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Moto G5 Plus review: Everything the Moto G5 should have been (with an incredible camera)

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It had to happen at some point, but seeing Lenovo release a disappointing Moto G phone was kind of like finding out there’s no Santa Claus. Thankfully, the Moto G5 Plus is a big improvement.

That improvement comes at a price – £80 extra, to be precise. The Moto G5 Plus’s name suggests a phablet-style device, but it’s actually just 0.2in larger than the Moto G5, so where has the money gone? Everywhere it should have gone with the Moto G5, really, but the real prize is the camera, which is implausibly good for a £250 smartphone.

It’s been a while since we’ve written the words “£250 smartphone”. You’ll notice that price point has been pretty much vacated by everyone, putting the Moto G5 Plus in a tricky position. It’s definitely a marked improvement on the Moto G5, but what about the £200 Lenovo P2, or the £225 Honor 6X? And, for that matter, how does it compare to the £320 Samsung Galaxy A5?

Let’s find out.

Moto G5 Plus review: Design

The Moto G series has been on a diet since last year’s 5.5in phablet-pushing outing. The Moto G5 Plus has lost relatively little size-wise, though, coming in at 5.2in to the Moto G’s 5.0in. Put them side by side and they look pretty similar, with a little more curving on the top and bottom of the Plus model.

Both have had a makeover as well. Gone is the cheap and cheerful plastic, and in its place is a thin metal. The new style further blurs the already quite hazy lines between budget and flagship, even if the Moto G5 Plus has plastic caps at the top and the bottom of the device. It’s a good look, all the same. Micro USB charging is the order of the day, and both models sport a 3.5mm headphone jack, going against the trend in keeping the decades old, but extremely useful, port.

There are a couple of curious design differences between the Moto G5 and G5 Plus. The most obvious is that while you can remove the back and change the battery on the smaller Moto G5, that option isn’t available on the Moto G5 Plus. I can’t see any clear reason for that, but it has the small knock-on effect as to where you put your SIM card: the G5 Plus has a SIM tray accessible from the outside, rather than hidden away out of sight. On top of this, the G5 Plus has NFC, while the G5 doesn’t. If you don’t know what that is, the chances are you won’t need to, but in day-to-day practical terms, it means that the G5 Plus can make contactless payments with Android Pay, while the cheaper G5 can’t.

Another difference is arguably even stranger. While the Moto G5 has the headphone jack on the top of the handset, the Moto G5 Plus keeps it on the bottom. It’s a matter of personal preference, ultimately, but it’s a weird discrepancy between the two models.

Other than that, the Moto G5 Plus looks every bit as good as the Moto G5. The difference is that with the Moto G5, that’s where the praise ended. With the G5 Plus, the best is still to come.

Moto G5 Plus review: Camera

Regular readers of my phone reviews will notice I’ve mixed up the order a bit here, as I usually come to the camera after exhausting everything else there is to say about a handset. This change in scheduled programming is for one simple reason: you won’t find a camera anywhere near this good for the price, and it’s the G5 Plus’s secret weapon.

If we were ranking smartphones by their cameras, the Google Pixel is the top dog, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S7. At less than half the price, the Moto G5 Plus has no right to be alongside such distinguished company, but it manages it – albeit with a slight cheat. The camera module in the Moto G5 Plus is the same one that lives in the Samsung Galaxy S7, which if you don’t know is a 12-megapixel snapper with a bright f/1.7 aperture and phase-detect autofocus. That’s the same module that’s good enough to go in the £779 Galaxy S8 too, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

Now, a phone’s camera is more than just the hardware: it’s ultimately the software that performs the scene analysis and auto-exposure calculation, for example. Fortunately, the Moto G5 Plus holds up brilliantly.

In good lighting conditions, the Moto G5 Plus is almost a match for the best of the best. The colours aren’t quite as vibrant as the Pixel XL, and if you look really hard you might spot some smearing, but the pictures are still nothing short of excellent, especially given the price of entry.

Like the Galaxy S7, the Moto G5 Plus’s camera performs well in low light. The camera maintains good control over image noise, and hardly any detail is lost to over-compression. If you were to be hyper-critical, you could complain that low-light photos can be a little dark, with some greys merging to black, but overall this is among the best you can buy.

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