The Moto G5 was a bit of a disappointment. However, iI’s latest ‘budget’ handset, the Moto G5S, seeks to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, with a larger battery, an upgraded camera and a newly refined design.
So, is the new G5S really worth paying the premium for?
While the Moto G5 wasn't a resonable phone, but it wasn't as good an all-rounder as the G4. The G5S looks to point the G-series phones back in the right direction by improving upon the original G5. It has a 3,000mAh battery, a 16-megapixel camera (up from 13-megapixels), an all-metal design, and a slightly larger 5.2in screen as opposed to the G5's 5in display.
Design and build quality
The G5S marks a big change in looks from its predecessor. Where the G5 just had an aluminium rear panel, the G5S’s unibody design is cast entirely from aluminium. This makes the 5.2in phone look and feel more like a mid-range phone – the little details, such as its chamfered edges, are a rare sight on a budget phone.
Look beneath the IPS screen, and Motorola has again opted for a front-mounted fingerprint reader. As you’d expect, this doubles up as the home button, too. In my time with the phone, it was responsive and works well.
On the rear of the phone you’ll first notice the G5S’ protruding camera, but you may miss one of the more subtle design touches: Motorola’s indented logo provides a subtle finger-hold that makes the phone easier to grip and use with one hand.
The G5S is well appointed for connectivity and upgrade options. If, however, you’re looking upgrade the internal storage, you’ll have to decide which is more important to you: a 256GB microSD card, or a second SIM. As a dual-Nano SIM smartphone, you can run a pair of SIMs concurrently, but the second SIM will occupy the microSD slot.
There is no USB-C disappointingly, as you may expect from a 2017 phone. But there is a microUSB port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.1 make the grade, too, and aptX support guarantees high-quality audio streaming over Bluetooth, which is a nice bonus on a budget phone.
The absence of NFC is a real shame. Just like the G5 and the G4 before it, the G5S cannot be used for contactless payments, which seems odd as you would expect this option to be standard.
The G5S has a 5.2in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display. This gives it a slightly lower pixel density than the Moto G5.
The G5S’s backlight is particularly potent, with it hitting a peak of 500cd/m2 in tests. If you increase the display to maximum brightness, and you’ll be able to read what’s on the screen under the brightest light.
Image quality is pretty good across the board, too. With a contrast ratio of 1,708:1 and an 80.4% sRGB colour gamut coverage, the G5S is able to produce a relatively wide array of colours, while retaining the darkest shadows and brightest whites.
As usual, Motorola hasn’t tinkered extensively with standard Android software: turn on the G5S, and you’re faced with a barely-touched installation of Nougat 7.1.1. Better still, Android Oreo 8.0 will be coming in a few months time.
Unfortunately, the perfomance of the G5S has not been improved upon and it still retains the same 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 430 processor and 3GB of RAM as its predecessor.
The G5’s rear camera was a slight improvement over the G4, principally because it added phase-detect autofocus for speedy captures. The G5S has added to the pixel count going from 13-megapixels to 16-megapixels.
Suffice to say, the results are seriously impressive. Comparing it to the competition at this price, the G5S is dramatically better – it is probably the best camera on a budget smartphone today.
The G5S’ camera picks up plenty of light, ekes out plenty of detail and captures natural-looking colours beautifully.
Price and competition
A Moto G5S costs around £220. That’s £41 more than the Moto G5 at £179 and £85 more than the Moto G4 at £135. These feature a lower resolution camera, a similar processor and are 5.5in and 5in phones respectively, both with Full HD displays.
Motorola Moto G5S Review: Verdict
Despite its drawbacks, the G5S is much improved. Motorola have learnt the lessons from the design flaws of the G5 and made its smartphone a true budget phone contender. Its fingerprint reader is fast; the design is beautiful; the near-stock Android experience is a breath of fresh air; and the camera is simply incredible at this price. If you’re looking for the best-looking budget smartphone, with the best camera, then this is it.
However, there are few key areas that prevent me from wholeheartedly endorsing the G5S. The lack of NFC may prove limiting for some, but the killer blow for me is that performance still hasn’t moved on from 2016’s G4. Given the fairly substantial price premium, that’s a real sticking point.
The competition is tough, too. Personally, I’d pick the £160 Lenovo P2 over the G5S, as it offers better performance and incredible battery life for quite a bit less cash. Ultimately, the G5S is a great phone, but until it drops well below £200, I wouldn’t buy one.