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Moto G Stylus review: Motorola swaps battery life with note-taking

With the launch of the Moto G Stylus ($300 at Best Buy) and Moto G Power ($250 at Best Buy), Motorola did something a little weird to its phones: It removed all the numbers from the phone’s names. Last year, the Chicago-based company launched the much-beloved Moto G7. The year prior there was the Moto G6 and before that the Moto G5 and G5 Plus. And while there actually is a Moto G8, it’s not destined for the US.

LikeStunning designSolid battery life so farGreat price

Don’t LikeStylus needs more software featuresNo NFC

In lieu of numbers, Motorola hit on a different naming scheme: Put the phone’s main feature into the name. For example, the Moto G Power has a gigantic battery, hence the word power. And the Moto G Stylus, as you probably figured out, has a stylus.

But these two phones have much more in common than the lack of numbers in their names. At their core, the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power are the same phone. They have the same processor, RAM, screen, fingerprint reader and selfie camera. But things get interesting when you compare the differences between the two budget phones.

At $250, the Moto G Power is $50 cheaper than the $300 Moto G Stylus. (The Stylus is not on sale in the UK or Australia.) The Moto G Power looks quiet and reserved in its Smoke Black finish while the Moto G Stylus and its Mystic Indigo color give off a flashy vibe.

I appreciate the key feature of the Moto G Stylus. The stylus adds a level of precision that makes navigating the phone more efficient. Now, I’m not a huge stylus person and this feature isn’t for me. But that’s OK, because the Moto G Stylus is still a solid featured budget phone.

I’ve been debating whether or not I’d recommend the Moto G Stylus to someone who doesn’t want a stylus. It would be like buying a convertible car that you never intended to drive with the top down.

I have to assume that’s why Motorola released both the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power at the same time. If you need a phone with outstanding battery life, get the Moto G Power. And if you love the precision of a stylus or enjoy sketching, the Moto G Stylus is waiting for you. But the stylus seems to be lacking software features that could make it more useful. I wish more apps took advantage of the stylus at a software level.

Maybe another way of saying this is that the Moto G Stylus isn’t a $300 Galaxy Note 10.

Moto G Stylus vs. Moto G Power: Key differences Moto G Stylus costs $300, the Moto G Power costs $250Moto G Stylus has a 4,000-mAh battery, the Moto G Power has 5,000 mAhMoto G Stylus has 128GB of storage, the Moto G Power has 64GBAside from the macro camera, the Moto G Power and Moto G Stylus have different rear camerasMoto G Stylus has a built-in stylusMoto G Stylus is Mystic Indigo, the Moto G Power comes in Smoke Black
The Moto G Stylus is a bit of a novelty

The marquee feature of this phone is the stylus. The only other phones that I know of with a built-in stylus are the Galaxy Note line of phones from Samsung and LG’s Stylo series of phones. The Galaxy Note 10 starts at $950 and last year’s LG Stylo 5 costs $299 but can be found heavily discounted. On the stylus phone spectrum with the Galaxy Note 10 on one end and LG Stylo 5 on the other, the Moto G Stylus falls close to the Stylo side of things both in terms of price as well as what you can do with the stylus.

The stylus fits flush on the bottom right corner of the phone. It hooks easily open and can trigger a pretty basic Notes app that you can use to create drawings, write notes or just doodle. The stylus can also be used to navigate the phone, markup screenshots and edit photos. Unlike the S Pen on the Galaxy Note 10, there isn’t a Bluetooth connection, so you don’t get features tapping the button on the stylus to take a picture.

On the left is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, on the right is the Motorola Moto G Stylus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Motorola has a camera feature called Cinemagraph that allows you to record a video, then choose parts of the video to remain static. You can use the stylus to shade out parts of the video with much more precision than just using your finger. But how many Cinegraphs are people really capturing?

The Moto G Stylus is stunning

Like the Moto G Plower, the Moto G Stylus has a 6.4-inch full HD display with a hole-punch that houses the selfie camera. The design gives the phone a modern and premium look.

It has a USB-C port for charging, a headphone jack and on the back is a fingerprint reader disguised as the Motorola logo. It doesn’t have wireless charging, NFC or an IP rating for dust or water resistance. It does have a “splash-proof” coating, however, that was able to handle a couple of waters drops that I intentionally poured on it.

Don’t submerge the Moto G Stylus. It should be fine if a few drops of water get on the phone.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Impressively, the Moto G Stylus comes with 128GB of storage and supports expandable storage up to 512GB. The Moto G Stylus comes in Mystic Indigo, which looks gorgeous. This is the best looking Moto G budget phone ever.

The screen is surrounded by thick bezels that are actually thinner than those on the iPhone 11. The forehead and chin are a bit chunky but at least Motorola did away with having its name on the bottom of the phone like last year’s Moto G7.

Moto G Stylus performance and battery

Power-wise it has a Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB of RAM and runs Android 10 with a handful of mostly helpful touches by Motorola like the Moto Gametime feature that helps reduce distractions while you’re playing a game. In our performance tests, the Moto G Stylus fared better than last year’s Moto G7, but still fell behind last year’s Google Pixel 3A and Samsung Galaxy A50.

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

Note:
Longer bars indicate better performance

In everyday use, I had no problem playing games like PUBG, surfing the web or watching YouTube videos. For PUBG I had graphics set to “smooth” and the frame rate at medium and I had no problems. But when I played Alto’s Odyssey, sometimes animations stuttered.

While the Moto G Power gets all the attention for its battery, the Moto G Stylus is no slouch with its 4,000-mAh battery. I’m still running actual battery tests on the Moto G Stylus, but in my use it easily lasted two days on a single charge.

I’ll update this piece with final results and ratings when we finish running our video tests for battery life.

Moto G Stylus’ triple rear cameras

The Moto G Stylus has a 48-megapixel main wide-angle camera that uses a technique called pixel binning to combine the light information from four pixels into one. The advantage is that the phone can take photos with less noise in medium-to-low-light situations. The phone also has a macro camera like the Moto G Power and an ultrawide-angle camera called Action Cam for capturing video (think Go Pro). What’s neat is that you don’t need to hold your phone in landscape position when you film. No matter what orientation you have your phone, the camera rotates the video accordingly.

On paper the main camera on the Moto G Stylus is more versatile than the one on the Moto G Power. But for photos taken in good light, it’s hard for me to see the differences between photos on a phone screen. When I compare images on a computer screen, I notice that the Moto G Stylus renders photos with a pinch more contrast and pop.

The main camera on the Moto G Stylus renders things with a nice pop to color and contrast.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The 48-megapixel sensor uses pixel binning to combine the light information form four different pixels into one.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The HDR on the Moto G Stylus works well.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The phone also has a night mode called Night Vision. No it doesn’t turn everything into a green infrared scene. Instead it can help in low-light situations to capture extra detail, sharpness and brightness. In use, I found the mode hit-or-miss. It’s not as consistent as the night mode found on slightly pricer phones.

Perhaps my favorite feature on these phones is the macro camera, which can be used to take photos and videos of things ridiculously close up. I’m honestly astonished at the shots and focus the phone was able to get.

But I want to align your expectations. The camera system on the Moto G Stylus is decent for the price and it’s better than the one found on the Moto G Power. But the Google Pixel 3A, normally $399, can be had for $300 right now and has one of the best cameras found on any phone at any price. 

Motorola Moto G Stylus specs vs. Moto G Power, Moto G7, Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Motorola Moto G Stylus

Motorola Moto G Power

Motorola Moto G7

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Display size, resolution

6.4-inch LCD; 2,300×1,080 pixels

6.4-inch LCD; 2,300×1,080 pixels

6.2-inch LCD; 2,270×1,080 pixels

6.3-inch AMOLED; 2,280×1,080 pixels

Pixel density

399ppi

399ppi

403ppi

401 ppi

Dimensions (Inches)

6.24 x 2.98 x 0.36 in

6.29 x 2.98 x 0.38 in

6.18 x 2.96 x 0.31 in

5.94 x 2.83 x 0.31 in

Dimensions (Millimeters)

158.55 x 75.8 x 9.2 mm

159.85 x 75.8 x 9.63 mm

157 x 75.3 x 8 mm

151 x 71.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight (Ounces, Grams)

6.77 oz; 192 g

7.01 oz; 199 g

6.07 oz.; 172 g

5.93 oz; 168g

Mobile software

Android 10

Android 10

Android 9.0

Android 9.0 Pie

Camera

48-megapixel wide-angle, 2-megapixel macro, 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle

16-megapixel wide-angle, 2-megapixel macro, 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle

12-megapixel, 5-megapixel

12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)

Front-facing camera

16-megapixel

16-megapixel

8-megapixel

10-megapixel

Video capture

4K

4K

4K

4K

Processor

Snapdragon 665

Snapdragon 665

1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 632

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, or Samsung Exynos 9825

Storage

128GB

64GB

64GB

256GB

RAM

4GB

4GB

4GB

8GB

Expandable storage

Up to 512GB

Up to 512GB

Up to 512GB

No

Battery

4,000mAh

5,000mAh

3,000mAh

3,500mAh

Fingerprint sensor

Back

Back

Back

In-screen

Connector

USB-C

USB-C

USB-C

USB-C

Headphone jack

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Special features

Stylus, Action Cam

Water repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging

S Pen stylus; Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68)

Price off-contract (USD)

$300

$250

$299

$949

About the author: SubSellKaro

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