrink the display to make one-handed use easier.

Screenshot by Patrick Holland/CNET

The Moto G5 Plus runs a close to stock version of Android 7.0 Nougat, though small additions such as navigation gestures and lock screen notifications are welcomed touches.

If you've ever used an iPhone, there's a handy yet horribly-named iOS feature called Reachability which makes the top of the screen easier to reach by graphically sliding the whole thing down. Motorola added something similar to the G5 Plus and it is addictively convenient.

While the name isn't much better than Reachability, Swipe to Shrink lets you use your thumb in a windshield wiper-like motion across the screen to reduce the size to about two-thirds. This makes it easy to reach the top of the screen one-handed. To return the screen back to normal, you just tap in the black area surrounding the miniaturized display.

Another cool software trick is called One Button Nav which turns the G5 Plus' fingerprint sensor into a mini-track pad. A single tap on the sensor, brings you home. Swiping left-to-right opens recent apps, while swiping right-to-left lets you go back.

My favorite Moto trick is an oldie but a goodie: Twist to Quick Capture -- again not the best name. You double twist your wrist to quickly open the camera. I especially enjoy this when I want to quickly take a discreet picture.

It's not the number of megapixels, it's the size

motorola-moto-g5-plus-11.jpg

The G5 Plus has a fast shooting 12-megapixel rear camera.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The G5 Plus has a 12-megapixel camera. But wait Patrick, didn't the G4 Plus have a 16-megapixel camera? Yes but fewer megapixels isn't necessarily a bad thing. If those pixels are larger, they can result in less noisy images, especially in low light -- a good tradeoff for any minuscule loss of detail that might occur. Apparently this is the same camera sensor found in the Samsung Galaxy S7. So there's that, too.

In the time I've had the phone, the camera has been quick to focus and handles picture bursts like a pro. Speaking of pro, there's a "Professional Mode" in the camera app, which lets you control everything from white balance to ISO. But that's not even the best thing! The G5 Plus can also record 4K video! That is a truly remarkable addition for a budget phone. Though keep in mind 4K video files are a bit larger than HD video files, so I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the G5 Plus' expandable memory and adding a 128GB microSD card.

The selfie camera has a wide angle lens great for getting those group shots. There's even a beauty mode to turn your skin from Matthew Perry to Katy Perry -- if you're into such things.

So what's the catch?

OK, while none of these are a deal breaker for me, there are some things I find annoying. The G5 Plus has NFC and that means you can use Android Pay -- unless you live in the US. Why doesn't the US get NFC? I don't know. A spokesperson for Motorola said that "in the US, NFC capabilities are in less demand within the value tier." Still, it's a bit of a bummer.

Music and audio played over the built-in speaker sounds thin and tinny.

The screen seems a bit more smudge-prone than I'd expect from a new phone. And while I love that there are so many cool ways to customize the G5 Plus, certain features such as the One Button Nav would do better if it were the default setting.

To Plus or not to Plus

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The Moto G5 Plus will be available in spring of 2017.

Patrick Holland/CNET

This generation of the Moto G family includes the G5 Plus as well as the slightly cheaper G5. Both phones have a metal body, 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 better value, especially if you're a Prime member.

The Moto G5 Plus will be available this spring, but at this time I can't say for certain if you should buy it until I've spent some more time with it. Look for a full review soon.

For more comparisons between the G5 and G5 Plus as well as the G4 Plus, Huawei Honor 6X and Nokia 6 check out the chart below.

A spec comparison of the Moto G5 Plus, Moto G5, Moto G4 Plus, Huawei Honor 6X and Nokia 6

Motorola Moto G5 Plus Motorola Moto G5 Motorola Moto G4 Huawei Honor 6X Nokia 6
Display size, resolution 5.2-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.5-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 424ppi 440ppi 403ppi 403ppi 403ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.9x2.9x0.3 inches 5.7x2.9x0.37 inches 6.0x3.0x0.39 inches 5.9x3x0.3 inches 6.06x2.98x0.33 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 150.2x74x7.7 mm 144.3x73x9.5 mm 153x76.6x9.8 mm 151x76x8.2 mm 154x75.8x8.4 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.5 oz, 155g 5.1 oz, 145g 5.47 oz; 155 g 5.7 oz, 162g TBA
Mobile software Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Camera 12-megapixel 13-megapixel 13-megapixel 12-megapixel + 2-megapixel 16-megapixel
Front-facing camera 5-megapixel 5-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p TBA
Processor 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 2.1GHz Huawei Kirin 655 octa-core 1.3GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
Storage 32GB, 64GB 16GB, 32GB (varies by region) 16GB 32GB 32GB
RAM 2GB or 4GB 2GB or 3GB, based on region 2GB 3GB 3GB
Expandable storage 128GB 128GB 128GB 128GB 128GB
Battery 3,000mAh 2,800mAh (removable) 3,000mAh (removable) 3,340 mAh 3,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor Below screen Below screen None Back cover Yes, location TBA
Connector Micro-USB Micro-USB Micro-USB Micro-USB Micro-USB
Special features Dual-SIM, splash-proof Dual-SIM, splash-proof Water-resistant Dual-SIM -
Price off-contract (USD) $229 (32GB); $299 (64GB) N/A $200 $250 Converts to $240
Price (GBP) Converts to £180 (32GB); £240 (64GB) £170 (16GB, 2GB RAM); £180 (16GB, 3GB RAM) £170 £225 Converts to £195
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$300 (32GB); AU$390 (64GB) Converts to AU$290 (16GB) Converts to AU$260 N/A Converts to AU$315

Discuss Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Where to Buy

Motorola Moto G5 Plus (32GB, Lunar Gray)

Part Number: 01110NARTL

Visit manufacturer site for details.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Service Provider not specified
  • Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, magnetometer, gyro sensor
  • Technology GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE
  • Additional Features (PB) Dual microphones
    TurboPower techbnology
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