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Motorola’s midrange Moto G Stylus 5G offers speedy connectivity, a big screen, and impressive battery life, but its main appeal is the built-in stylus.
Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G Specs
|Operating System||Android 12|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 695|
|Dimensions||6.6 by 3.0 by 0.4|
|Screen Size||6.8 inches|
|Screen Resolution||1,080 by 2,460 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||50MP, 8MP, 2MP; 16MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||13 hours, 10 minutes|
Motorola’s refreshed Moto G Stylus 5G smartphone ($499.99) sits right in the midrange sweet spot and, unlike most devices in its class, features a built-in stylus. It also has a large, high-speed screen; excellent battery life; and competitive internal hardware. The handset disappoints, however, when it comes to camera performance and a limited update commitment from Motorola. The less expensive and Editors’ Choice-winning Google Pixel 5a ($449) remains a more future-proof midrange Android offering with better cameras and superior update commitment despite its lack of stylus. The Moto G Stylus, though, might sway digital artists and others who don’t want to spend $1,199 or more on the pen-equipped Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
It’s All About the Screen
The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G looks decent, if a little nondescript, and is available in two colors: Seafoam Green or Steel Blue (pictured in this review). It’s a fairly large phone, measuring 6.6 by 3.0 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 7.6 ounces. Compared with the $449 Samsung Galaxy A53 5G (6.3 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches, 6.7 ounces), the extra size and weight is noticeable, though remember that the Moto is accommodating a built-in stylus.
The handset features a 6.8-inch, FHD+ LCD with a respectable 2,460-by-1,080-pixel resolution. What makes the screen stand out is its 120Hz refresh rate; most phones at this price stick with either 60Hz or 90Hz panels. The faster refresh rate leads to a smoother experience when switching between apps on the home screen, browsing the web, and playing games. This advantage is obvious in side by side testing with the Moto G 5G ($399), which includes a 90Hz screen.
Beyond the refresh rate, the screen’s 20.5:9 aspect ratio and resolution are sufficient for daily operations. I didn’t have much trouble with glare in bright sunlight, though the image does degrade a bit, and extreme viewing angles don’t pose any problems. The display isn’t the sharpest or brightest you can find, but it meets our expectations for the price.
The bottom edge of the phone packs a single downward-firing speaker, a USB-C port, a headphone jack, and a stylus slot. As is typical with single speakers, it’s light on bass. Our test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” revealed minimal distortion at maximum volume levels.
The handset has an IP52 rating, which doesn’t inspire too much confidence. It is protected from sweat and light splashing only. For comparison, the Google Pixel 5a and the Samsung Galaxy A53 both offer a more impressive IP67 rating that protects against full water submersion.
I’ve never found much use for a smartphone stylus, but the one here works well. It feels like the stylus you might get from a more expensive phone, which is to say it isn’t light or flimsy. It doesn’t include a button for secondary actions or any of the motion-based tricks of the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s S Pen. The display is sensitive to 4,096 levels of pressure, so using the stylus for drawing or anything that requires precision isn’t a problem. When you remove the stylus from its slot, a software menu pops up with shortcuts to several stylus-optimized apps for jotting notes, opening a coloring book, drawing a picture, or making a GIF. These tools work smoothly, but the features seem like a better fit for a tablet than a smartphone.
You also get microSD memory card support for up to 1TB of storage. The phone actually ships with a 256GB microSD card preinstalled, giving you 512GB total out of the box.
Finally, there’s a fingerprint reader built into the side-mounted power button. I found it to be very accurate during testing.
Price to Performance Ratio on Par
The Moto G Stylus 5G runs on the Snapdragon 695 5G platform, which is faster than the Moto G 5G’s MediaTek Dimensity 700 chip. The model we tested has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, whereas the regular Moto G is limited to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
This spec bump is appreciated, and the benchmark results underscore the performance differential. For instance, on the PCMark Work 3.0 test, the Moto G Stylus 5G rated 10,025, appreciably higher than the Moto G’s 7,880. The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G managed to score 11,675 on the same test. Moving to Geekbench, the Moto G Stylus 5G turned in scores of 669 and 1,913 for the single- and multi-core tests, respectively. Those results are consistent with the Galaxy A53, which rated 728 and 1,826.
Benchmarks don’t always tell the whole story, and we were impressed with the phone’s everyday performance. It handled most apps just fine and only slowed down when we ran graphically rich games. Speaking of which, the phone has a basic gaming overlay that lets you stream to Twitch, set the frame rate, and block notifications. These improve the gaming experience some.
For example, Alto’s Odyssey is a basic game that can run on just about any hardware and the phone handled it without issue. We also installed Rocket League Sideswipe to test speed and reactions. The Moto G Stylus 5G had no problems here, either.
To fully tax the GPU, we installed Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile. Genshin Impact ran well at the lowest settings; it is playable at medium settings if you are willing to sacrifice frame rates. The handset had no problems with PUBG Mobile with the low-resolution texture pack installed.
A $500 phone is never going to rival a flagship like the Galaxy S22+ or the iPhone 13 in terms of gaming, but the Moto G Stylus 5G does an admirable job for half the price. Moreover, gameplay on the 120Hz screen is a bit smoother than on the Moto G 5G’s 90Hz panel.
The phone’s 5,000mAh battery exceeds expectations. The Moto G Stylus 5G lasted 13 hours and 10 minutes in our battery drain test. Last year’s Moto G Stylus hung around for 15 hours and 30 minutes on the same test, though its 60Hz display doesn’t require as much power. Google’s Pixel 5a (12 hours and 9 minutes) and Samsung’s Galaxy A53 (12 hours and 30 minutes) didn’t last quite as long as the newer Motorola in testing.
The Moto G Stylus 5G supports Quick Charge 3.0, but the box includes only a 10W charger. We charged the phone to 11% in 15 minutes and to 100% in 2 hours and 55 minutes fairly standard charging times for a 10W charger. If you want faster charging, you’ll need to purchase a Quick Charge 3.0 adapter separately. The phone doesn’t support wireless charging, and at this price we wouldn’t expect it to.
Making the Connection
The Moto G Stylus 5G comes in two basic configurations: one with both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G that’s locked to Verizon, and one with sub-6GHz 5G only that’s sold unlocked. Few phones at this price include mmWave, which facilitates the fastest possible data speeds if you’re in an area with proper coverage. That gives the Verizon model a leg up on competitors, but our unlocked review unit didn’t allow us to evaluate mmWave performance. Compared with the Pixel 5a on Verizon, we didn’t notice any difference in network speeds or call connection quality.
NFC support is on board for contactless payments, a bonus over the non-stylus Moto G 5G. Bluetooth 5.1 is available for listening via wireless headphones, though you might prefer the wired 3.5mm jack, which is also present.
Wi-Fi performance was solid and comparable with the cheaper Moto G both near to and far from my router. When pitted against an iPhone 12 Pro Max, the Moto G Stylus 5G was slower close to the access point, but faster near the Wi-Fi signal’s outer range.
Phone calls sound great. We had no trouble hearing people on calls in relatively loud areas when we turned the volume to the max. The other party also said they could hear us clearly, as well. The mic let a bit of background noise in, but not to the extent that it ruined our conversations.
The headset and speakerphone volumes are in line with other devices. Our sound reader recorded a maximum result of 93.6dB when held against the earpiece and 99.9dB when positioned about 6 inches from the speakerphone. For comparison, the Moto G 5G is slightly quieter, with peak levels of 90.3dB and 86.3dB for the earpiece and speaker, respectively.
Decent Daytime Snapshots Only
The cameras on the Moto G Stylus 5G perform in line with the price and thus won’t blow you away. The primary camera uses a 50MP sensor with an aperture of f/1.9. It bins images down by a factor of four to 12.5MP, which is supposed to help improve low-light performance. The phone adds an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera with a 118-degree field of view and macro capabilities, and a 2MP depth sensor at f/2.4 for assistance with portraits.
We tested the Moto G Stylus 5G against both the midrange Pixel 5a and the flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max. Daytime photos from the Motorola look clean and crisp, though we prefer the images from the Pixel 5a, which are a little sharper with more natural color. The iPhone produced the most pleasing daytime photos of the group, as expected, but they’re not dramatically better than those from either of the cheaper phones.
Low-light and close-up shots, however, reveal the weaknesses of Motorola’s cameras. For example, colors appear washed out in low-light shots and there’s more noise. Up close, the Moto G Stylus 5G’s camera demonstrate limited range in terms of just how close you can get. The Pixel 5a and the iPhone 12 Max Pro simply do better in these environments.
The 16MP, f/2.2 selfie camera takes solid selfies in portrait mode. However, its default beautification feature is too aggressive and leads to unnatural results. Thankfully, you can turn this option off.
For capturing video, you get the ability to record 1080p videos at up to 60fps. With this resolution and frame rate, you’re not going to get the high quality offered by a flagship with 4K recording, but the videos we recorded in testing looked solid.
Limited Software Upgrades
Motorola is far from the market leader in terms of device upgrade policies, and that’s a mark against it and the Moto G Stylus 5G. The phone ships with Android 12 and will eventually be updated to Android 13 but that’s it. It will receive three years of security updates to help keep the latest threats at bay, but that’s less of a commitment than some competitors offer. If major software updates are important to you (and they should be), the Galaxy A53 and Pixel 5a are better choices thanks to their two and three major Android upgrades, respectively.
The phone’s Android 12 skin is fairly close to Google’s clean build and there isn’t too much bloatware. A helpful (and removable) Welcome to Moto app introduces you to the basics of the phone, but not much else.
Using the Android 12 skin feels comfortable. Flipping between screens throughout the OS is snappy and smooth.
An Affordable Galaxy S22 Ultra Alternative
The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G ($499) meets expectations in just about every category, as long as those expectations are tempered by its midrange stature. It packs solid internal hardware, a long-lasting battery, fast 5G connectivity, and a built-in stylus. If you can make peace with its lackluster software upgrade policy and unremarkable cameras, it’s worth a look, particularly because of its status as an affordable alternative to the S Pen-toting Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. If you aren’t sold on the stylus, the Google Pixel 5a, the upcoming Pixel 6a, and the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G are strong alternatives. And if you aren’t committed to Android, the iPhone SE ($429) remains an excellent value.