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Moto G 5G (2023) review: far too little for far too much

The Moto G 5G laying on a table.
Moto G 5G (2023)
MSRP $249.99
“Even with a low price of $250, the Moto G 5G (2023) isn't a phone we can recommend. It's slow, unreliable, and outdone by the competition.”
Pros
  • Nice design
  • Good battery life
Cons
  • Poor camera quality
  • Bluetooth connection issues
  • Clunky user experience
  • LCD screen lacks sharpness
  • Frustrating fingerprint sensor
  • Only one OS upgrade

When it comes to cheap smartphones, it’s always important to remember that they aren’t going to be outfitted with the most cutting-edge hardware or run like their flagship counterparts. However, even with all of those things in mind, the Moto G 5G (2023) is still a letdown. While much of its shortcomings can be explained away with the simple reminder that it only costs $250, it’s lacking in so many areas that using it feels like a chore.

That $250 price tag might be enough to warrant a purchase for some, but based on my experience with the phone, you’ll likely be able to get much better than what the Moto G 5G is offering. That’s not to say that there’s nothing of value here, but rather that the well-designed parts of the smartphone are so heavily clouded by the numerous frustrating parts that it makes them difficult to see at all.

Moto G 5G (2023): design

The Moto G 5G held to show off its USB-C charging port, speakers, and headphone jack.
Peter Hunt Szpytek/Digital Trends

The design of the Moto G 5G (2023) is actually the one place where I think it shines brightest. The phone is sleek and reminiscent of the most recent iPhones with its sharper edges and rounded corners. The 6.5-inch display is plenty big, even with the thicker bezel that appears toward the bottom of the screen, which doesn’t detract too much from the rest of the display. All of its buttons are relegated to its right side, similar to many other Android devices, with a discrete lock button and a two-toned singular button for volume control.

The right side of the phone is reserved exclusively for its SIM and microSD card slot, and the bottom edge hosts a USB-C charging port, speakers, and a headphone jack. While I didn’t personally use the headphone jack, it’s always a nice feature to see, as it gives flexible audio-listening options for users.

The back of the Moto G 5G showing off its cameras.
Peter Hunt Szpytek/Digital Trends

On the rear of the device is the raised camera island, which houses the Moto G 5G’s flashlight, as well as its two camera lenses: a 48MP main camera and a 2MP macro lens. Like many of the other Motorola smartphones, the center of the Moto G 5G (2023) backside features the Motorola logo engraved in a silver color. The Moto G 5G is available in two colors: Harbor Gray and Ink Blue. Both are solid color options that give the phone a professional look for those looking for a more subtle, darker color option, as well as those who prefer a brighter, more noticeable style.

At only 6.67 ounces, the phone is comfortable to hold, especially for longer calls and text exchanges, thanks to how light and how well-sized it is. For the same reasons, it’s easy to slip into front and back pockets and can easily fit into handbags of all sizes, especially smaller ones.

The Moto G 5G 2023, in silver, lying on a desk.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

While most of the Moto G 5G’s design is rock-solid, the one place I take issue is with its lock button and how it interacts with the user experience. The button doubles as its fingerprint sensor, which is always an issue for me. Because the phone automatically unlocks when my finger touches the button, it can be difficult to actually lock the phone since locking it requires you to press the button. Similarly, picking up the phone to look at the time or a notification often results in fully unlocking it since your finger naturally ends up resting close to the button.

The phone is sleek and reminiscent of the most recent iPhones with its sharper edges and rounded corners.

Moments like this happen pretty often, resulting in several-second exchanges where all I wanted to do was look at the time, but found myself in a wrestling match with the phone as it kept locking and unlocking itself. The fingerprint sensor can be turned off, and you can use Face Unlock in its place, but it’s far less secure and only good for bypassing the lock screen.

The lock screen/fingerprint scanner issue has been one I’ve had with other Motorola phones, so if that’s not something that bothers you, then don’t pay it too much mind. However, I found myself feeling constantly interrupted by the phone due to how long it would take to pick up and put down when wanting to do simple lock screen activities.

Moto G 5G (2023): screen

Someone holding the Moto G 5G (2023) with the display turned on.
Peter Hunt Szpytek/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

The Moto G 5G (2023) has a 6.5-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1600 x 720 and 269 pixels per inch (ppi). While it does have a 120Hz refresh rate — a feature that’s impressive for a phone at this price — the screen is best described as serviceable. The screen gets the job done, but doesn’t offer much in terms of clarity when compared to similar devices that have moved on to OLED screens or LCD screens with higher resolutions. Obviously, hardware upgrades like those can drive the price up, so it’s understandable that the Moto G 5G might suffer here due to its budget pricing.

The Moto G 5G’s LCD screen is decent, but falls into some pitfalls. Images often look a little washed-out, with blacks frequently turning the corner into a gray territory. Clarity and color can take a hit when not looking at the screen directly, and the dark theme is too bright when viewed in lowlight environments. These are all issues that aren’t exclusive to the Moto G 5G (2023), but are common among devices with cheaper LCD screens. While it can be a little too bright at night, the Moto G 5G fairs pretty well in direct sunlight, which makes using it outside simple and convenient.

As mentioned above, the 120Hz refresh rate is certainly impressive, especially seeing how some major flagships from other smartphone manufacturers are still launching without hitting that benchmark. Unfortunately, the experience of using the Moto G 5G (2023) is clunky and slow, so the refresh rate isn’t in service of much. It’s a nice feature to have, but isn’t being utilized to its fullest because of the hardware that’s housed behind the screen, which is a shame.

Moto G 5G (2023): software and performance

The Moto G 5G held in a hand with its screen illuminated as someone scrolls.
Peter Hunt Szpytek/Digital Trends

When it comes to software and performance, the Moto G 5G (2023) struggles. The smartphone runs on Android 13, however, using it generally feels sluggish and unresponsive on account of the phone’s Snapdragon 480+ processor and 4GB of RAM. Despite the high refresh rate that the screen offers, using the phone feels pretty slow as a result.

There were a handful of apps that crashed on me when trying to process too many inputs at once, which is to be expected given the phone’s specs, but was still frustrating each time it happened. The phone was able to run everything I opened, though the performance with each app was mixed.

A lot of apps cause the phone to slow to a stop for a few seconds when you select them as the Moto G 5G gets its bearings. It doesn’t happen with all apps; however, some of the most important ones tend to be slow to open, which is annoying. Basic things like the camera awkwardly cause performance to lurch when opened, which isn’t what you want, especially with something like the camera app, as being able to quickly get it open can be the difference between a great photo and something to delete off your camera roll.

While app crashes and performance issues are irritating, I was most let down by the Moto G 5G’s Bluetooth connection.

The area where I experienced the most frustration was when trying to multitask with an app running in the background. Non-taxing apps like Spotify didn’t give me much grief. However, the phone became a stuttering mess any time I tried to use something a little more processor-intense, like running Google Maps in the background as I tried to do other things. I wasn’t expecting the Moto G 5G (2023) to be a powerhouse by any stretch, but the fact that it struggled so much when running just two things at once was a disappointment.

The Moto G 5G 2023 standing upright on a couch.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

In terms of using the Moto G 5G for the essentials — things like social media apps, texting, streaming audio and video content, and maps — the phone performs fine enough, but you need to make sure that you’re only doing one thing while other apps are closed. Otherwise, you’ll completely tank the phone’s performance, making it impossible to do anything with either app.

While app crashes and performance issues are irritating, I was most let down by the Moto G 5G’s Bluetooth connection. When using wireless devices, I ran into issues each time I tried to set something up. Regardless of what I was trying to connect to, like wireless headphones or Android Auto, I would have to completely disconnect the phone between uses and re-pair the device . Bluetooth, in general, isn’t as seamless as I’d like it to be in 2023, but the Moto G 5G was downright abysmal in this regard

I ended up so frustrated with how long it took me to get set up with Android Auto that I stopped using it altogether and simply played music using the phone’s speakers. While the speakers are decent enough (if a little tinny when played at max volume), they certainly aren’t enough to stand in as car speakers.

As for updates, the Moto G 5G (2023) is only promised a single OS upgrade from Android 13 to Android 14. Once you get your single Android update, that’s it.

The Moto G 5G (2023) is only offered with 128GB of internal storage, though it can be expanded up to 1TB using a microSD card.

Moto G 5G (2023): cameras

Two Moto G 5G 2023 smartphones lying on top of each other.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

To put it bluntly: the cameras on the Moto G 5G (2023) are pretty poor. Its main 48MP lens only produces acceptable images when used in well-lit environments — any pictures taken without proper lighting turn into smudgy, pixelated messes.

This means that unless you’re inside an area that has high-intensity bulbs, there’s a small window of only a few hours during the day when taking pictures using the Moto G 5G will work. Even then, if the day is overcast or the room doesn’t have additional lighting, you might be out of luck when it comes to capturing quality images.

The front-facing 8MP camera is just as sketchy, requiring full lighting in order for pictures to be taken with any level of quality or clarity. The camera software is surprisingly deep, giving you options for things like the F stop and aperture. However, it’s all in service of lenses that won’t produce good results no matter how much care you put into the craft of actually taking the photo. The Moto G 5G (2023) offers a portrait mode, but it lacks any real clarity as well, so it’s hardly worth using.

One of the main draws for several of Motorola’s budget phones is the 2MP macro camera that’s meant to provide crisp, highly detailed images of small objects. The Moto G 5G (2023) is outfitted with the macro lens, but it’s hard to imagine too many situations where it would be useful. In order for it to work its best, you need to get within a few centimeters of your subject, which simply isn’t practical for most things that you might want to see up-close in high detail. And if you aren’t in the sweet spot of distance from your subject, the image will come out unfocused and blurry.

As far as neat gimmicks go, the macro camera is fun to play around with for a few minutes, but I never thought to use it in my day-to-day. Because it has the same issues as the main lens regarding lighting, the shadow of my hand and the phone itself often posed issues as well.

All in all, the Moto G 5G’s cameras are hardly a selling point for anyone who’s concerned about capturing quality images of their memories. It certainly can take photos, but I’d recommend letting someone else take the picture when taking a group shot.

Moto G 5G (2023): battery and charging

The back of the Moto G 5G (2023).
Peter Hunt Szpytek/Digital Trends

The Moto G 5G (2023) actually has an impressive battery that will be able to get you through the day without issue. Thanks to its 5,000mAh cell, I had little issue making it to the end of the day, with plenty of battery to spare with moderate usage. Obviously, this sort of thing will vary depending on how much a person is using their phone during the day, but as someone who watches videos on their phone during lunch breaks, checks social media periodically, and makes plenty of calls and texts, I didn’t have any issues.

While the battery life is solid, I don’t think it’s as good as Motorola claims. The company promises that the Moto G 5G’s battery will last you two full days, which wasn’t the case for me. It could have certainly gotten me an hour or two into my second day if not charged overnight, but it would have to be a very phone-light day for it to stretch to 48 hours of use. It’s solid performance in this aspect, that’s for sure, but definitely not what Motorola is saying.

Unfortunately, the Moto G 5G (2023) doesn’t support wireless charging. That’s to be expected when using more modestly priced phones since wireless charging is usually reserved for flagships. However, its absence was certainly felt. Having to use a cable to charge isn’t the end of the world, but it can be a hassle in certain situations.

In terms of charging speed, the Moto G 5G supports 15-watt charging, which, to me, feels like the bare minimum to expect from smartphones at this point. It’s not particularly fast, but if you’ve got a charger that can hit those 15W speeds, you should be able to get some decent charging done in a relatively short amount of time.

Take note, however, that the phone doesn’t come with a charging brick in the box, so your experience in this regard will be reliant on what sort of charger you have at the ready.

Moto G 5G (2023): price and availability

The Moto G 5G laying on a desk.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends
The Moto G 5G (2023) retails for $250 and is only available with 128GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM. The phone comes in two colors, but the price is the same for both models. It can currently be bought directly through Motorola, or you’ll be able to find it on the shelves of most electronics retailers.

Moto G 5G (2023): verdict

The Moto G 5G held in a hand with its screen illuminated.
Peter Hunt Szpytek/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

All told, there’s not much that the Moto G 5G (2023) offers that would make me recommend it. Its performance is slow, the cameras are middling, its screen is fine at best, and its fingerprint scanner makes for a frustrating user experience when simply trying to lock the phone.

For $250, you can do far better with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy A14, which retails for just $200. If you’re able to spend just $50 more, you can even pick up the Moto G Power 5G, which does everything that the Moto G 5G does — but astronomically better. Similarly, the OnePlus Nord N30 5G is also available for $299 and is one of the best phones available at that price.

Given how compromised the experience of using the Moto G 5G (2023) is, I just don’t know why anyone would pick it up over the G Power other than to save $50. At $250, the Moto G 5G doesn’t justify its price in any area that counts. When compared to other phones at this price point, you’re better off spending your money elsewhere.

Editors' Recommendations

Peter Hunt Szpytek
A podcast host and journalist, Peter covers mobile news with Digital Trends and gaming news, reviews, and guides for sites…
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