Review

Motorola One 5G review: 5G on a budget

Motorola's lineup of phones is a confusing one. Steve Jobs famously asked upon his return to Apple which Mac he should tell his friends to get, as the lineup had become so convoluted. That's pretty much where Motorola's at with its smartphone lineup now, especially in the mid-tier, which is the one space where it's actually had some success. If you look at what Motorola offers between the $200 and $500 price points, the offerings are both bloated and confusing.

It used to be pretty simple, with the Moto G taking that spot. The Moto G has expanded to be at least four devices (probably more, since it's impossible to keep track of the regional variants, as Motorola actually doesn't tell journalists outside of those regions about the devices), and now, there's the Motorola One series.

Along with being named after Android One, which is used on the devices, these are sort of specialty phones. You can more or less pick a feature that you care about and find a Motorola One handset that focuses on that. For the Motorola One 5G, that feature is, of course, 5G. Other Motorola One handsets in the U.S. include the Fusion+, Action, Zoom, and Hyper.

Indeed, the whole idea is to bring 5G to a lower price point, and the promised price is under $500. That's not all though, as it has a quad camera array and a 90Hz screen. It's actually a fairly impressive device, when you consider the price point.

Specs

CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 5G
GPU Adreno 620
Display 6.7 inches, 1080x2520, 21:9, 409ppi, 90Hz, LCD
Body 168x74x9mm, 210g
Camera 48MP f/1.7 + 5MP f/2.2 macro + 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide + 2MP f/2.2 depth, Front - 16MP f/2.0, 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
Video capture Main sensor: 4K - 30fps, 1080p - 60fps
Ultra-wide and macro sensors: 1080p - 30fps
Front: 1080p - 30fps
RAM 4GB
Storage 128GB, expandable up to 1TB
Battery 5,000mAh, 15W TurboPower
Audio Bottom-ported loudspeaker
Two microphones
3.5mm audio jack
Material Plastic back
Color Oxford Blue
Price $444.99


Right now, the Motorola One 5G is exclusive to AT&T, although it's coming to Verizon. Presumably, the Verizon model will be more expensive, since the carrier requires its phones to support mmWave.

Day one

Design

The Motorola One 5G has a plastic back, which I really don't mind. I actually prefer it, since it still feels mostly premium. I'm not a big fan of how the industry has completely moved toward glass-backed phones, ignoring the fact that now people have a new way to break their devices. The bad news is that this handset still doesn't support wireless charging, so it would have done just as well with a metal back.

It comes in Oxford Blue, which is a deep shade of blue, and it also has a patterned back. It actually looks like it should have some sort of grip, but it doesn't. It can also show off rainbow-colored reflections if the light hits it right, but it's not as pronounced as it was with the Motorola Edge.

The camera housing is strikingly similar to what Apple is doing, and of course, it's also similar to anyone else that's doing the old rectangle with rounded corners look, such as Huawei, Samsung, and Google. This device has four cameras, including a 5MP macro sensor, and the macro sensor actually has a ring light around it. The idea is that if you're taking a macro shot, your phone is likely already blocking the natural light.

On the bottom of the device, you'll find the usual assortment of the speaker grille and the USB Type-C port. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack, something that Motorola has been using for all of its devices lately, right up to the flagship Edge+.

On the right side of the device, you'll find the volume rocker and underneath that, the power button. That power button also doubles as a fingerprint sensor. That's one big difference between this and the Motorola Edge, which has a fingerprint sensor in the display.

Finally, the tray for the nano-SIM card and microSD expansion is on the other side.

Display

You'll notice that I compare the Motorola One 5G to the Edge a lot because this sits right below it in the lineup, both of them using a Snapdragon 765. But also, while the Edge costs $699.99, it's been discounted to $499.99 a couple of times now, and at that price, you obviously get even more value.

Like the Edge, the One 5G has a 6.7-inch FHD+ 90Hz display, but there are some differences. This one actually has a 21:9 aspect ratio while the Edge was 19.5:9, so you actually get more pixels from the One 5G. The screen on this device is flat as well, while it had curved sides on the Edge, hence the Edge branding.

But the biggest difference between the two displays is that while the Edge is OLED, the screen on the One 5G is an LCD. While it's definitely a pretty screen, it just doesn't get the same level of true blacks that an OLED display can get. This can be evident on the Peek Display, which is a feature that's offered in the Moto app. It's similar to an always-on display, but it just comes on and off.

It has slim bezels on three sides, and of course, that means that there's a hole-punch cut-out for the dual front cameras. The cut-outs are impressively small, and that's really all there is to say about them.

The display is one of the biggest differences between this and the Edge, and it's really what alienates me from this device. Every part of me just wants to tell you to skip this thing and just wait until the Edge is $499 again.

Camera

As I mentioned above, this device has four camera sensors. The main sensor has a 48-megapixel resolution with an f/1.7 aperture, and as you'd expect from any half-decent camera, it uses quad pixel technology to produce 12MP images. The combining of four pixels into one promises better low-light performance and less noisy images.

There's also an 8MP ultra-wide sensor with a 118-degree field of view, but the star of the show is actually the 5MP macro sensor. It has a ring light around it, the idea being that if you're taking a super-close-up shot, you're blocking your natural light source. Also, the macro sensor has autofocus, which is awesome.

I'm just not sure that it's worth it. I don't know if I've ever even thought about using a macro lens before I had to test this phone. But if you do take macro shots, this device does it right. The only problem is the obvious one; it's not natural lighting. I never, ever use a flash when taking a picture because I prefer natural lighting, but it's nice to have it there.

The fourth sensor is a 2MP depth sensor, which is useless, as all 2MP sensors are. These things exist to check a box that lets OEMs say that the device has an extra camera. In fact, I'd say a macro sensor is usually for that purpose as well, but Motorola actually put some work into this macro lens.

I played with the macro sensor a lot, both at night and during the day. And also, I played with my favorite camera feature on Motorola phones, Spot Color. Spot Color lets you tap on a color in an image, and it keeps that color while making everything else grayscale. It doesn't work particularly well, an odd phenomenon given how long the feature has been around, but it's fun. Take a look at the pictures of my car though. You can adjust how much color you want to keep, and it's hard to get all of the blue without starting to get some green in there.

As for low-light performance, it was a mixed bag. I actually deleted a lot that were just too terrible to post, whether it was because they were out of focus or because there was too much movement, resulting in blur. It seems like low-light performance is decent if you get the right shot, but you might want to take a few shots to make sure you get the right one.

Performance and battery life

As far as performance goes, it's fine, and it's probably even better than what you'd expect out of a $450 phone. It has a Snapdragon 765 chipset (not the gaming-focused 'G' variant), along with 4GB of RAM. It actually has similar specs to what the Motorola Edge was supposed to have, until the company realized the errors of its ways, doubled the storage, and added more RAM.

Battery life is where it actually shines. This thing has a 5,000mAh battery, so by the end of the day, you've got plenty of juice to spare. A battery like that used to be reserved for something with Power in the name, but Motorola's lineup is so convoluted now that it might have entirely forgotten about that.

And if you run out, you get 15W TurboPower charging, which is fine. Honestly, I'm not sure you can call 15W charging fast anymore, but for this price point, I'll give it a break.

For benchmarks, I used Geekbench, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench, which tests the CPU.

For comparison, the LG Velvet got 615 on single-core and 1,953 on multi-core, and that device has a Snapdragon 765G, which is just a bit more powerful. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests everything.

Once again, the LG Velvet outperforms here, scoring 321,441. The Motorola Edge does a bit better at 306,308. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.

Conclusion

I feel like I should tell you to skip this one, but I don't know. If you like Motorola phones and you want sub6 5G for under $500, this could be for you. But at the same time, you could just wait for the Edge to be $499 again. Also, Motorola's lineup is just so convoluted and confusing. It gets tougher and tougher to tell you which one to get.

And frankly, sub6 5G isn't anything to write home about. Sure, it's generally faster than 4G, but not by much. Millimeter wave, which Verizon uses, is fast but borderline useless since it only works outdoors (not even in your pocket) and you need to be in line-of-sight with an antenna. I'm not saying that you shouldn't get a 5G phone, but if you're looking to spend $450 on a new device, 5G might not be your top priority.

This is a price point where you have to start picking the features that you care about and look for devices that have those things. If 5G is what you're after for $450, sure, go for it. Motorola also produces a clean Android experience, aside from the plethora of garbage apps that AT&T puts on there. And the camera is decent. If you like macro photography, this can be a lot of fun.

If you want to check it out on Motorola.com, you can find it here.

 

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