It would be understandable if you thought of the Motorola Edge as a slightly-stripped down version of the Motorola Edge Plus, the phone maker's return to the world of flagship devices. Gone is the more powerful processor and camera, and Motorola has shrunk the battery. In exchange, you get a phone that's $300 cheaper and no longer tied to Verizon's cellular network.
Screen size: 6.7-inch OLED (2340 x 1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 765
Rear cameras: 64MP main (f/1.8); 16MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 8MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front camera: 25MP (f/2.0)
Battery size: 4,500 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 12:12
Size: 6.4 x 2.8 x 0.37 inches
Weight: 6.63 ounces
While some trade-offs are definitely on display here for the lower price and the freedom of having an unlocked phone, our Motorola Edge review found a device that's more than just a lite version of its more feature-packed sibling. In one key area of our testing, the Edge actually bested the Edge Plus, though sadly one of the major flaws from the more expensive flagship device remain on display here.
Motorola Edge review: Pricing and availability
The Motorola Edge costs $699 and is available unlocked through Motorola (opens in new tab), Amazon (opens in new tab), Best Buy (opens in new tab), and B&H Photo (opens in new tab). You can use the Motorola Edge with any wireless carrier.
At $699, that places the Motorola Edge squarely in the category of midrange 5G-capable handset that aren't as pricey as today's best 5G phones (like, say, the Motorola Edge Plus). The Motorola Edge shares a price with the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G, and it's $100 more than the LG Velvet.
Motorola Edge review: Design
From afar, the Motorola Edge looks very stylish, with a distinctive curved display and a look that's indistinguishable from a premium phone. Pick the device up, though, and give the back a tap. That's clearly a plastic frame, which Motorola has turned to as a way to reduce the cost from the more premium Edge Plus. It's not a trade-off that really bothers me, though my Solar Black review unit seemed to smudge fairly easily.
At 6.4 x 2.8 x 0.37 inches, the Motorola Edge is essentially the same size as the Edge Plus — hardly a surprise since both phones sport the same 6.7-inch Endless Edge OLED panel. The curved screen is largely cosmetic, based on my experience, though Motorola has baked in a few shortcuts. You can slide your finger alongside the screen to either summon settings (a downwide swipe) or apps (an upward one), and swiping leftward from the action bar can bring up certain shortcuts. If you didn't know the feature was there, though, you wouldn't think to use it. Really, the only noticeable feature brought by that curved screen is that it makes the Motorola Edge more difficult to hold, and more prone to unintentional taps.
Unlike phones that feature big, blocky camera arrays on the back these days, Motorola stacks its rear lenses in a sensible and subtle way. The Motorola logo on the back of the Edge is just there for show — if you want to access the phone's fingerprint reader, it lives underneath the phone's display. That, plus a punch-hole cutout for the selfie cam, allows Motorola to present the Edge's screen without much in the way of bezels — and that's welcome, considering the marquee display feature that the Motorola Edge offers.
Motorola Edge review: Display
That marquee feature would be the Motorola Edge's 90Hz refresh rate, a speed it shares with the more expensive Edge Plus. While other phones offer even faster refresh rates — the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and OnePlus 8 Pro both refresh at 120Hz rates — it's not often a feature you see in phones that cost less than $700. The standard OnePlus 8 also has a 90Hz refresh rate, as does the OnePlus Nord (though that latter phone isn't available in the US).
The faster refresh rate is a welcome addition to the Motorola Edge. Scrolling through web pages is a pleasure, as you'll see when toggle back and forth between the 60Hz and 90Hz options. You can even trust the Edge to make the decision for you, by enabling a setting that allows it to automatically adjust the display's refresh speed based on whether you'll benefit from the 90Hz refresh rate or whether it makes more sense to not tax the phone's battery.
The displays of the Motorola Edge and Edge Plus share more than just the same maximum refresh rate. They're basically identical from what I can tell, which is certainly a good thing since watching videos is so enjoyable on the Edge's screen. Like its pricier sibling, the Edge handles all sorts of colors very well, whether it's the shimmering waters of the Nile in the YouTube trailer for Death on the Nile or the mysterious shadows masking Daniel Craig's nemesis in the upcoming Bond movie. The experience is all the more cinematic thanks to the 21:9 aspect ratio on the Motorola Edge, which also happens to make the phone easier to operate with one hand.
How closely matched is the Motorola Edge's display to that of the Edge Plus? Both were able to capture roughly the same percentage of the sRGB color spectrum — 194.1% for the Edge, 189.9% for the Edge Plus. Both were equally consistent with how they rendered those colors, with Delta-E ratings of 0.32 and 0.31, respectively.
When it comes to phones in the Motorola Edge's price range, the Galaxy A71 5G captures more vibrant colors, rendering 200.3% of the sRGB color rating, but its Delta-E rating of 0.33 means it's slightly less accurate than the Edge. The LG Velvet has a more muted color palette by default — 140.6% of the sRGB spectrum — but does it more accurately with a Delta-E rating of 0.30.
The Motorola Edge turns out to split the difference, registering a peak brightness of 558 nits as measured by our light meter. The LG Velvet was brighter, at 567 nits, with both phones outshining the Galaxy A71 5G (481 nits). I never really ran into an issue reading the Motorola Edge's screen outside, though.
Motorola Edge cameras
One of the areas Motorola has scaled back from the Motorola Edge Plus can be found with the cameras included on the Motorola Edge. Instead of the Plus' 108-megapixel sensor — the same one found on the Galaxy S20 Ultra — the Motorola Edge features a 64MP main camera. Other optics include a 16MP ultra wide angle camera, an 8MP telephoto lens with a 2x optical zoom and a time-of-flight sensor.
The problem isn't that the Motorola Edge features less powerful optics than the Edge Plus — you've got to expect some sacrifices for that $300 price cut. Rather, the problem is that the Edge delivers the same underwhelming images we got when we tested the Edge Plus, especially compared against what the best camera phones are capable of.
Take this sculpture of a penguin I shot during a socially-distanced trip to the Oakland Zoo. On a bright, sunny day, the Motorola Edge was a bit overwhelmed by the sunlight and you get a streak of glare shooting down from the top of the picture. The colors feel a bit muted, too. That's not a problem the Pixel 4 XL suffers from, as the tree behind the penguin is a bright green, the penguin's eyes aren't lost in shadow, and there's no trace of glare from the sun. The Pixel even manages to capture some of the textures of the sculpture, so that you can see it's crafted out of recycled plastic.
Indoors, the Motorola Edge fares much better when I took a picture of some waffles and sausage. Even with light streaming in from a nearby window, the Edge produces a balanced shot that lets you pick out little details like the seeds on the strawberries and the char on the sausage links. I think the colors on the Pixel 4 XL's shot are warmer and the silverware remains in focus, but there's nothing really wrong with what the Motorola Edge produces.
As the light falls, the Motorola Edge does a decent job capturing a sunset at the local marina. I particularly like how Motorola's phone renders the pink and purple colors of the sky far off in the distance. Objects closer to the camera, like the pillar on the closest pier, seem a little out of focus, and I think the LG Velvet did a better job making the shadowy boats look more distinct. But I'm not displeased by what the Motorola Edge did here.
I can't say the same for the Motorola Edge's Night Vision, which has a hard time focusing on the stuffed animals bathed in unforgiven blue LED lights. The edges of each stuffed animal looked blurred and background details don't really stand out. The Pixel 4 XL's effort isn't great either, but at least the color is consistent and you can make out the outlines of each individual animal. The plants in the background also aren't blurry the way they are in the Motorola Edge's shot.
Back at the zoo, I tried out the Motorola Edge's telephoto lens on an American black bear. And while I appreciate the fact that the 2x zoom allowed me to get close without getting mauled, I wish the finished shot would have been more in focus. That's not a problem for the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which keeps the bear sharp and focused even though she's on the move. The grass looks more vibrant in the iPhone 11 Pro Max's shot as well.
Pulling back, the iPhone 11 Pro Max's wide angle lens lets me see more of the black bear enclosure than I got using the 117-degree view on the Motorola Edge's ultra wide shooter. The same problem with focus that's bedeviled the Motorola Edge in other shots is on display here, though to be fair, even the iPhone struggles to keep the bears in the far background in focus.
The time-of-flight sensor on the Motorola Edge helps produce some good-looking portrait photos. While its attempt to capture my daughter turned out a little bit darker than the LG Velvet's effort, I think it's a better shot overall, with a more stylistic blur. The Motorola Edge also made good use of the shadow caused by the light streaming from the left to emphasize details on the right side of my daughter's face.
This self-portrait shot with the Motorola Edge's 25MP selfie cam isn't bad either, though the left side of my beard gets caught up in the background blur. The ruddiness of my face in the Edge's shot is probably more accurate, though I prefer the way the Pixel 4 XL toned down the color, even if Google's phone got a little aggressive with smoothing out my face. Still, while the Edge's rear cameras sometimes struggled to depict bright colors, the phone's front camera definitely got the green of my baseball cap spot on.
Motorola Edge review: Performance
Unlike the Motorola Edge Plus, which features the powerful Snapdragon 865 chipset, the Motorola Edge turns to the Snapdragon 765, which has less processing oomph. It's a cost-cutting move that allows the phone to still provide 5G connectivity — there's a 5G modem included in the Snapdragon 765 system-on-chip — so it's a processor found on a lot of phones that want to offer 5G without also featuring a high-price tag.
The good news is, it's not too big a sacrifice turning to the Snapdragon 765 instead of the 865. Yes, there's a noticeable gap in raw performance. The Motorola Edge's 1,867 multicore score on the Geekbench 5 general performance test is well behind the 3,350 result turned in by the Motorola Edge Plus. But in the kind of everyday tasks most people use their phones for, you're not really going to notice — the Motorola Edge handles all but the most processor-intensive apps with aplomb.
Even demanding apps run just fine on the Motorola Edge. I played PUBG Mobile on the phone and didn't notice any lags or game-altering stutters. More powerful phones render the graphics a little more sharply, but gameplay itself was more than fine. My only complaint is that I had a hard time making my avatar turn — a hardship I'm going to blame on the phone's curved edges, which I think increases the chances of inadvertent touches.
Stack the Motorola Edge up against other phones powered by the Snapdragon 765, and you'll see comparable performance. On Geekbench, the Motorola Edge out-pointed the Galaxy A71 5G (1,796), but fell behind the LG Velvet and its 1,927 score. That's likely because LG's phone uses the Snapdragon 765G variant, which offers a little bit of a performance boost, especially when it comes to graphics. Indeed, on the GFXBench Aztec Ruins Vulkan test for high-tier devices, the Motorola Edge's 447.5 frame result fell behind both the Velvet (548 frames) and Galaxy A71 (551 frames).
Motorola Edge review: Battery and charging
The Motorola Edge Plus enjoys a huge 5,000 mAh battery, which translated to a time of 10 hours and 55 minutes on our battery test, nearly good enough to land on our best phone battery life list of the longest-lasting devices. The Motorola Edge may have a smaller battery at 4,500 mAh, but it still lasted much longer on a charge, holding out for 12 hours and 12 minutes on that same test, which involves continuous web surfing over cellular. (Typically we use T-Mobile's network, but because of my current location in coronavirus lockdown, I had to use Verizon.)
Why such a good result even with the smaller battery? We think the power efficiency of the Snapdragon 765 helped out a lot with the Motorola Edge's longevity. It's also worth noting those results came when we had the screen set to a 60Hz refresh rate. Upgrading to 90Hz consumed a little more power, but the Motorola Edge still held out for 11 hours, 35 minutes.
Just don't expect equally impressive results when you charge the phone. Like its pricier sibling, the Motorola Edge claims to offer fast charging with an 18W charger included. But after 30 minutes of charging a drained phone, the Edge's battery had only climbed back to 36%. The Galaxy A71 5G used its 25W charger to get to 60% in that time.
Motorola Edge review: Software and special features
If you've ever used a Motorola phone before, you'll be familiar with the My UX interface the Motorola Edge features on top of Android 10 — and that's a good thing. Motorola takes a light hand with Android, adding features that are largely useful, such as the Moto Actions that simplify tasks like turning on the phone's flashlight (two chopping motions) or taking screenshots (touch the screen with three fingers).
If there's something you don't like about the interface, you can probably change it, including fonts and icon shapes, wallpapers, and even the animation that appears on the on-display fingerprint sensor.
That's good, because I'm not a fan of the wallpaper that comes with the Motorola Edge by default. It features a rolling wave that rolls across the screen and then... stops. It makes the Edge's otherwise polished display feel herky-jerky and even worse, the effect occurs any time you switch between screens, exit apps or unlock your phone. It's pretty distracting, but fortunately changeable.
The Motorola Edge ships with Android 10, and Motorola has promised you'll get the newly released Android 11 on this phone via a software update. And after that... who knows? Motorola's only committed to one major Android update with the more expensive Motorola Edge Plus, when two updates are the common practice. (Motorola does promise security updates every other month in addition to updates through the Google Play store.) You'd figure the Motorola Edge has little hope of seeing any updates beyond Android 11 unless Motorola changes its tune.
Motorola Edge review: Verdict
The Motorola Edge delivers a lot of value for the money, retaining some of the better features of the Motorola Edge Plus, such as its colorful display, 90Hz refresh rate and 5G compatibility. But it also does things the Edge Plus can't, like last a while on a charge and free you up to take your phone to the carrier of your choice.
Unfortunately, it's also felled by the biggest flaw of the Motorola Edge Plus — a camera that underperforms. And that's why it fails to distinguish itself from similarly priced competition. Yes, the Motorola Edge has a lot going for it, but the LG Velvet costs $100 less, features 5G connectivity and produces photos that are comparable and in many cases better. The Pixel 5 and entry-level iPhone 12 are waiting in the wings, too, posing formidable challenges for the Motorola Edge.