Motorola has been pulling off surprises for the entirety of 2020. In a market dominated by Xiaomi, Realme and Samsung, it is Motorola that has come up with some compelling smartphones in the affordable segments. After the One Fusion+ and the fantastic Moto G9, Motorola is back for another round with the Moto G 5G. Yep, us Indians are finally getting the slightly premium Moto G models this year. Not a bad 2020 for smartphone enthusiasts, eh?
The Moto G 5G is one surprise package that got everyone’s attention. For a price of Rs 20,999, you are getting a Snapdragon 750G phone complete with a stock Android interface, a mega 5000mAh battery, and some decent cameras. That’s a combo I haven’t heard in a while, especially above Rs 20,000. The OnePlus Nord comes close but you now have to pay Rs 28,000 to get your hands on it. Also, the Google Pixel 4a is almost Rs 11,000 extra.
Putting the Moto G 5G up with the Pixel 4A and the OnePlus Nord is a big thing. Is this Motorola phone worth saving the money over the other two? Bear me as I dive deep into the Moto G 5G.
Motorola says the Moto G 5G is the most affordable 5G smartphone you can buy. To get that tantalizing low price of Rs 20,999, Motorola obviously cut a few corners. Where is the cut made? The design bit.
I will start with the good stuff – the Moto G 5G is a handsome phone, depending on the color you choose. I got the Volcanic Grey variant that essentially is dark purple with a carbon fiber-esque texture. This is a good color to mask the relatively bland design that we have seen on 2020 Motorola affordable phone. There’s a square camera hump that sits alongside a capacitive fingerprint sensor, which itself is masked by the Motorola logo.
The front has a conventional (by 2020 standards) design with an almost edge-to-edge display, some thick bezels, and a modern punch-hole cutout for the camera. You get the usual Motorola set of buttons, i.e. the power key, volume keys, and a Google Assistant key. Unlike previous Motorola phones, these are tactile buttons and they click like normal buttons on other phones. These feel like they will last long even in careless hands. Glad to see Motorola take note of my feedback.
The “frame” itself has a matte finish that helps with the grip. That said, I am personally unhappy with the material of choice or the finish. I don’t have issues with phones that have plastic bodies – they are more resistant to shatter and seem more durable than glass bodies. However, the glass-emulating glossy finish on the Moto G 5G feels cheap. A matte finish with some exciting gradients could spice up the drama. Even a simple matte black finish could have worked to uplift the appeal, like the Pixel 4A.
Make no mistake, the Moto G 5G is built well and it faired well in my hands, i.e. no scratches, no scuffs. Even in some of the product photos you see here, the Moto G 5G looks trendy with the slight gradient finish. But one look at the much cheaper Redmi Note 9 Pro Max with its luxurious glass panel and I feel Motorola didn’t have an excuse. For such an important phone, I expected the company to finally come up with a premium-looking phone. Last year’s Motorola One Vision in this same price range was built so exquisitely and it raised my hopes high.
Would I not buy it for the plastic body? The innards of this phone is what matters to me and I would simply put some skins or stickers on this dark color variant. Wait, I would rather choose the silver one as that looks less plasticky.
On the Moto G 5G, you are greeted with a 6.67 display with a narrow aspect ratio of 20:9. Motorola is using an HDR10 compliant IPS LCD display with a 1080p pixel resolution. This is a good display by any means, even for the nerds who carve for “inky black” AMOLED displays. I found the colors to be bright, vibrant, and have decent contrast. I enjoyed watching Formula 1 races on Hotstar as well as the usual binge-watching YouTube videos. Viewing angles were sufficiently wide for me and my brother. In the dull winter afternoons of Delhi NCR, I did not have any trouble reading the display under sunlight.
This is the key reason you are interested in the Moto G 5G. The Snapdragon 750G chip debuts in India on this phone and it sets a benchmark as to what we can expect from Qualcomm’s midrange 5G chip. That said, Motorola itself is partly responsible for the fast performance on this phone.
Go over benchmarks and you will find the Snapdragon 750G being almost on par with the Snapdragon 765G in terms of performance. I tried Genshin Impact on the Moto G 5G and it ran well at high graphics, even when forced to 60 fps. However, similar to the Snapdragon 765G-powered Vivo V20 Pro, this one too threw up occasional stutters and frame drops. Lowering down the graphics quality helped maintain consistent performance.
I played a couple of Indie games and those were a no-brainer for the Moto G 5G. Load times are fairly fast and I found the phone quick to respond to most tasks I threw at it. 5G still isn’t a thing and hence, I do not have anything to say about it. However, my time with the Moto G 5G saw it relying equally on LTE mobile data as well as Wi-Fi, and I did not face connectivity issues. Call quality over the earpiece and via headphones was great as with all Motorola phones. The audio out of the loudspeaker though is just average.
The near-stock Android experience on the Moto G 5G is refreshing, especially after coming from Vivo, Xiaomi and Realme devices. Motorola pre-loads the phone with Android 10 but apart from the Facebook app, there’s nothing extra present. You get all the Google apps as well as some of the necessary Motorola apps. The stock interface means no custom browsers throwing up unwanted ads or notifications. I would have liked Motorola to launch this phone with Android 11, given that it is late-2020. Motorola says an Android 11 update is guaranteed but there’s no promise of Android 12 on this thing. Yeah, this isn’t an Android One device.
Despite the stock interface, Motorola lets you tweak some elements of the UI with its MyUX app. You can change accent colors, icon shapes, and fonts, but not to MIUI 12-levels of degree. Over my 2 weeks with the phone, I enjoyed the fairly fast and clean user experience on the Moto G 5G. I also liked the revamped Moto camera app that now offers a more sorted-out layout for all the camera features.
Speaking of the cameras…
A few months ago, I spent time with the Moto G9 and despite its fairly-average-for-2020 48-megapixel main camera sensor, it surprised me with great photography performance. Motorola tunes its cameras well and regardless of the sensor, most of its phones perform well. That doesn’t change with the Moto G 5G.
The Moto G 5G uses a 48-megapixel sensor with a f/1.7 lens for the main camera. This is accompanied by another 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and another 2-megapixel macro camera. Unimpressive numbers, right? Well, go through the photo sample gallery and you will be surprised.
In daylight, the Moto G 5G captures colors well and does not oversaturate them, like some Redmi and Realme devices. It tries to maintain a closer-to-natural approach for the color science but enhances it slightly when it feels there’s not enough light. The dynamic range isn’t great but for most casual photographers, the Moto G 5G delivers well. The pixel-binning means that photos have an adequate amount of details. However, zoom into the shadow areas and you will see some smudging to dial out the grains.
As soon as light levels fall, the details take some hit while the algorithms boost the colors slightly to maintain a “contrasty” tone. In challenging light conditions, I was impressed with how the Moto G 5G handles exposures and colors. My red nightshade remained red in the dark room while retaining all the artwork. I took the same photo in the Night Vision mode and it messed up the colors as well as mood. However, for dark photos, the night mode on the Moto G 5G is impressive.
I like the camera performance at night without the Night mode. I also like the ultra-wide camera for its color profile in daylight. It lacks the detail of the main camera but gives you a distortion-free wide perspective of your subject. It’s bad at night and I wish Motorola found a way to bright Night Vision to this camera mode. The macro camera isn’t the sharpest one as its 2-megapixel sensor barely manages to get the sharpness of its sibling sensors. That said, give it good lighting and you can get some decent photos that could be used on social media.
The portrait mode photos dial up the saturation a notch but I liked the subject separation from the background. No jagged edges, no unnatural cutouts even in busy backgrounds. Motorola offers some of its fun camera modes to play with when you feel artistic. I was in the middle of shifting my house and hence I mainly relied on the conventional modes to get my dose of daily photography.
Selfies from the 16-megapixel front camera look good with bright colors and good contrasts. I liked how the camera managed exposures in the background as well as the white balance. Portrait mode in selfies worked as expected, with proper cutouts and decent levels of background blurring.
5G isn’t a thing in India yet but when it does, it is going to suck out the battery from your 5G phone, unlike anything. I believe Motorola chose a big 5000mAh battery to counter that battery drain once you put in a 5G SIM card. In the current world of 4G networks, the Moto G 5G easily lasted me a day and had enough juice to make it to the lunch hour the next day. I used the phone for all my office voice calls, texting, browsing social media, watching YouTube videos, and stream songs for two hours on an average while office.
While the battery life is good, the charging speeds are still on the slower side. Motorola bundles a 20W fast charger in the box and it takes almost 1.5 hours for the battery to reach above 90 percent from sub-10 percent charge levels. Not that it is a deal-breaker but Realme offers its 20-minute 65W charging on the Realme 7 Pro while Xiaomi and the others have moved to at least 30W of fast charging. Maybe it’s time for Motorola to jump on the fast charging bandwagon now.
The Moto G 5G is an amazing phone in many ways. For smartphone enthusiasts like us, this is what we have been waiting for long in the sub-Rs 25,000 category. A clean Android experience with a fast and future-proof chip, ease of use, long battery life, and good cameras is a combination that many seek desperately at this price. It is like a Google Pixel 4A minus the flagship-grade camera performance and the elevated price tag. If I was restricted to Rs 25,000 as the budget for my smartphone, the Moto G 5G is what I would pick up. It is clearly a very easy recommendation for most people.
That said, it misses out on a few things that its Chinese rivals do so well. There’s nothing critically wrong with its design or build but I have seen better looking and better-built phones for the same price. The Redmi K20 and Realme 7 Pro at this price range pamper my style-conscious self better than the Moto G 5G. The LCD display is good by all means but most consumers prefer the contrasty AMOLED displays that most phones in this category offer as standard. Additionally, there are cheaper phones than the Moto G 5G with a higher refresh rate. Realme and Redmi offer faster charging systems. These are areas where Motorola now needs to work on, given that it has now got the basics right.
How does it compare to the competition? The OnePlus Nord is pricier and it feels that way when you look at the overall package. It is superior to the Moto G 5G with its display, the Oxygen OS experience, faster charging, and better build quality. Compared to the Pixel 4A, the Moto G 5G is faster and will last longer but it still can’t match the Pixel camera experience. As for the Redmi K20, Realme 7 Pro, Poco X3, the Moto G 5G has a performance overhead so high that the other don’t stand a chance in terms of longevity and speed. The Realme X3 with its Snapdragon 855+ is still the fastest phone in this category.
Who should buy the Moto G 5G? If you seek a clean Android experience with strong performance, the Moto G 5G is for you. If you seek 1-day+ battery life, good camera performance, and a future-proof phone, you could consider the Moto G 5G. If you seek reliability, it is still the Moto G 5G that comes out on top.