Moto G5S review

The Moto G5 puts on a snazzy suit

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Interface and reliability

  • Android Nougat
  • Motorola tweaks can improve quality of life

One of the most appealing things about Motorola’s phones over the years has been its commitment to a near-stock Android experience. The Moto G5S is no different.

You’re getting an extremely clean version of Android 7.1 Nougat here (with an update to Android 8 Oreo planned). The notification screen, settings menu, multitasking stack and app tray all look reassuringly familiar.

You must drag up from the bottom of the home screen to access the latter, but even that’s a feature you’ll find in certain vanilla iterations of Android.

Swipe left from the home screen and you’ll reach the ever-handy Google Now screen with contextual ‘cards’ containing relevant news and information.

Google has progressed more with its voice activated Google Assistant (available here with a hold of the virtual home button) of late, but we still have a soft spot for Google Now, and its easy-access presence is welcome here.

Motorola’s take on Android isn’t without its embellishments, but they’re generally understated and thoughtfully implemented. There’s a custom widget at the top of the home screen by default, which contains the weather, date, and time in a distinctive Moto circle.

You also get a handy lock screen notification system called Moto Display, which lets you preview incoming messages and emails by pressing and holding on the appropriate icon.

Then there are Motorola’s gestures. We’re still not convinced that twisting the phone twice in the air is the most instinctive or intuitive way to shortcut to the camera (a double tap of the power button seems to work best), but it’s surprisingly reliable.

You can also set the torch function to a double chop motion, flip the phone for ‘Do not disturb,’ swipe to shrink the screen for one-handed usage (more useful on the larger Moto G5S Plus than here) and pick the phone up to stop it ringing.

Both Moto Display and Moto Actions are fully tweakable through the bundled Moto app.

This also lets you play with the function of the fingerprint sensor. Flip the toggle and it will revert to a more traditional home button function, but swiping left and right on it will need to act as your back and multitasking commands as well, which feels a little odd.

Through all this, Motorola’s light touch with the Android platform leads to a fluid and stable experience even on the Moto G5S’s less-than-premium hardware.

One little curiosity we found was that the phone would often tell us that we had a much lower mobile signal than normal - or even none at all - but it never seemed to interfere with actual call quality.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Screen is great for media
  • Pure Google media offering

The smaller screen on the Moto G5S means that it’s not quite as good for video playback as the Moto G5S Plus, but it’s no slouch.

Full HD movies and YouTube content render well on the bright, balanced 5.2-inch 1080p screen.

The same holds true for games. Whether it’s a moody 3D shooter like Xenowerk or a stylish 2D racer like Data Wing, the Moto G5S’s bright and sharp display renders it well. Nothing we ran through the Moto G5S caused it to struggle either, barring the odd dropped frame.

The solitary bottom-mounted speaker is neither ideally placed nor particularly great, but it gets the job done for shorter videos and games. You’ll want to use the 3.5mm jack for any long-form content - or, needless to say, for music.

Motorola doesn’t provide any needless duplication on the media app front. This is a Google-only affair, which is just fine with us. Google Play Music is a decent music player (and a good subscription service should you need one), and the Google Play Movies app provides a whole stack of movie and TV content to buy or rent.

Any other service you wish to use (such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video) is only an app download away through the Google Play Store.

There’s also an FM Radio app here, which is really quite quaint. Maybe it could be useful if you have a limited data allowance and a hankering for old fashioned live radio over podcasts?

Performance and benchmarks

  • No advancement from the G5 on power
  • Real world usage is hitch-free

The S in G5S sure doesn’t stand for ‘Speed’. That’s not to say the phone is slow, as such. Rather that it runs on exactly the same Snapdragon 430 chipset with 3GB of RAM as the standard Moto G5.

It’s a shame that Motorola didn’t bump things up to the Snapdragon 625, as it did with the Moto G5S Plus.

Perhaps more important in terms of general navigation and smoothness is that the Snapdragon chip is backed by the same 3GB of RAM, which is seemingly the minimum requirement for a hitch-free Android experience these days.

You can see the processing gap between the two G5S models when you examine the Geekbench 4 results. While the G5S Plus yielded a multicore score of 4,312, the smaller G5S only managed 2,294. 

That’s in keeping with the results we got from the original G5, but it’s only half as good as its supposed brother.

There’s really no issue in real world usage, where the Moto G5S runs just fine. But know that you’re not getting any kind of a performance boost for your £60 premium.