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Moto G 5G hands-on review: Good phone, better battery

Motorola is a mixed bag when it comes to smartphones, and the Moto G 5G marks a really interesting moment in the company’s tenure. If you’re looking for flashy flagships, the modern Motorola Razr brings folding touchscreens to the party while the Moto Edge+ boasts high-end materials and tons of bells and whistles. The Moto G 5G doesn’t really have a seat at that table.

Available starting now at most major retailers for $400, the Moto G 5G sits more firmly on the low end of the mid-tier space. And that can be a dangerous place for a smartphone to be. Budget phones in the $200 price range have obvious trade-offs that most budget smartphone buyers can live with. But for twice that price, how many corners can be cut?

I got my hands on the Moto G 5G to test it out for two weeks to determine what exactly its strong suits and weak points are. I’ll be getting into them further in the following sections, but the TL;DR of this is: The phone is created for average users. It sports a solid processor, a decent camera array, and a high refresh rate screen. That same screen feels a little washed-out in the color response, and the build quality leaves something to be desired. But the battery … oh, the battery. Want to know more? Read on.

A person holding a Moto G 5G smartphone up to their ear
Moto g 5G

The good: A reliable handset

The Moto G 5G checks a lot of boxes, and I don’t mean that in an exemplary sense. Motorola took the time to figure out the bar that needed to be cleared, and just barely sailed over it. Take the camera system for instance. On paper, the main 50 MP f/1.8 camera system should deliver exceptional shots, while the 12.5 MP ultrawide and the 2MP macro setup should keep up. However, because you aren’t getting world-class processing on this phone liken with an Apple or Google device, things felt mostly just fine.

Now, just because the processor doesn’t offer a focus on image handling doesn’t mean that this phone is slow. Part of that snappiness is thanks to the screen’s refresh rate, which I’ll get into in a later section. But, the Mediatek Dimensity 700 punches well at exactly this mid-tier performance level. Benchmarks put the processing right on par with other Dimensity phones I’ve tried like the Blu F91, and it chewed through basic everyday tasks (for me, that’s YouTube videos and emails) with tremendous ease. It does show its roughness when trying to do some light gaming, but all in all, I’m going to call the processor here a win.

A hand holding the Moto G 5G smartphone with the homescreen displayed
Moto G 5G

The bad: A lackluster look and feel

When tempering expectations, it’s honestly hard to call anything “bad” on a phone like this (see my sentence above about just barely clearing bars). But there are a couple of rough spots that I think are important to note here. First, the design and build — this phone only comes in one color at launch (a boringly safe Midnight Gray) and features a pretty sizable chin bezel on the front. And because the chassis surrounding the glass screen is made entirely of affordable plastic, the phone just looks and feels meh.

Then there’s the display itself. I find it hard to parse this category for the G 5G because you’ll see some high praise for the display technology in the next section. However, the 6.5-inch, 1600-by-720 pixel display just looks soft and washy to my eyes. From browsing content to taking photos, I struggled the entire time to really feel excited to interact with this panel — even at peak brightness settings. This is probably the biggest drawback to this phone, because a device’s day-to-day experience lives and dies by the screen through which you interact that device. It isn’t the worst display I’ve used, to be fair, and will work fine for most average users, but if you want something bright, vibrant, and crisp, you won’t find it here.

The Moto G 5G smartphone sitting face down on a table
Moto g 5G review

The awesome: Battery for days

Though, your mileage may vary. By far the best aspect of this phone is its battery life. Because the display isn’t pushing an insanely bright or dense pixel array, it manages to conserve power extraordinarily well. That is thanks in part to the 5,000 milliamp-hour battery under the hood. Motorola promises that you’ll get “up to two days” of battery life on the phone, and while that is optimistic, I was routinely getting 36 hours of reliable use before charging. Obviously, heavier processing like gaming and multitasking (which I didn’t partake in too much) will hamper that battery life. In the end, this is honestly one of the best batteries I’ve used on a smartphone.

That battery life is incredibly impressive when you factor in that the phone sports a 90-hertz adaptive refresh rate display. So, while it isn’t the brightest or sharpest, it certainly is one of the snappiest-feeling panels I’ve used at this price point. Of course, there are battery implications when setting the phone to always 90 hertz, but on the adaptive setting, I was swiping and swooping around the UI with incredibly satisfying ease without much effect at all to the battery. If you do run low on battery, there’s a 10-watt charger in the box to top this thing off in just an hour or two. Finally, when you factor in that it’s also a 5G-capable device — compatible with most major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and T Mobile — then it starts to feel like a pretty modern offering.

A hand holding the Moto G 5G smartphone with the selfie camera opened, depicting a man holding a separate camera
Moto G 5G review

The bottom line: Who should buy it

But this all brings me back to price. I find a phone like this frustratingly hard to evaluate. If it was even a $299 phone, it would be a resounding “buy” rating for me. However, with so many excellent phones out there at the $400 price point (looking at you, iPhone SE 3), you really do have to consider what you’re paying for. Motorola is offering the phone for $350 for a limited time at launch, so if you can scoop it up for that price, it could be a good buy. The Moto G 5G is reliable, it does have a world-class battery, and you are getting a 90-hertz panel, which is hard to come by without going to the flagship level. You aren’t getting a great display, though, and the build quality is decidedly budget. At the end of the day, it’s an easy phone to recommend for those who just don’t really care about having the best, but it’s not the easiest recommendation if money is a linchpin for you.

The Moto G 5G is available unlocked now on major carriers including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and more.

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