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Hands On with the Motorola G5 and G5 Plus

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Feb 26, 2017, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

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Moto G5 Plus

Motorola introduced the Moto G5 and G5 Plus in Barcelona, the latest in its series of mid-range handsets. Motorola says it polled consumers in order to develop the G5 series' feature set, which include metal designs, good cameras, fingerprint readers, and high-definition screens. We spent a few moments with the phones. Here are our initial impressions.

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The fifth generation of the Moto G is full of compromises. The G5 and G5 Plus are decent handsets that target the middle of the market, which is chock full of fine phones. Without a carrier strategy, Motorola plans to sell the phones directly two consumers. It says this strategy works, but whether or not shoppers will pick up the G5 Plus at Target or Walmart stores remains to be soon.

Motorola only intends to bring the Moto G5 Plus to the U.S., so I'm going to focus much of my time discussing the Plus rather than the G5. Both phones are nearly identical, with only a few differences in the hardware setting them apart.

G5 And G5 Plus  

The big change in design is the addition of metal to the G family. All the previous versions of the phone had plastic rear panels, and several variants allowed you to swap the rear panels out to give your phone some personality. All the personality is gone and we now have a rather plain look to the metal-clad G5 Plus. The rear panel may be aluminum, but it is surrounded by plastic and resin components to hold it all together. For example, the frame may look like aluminum, but Motorola told us it was not. The frame has a nice chamfered look, however, and the metal rear panel and glass front panel fit into place tightly.

Size is important to consumers, says Motorola. That's why the G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch screen and a compact form factor. The size and rounded metal sides make the phone comfortable to hold and use. I found the phone very easy to operate; I could reach across the entire screen with no problem. It fits into pockets nicely.

The screen lock button is on the right edge and has a fine ribbed texture. It is a cinch to locate by feel, and travel and feedback are excellent. The volume toggle is smooth and it too has very good action. The G5 has a 3.5mm headphone jack on top, while the G5 Plus moves the jack to the bottom edge. The SIM and memory card tray is buried in the top edge. It is the only thing about the phone that didn't look well executed to me due to the way it is set in place.

G5 Plus  

Motorola went with microUSB — not USB-C — for the G5 and G5 Plus for a specific reason. The company says people shopping in this price range don't want to or can't make a huge investment in changing all their existing accessories (wall worts, car chargers, etc.) to accommodate a new phone. That's why it stuck with the microUSB. The port does still support Motorola's Turbo Charging for rapid power-ups. Speaking of which, the G5 Plus has a 3,000mAh battery that should easily get people from breakfast to bedtime on a single charge.

The 5.2-inch full HD screen looks really nice. It's a good size and resolution combination and makes for a sharp display. Viewing angles are pretty good for and LCD panel, and colors looked accurate to my eyes. The G5's screen is a little smaller at 5 inches and yet it maintains the same full HD resolution.

Both phones get a fingerprint reader on the front that doubles as a trackpad. You can use the fingerprint reader like a mouse to move between screens, scroll through your image library, or browse up and down web sites. This is pretty neat, but you can turn it off if you want to.

The 12-megapixel camera module of the G5 Plus protrudes like those of the Moto Z family. It's a large, raised circle that contains the lens and flash module. The 13-megapixel camera module of the G5 is flush with the phone's rear surface.

G5  

If you're wondering what networks the G5 Plus is compatible with, Motorola says it will work with all major U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless (yes, it has CDMA inside).

The G5 Plus will reach the U.S. "this spring" says Motorola. It will be priced at $229, which is very competitive and noticeably less than the last-gen Moto G4. For some reason, the international variant of the G5 Plus will include NFC; the U.S. G5 Plus will not.

These are truly decent phones, but they don't do quite enough to stand out in my opinion. Surely they will appeal to some people as alternatives to competing models from ZTE, Huawei, LG, and others. The metal design takes away from the fun plastic approach, but ups the ante as far as class is concerned. If you want an affordable phone that has a nice screen, good battery life, a decent camera, and a slim build, the Moto G5 Plus (and G5) are a good place to start.

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