OS: Android 11
Display: 6.8-inch LCD FHD+ (2400 x 1080)
Refresh rate: 60Hz
CPU: Snapdragon 480 5G
Rear cameras: 48MP (f/1.7) main, 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 5MP (f/2.2) macro, 2MP (f/2.4) depth
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.2)
Video: Up to 1080p at 60 fps
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:50
Colors: Cosmic Emerald
Size: 6.67 x 3.05 x 0.37 inches
Weight: 7.67 ounces
The Moto G Stylus 5G offers the same experience people loved about the original Moto G Stylus, but with 5G support and an improved stylus. The new model has a huge 6.8-inch FHD+ screen, 256GB of storage and a massive 5,000 mAh battery.
At $399, the Moto G Stylus 5G gets things done. It’s a decent value at best, especially with its shortcomings. For one, the cameras aren’t all that great, especially when compared to what the $349 Pixel 4a produces. For another, Motorola only offers one OS upgrade and two years of security patches for the Moto G Stylus.
That’s the wrong approach to updates. Just because someone chooses a budget phone doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve longer support.
Putting aside those flaws,our Moto G Stylus 5G review reveals some strengths that make this a good phone.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Price and availability
Motorola charges $399 for the Moto G Stylus 5G. The retail model comes with 256GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. You get sub-6GHz 5G and a new rounded stylus, too. The LTE-based Moto G Stylus 2021 cost $299 when it debuted earlier this year.
As you might expect from a Motorola budget phone, you can buy the Moto G Stylus 5G from a lot of retailers and carriers starting June 14. The phone is available at Best Buy, Amazon, B&H Photo and Walmart. AT&T and Cricket will also offer the phone, though pricing at those carriers hasn't been announced at time of writing.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Design
The Moto G Stylus 5G looks like it should cost more than $399. It’s got a glossy finish on top of a gorgeous dark green that unfortunately proves to be a fingerprint magnet. Motorola calls the color Cosmic Emerald, and that seems fitting. Otherwise, you’ve got a slab of a phone that is quite large.
Make no mistake, the 6.67 x 3.05 x 0.37-inch Moto G Stylus 5G won’t fit in some pockets, but that’s because it has a big screen, room for the stylus, and a large battery — a textbook example of tradeoffs.
The design of the Moto G Stylus 5G feels surprisingly modern, with slimish bezels on the front and a hole punch cutout in the display for the selfie cam. The four rear cameras and the flash are housed in a rectangular array in the top left corner on the back of the phone. The fingerprint sensor is built into the Moto logo on the rear. Both the power button and volume rocker are placed quite high up the right side. I have large hands, and I had trouble hitting the volume up when using the Moto G Stylus 5G one-handed.
The phone also comes with a headphone jack, which is nice to see these days. While many phones have moved onto the Bluetooth life, or make do with dongles and converters, Motorola seems to understand that some of its target market aren’t ready to do that.
I give Motorola credit for the Moto G Stylus 5G’s design. It’s quite a looker and it doesn’t suffer from the spartan looks many budget or midrange phones often fall prey to.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Display
For $399, you shouldn’t expect a beautiful display. That said, the one on the Moto G Stylus 5G is more than acceptable. It obviously won’t win any kind of awards, but for basic media consumption, swiping through your photo gallery, and chatting over video, it does very well. At 6.8 inches, it’s quite expansive with a FHD+ resolution to make sure that your text is nice and crisp.
Since this is an LCD panel, the blacks aren’t as deep as you’d find on an OLED screen and that’s readily apparent with the always-on display. There’s nothing wrong with this, but LCDs don’t benefit from dark mode battery savings like OLED panels often can.
In our lab testing, the Moto G Stylus 5G managed 130.6% of the sRGB spectrum and 92.5% of the more challenging DCI-P3 gamut. Compare this to the $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G, which also has an LCD — it managed 124.8% of the sRGB and 88.4% of the DCI-P3 gamuts. However, its Delta-E color accuracy score (where 0 is perfect) was quite high at 0.36 versus the Nord N10’s better 0.22.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Cameras
The Moto G Stylus 5G sports four cameras: a 48MP main, an 8MP ultrawide, a 5MP macro, and a 2MP depth sensor. While we’ve questioned the need for dedicated macro and depth cameras in the past (especially on budget phones), they’re here because Motorola thinks people want them. People are impressed by larger numbers, so including four cameras as a selling point was probably a no brainer for Motorola, even if their utility is dubious at best.
I brought the Pixel 4a with me for comparison, since it’s the best photography experience for less than $400 and one of the best camera phones overall. And with its single lens, Google’s phone should be at a disadvantage to the Moto G Stylus 5G, at least on paper.
That wasn’t the case in practice, though. In this first photo outside of these flowers, the Moto G Stylus 5G proved underwhelming. The Pixel 4a captured the vibrant pinkish tones of the flowers and the red of the flag, remaining quite true to life. The Moto G Stylus, meanwhile, looks somewhat oversaturated in comparison, almost like you’d see on a Samsung phone. It’s a lively photo, but some details are lost as the saturation is cranked up.
In this second outdoor shot, you can see a similar thing happen again. The Moto G Stylus 5G produced a fine photo, but it went too heavy on the colors, especially with the flowers and the cardinal on the sign. We see more natural colors in the Pixel 4a’s shot, and it’s all around a better photo with better contrast.
Heading inside, both phones are pretty neck and neck with this statue of Merida. However, the differences come down to brightness. The Moto G Stylus 5G went for a moodier tone, warming the shot up and keeping the exposure a bit lower. The Pixel 4a took advantage of all the copious amount of light in the room to produce a bright picture. Neither image is bad, but I like the Pixel’s effort a lot more because of its brightness and color capture.
For portrait mode, neither phone did very well. The background blur is minimal at best in both the Moto G Stylus 5G’s image and the Pixel 4a’s, but the Moto gets the slightest edge in this shot. The Pixel 4a opts for a higher zoom, making it ideal for a true portrait, but the Moto’s zoomed out approach is easier to use in real life when photographing someone. It’s a matter of preference, and on higher end Pixels, the zoomed-in style tends to look better. Perhaps neither of these budget phones has the processing chops to produce a jaw-dropping portrait like the iPhone 12 or Pixel 5.
In night mode, the Moto G Stylus 5G did quite well, though it didn’t quite live up to Google’s Night Sight on the Pixel 4a. The Moto’s image is also a bit noisier and the focus on the grill is softer. The Pixel’s photo is bright enough to make out details on the grill itself and is the clear winner here.
The Moto G Stylus 5G has a 16MP front camera. Once again, you can see two different approaches to the final images. The Moto is way too orange, making me look like I have a bit of a tan. The green in the bushes behind me also looks weird. The Pixel 4a’s selfie is more natural-looking, matching my skin tone and the green behind much better.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Video
The Moto G Stylus 5G supports up to 1080p at 60 frames per second for video recording. I took a short clip while out for a walk and the video came out just fine. Colors looked a bit washed out and the stabilization was okay. The phone’s microphone picked up my voice and the sounds of the neighborhood around me (including the cicadas).
Like the Galaxy S21, the Moto G Stylus 5G lets you record video on both the front and rear cameras at the same time. That’s a handy feature if you’re vlogging or something.
Overall, recording video on the Moto G Stylus 5G is a fine experience, though it's pretty bare bones like you’d expect. However, there are plenty of editing tweaks you can play with in post, like color pop.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Performance
Powered by a Snapdragon 480 5G, the Moto G Stylus 5G isn’t going to hold a candle to more expensive phones, and that’s fine. However, we shouldn’t forget about the $399 iPhone SE (2020), which is the best price-to-performance smartphone out there. Nothing in Android land at $399 comes close.
But you don’t go into buying the Moto G Stylus 5G expecting a mobile powerhouse. Odds are, you want a phone that gets the basics done and on that front, the Moto G Stylus 5G succeeds. It’s fine for social media, email, web browsing, watching YouTube, and taking notes with the stylus. Just temper your expectations when it comes to gaming, because that pushes the phone for more than it’s worth.
The Moto G Stylus 5G managed single-core and multicore results of 505 and 1,651, respectively, in Geekbench 5. That’s right in line with the Pixel 4a’s 551 and 1,647 results, but significantly behind the iPhone SE (2020)’s 1,337 single-core and 3,226 multicore scores.
One other phone we want to mention is the $499 Pixel 4a 5G. With a Snapdragon 765G, the midrange Pixel from Google outstrips the Moto G Stylus 5G in more than just performance. For example, it scored better in Geekbench 5, with 598 in single-core and 1,614 in multicore. The 765G can handle more intensive games and AI tasks (like computational photography). While there’s a $100 difference between the two phones, it’s important to consider all of your options.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Battery life and charging
While the Moto G Stylus 5G may not be a performance champ, it absolutely shines in the battery life department. With a total capacity of 5,000 mAh, Motorola says you can get just about two days of use out of that huge battery. And in our testing and use, that’s not too far off the mark.
In the Tom’s Guide battery life test, where a phone is left to endlessly reload web pages over a cellular connection until it dies, the Moto G Stylus 5G scored an impressive 10 hours and 50 minutes. That doesn’t quite make the best phone battery life list, but it’s well ahead of the average smartphone. Unless you’re pushing the phone hard with lots of gaming, video chatting, and videos, you can get quite a lot of life out of it before you have to recharge.
And that’s a very good thing because the Moto G Stylus 5G supports up to just 10W charging. That combined with the 5,000 mAh battery means lengthy charge times. In our testing, a drained phone reached 12% in 15 minutes and just 25% in 30 minutes. So you won’t be topping off quickly — this is one of those phones where you plug it in and forget about it for a while.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Software and stylus support
The Moto G Stylus 5G comes with Android 11 out of the box, complete with Motorola’s My UX customization engine. This allows you to tweak certain parts of the user interface, like icon shapes and colors. It’s not as robust as what you’ll find on OnePlus’ OxygenOS or what’s coming in Android 12, but it’s better than what you’ll currently find on Pixels or Samsung’s One UI.
Speaking of Android 12, that’s the only update this phone will ever see when Google releases that new version later this year. Essentially, that means less than a year of OS update support for the Moto G Stylus 5G. Security patches stretch to two years. The first word that springs to mind with this update promise is “pathetic.”
This pales in comparison to how long Google will support the Pixel 4a, which will receive a guaranteed three years of updates and security patches. Or, look at how long Samsung will support its budget-friendly Galaxy A series: three years of OS updates and four years of security patches. And when we talk about Apple’s iPhone SE models, the disparity grows even larger. (An iPhone SE released in 2016 will still be able to use this fall’s iOS 15 update.) Motorola’s support schedule — pitiful in comparison to any of those devices — ultimately makes the Moto G Stylus 5G very difficult to recommend in my book.
I understand that the platform updates aren’t the be-all-end-all, especially since Google is updating more of the core parts of Android through Play Services, but I stand firm in the belief that companies should support their devices for as long as possible. If Samsung and Google can do it, then the Lenovo-owned Motorola definitely can.
But there’s more to the Moto G Stylus 5G than just its stock Android feel and platry update schedule. The stylus is why you’re probably considering this phone and Motorola delivered on its promises. It’s a comfortable stylus to hold and use, it works very well (especially in the Moto Note app), and it’s fully rounded so that you don’t have to worry about orientation when you’re re-inserting the stylus back into the phone.
There’s a push button to lock and release the stylus, which just feels nice to use. Writing with the stylus on the Moto G’s screen feels very natural, and I say this as a person who hasn’t used a stylus phone since the Galaxy Note II way back when. While the Moto G Stylus 5G’s stylus isn’t as impressive as the S Pen from Samsung — there’s no Bluetooth connectivity here for additional remote features — it’s still quite functional and great for when you need to write something or want finer control than what your finger can offer.
Moto G Stylus 5G review: Verdict
At $399 with a stylus, 5G, and a big battery, the Moto G Stylus 5G seems like a pretty good buy. And it would be, if you don’t mind the shoddy update policy and underwhelming cameras. The large display is also more than adequate. The performance leaves a lot to be desired, though that’s not a surprise given the specs.
The Moto G Stylus 5G is a decent bargain at best, though you can be forgiven if you want more for your money, given the superior performance of the iPhone SE and Pixel 4a — two phones that cost as much as Motorola’s latest.
If you want a stylus phone without paying Galaxy S or Note prices, this is your best bet. Motorola did a great job with the stylus experience and I found myself enjoying using it for notes or quick adjustments in photo editing. But people who want a better camera experience should turn to the budget phones from Google or Apple.