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November 7, 2017

Lenovo Moto G5S Plus review

by John_A

Research Center:
Lenovo Moto G5S Plus

The budget phone market is seriously heating up, and while there was once a time when the Motorola Moto G was the most-loved and best-reviewed budget device out there, now there are a ton of great options. The likes of ZTE, Huawei, and Oppo all offer seriously great budget phones, making it a slightly harder decision for those that want a great device at a great price.

Lenovo, through its Moto brand, however, isn’t taking the competition lightly. The company recently took the wraps off a new generation of Moto G – the Moto G5S and Moto G5S Plus, the latter of which offers a slightly larger display and a dual-lens camera.

Are those upgrades enough to make the Moto G5S Plus the new default for budget phone shoppers? We put it to the test to find out.

A very “Moto” design

The first thing you’ll notice about the Moto G5S Plus is its design, and it’s very familiar. It looks almost identical to the previous Moto G5 Plus, save for the two camera lenses peeking through the glass on the back.

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

The front of the device, as you would expect, is covered largely by the display, but underneath that you’ll also find a fingerprint sensor. While we generally prefer a fingerprint sensor mounted on the back because it feels more natural, Motorola has given the fingerprint sensor a lot of functionality – like the ability to tap it to go home, and even go back or multitask by swiping left or right. You can also activate Google Assistant by holding it, which is a very nice feature. Activating these gestures gets rid of the on-screen navigation controls, which some might prefer. We haven’t seen any other manufacturer add such gestures.

In use, the phone felt solid, and things like the power button were easily accessible with your thumb. That power button lives on the right edge of the phone underneath the volume rocker, which is still low enough on the edge to be reachable with your thumb.

In use, the Moto G5S Plus is actually a very capable phone.

On the left edge you’ll find the SIM card slot and MicroSD card slot, while on the top is the headphone jack, and on the bottom, is the Micro USB port. That’s right – no USB-C port here, which is a little frustrating. It’s 2017, and Micro USB is on the way out – there’s no good reason to include it on new phones. We’re starting to see competitors in this price range, like the ZTE Axon 7 Mini, offer USB-C – so it’s a bit disappointing that Lenovo hasn’t hopped onto the USB Type-C train.

On the back, as mentioned, you’ll find the dual-sensor camera, which comes in the form of a pretty big camera bump. While we’re not fans of a big camera bump, it doesn’t look all that bad here. It’s the same camera bump you’ll find on plenty of other Moto devices, but bigger than what you’ll see on devices like the iPhone or even similarly priced phones like the ZTE Axon 7 Mini.

Sure, there are a few quirks in the phone’s design – like the Micro USB port – but in general the phone looks and feels quite nice, and felt comfortable and natural to hold.

Performance

Of course, design can only get you so far – it’s what’s under the hood that really counts. The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus comes equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, coupled with either 3GB or 4GB of RAM, depending on the amount of storage you go for. We’re testing the 64GB storage and 4GB RAM variant – though you can also get a 32GB storage and 3GB RAM version.

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

These specs are pretty much on-par with other phones in this price range. The Honor 6X offers a Kirin 655 processor, which is also a midrange chip, and 3GB of RAM, while the ZTE Axon 7 Mini offers a less powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 and 3GB of RAM.

In use, the Moto G5S Plus is actually a very capable phone. It’s fast and responsive in all but the most processor-intensive tasks, like 3D gaming, and it even held its own in most gaming situations, if you can look past the odd stutter every now and then.

It’s easy to see the “6” in the Snapdragon 625’s name and doubt its capabilities – but as this device proves, while midrange, the chip is able to handle the vast majority of tasks the average person will throw at it. In Asphalt 8 the phone was more than able to handle the 3D graphics without any stutters, while playing Shadowgun was a very smooth process, with only the occasional and forgettable stutter to remind us that this isn’t a flagship device.

Real-world use is more important than benchmarks, but benchmarks are still a good indicator of a device’s longevity. Why? Performance isn’t always about how a phone performs today – it’s also about how a phone will be able to handle the next generation of apps that will hit the Google Play Store. The better a phone performs, the more likely it is that it will continue to perform well next year. So how did the Moto G5S Plus perform? About as well as you would expect. Here’s a quick rundown of the benchmark scores it achieved:

Geekbench 4: 815 single-core, 3993 multi-core

AnTuTu: 63,802

3DMark Slingshot Extreme: 461

These results aren’t flagship-quality, but they’re still pretty darn good. The phone comes in at $280, which is a somewhat open price-point with not a whole lot of competition. Still, budget standouts include the Honor 6X, which hit 56,585 on AnTuTu and comes in at $200, and the Samsung Galaxy J7 Max, which comes in at $294 but still didn’t beat the Moto G5S Plus with a score of 57,996.

In general, the Lenovo Moto G5S Plus is an excellent performing phone for the price. In fact, we would argue that it’s the best-performing phone in the sub-$300 price range, which is no small feat. Sure, it’s not a flagship-tier device – but for the price it’s an excellent-quality handset.

Display and battery

The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus comes equipped with a 1,080 x 1,920-pixel LCD display, and while we would always prefer an OLED display, it looks pretty good. Colors were generally nice and bright, while viewing angles were excellent and glare was kept to a minimum. For most uses, the display definitely has a high enough resolution, and while it may get noticeably pixelated during mobile VR use, this phone isn’t really built for that and actually isn’t Daydream-ready anyway.

Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

The display is on-par with other devices in this price range, but some are a little better. While the ZTE Axon 7 Mini keeps the same resolution as the Moto G5S Plus, it swaps LCD for AMOLED. The Honor 6X, has the same resolution and display type as the Moto G5S Plus.

The lower-than-flagship resolution has a positive impact on battery life too, as there aren’t as many pixels to power. The phone offers a 3,000mAh battery, which is the same capacity as the smaller Moto G5S. Regardless, it was more than capable of getting us through a day of relatively heavy use, and you shouldn’t expect it to fall under 20 percent in a day of normal use.

On top of the better-than-average battery life, the phone also comes equipped with Lenovo’s TurboPower fast charging, which the company claims will give it 6 hours of power in 15 minutes of charging. We didn’t time it, but we can say without a doubt that the phone charged quickly, which is nice for those on-the-go.

Camera

The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus is the first Moto G to offer a dual-camera, both sensors coming in at 13-megapixels with an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. So how does it perform? Well, it depends what you want to do with it.

The lower-than-flagship resolution has a positive effect on battery life too, as there aren’t as many pixels to power.

The camera app is really quite good. It’s fast-performing and offers a solid amount of control, including a capable manual mode. That’s good news for the photographers out there who want more control over their shots, and it puts the camera ahead of the Axon 7 Mini, which performed pretty slowly in our review of the camera.

In use, the camera is solid but lacking in some areas. For starters, using the two lenses produces some lackluster results. You can take photos and adjust depth after-the-fact, but edges are rarely sharp, and adjusting depth after taking the photo rarely changed that. We would almost have preferred that Lenovo stick with a single-lens camera and focus on making that as good as it could be, rather than simply adding another lens for the sake of it.

Still, standard photos themselves weren’t all that bad. As someone who uses a Google Pixel XL as my daily driver, it’s rare that I’ll be impressed by a phone’s camera – but for a budget phone the Moto G5S Plus does well. Colors were a little dull at times, but details were there, and the camera generally performed well in low-light situations thanks to the bump from an f/2.2 aperture in the standard Moto G5 to a f/1.7 aperture in the G5S Plus. Basic shots seemed to be a little less colorful than those taken with the Honor 6X, but still decent for the price.

While the camera is capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps, we think it’s a little more notable that it can shoot 1080p at 60fps – meaning you’ll be able to slow it down for some cool effects.

This is a budget phone, so it’s not fair to expect a flagship camera – and you won’t get one. You will, however, get a camera that’s generally capable, and while the hardware was a little hit-and-miss, the software really exceeded our expectations.

Software

Motorola phones have long offered near stock Android software – a trend that harkens back to the days when the Motorola brand was owned by Google. The same is true in the Moto G5S Plus, and as a dedicated Pixel user I can safely say that I felt right at home.

That doesn’t mean that Lenovo hasn’t added a few Moto touches – just that they’re kept to a minimum. Perhaps the most notable addition is the “Moto” app, which is basically a way to control “Moto Actions,” or gesture controls like “chopping twice for the flashlight,” and “Moto Display,” which allows you to control the discrete notifications that you’ll get when the screen is off. It’s a nice addition – it’s subtle, and it offers features that genuinely improve the overall Android experience, especially for those willing to learn a few gesture controls.

The Moto G5S Plus runs Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box, though Lenovo plans to upgrade to the latest Android 8.0 Oreo “soon”.

In general, we loved the stock experience on the Moto G5S Plus. While it isn’t totally stock, the additions that are there are welcome tweaks.

Warranty, pricing, and availability

The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus comes with a one-year limited warranty, which pretty much only covers defects – not wear and tear due to aging or any damage caused by an accident. That’s not the best warranty around, but it is pretty standard.

But how much does it cost? The phone starts at $230 for the 32GB version which has 3GB of RAM (though it’ll go up to $280 soon), and you’ll have to shell out $300 for the 64GB version, which will go up to $350 soon. Both phones are available from the Motorola website right now, as well as the likes of Newegg. The phones don’t seem to be available on Amazon just yet.

Our Take

The Lenovo Moto G5S Plus once again redefines the word “budget.” It offers excellent value for money, better performance than others in this price range, and an awesome software experience. Nothing’s perfect – as shown by the camera – but for the price, this is about as good as it gets.

Is there a better alternative?

In this price range, there aren’t any better alternatives. The Moto G has proven time and time again that buying a budget phone doesn’t mean having to get something sub-par. While phones like the Honor 6X and ZTE Axon 7 Mini are decent phones, they just don’t compare to the full package that is the Lenovo Moto G5S Plus.

Lenovo Moto G5S Plus Compared To

HTC U11 Life

Moto X4 Android One

Sony Xperia XZ1

LG X Venture

Moto X4

Alcatel Idol 5S

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus

ZTE Axon 7 mini

Meizu Pro 6

Huawei Honor 8

Nextbit Robin

Huawei Honor 7

Motorola Droid Turbo

Sony Xperia Z3

LG G2

How long will it last?

The Moto G5S Plus should last a full two years, if you take care of it. It does not offer an IP rating to speak of, so you’ll want to keep it away from water. While it will slow down after a year or so of normal use, you should be on track for a standard two-year upgrade cycle.

Should you buy it?

Yes, you should. The Moto G5S Plus is the best phone in its price range. If you’re looking for a flagship phone with top-tier specs, then this probably won’t tick all the boxes, but if you have around $300 to spend, this is the one for you.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Moto G5 and G5 Plus: Everything you need to know
  • Nokia 6 vs. Moto G5 Plus
  • Moto X4 review
  • Moto X4 vs. Moto Z2 Force: Which Moto reigns supreme?
  • Moto X4 hands-on review
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