If you’re willing to spend more you will get a more convincing high-end experience from a OnePlus 5 or Honor 9. However, the Moto G5S Plus restores the series’ credibility as a top choice for those after a low budget phone.
The Moto G5S Plus has a large 5.5in screen that’s one of the best options in its class thanks to its combination of high-quality build, design and value for money.
The Moto G5S Plus is essentially a high-end reboot of the Moto G4 Plus, a minor classic among budget smartphones. That was the last time the series had a true large-screen phone and is has been missed.
The Moto G5S Plus looks similar to the Moto G5 Plus but the style and build are quite different, though. The older Moto G5 Plus was sold as an aluminium unibody phone, but substantial parts of its frame are plastic. This G5S Plus has an all-aluminium frame that looks and feels a lot more like a higher end phone.
Its only plastic parts are the little lines towards the top of the rear that give the Moto G5S Plus’s antennas space to transmit. Wireless antennas do not function well through metal.
The Moto G5S Plus feels comfortable in the hand, its slightly curved back minimising the very slight extra bulk the 8mm thickness. This is the first time the Moto G series has the build standards of a proper high-end phone.
But, the camera housing does stick out a little from the back, and after a few weeks of using the phone, the aluminium finish was starting to pick up light scratches and scuffs. The Moto G5 Plus is not waterproof, but it is splash proof.
The Moto G5S Plus is one of the few new phones that continues to use a Micro-USB port rather than a USB-C. However, when it still offers fast charging via Motorola’s TurboPower “standard”, that’s not too much of a problem.
And there’s little missing when it comes to core features. Unlike most earlier Moto G phones, the Moto G5S Plus has NFC, useful for contactless payments via Android Pay. There’s also a fingerprint scanner below the display, one that looks and feels far better than that of the Moto G4 Plus. This isn’t the fastest fingerprint scanner around, and we did have to reset it after a couple of weeks’ use as the performance became a little unreliable. However, it’s still a useful feature to have.
The Moto G5S Plus also has 32GB storage and you can add to it with a microSD card.
It runs Android 7.1.1, with an 8.0 update planned. It doesn’t have the same blank white sheet of app menu as the Google Pixel UI, with an app menu background that has the same image as your homescreen. However, the feel of the vertical scrolling app drawer is similar and there aren’t the drastic visual changes.
Extra interface features remain largely unchanged since the last generation of Moto phones. Moto Display phases notification reminders in and out of the standby display when the phone is not in use and there are shortcut touch gestures, used for launching various features and apps.
The Moto G5S Plus’s fingerprint scanner can also be used to take over the functions of the soft keys. A left swipe is used for the back action and a right swipe launches the recent apps screen.
Performance and Battery life
The Moto G5S Plus uses the Snapdragon 625 CPU. This is a low- to mid-range processor with eight Cortex-A53 cores, the kind used in some higher-end phones as day-to-day efficiency cores.
It’s also the same CPU used by the Moto G5 Plus, so there’s no obvious increase in real-world performance.
The Snapdragon 625’s GPU is a fairly ordinary Adreno 506, which isn’t impressive. However, it does have enough grunt to run high-end Android games without major frame rate dips at 1080p, the Moto G5S Plus’ native resolution.
The phone has a 3,000mAh battery. It lasted nearly 13 hours and 20 minutes, on our video run down test, which is still way off the 20hrs 40mins the OnePlus 5 achieved.
In normal use, I found the Moto G5S Plus easily lasts a whole day, with enough left to keep you going at the start of day two without having to panic about charging.
The phone also supports Moto TurboPower charging. This focuses on getting a good chunk of charge in the first 15 minutes and gets most of the way to a full charge within an hour.
The Moto G5S Plus has a 5.5in 1080p IPS LCD screen. It’s an ideal size for watching videos or playing games and the resolution is sharp enough for most uses. Even the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 render at 1080p most of the time.
As with previous Moto phones, the Moto G5S Plus doesn’t have an ultra-wide colour gamut panel like Samsung Galaxy phones. However, it gives the impression of being well-matched to the sRGB standard, if not the more excitable colour profiles of the Samsung Galaxy S8 defaults to. It covers 85.5% of sRGB, which is enough to appear vivid and punchy to the naked eye and its 1,477:1 contrast ratio just just beats the iPhone 8 Plus.
This is a pleasant to screen look at. I rather like the mostly natural look of the Moto G5S Plus. There are two display modes to choose from as well: a normal one and a vibrant mode that pushes the abilities of the panel a bit more. However, as this is a mid-tier IPS LCD rather than a high-end AMOLED panel, which would of improved the phone.
The Moto G5S Pluscomes with dual rear cameras, which is a first.
In top-end flagship phones, dual cameras are used for low-loss zooming or wide-angle capture. However, the Moto G5S Plus simply lets you take photos using the synthetic shallow depth of field effect that became common in older phones.
The Moto G5 Plus has a fairly good-quality 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 sensors on the back, the Moto G5S Plus’s take on depth of field isn’t all that good. It doesn't do well when shooting complicated objects and the capture is slow.
Daytime photo quality is very good, as we’ve come to expect from this series. Dynamic range is good for a lower-cost phone, largely down to some post-shoot optimisation and both detail and colour are solid.
Night and low light photos really don't work well as the camera technology is simply not complex enough to cope. It doesn’t have optical image stabilisation it doesn’t/can’t slow down the shutter to combat difficult light situations.
There’s also too much shutter lag to the G5S Plus camera. Taking photos doesn't feel instantaneous, which could be down to the camera software not being quite up to speed with the new two-eyed hardware.
At the front, the Moto G5S Plus has an 8-megapixel selfie camera with flash. It, too, suffers from slight shutter lag but image quality is only fair.
Price and Competition
The Moto G5S Plus costs £259. It sits at the highest-end entry-level phones.
The fiercest competition at a similar price comes from the Honor 6X. It has comparable specs aside from a slightly higher-end camera sensor but also has less tasteful software and hardware design.
You need to spend considerably more to find a phone that will outright beat the Moto G5S Plus. The OnePlus 5 and Honor 9 are the most compelling alternatives.
The Honor 9 is £120 more but has a higher-end processor and a camera that copes better at night. It also has an eye-catching shiny finish. However, the screen is smaller at 5.15in. You get the value of the Moto G5S Plus, but not the size.
For the large-screen, high-end experience, consider the OnePlus 5. It has a 5.5in OLED screen, a zoom camera and a super fast processor. But you will have to pay considerably more for the privilege, at around £450.
Motorola Moto G5S Plus Review: Verdict
The aluminium body is a distinct improvement on the old model. It gets rid of the plastic parts of the build and brings back a large screen, making it better for watching videos and gaming.
The camera is disappointing and just too laggy, the hardware hasn’t been notably improved apart from the addition of a second rear camera. However, the Moto G5S Plus is a great choice for those who want a phone that looks and feels like a mid-range phone without the price tag.