Saturday 7 July 2018

Moto G5

I decided to give the Moto G5 a try over the Plus version for a few reasons. Firstly, you can get the back off and replace the battery with another, should you be able to find one for sale - maybe that'll come - secondly, because it's a trusty 5" phone-sized-phone and thirdly because I wanted to see what Moto had done with this gesture-based Home button control thing. And I've been pleasantly surprised, mostly. It's £179.99 at Amazon and this particular configuration is, apparently, exclusive to them for now.

The unit has 16GB Storage and 3GB RAM with the Snapdragon 430 chipset. I was expecting to notice the slowdown because the chip, but not on your Nelly! It is perfectly speedy in all operations. Maybe the slowdown would come after a couple of weeks of use, or maybe I'm not pushing it hard enough. Time will tell. With adoptable storage of a MicroSD Card employed, the 16GB Storage becomes no issue and the 3GB RAM keeps it flying. Aerials seem solid, for Wifi, cellular and bluetooth.

There's space in the back for 2 SIM Cards and a MicroSD Card, which the battery has to be removed for in order to change/remove. The battery packs 2800mAh which is Fast Charge capable, the 5" IPS LCD 1080p screen with Gorilla Glass 3 over the top is perfectly bright and vibrant (even out in the sun, on full brightness) and it's running Android 7.0 with, as usual for Moto, very minimal variations from the Vanilla flavoured version. The interface emulates the Pixel in many ways - whether this is a skin or Google have allowed this level of Vanilla out, I don't know - but my Moto Z does not have, for example, the circular homescreen folders nor swipe-up application tray with an extra shortcut space available at the foot in the middle.

The rear camera is 13MP f2 and has auto-HDR, whilst the front snapper is rated at 5MP f2.2. As you probably know of me, I tend to leave camera performance analysis to the nit-pickers, declaring most modern phones to have cameras which are perfectly good for 95% of the people for 95% of what they might be intending to use the snaps for. But looking at the shots, they look perfectly fine to me and the camera has the same Moto Z interface with plenty of options for my 95% crowd!

The device has a 3.5mm headphone socket and even an FM Radio. The speaker, mounted top-front at the earpiece hole is far from the worst I've experienced, but far from the best. The volume is pretty good for a quiet room and quality, on the good side of average. Some feel like the G5 and G5 Plus have been let down by no inclusion of a USB-C port for data/charging, retaining the older MicroUSB. Personally, though preferable, I don't think that we've quite got to the point just yet when everyone has chucked their MicroUSB cables out, so they just about get away with it. But 6 months on, and I think it would be a real showstopper.

So, to the fingerprint scanner and arguably the device's most interesting point of discussion. The front-facing bottom-mounted fingerprint scanner cum Home button cum on/off button has been made oval since the smaller, squarer version afoot the Z series Motos. So it's wider. It behaves in much the same way, so unlocks the screen and powers the screen off, with one exception. Moto have added a swipe functionality to it, so if you switch the function on in settings the on-screen navigation buttons disappear, you gain yourself a few mm of screen space extra and the button can not only function as it does already but also a swipe right-left executes Back, left-right brings up recent apps and long-press brings up Google's Screen Search. I've spent a couple of days trying to see the benefit of this but really can't. Seems like they just wanted something to develop for the sake of it. I don't get that the few mm payoff of screen space is worth the hassle of learning something new and moving themselves further away from Vanilla. But I guess for those coming in new, it might please. Telling though, that it's off by default!

The usual array of Moto-specific stuff is present which nobody uses, like Voice control over the standard Google one, chop-chop for torch, swipe to shrink screen (on a 5" device?!), pick up to stop ringing, flip to silence, double-press of power for camera, twizzle-twizzle for camera activation, too. Plenty of settings to play with, but off or on, they don't seem to interfere with using Android, pretty much, as Google intended. It doesn't seem to have a motion sensor, to spot one's hand in front of the screen, so does not give the info display in the way that the Z's do, though if the unit is moved/picked up it comes on briefly. There's a round clock with a battery gauge surround and notifications present with swipe-able actions to open them etc.

One slight annoyance is that the background of the 'open' folder is not white and the folder's icons are confused with the icons behind them on the homescreen. Fix that, Moto, so it's white, like the Pixel! (I'll add a screenshot in the comments.) Available in Lunar Grey, Fine Gold and Sapphire Blue, it's out there now and for a budget phone that is just the right size, punches above it's weight, as they say, and is all the phone that 95% of people will need going forward. But check the configuration before buying - I don't know how the 2GB RAM version will differ in terms of performance. Recommended.

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