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By Namerah S
ASTRO A20 Wireless Gen 2 Headset review: A lackluster headset you should pass up on
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
With the launch of Sony and Microsoft's next-gen consoles, gaming companies rushed to release compatible accessories for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. ASTRO Gaming, Logitech's specialized gaming brand, launched the second generation of the ASTRO A20 wireless gaming headset in September, ahead of the consoles.
Aside from the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, the A20 Gen 2 headset is also compatible with PC. It comes in two versions, PlayStation and Microsoft, each with a USB transmitter in the box. Both variants can pair with PCs and also the respective last-gen consoles. Today's review will look at the PS4/PS5/PC version.
Weight 318g Battery 1,050 mAh Platforms and connectivity PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, Mac via USB transmitter Speaker size 40mm neodymium drivers Speaker frequency response 20Hz - 20kHz Mic design Flip-to-mute, uni-directional, 6mm x 2.7mm Ear-cup design Over-ear Ear cushion material Cloth Price $119.99 Design
The ASTRO A20 Gen 2 is made of plastic mostly, which makes it very lightweight - only 318g - lighter than the original A20 headset. I was sent the white, blue, and black colour option but there's also a white, green, and black variant. Not much has changed in terms of design, the shape of the band, cups, and mic all look pretty much the same with minor changes here and there.
On the PlayStation version, there's one wheel for volume, an equalizer button to toggle through three presets, a power button, and a USB Type-C port for charging. The Xbox variant has all this and an additional wheel to balance game and voice audio. Both earcups have cloth cushioning which is soft and comfy but allows a lot of sound to bleed out.
The mic has a flip-to-mute feature that functions well - no more mic issues like the previous model. I was pleased with the visual aspect of the A20 G2 headphones. I think people with larger heads would need a larger, more flexible band. It would also have been nice if the cups could twist but they can't. Overall, my wear experience was very comfortable but it traded sound quality in exchange.
As I mentioned before, the over-ear cups with cloth ear cushions are plush and ergonomic but they do leak a lot of audio. The sound quality of the A20 Gen 2 headset is okay but I felt that it lacked that punchy oomph-ness to it. Bass on the A20 G2 is okay, but not good enough. To me, the audio sounded a bit too sharp and boring at times. Background noises or instrumentals sounded very separate from vocals, both while gaming and listening to other media. This was especially odd while playing a video game.
I felt that the audio lacked richness. While the mids and highs were alright, the bass didn't sound deep or immersive. Bass is really important for gaming because you want to feel the vibrations and depth of explosions or big blasts. The point of buying a gaming headset is to have an immersive play experience and audio plays a key role. Unfortunately, the headset failed to deliver on this front.
Imaging on the ASTRO A20 Gen 2 headphones is average, it works but not as smoothly as some other headsets I've used. There's no true-blue 360-degrees surround sound feature. Sometimes when I moved the camera angle too fast, the sound direction would not transition in a natural way.
There are some other issues that I experienced while testing the ASTRO A20 G2 headphones. The mic mutes when you flip it up, but there's no sound to notify you when the mic is off. That's a risk to a user's privacy. Similarly, when toggling between the equalizer presets, there is no notification to inform you what mode you're on, you just have to go by feel.
Speaking of the equalizer, I have a bone to pick about another factor. The audio is not customizable and the A20 G2 headphones are not compatible with the ASTRO Command Center software. The presets are supposed to optimize audio for different settings, but none of them really help the case with the subpar bass. This was a real let-down.
ASTRO touts a 15-hour battery life for the A20 G2's 1,050mAh battery. I found this to be accurate. When testing the charge time, however, I faced another hurdle. Although there's an LED light to indicate the status of the headset, it does not notify you when the headset is done charging.
To make matters worse, there is no way of knowing the exact battery level of the A20 G2 headset. I don't know about Xbox, but this applies to both PlayStation consoles and PC. You just have to wait around until the battery level drops to 30% and then the headset will alert you.
This also means when you plug it in, you just have to wait around until it feels like it has been anywhere between 3.5 to 5 hours, the rated charge time from ASTRO. According to the setup guide the company provided on YouTube, the light will turn amber when charging. The video completely ignores the elephant in the room: how do you know when it's done charging? You don't, that's the answer.
In my honest opinion, the ASTRO A20 G2 gaming headset felt like an incomplete product. It's a shame considering the good reputation of the brand. Priced at $119.99, $20 more than the ASTRO A20, the A20 Gen 2 doesn't justify its existence. Sure, ASTRO fixed the mic problem, but what about the rest of the features? What about software support? What about sound quality?
It really struck me when I realized there was no way to know the exact battery level or the audio settings you're using. That's strange because any other person would expect these to be very basic and essential features of such a device.
The lack of customization was a big bummer. Many of the audio issues could probably be fixed with a lot of fiddling around in the equalizer. Though I highly doubt it would help much in the case of audio escaping the ear-cups, that's more of a design flaw.
Again, I reiterate, all these issues made me feel like the A20 Gen 2 was rushed. It feels like ASTRO just wanted to have a next-gen compatible headset out in the market as early as possible. Because honestly, so many of these problems could have been fixed so easily.
Around this price point, there are so many better gaming headsets in existence. If you were to ask me for advice, I'd rather recommend the Turtle Beach Stealth Gen 2 for next-gen consoles. Sure, it costs $20 more, but that gaming headset is truly worth your money. The ASTRO A20 Gen 2, however, is not.
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By Rich Woods
Moto G Power review: All the battery life
by Rich Woods
After Motorola announced a refresh of its whole Moto G family a couple of weeks ago, it sent me the whole set to review. When I reviewed the Moto G Stylus, I was a bit disappointed to find that the top-end Moto G no longer set the bar for budget smartphones. Now, it's time to check out the Moto G Power.
Like the name suggests, this one is all about battery life. As I noted in my review of the Moto G Stylus, the lineup is no longer about trying to provide the most value at a certain price point. Now, it's about solving a specific pain point. It's an entirely different strategy, but the pain point being solved here is battery life in a $199 device.
The last one from the series that I reviewed was the Moto G7 Power, which was actually the first one. That started the trend of having the 5,000mAh battery, and frankly, the device hasn't changed that much, still packing an HD screen, 32GB of storage, and 3GB RAM, although the price point did come down by $50.
CPU Snapdragon 662 GPU Adreno 610 Display 6.6 inches, 1600x720, 267ppi, 20:9 Body 165.28x75.9x9.49mm, 206.5g Camera 48MP f/1.7 + 2MP macro + 2MP depth, Front - 8MP f/2.0 Video capture Main sensor: 1080p - 60fps
Macro: 720p - 30fps
Front: 1080p - 30fps RAM 3GB Storage 32GB, expandable by up to 512GB Ports USB 2.0 Type-C, 3.5mm audio
NFC No Material Plastic Color Polar Silver Price $199
It's worth noting that there's also a model with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage for $249.
The Moto G Power is made out of plastic, as is the entire family. There's no surprise there, since it's been ages since any Moto G was made out of anything else. This one has a matte back, which I personally think feels nice. It's not one of those glossy plastic designs that feels like a cheap version of glass. This feels premium.
The color of this unit is Polar Silver, and if you're already imagining the matte plastic back, then you can imagine the silver color. It's actually a pretty nice look, and I feel like the lower you get down the Moto G ladder, the more thought the team put into the design. Honestly, the Moto G Play is the best-looking one, but more on that in next week's review.
Right in the middle is the square camera with rounded corners. A rectangle with rounded corners for a camera is something that we've seen from virtually every smartphone vendor, and it was a trend that was started by Apple. Also, I'm curious about Motorola's decision to put it in the middle instead of in the corner. In fact, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how these designs go.
Motorola announced four phones two weeks ago. Both the Moto G Stylus and Motorola One 5G Ace have the square camera in the corner, while the Moto G Power and Moto G Play have it in the middle. The Moto G Play and Motorola One 5G Ace have the fingerprint sensor on the back, while the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power put it on the side in the power button.
On the bottom of the device, you'll find a USB Type-C port for charging and the speaker grille.
And then on top, there's a 3.5mm audio jack, another inconsistency in design, as the Moto G Stylus and Motorola One 5G Ace have it on the bottom, while the Moto G Play uses this same style. Personally, I think that the 3.5mm audio jack should be on the same side as the charging port, but we can also just celebrate that it has a headphone jack at all.
Ultimately, the Moto G Power feels like a pretty stylish $199 phone. I wish Motorola was a little more consistent across its lineup, of course, but I appreciate the Polar Silver color, the centered camera, and the headphone jack.
The Moto G Power includes a 6.6-inch Max Vision display with a 1600x720 resolution, giving it a 267ppi pixel density. I'm a bit disappointed to see an HD display like it had when I reviewed the Moto G7 Play back in 2019, but also, it's worth noting that last year's Moto G Power had a Full HD display.
The display also doesn't get particularly bright in direct sunlight. But here's the deal with brightness and high resolution: both of those things use up battery life. This display has less than 1.2 million pixels on it, and if it was FHD, it would have twice as many pixels to light up. It would be nice if it was a bit brighter though.
The thing about 720p is that it's noticeable. It's definitely not at that point where your eyes won't see the difference, because they can. You can definitely see some pixellation in this screen, although that's presumably why you're here; there are always sacrifices to get the best battery life, and that's what this phone is for.
The Moto G Power has a hole-punch cut-out for the front-facing camera, something that you'll see across the lineup. It's nice to see the lack of bezels and notches come to lower price points.
The Moto G Power has the same 48MP f/1.7 main sensor that you'll find on the Moto G Stylus and the Motorola One 5G Ace. For this one, there's no ultra-wide sensor, but Motorola does fill in the bare minimum to call this a triple-lens camera. It's got a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor, both of which really only serve the purpose of allowing the OEM to say that there are more camera lenses than the ones that you'll actually use.
As far as new camera features go, there are a couple of good ones. Motorola did boast that it has a night mode in the camera, and you'll see plenty of samples of that below. Another one is spot color video. Spot color is a camera feature that lets you pick one color from the shot, making the rest monochrome. It's rarely practical, but it is fun to use. That's one thing I appreciate about Motorola phones. A lot of the features are just fun.
Gallery: Moto G Power 2021 samples
The tricky thing is that there's no in-between on night mode. For example, on LG phones, you can actually set the brightness of the photo. On others, like a Pixel or an iPhone, it knows the best amount of time to leave the shutter open to take the photo. If you look at a lot of the nighttime shots, some look better with night mode on, and some look better with it off.
Performance and battery life
Motorola used a Snapdragon 662 in the Moto G Power, and I believe it's the first time that the company has used a different processor for all three Moto G tiers, as the Moto G Stylus has a Snapdragon 678. The CPU in this chipset has four 2GHz Kryo 260 Gold cores and four 1.8GHz Kryo 260 Silver cores, and it has an Adreno 610 GPU.
Unsurprisingly, the performance can be sluggish at times, combining the mid-range chipset with just 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. Like I said earlier, there is a 4GB RAM variant, but this phone starts to feel a bit pricey at $249, given the HD display and mediocre camera.
But like I said, that HD display pairs nicely with the 5,000mAh battery. Motorola promises three days of battery life here, and it more or less delivers. It makes sacrifices to get there, but if you don't want to have to worry about bringing a charger with you, this is the phone to get.
The device supports 15W charging, as Motorola phones have for a while now, but the company now ships a 10W charger in the box. This is a cost-cutting measure, but Motorola pointed out to me that once battery life gets to be so good, fast charging isn't so essential, simply because you don't need to charge as much.
For benchmarks, I used Geekbench 5, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench 5, which tests the CPU.
Interestingly, the Moto G Stylus got a much higher score here at 539 for single-core and 1,588 for multi-core. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests everything.
For this test, the Stylus got 208,991, so there's a big difference. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.
One other thing that I want to note is that this device ships with Android 10. Motorola only really ever offers one feature update to its Moto G series, and that means that it's probably only ever going to get Android 11. Considering that Android 11 has been out for a while now, that's not a great move, and shouldn't count as a feature update.
If you're looking for a phone that costs $199 and gets great battery life, you've come to the right place. Otherwise, I'd say look elsewhere. Like I said before, the Moto G series really isn't about providing more value than the next guy that's selling a phone at the same price anymore. It's about specific pain points, and if the pain point that the device solves isn't yours, Motorola probably has another one to fill that gap.
Indeed, the company has taken its success with the Moto G in the mid-range and expanded it into this convoluted mess of niche devices. As Steve Jobs would have asked, which one do I tell my friends to buy?
But back to if this is for you, it's a nice little phone, and it's nice for under $200. The display, while just 720p, is pretty, and it doesn't have big bezels or a notch, a rarity in a $199 phone. It's also got a decent 48MP camera with quad pixel technology.
If you want to check it out, you can find it on Amazon here.
By Usama Jawad96
Facebook believes it made the right decision in banning Trump, but has referred the case
by Usama Jawad
Former U.S. President Donald Trump was banned from various social media platforms earlier this month. Among these was Facebook, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally announcing the suspension, stating that it was indefinite and would continue at least until then President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
With the aforementioned stipulation now complete, Facebook has deferred the case to its independent Oversight Board, while emphasizing that it believes it made the right call in suspending Trump's account a couple of weeks ago.
In a blog post, Facebook has highlighted that the case has been referred to the Oversight Board, which was formed last year and consists of global civic leaders from various backgrounds and industries. You can view the full list of members here.
Facebook has emphasized that it believes that it made the right decision in suspending Trump's account under "extraordinary circumstances" on January 7, and it hopes that the Oversight Board will agree to the indefinite ban based on the justifications provided. The firm went on to say that:
It is important to note that the Oversight Board's decision will be final and not even Zuckerberg will have the authority to veto it. Facebook will also be open to recommendations from the organization about how to deal with cases of suspending political leaders, should the need arise in the future.
The Oversight Board's process for assessing the case will also be of interest to some readers. From a bird's eye view, a five-member panel will review the case and Trump's page administrators will be allowed to submit statements as to why Facebook's original decision will be overturned. The panel will have up to 90 days to achieve a decision that has to be supported by a simple majority of Oversight Board members. In response, Facebook will have seven days to implement the recommendations made by the panel and up to 30 days to respond to them. The findings of the case and the final outcome will be published on the Oversight Board's website here.
By Namerah S
Enacfire E90 Wireless Earbuds review: True bang for your buck
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
We've seen an explosion of new brands and products in the TWS market over the last few years. Enacfire is one such brand that caters to the budget range of audio devices. With most Enacfire devices priced below $50, the Enacfire E90 wireless earbuds are the Shenzen-based company upper-tier offering.
For an inexpensive price tag of about $50, the Enacfire E90 earbuds tout 48 hours of playback, IPX8 water resistance, USB Type-C fast charging and boosted bass to knock the listener's socks off. There's been a good amount of chatter regarding the E90 wireless headphones, so let's find out what all the fuss is about.
Now before I go into further detail, I want you to keep in mind that we're talking about some very affordable wireless earbuds. This is important because of the balance of the price against the value of the Enacfire E90 earphones.
Weight 4.5g Dimensions 2.44 x 0.94 x 2.01 inches Design In-ear Codecs aptX, SBC Speaker 10mm dynamic driver Microphone 2 mics with CVC 8.0 noise cancellation Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0 Battery 8hrs playtime, extended to 48hrs with charging case Charging USB Type-C fast charge | 1.5 to 2hrs Durability IPX8 waterproof rating Design
The Enacfire E90 true wireless earbuds come in a glossy white finish and the material used is plastic. The charging case features the same colours and materials and has a rectangular shape with curved edges. Contrary to what this might indicate, none of the parts look or feel that cheap. The earbuds have a very strange shape and they look very uncomfortable, but once worn they fit in the ears just nice. I think the uniquely shaped heads help the buds to stay in place because these things don't ever fall out.
Each earbud has an LED light and houses one mic each for better audio quality during calls. There are no physical buttons, only touch controls on both earbuds which I found very easy to use. On the front of the carrying case, there are four tiny LED lights to indicate the battery level. Meanwhile, on the back of the case, there's a USB Type-C port for charging.
I was very pleased with how lightweight the headphones were, even when accounting for the wight of the case. They weigh an unbelievably light 4.5 grams which makes it really comfortable to carry and wear them for long hours. Another feature which really sweetened the deal for me was the IPX8 waterproof rating. I live in a country where it rains quite a lot so water resistance is nearly essential.
Moving on to the juicy bits, the Enacfire E90 use the Qualcomm aptX technology to deliver high-quality audio efficiently. It uses low latency which reduces audio delays over Bluetooth connection. Now, this is something I've faced before in some of the lower-tier TWS earphones. To my delight, with the E90 buds, this did not happen.
The Enacfire earbuds have two microphones, one on each bud. This serves two purposes, one is to enhance voice transmission and the other is to enable users to use either bud standalone. The CVC 8.0 noise cancellation feature cuts out background noise while making calls. I used both earbuds together and individually to answer calls and both experiences were good. Nothing extraordinary, but a little above average in the budget range.
I was very satisfied with the overall sound delivery and quality of the E90 headphones. They have boosted bass which is something bass-loving audiophiles will appreciate. I cannot stress this enough, bass is really something on these earbuds.
Let's talk about other aspects of sound quality. I was actually impressed by the audio delivered by the Enacfire E90 buds because they're so cheap. I was happy with the levels of clarity and crispness even on very high volumes which is something budget earphones struggle with. I would describe my listening experience as lush, rich and punchy.
But I must say, at the point when you max out the volume, the audio quality does drop a notch and the sound becomes a bit grainy. This is to be expected, I mean the Enacfire wireless earbuds are less than half the price of premium TWS brands like Apple or Sennheiser.
I did, however, manage to fix this with a dynamic equalizer. Enacfire does not have its own companion app so I used a third-party app. All in all, at the end of the day, they perform satisfactorily and get the job done surprisingly well.
Enacfire states that the E90 earphones offer 8hrs of playback at a time, extended up to a generous 48hrs when taking the charging case into account. I decided to put this to the test, well a crash test to be more accurate, and my results were pleasing.
I started with a full 100% battery and began my day, with very heavy use. Just to see how long it would take to drain completely, I left it on for hours. When I wasn't using them, my brother was or the earbuds were just sitting around blasting music on full volume with no one listening. Almost the whole time they were on, they were playing something or the other.
Taking the case into consideration, the E90 buds gave out after two entire days - 49 hours and 42 minutes later. I probably got over 35 hours of playtime from them collectively, with most of the testing done at max volume.
Now the website does mention that increasing or decreasing the volume will affect the battery life, so I am fully confident if I had not used them constantly like a maniac, I would easily be able to get the official 48hrs of playback Enacfire claims the E90 earbuds can deliver.
Another thing that made me happy was the charge time. The Enacfire E90 true wireless earbuds support USB Type-C fast charge but the compatible wattage has not been disclosed. According to the official specs, the E90 buds take between 1.5 to 2 hours to be charged in full. Once my earbuds were drained, I plugged them in and it took me exactly 1hr 12m.
After many days of hands-on testing and heavy usage, I have some thoughts about the Enacfire E90 TWS headphones. I decided to review the earbuds because of the growing chitter-chatter about the company. It has a pretty dedicated fan base and many claim that these are the best true wireless earbuds they have ever used.
While that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration, I truly feel that the fans or on to something. It all comes together when you factor in the price, which is $49.99 on Amazon or $59.99 on the official Enacfire online store. The features that these earbuds offer at this price point is truly impressive.
You get an outstanding battery life, excellent sound quality, fast charging and a nice, lightweight design which sits tight and doesn't budge or fall out. There's even an IPX8 water resistance rating for better durability in rainy conditions or as a safeguard against clumsy incidents.
I would, however, have really liked it if Enacfire had a companion app for the E90 earbuds which provided a dynamic equalizer. I'm a big fan of customizing and optimizing audio devices to my taste. This isn't that big of an issue because you can always use a third-party app but it would have been nice.
Another area that could use improvement is the audio quality at max volume. While the vocals don't get distorted, the bass tends to sound grainy and woolly at times. This can, however, be fixed to a certain degree by using an equalizer.
So here's my final verdict for the Enacfire E90 wireless earbuds: scout's honour, you can bet your bottom dollar on these earbuds to provide true value for your hard-earned $50. Just don't expect premium sound quality from a budget product.
Get the Enacfire E90 Wireless Earbuds at Amazon for $39.99 (after 20% off coupon) + free shipping
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By Rich Woods
Moto G Stylus (2021) review: Where have you gone, Moto?
by Rich Woods
If you've ever wanted a phone that comes with a pen but you don't want to shell out over a thousand dollars for Samsung's Galaxy Note, you're in the right place. The smartphone/pen combo is rare, not often seen beyond Samsung's Note, LG's Stylo, and of course, the Moto G Stylus.
I'm a big fan of taking handwritten notes, and I'm still waiting for that perfect cellular-connected mini tablet that I can hold in one hand. For now, I'll take the larger 6.8-inch screen on the new Moto G Stylus. Indeed, it's bigger than last year, a major factor in it being comfortable to use with a pen.
It's also got a faster processor, of course. The camera is 48MP with an f/1.7 aperture, the battery is big at 4,000mAh, and it comes with 128GB of storage.
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 678 GPU Adreno 612 Body 169.8x77.9x9mm, 213g Display 6.8" FHD+ Max Vision display, 1080x2400, 386ppi Camera 48MP f/1.7 + 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide + 2MP f/2.4 macro + 2MP depth, Front - 16MP f/2.2 Video Rear main: 4K - 30fps, 1080p - 60fps
Rear ultra-wide: 1080p - 30fps
Rear macro: 720p - 30fps
Front: 1080p - 30fps Battery 4,000mAh, 18W TurboPower (10W charger in the box) RAM 4GB Storage 128GB, expandable yup to 512GB Ports USB 2.0 Type-C, 3.5mm audio jack Material Plastic Color Aurora Black OS Android 10 Price $299.99
The Moto G Stylus's design is a blend of elements that we've seen before. Motorola seems to love its rainbow-colored reflective backs, as you'll see from this Aurora Black unit. It also comes in Aurora White, in case that's more your style. It's made out of plastic, which the Moto G series has been doing for a few years now since it switched over from metal, but there's still no wireless charging.
In fact, I'm a bit surprised that there's still no wireless charging. The Moto G series has always been about value for your money, and for a series that continues to add value year after year, not much has changed since last year's Moto G Stylus, but I digress.
The back of the device has a sort of textured look, even though it's not. It adds to the metallic tones and the different colors in the reflection. The camera housing is rectangular with rounded corners, something that we've also seen in devices from Apple, Google, Huawei, and Samsung. Interestingly, the rest of the Moto G series puts a square camera in the middle, rather than in the corner.
In fact, a lot of the design across the lineup seems to be random. On the right side of the device, there's a fingerprint sensor on the power button along with a volume rocker. It's the same on the Moto G Power (review coming soon), but both the Moto G Play and the newly-announced Motorola One 5G Ace puts the fingerprint sensor on the Motorola logo on the back. Personally, I'd rather have a fingerprint sensor on the back than on the side, but that's just preference.
On the bottom, you'll find all of the goodies you need, such as the USB Type-C port for charging and the 3.5mm audio jack. Indeed, like most phones in this range, it does have a headphone jack. This is also where you'll find the pen garage. Just press on it and the pen will pop out.
Something to consider when looking at the Moto G Stylus is that you really should want the pen. If you're not interested in it, this probably isn't for you. In the old days, there was a Moto G and a Moto G Plus that were all about providing value for your dollar. Those days seem to be fading away in favor of Motorola trying to solve one specific pain point in a low-price device. In this case, it's about providing a pen without making you spend Galaxy Note money. For the Moto G Power, it's all about battery life.
Display and pen
The new Moto G Stylus has a 6.8-inch 1080x2400 display, whereas its predecessor had a 6.4-inch 1080x2300 display. As I mentioned earlier, the larger screen is definitely better for pen usage, although it's not that much larger. Mostly, the screen is taller, although it is a bit wider. Remember, screens are measured diagonally, so the larger the aspect ratio, the smaller the surface area. A seven-inch 16:9 tablet has a much larger screen than this 6.8-inch 20:9 smartphone.
Like I said, you do really have to want the pen. I suspect that if Motorola went for straight-up value for dollar, we'd be seeing a 90Hz screen right now, but we're not. The good news is that I'm a big fan of pens in general.
When you pop out the pen, you'll get a menu on the side of the screen with some things that you can do with it. By default, the first one is Screenshot editor, which takes a screenshot and lets you write on it. Another app that comes pre-installed and is on the shortcut list by default is Coloring book. Yes, this app is exactly like it sounds. There are a bunch of drawings that you can use to color, and it's a lot of fun. You can even import your own.
Also included are Moto Note and Keep Notes. Obviously, the latter is Google Keep, and the former is Motorola's own note-taking app. I'm a OneNote guy, so the good news is that you can easily edit which apps show up in the shortcuts. It doesn't even have to be something pen-related; however, Motorola has a Power touch feature in the Moto app that also gives you a list of shortcuts by double-tapping the power button. Motorola has a lot of useful features in the Moto app for you to play around with, and putting them in their own app is a nice and tidy way of keeping them out of Settings.
Back to the display itself, there's a hole-punch cut-out for the front-facing camera in the top-left corner. This seems to be the standard these days, with hole-punch cut-outs replacing notches and motorized pop-up cameras. Motorola used the same style with last year's Moto G Stylus as well.
This year's Moto G Stylus includes a 48MP f/1.7 main rear camera; in fact, it seems to be identical to last year's sensor. It also has an eight-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera, a downgrade from last year's 16MP ultra-wide sensor. Finally, it includes 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensors, which are cheap sensors that allow Motorola to call this a quad-camera smartphone. I did include a macro shot or two in the samples that you'll see but seriously, you'll get better macro photography if you crop an image taken with the main sensor.
That main sensor does use quad pixel technology, as does the 16MP front camera. That means that you can only take 12MP images with the rear camera. Strangely, Motorola does let you set the front camera to the full 16MP if you want, but there's no option like that for the rear camera and its 48 megapixels.
Motorola does have some fun camera features, such as Cinemagraph, which captures a still image with a select part of it moving and saves it as a GIF. Spot Color lets you select a color, and the camera will only use that color with the rest as monochrome. New to this year's model is Spot Color for video. Like I said, it's fun, and Motorola is good at making things that are fun.
Gallery: Moto G Stylus (2021) samples
It also comes with a night mode, which takes a few seconds to take the picture to let in more light. As you can see in the samples, it definitely brightens up pictures when it needs to.
Low-light photography is fine given the price point. The f/1.7 aperture, quad pixel technology, and night mode all do their jobs. I was actually impressed with the daytime photography, something I don't usually bother pointing out. There wasn't any fake blur making the photos look artificial, or motion because the shutter speed was too slow. The photos came out quite nice for a $300 smartphone.
Performance and battery life
The Moto G Stylus includes a Snapdragon 678 chipset, which has two large cores clocked at 2.2GHz and six little cores clocked at 1.7GHz, along with an Adreno 612 GPU. On top of that, it comes with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
With all of that, I found performance to be sluggish at times, something I found to be a bit surprising given the Snapdragon 6 series processor and Motorola's attempts to be as pure Android as possible. I assume that it was the 4GB of RAM that choked it up at times.
It's also worth noting that this is a 4G LTE phone, as the Snapdragon 678 is not a 5G chipset. If Motorola wanted to go for 5G, it could have done so with the Snapdragon 690, like OnePlus did with the Nord N10 5G, which just happens to cost the same $299 as the Moto G Stylus. In fact, Qualcomm is trying to bring 5G to devices as low-priced as $150 with the Snapdragon 480, but of course, there's more to the story than 5G.
I keep coming back to this idea that this would be a much better all-around device if there wasn't this focus around the pen. Perhaps we'd have 6GB RAM instead of 4GB, perhaps we'd have 5G instead of 4G, perhaps we'd have a 90Hz display instead of 60Hz, and perhaps we'd have wireless charging. Of course, I'm not asking for all of these things, but I feel like the top-end Moto G phone used to provide a lot more all-around value. Now, it's focused on people that want a stylus.
There's more bad news too, which is that it ships with Android 10. While it will surely get an Android 11 update, Motorola only provides one feature update for its Moto G lineup, so starting it behind the curve means that at some point, it's going to be brought up to date, and that's probably going to be it.
Battery life is pretty great though. This thing comes with a 4,000mAh battery, and I had no problem getting well over a day of battery life. The battery size is the same as last year's model, and while I wasn't able to review that one, battery life should be roughly the same.
For benchmarks, I ran Geekbench 5, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench 5, which tests the CPU.
If you compare this to the Snapdragon 690 in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, that got 605 on single-core and 1,847 on multi-core, so the difference isn't just about 5G. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests everything.
Once again comparing it to the Nord N10 5G, that device got 282,260 on this test. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.
Let's bring it back to the OnePlus Nord N10 5G. That device has a faster processor, 5G connectivity, a 90Hz screen, 6GB RAM, a higher-resolution camera, and a larger 4,300mAh battery, all for the same price of $299. The Moto G Stylus' advantage over the Nord N10 5G is pretty much the pen.
Standing on its own, this is a great device. It feels good to use, and it provides a lot of fun, useful features. It's an easy phone to fall in love with. Like I said though, you really have to want the pen. If you're the type of person that buys a phone with a pen and then never uses it, you're probably better off with something else.
The big thing that I take issue with is that the Moto G series has fundamentally changed since the last time I reviewed one in 2019. This series of devices used to provide unparalleled value when compared to its competition. In the early days of the brand when Motorola was owned by Google, it set out to prove that you can get a good phone for a couple hundred dollars, something that really hadn't been done. Time and again, Moto G set the bar for value in the mid-range.
Now, like with the Motorola One series, the company seems to just be making specialty phones, devices that are made to solve very specific pain points, and leave a lot on the table in other areas.
I don't want to make it sound like I dislike the Moto G Stylus, because I don't, and you probably won't either. It's a lot of fun, with useful features that make it stand out. Indeed, I've never met someone that invested in a Motorola phone and didn't absolutely love it. This is just the first time I've ever been able to say that a different device provides more value at the same price than the top-end Moto G, and that's notable.
Motorola sent me all four of the phones it announced last week for review, so expect to see reviews of the Moto G Power, Moto G Play, and Motorola One 5G Ace soon.