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Moto G Stylus and G Power hands-on review: Bigger, better and still cheap

Motorola's budget champ just grew up

Moto G Stylus, left, and Moto G Power
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Challengers are nipping at Motorola's heels for the title of best budget smartphone. But the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power look to offer compelling features at a low price.

For

  • Large batteries
  • Triple rear cameras
  • Affordable prices
  • 128GB storage in the Moto G Stylus
  • Action Cam is very handy

Against

  • Design feels a bit cheap
  • No built-in handwriting transcription

CHICAGO — Over the last few years, the Moto G series has been one of our perennial go-to recommendations for an inexpensive smartphone with respectable performance. That said, the competition has definitely caught up to and — in some respects — exceeded Moto's efforts as of late.

Between Samsung's revamped Galaxy A series, Nokia's aggressively-priced propositions and — lest we forget — Google's compelling Pixel 3a at the top end, Motorola has never been under more pressure to retain its footing in the segment. Fortunately, the new Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power seem up to the task, and certainly within striking distance of our list of the best cheap phones

We traveled to Motorola's Chicago headquarters to have a look at the company's reinvigorated Moto G range; these are our first impressions of the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power.

Moto G Stylus and G Power price

While you may see devices called the Moto G8 sold in select regions, in the U.S., there will be just two new G models — and, interestingly, Motorola has decided to drop the established numbering convention for both of them. The Moto G Power is the less expensive of the two, at $249, while the Moto G Stylus will cost $299.

Both will be offered through carrier channels as well as unlocked for GSM and CDMA networks alike, and they each exclusively come in one color: Smoke Black for the Moto G Power, and Mystic Indigo for the Moto G Stylus. They'll hit stores this spring.


Moto G PowerMoto G Stylus
Price$249$299
Screen Size (Resolution)6.4-inch Full-HD+ LCD6.4-inch Full-HD+ LCD
OSAndroid 10Android 10
ProcessorSnapdragon 665Snapdragon 665
RAM4GB4GB
Storage64GB128GB
Rear CameraTriple: 16MP main (ƒ/1.7); 2MP macro (ƒ/2.2); 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2)Triple: 48MP main (ƒ/1.7); 2MP macro (ƒ/2.2); 16MP ultrawide Action Cam (ƒ/2.2)
Front Camera16MP (ƒ/2.0)16MP (ƒ/2.0)
Battery4,000 mAh5,000 mAh
Weight7.01 ounces6.77 ounces
ColorSmoke BlackMystic Indigo

Moto G Stylus standing up, from front

Moto G Stylus (Image credit: Future)

Moto G Stylus and G Power design and display

Motorola's G series handsets have always been rather unassuming in terms of design, and that hasn't changed much for the G Stylus and G Power. Both phones look pretty much identical, save for the fact that the G Power is a hair thicker to accommodate a larger battery.

They also both feature 6.4-inch Full-HD+ LCD displays, and are made from polycarbonate all around, with triple-lens rear cameras and capacitive fingerprint sensors on the back, and hole-punch selfie cameras lodged in the top left corners of their displays up front.

Because their exteriors are fully made from plastic, and because Motorola has opted for a glossy, subtly-reflective finish on the back of these devices, the new G series unfortunately feel as cheap as their low prices suggest. Granted, they're not offensively flimsy or poorly made or anything of that sort, but because of the particular materials used, this is one of those cases where buyers should expect to get what they pay for.

Moto G Stylus from front, with stylus

Moto G Stylus (Image credit: Future)

Last but certainly not least, we must talk about the G Stylus' namesake feature. Don't expect a Bluetooth-connected stylus here; it's literally a pen with a capacitive tip that slots into the bottom right corner of the phone. Motorola's stylus also doesn’t allow for handwriting-to-text transcription out of the box, which is a popular feature among Note users, and will likely be missed by those entertained by the prospect of an affordable phablet.

There's no push-in-pop-out mechanic here, though the stylus is still easy to pry out with a fingernail. When you do remove it, you'll instantly see a stack of shortcuts pop up on screen, allowing you to quickly capture a screenshot, take a note, or open another pre-selected favorite app, like Google Keep on our demo unit. And if you pull the stylus out when the screen is off, the device will instantly open up a fresh note ready and waiting for you.

Moto G Stylus, left, and Moto G Power, from back

Moto G Stylus, left, and Moto G Power (Image credit: Future)

Moto G Stylus and G Power cameras

No matter which Moto G you opt for, you’ll get three cameras on the back. The G Power receives a 16-megapixel primary sensor along with a 2MP macro lens and 8MP 118-degree ultra-wide shooter. The pricier G Stylus ups the ante with a 48MP main camera and a 16MP Action Cam designed solely for capturing ultra-wide video, while carrying over the same macro optic.

The G Stylus' 48MP lens employs quad-pixel binning, combining four megapixels on the image sensor into one to let more light in. Both phones support Motorola's Night Vision mode, which uses a combination of a long shutter time and software processing to improve low-light photography.

But the Action Cam on the G Stylus is perhaps the line's standout camera feature. Carried over from last year's Motorola One Action, this lens can capture landscape video even when held vertically, which makes one-handed recording so much easier in a pinch. There's also a button that appears when rolling video that allows you to grab snapshots in the moment, which is useful as well.

Motorola's trademark Cinemagraph and Spot Color modes return on both G models for 2020. While they're unchanged from how they were implemented on previous devices, the process of marking up photos for areas where you want to preserve motion or restrict color is made easier on the G Stylus, thanks to the pen.

Moto G Stylus bottom edge with stylus exposed

Moto G Stylus (Image credit: Future)

Moto G Stylus and G Power battery

Previous Moto G phones made long battery life an optional feature, because you had to buy a particular model for the privilege. Not so for 2020, as Motorola has gifted both the Moto G Stylus and G Power with big batteries: 4,000 mAh in the Stylus, and 5,000 mAh in the Power.

Propelled by those batteries, Motorola says you can expect two days of longevity out of the Stylus, and three days out of the Power. Unfortunately, because the adapter packaged with both phones tops out at 10 watts, they likely won’t be the quickest to recharge — though, ideally, you won’t be needing to charge very often. Last year’s Moto G7 Power endured our battery test for an astonishing 15-and-a-half-hours, making it the longest-lasting smartphone we've tested in the last 18 months. Needless to say, we look forward to see how its successor compares.

Moto G Stylus and G Power performance

Under the hood, the Moto G Stylus and G Power utilize the same Snapdragon 665 processor with 4GB of RAM. Storage varies depending on the model. While the Power offers 64GB of onboard memory, the Stylus provides a generous 128GB. And that’s even before you add a microSD card, which will allow you to raise that allotment even higher should you need more space for apps, games and photos.

Moto G Stylus and G Power software

Motorola is shipping both of its new G series phones with Android 10. And although they’re not technically Android One devices, they still run a pretty clean, pure-Google installation of the OS, with Google Photos as the default gallery app, and Google Messages for texting.

However, Motorola’s handy shortcuts — like twisting to launch the camera and chopping to turn on the flashlight — are still present, as well as a Dolby Audio tuning app designed to help you get the most out of both handsets’ stereo speakers. There’s also a new Moto Gametime app, that should offer quicker access to gaming-centric settings and controls when you’re playing your favorite titles.

Outlook

There doesn’t seem to be much not to like about the new Moto G line, and that’s always encouraging in the world of budget smartphones. Both the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power appear to hit all the right notes: they’re more powerful than their predecessors, they’re equipped with massive batteries, and this time Motorola hasn’t raised their prices — which is a rare feat nowadays, as costs continue to rise across all phone categories.

The cheap-feeling build is a bit disappointing but understandable, and we’re curious to discover how, if at all, the addition of a stylus will transform the Moto G experience. For that answer, you’ll have to stay tuned for our full reviews of both devices later this year.