Motorola Moto G5S Plus review: this is a best budget phone?

What exactly quantifies a budget smartphone? Is it a price point resting below a certain level? A lack of any flagship-level features? Or an outdated design compared to today’s standards?

The answer is different for almost everyone, but one thing is for certain: Lenovorola knows how to refine a design, generation after generation. This is the Moto G5S Plus review.

Moto G5S design

 

The design is very Moto. Yes, this will remind you of the Moto G5 Plus, except there’s a huge dual-rear camera at the back. The Moto G5S Plus is a bulky phone, and the camera bump really stands out on this one. On the front, Motorola sticks with all glass and pill-shaped home button. This mobile has a metal unibody design that’s become common across the board.

The fingerprint scanner is embedded in the front button as well and this was accurate most of the times I used it. Moto has also added on-screen home buttons, which come alive when you are using the phone. Frankly, this seems like a waste of space on the Moto G5S Plus’ 5.5-inch full HD resolution display.

Moto G5S Plus is on the heavier side. The gold color version we got for review is something I didn’t mind, but it is not a color that everyone will approve. For some users, this might appear on a tad too bling.

The Moto G5S Plus is extremely fast to wake when you tap your finger to the reader

Moto G5S Plus Display

Despite its design, this is still a budget device. Because of that, Motorola included a Full HD 1080p display in this phone. Is that bad?

Not in the slightest.

I’ve said this before, but using 1080p displays in smartphones barely makes any difference at all in overall usability, and this is no exception. The 5.5-inch LCD panel does just fine in almost every circumstance, and 401 ppi is perfectly fine for most people.

The Moto G5S Plus’ display felt quite bright even at all-but minimal brightness, so I was still able to keep the device on the ultra-low end of the brightness scale while using it outdoors. Colors pop very nicely, and I never felt that I wanted something more punchy.

Sure, this phone doesn’t have the new bezel-less style like many flagships on the market today, but it feels like it uses up the space of the bezels quite well. There is a “moto” logo at the top that could probably be removed to make room for a bigger screen, but this has become an essential part of Lenovo’s branding, so I can understand why they kept it.

Night Display: Reduces blue light during a set period to help you sleep better after using your device just before bed.

Moto Display: Displays actionable notifications for you to quickly launch and interact with while the phone is locked.

Nearly all of these features were immensely helpful, and some (like Moto Display) have even become baked into Android over the years.

There aren’t any other bloatware apps present on this device. FM Radio makes an appearance, but that is more of a bonus than a detriment, especially when most flagship devices on the market today have removed this functionality.

Performance & hardware

Surprisingly, Moto doesn’t really skimp that much when it comes to hardware and raw specifications, despite the Moto G5S Plus’ low starting price. The phone’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 does a more than a decent job for a majority of the things you’ll be using your phone for.

There are two versions sporting different amounts of RAM and internal storage. One packs 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage for $229, while the heftier 4 GB / 64 GB model will cost an additional $70. I had the latter for this review. I’ve been very happy with the performance this option has been giving me, but I’m sure the baseline model would do just fine as well. Both models also have a micro-SD slot, so you can easily take all your music and other media with you when you upgrade.

The G5S Plus is packing a 3,000 mAh battery, which is about average for a device of this size, but pairs very, very well with the FHD display.

The handset lasted two entire days on one charge, which left me with a smile on my face at the end of it all

The handset lasted two entire days on one charge, which left me smiling. I unplugged it Sunday morning before heading out of the house, and the device died just as I arrived home Monday evening. I was able to snap a screenshot immediately before this though, and I came away with four hours and forty-three minutes of screen-on time. Pretty admirable.

The G5S Plus charges using the Micro-USB port at the bottom of the phone. It supports Moto’s TurboPower charging capabilities, so assuming you have the correct brick, you should be able to juice the phone up quite rapidly. While I would have loved to see a USB Type-C port here, this is just one of the compromises Moto had to make to keep the device at this price point.

The bottom-firing speakers get quite loud, though they lack bass. Moto’s default ringtones and alert sounds are also quite shrill and annoying, so you’ll want to keep this thing on vibrate or change the system sounds to something easier on the ears.

I was very disappointed to find that Motorola has not included an NFC chip in this phone. I use Android Pay every single day, and I was really confused when I went to pay for my groceries and nothing happened when I tapped the reader. This is a huge detriment for me, and we’ve seen how people react when small features like this are overlooked.

Overall the device has solid components. For $229-$300 it’s going to be tough to find such compelling features in 2017.

Camera(s)

The Moto G5S Plus features a pair of dual-cameras, both with 13 MP sensors, and an 8 MP front-facing selfie camera. But as we’ve seen previously, sheer numbers don’t tell more than half the story of a camera’s actual quality and functionality.

The secondary camera on the G5S Plus only handles depth effects and it does it pretty badly. Images look very soft and lack detail when using this mode; so much so it’s not really worth using at all. There’s a slider to control the intensity of the depth effect, but honestly, they’re all pretty bad. It worked best when used in a human subject, which I admit it was probably tuned for, but not all shots are portraits.

There’s a slider to control the intensity of the depth effect, but honestly they’re all pretty bad.

The live view is shown when using the depth mode also makes the phone lag quite a lot. This is frustrating because the dual cameras were obviously a standout marketing point. Even pressing the shutter button makes the phone freeze for a couple of seconds. Viewing the images later will initially show what the regular shot would have looked like for a few seconds before loading the depth of field effect.

The front-facing selfie camera does an alright job, though it definitely crushes blacks more than I would like. Just wearing a maroon colored shirt in normal indoor lighting had the camera showing it as barely colored at all, which is a big letdown for me. Highlights also get blown out very easily, and it makes it very hard to get an evenly lit shot.

The camera works, but you’re going to have to expand your budget quite a bit if you want a phone that you can also use as your primary shooter.

BUY NOW

 

 

Battery life

The Moto G5S and Moto G5S Plus both pack 3000mAh non-removable batteries, which is odd considering that larger phones generally have space for bigger batteries. Consequently, the Moto G5S with its smaller screen lasted longer in our tests. It managed roughly 18 hours with heavy usage, while the Moto G5S Plus could only run for 14 hours which was disappointing. In our standard HD video loop test, the Moto G5S ran for 12 hours and 35 minutes, while the Moto G5S Plus ran for 11 hours and 15 minutes.

The good thing is that Lenovo ships TurboPower adapters with both models. The Moto G5S gets fully charged in roughly 60-70 minutes while the Moto G5S Plus takes slightly more time.

 

Software

Navigating Motorola’s lightly skinned version of Android is a breeze on this device. It’s running Android 7.1 Nougat, and the company has even promised that owners will see Android Oreo in the coming months.

Motorola didn’t load this device with any bloatware (unless you consider Google apps bloatware ?‍♂️) except for an app simply called Moto. While I find most manufacturer gimmicks annoying and cumbersome, Motorola is the one company whose added functionality I always appreciate.

There are two subsections of the Moto app: Moto Actions and Moto Display. These offer a wide variety of gestures and actions that will make your Android experience a lot simpler to use. You’re also able to toggle features on and off as you please.

 

Specs

Moto G5S Plus
Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD
1920 x 1080 resolution
401ppi Gorilla Glass 3
Processor 2.0 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
GPU Adreno 506
RAM 3/4 GB
Storage 32/64 GB
microSD expansion up to 256 GB
Cameras Rear: Dual 13 MP sensors with an f/2 aperture

Front: 8 MP sensor with an f/2 aperture

Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11n dual-band
Bluetooth 4.2
MicroUSB
3.5mm headphone jack
GPS+GLONASS
NFC (not in the US)
Software Android 7.1 Nougat
(Planned 8.0 update)
Dimensions and weight 153.5 x 76.2 x 8.0 mm
168 grams

Gallery

 

Moto Actions

One button nav: Uses the fingerprint sensor as a home, sleep, back, and multitasking button, depending on the gesture.

Chop twice for flashlight: Allows you to toggle the flashlight on and off by making a “double chop” motion with the device.

Twist for quick capture: Allows you to quickly launch the camera by twisting your wrist in a rapid motion.

Swipe to shrink screen: Makes the screen smaller for easier one-handed use.

Pick up to stop ringing: Switches to vibrate when you lift the phone while it’s ringing.

Flip for Do Not Disturb: Allows you to silence all notifications and calls by placing the phone on its face.

Pricing & final thoughts

The Moto G5S Plus is an incredibly compelling piece of hardware. We crowned its younger sibling the Moto G5 Plus the king of the budget back in April of this year, and this newer ‘S’ variant improves upon this model in every way.

For Rs.15,999 you’re getting a modern-day exterior, a lightning fast fingerprint reader, simplistic and compelling software with a guaranteed update to Google’s latest version, and even dual cameras (though we’ve seen much better). Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 performs admirably accompanied by the 3/4 GB RAM options, and storage shouldn’t be an issue due to the option for micro-SD expansion.

The Moto G5S Plus might not be the most premium device in the world, but it is a pretty damn good phone. For the price, it’s hard to ask for much more.

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