Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) review: A good mid-range stylus phone

The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G gets some significant upgrades in this year’s model, putting it firmly in mid-range territory. If you’re looking for a capable stylus phone but the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra seems overkill, then the G Stylus 5G is what you want.

Don’t confuse the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022 edition) with last Moto G Stylus 5G of the Year or this year’s non-5G Moto G Stylus (2022). In a way, they’re all distinctly different phones. While the previous Moto G Stylus 5G wasn’t all that advanced in terms of specs compared to last year’s only G Stylus 4G, that’s a different story this year. This time around, the G Stylus 5G features an upgraded Qualcomm chipset, a stabilized main camera, and more RAM. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but these upgrades really help differentiate the G Stylus 5G from the $300-and-under budget class.

Naturally, these upgrades come at a higher price: $499 for the unlocked version with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, a big increase from last year’s $399. But I think the extra $100 makes the Stylus G 5G an interesting mid-range phone rather than a forgettable device at the high end of the budget. It’s more of a Galaxy Note Light than a cheap phone that has a stylus inside.

The 6.8-inch screen of the G Stylus 5G is an LCD panel with a fast maximum refresh rate of 120Hz.

The G Stylus 5G has a huge 6.8-inch screen with decent 1080p resolution and a fast 120Hz refresh rate, so scrolling and animations seem smooth, and the phone uses that max 120 frame rate quite often. Hz on auto mode, which is easier on battery life than leaving 120Hz on all the time.

This screen is an LCD, so the blacks aren’t as dark and the contrast isn’t as rich as on an OLED. Video playback quality is good but not as nice as you’ll get from a more expensive device (or even other budget and mid-range models that now have OLED screens). What bothered me the most was that the screen is hard to see outdoors in direct sunlight – in theory, LCD technology has an advantage over OLED in bright conditions. This wasn’t the case with the G Stylus 5G, as I squinted at the screen in broad daylight. Indoors, the screen brightness was typically bumped up to 80 or 90 per cent, which is to say this screen isn’t the brightest.

That massive display makes the phone look a little silly in the side pocket of yoga pants, but it’s just the right size for all the device’s pen-centric features. Pop the stylus out of its built-in silo and you’ll see a pop-up menu with icons leading you to Motorola’s note-taking app, GIF maker and coloring book app, among other things. A stylus isn’t necessarily essential for any of them, but the extra precision helps.

The note app is a little simpler than what you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Rather than giving you access to all the tools at once, individual notes have separate tabs for doodling, text entry, pictures, and voice memos. It’s more limited, but it’s also less overwhelming. You can choose from different background options for your digital page, such as pastel blue with grid lines or soft gray with dots. They invite like a new blank newspaper.

Apart from the notes app, the stylus plays more of a supporting role. You can use it to crop images in a free-form style, add handwriting to a screenshot, or fill in Disney coloring book templates. It’s a capacitive stylus, so there’s no pressure sensitivity, and it lacks the connected features of Samsung’s S Pen, like gesture-based Air Actions to control certain functions without touching the screen. Still, there’s a bit of heft, and it feels precise and responsive enough for note-taking and sketching.

The overall performance of the phone is very good. The Snapdragon 695 is a step up from the 400-series chipset used by last year’s model, and the unlocked version of the phone includes a very healthy 8GB of RAM. There are ways in which I can definitely see all that power at work: apps stay open for a relatively long time in the background, and I can run a very graphical game like Genshin Impact quite smoothly. The performance isn’t flawless; some apps, like the camera app, are a bit slow to open on initial startup. But overall, the G Stylus 5G offers good performance that often exceeded my expectations of a $500 Android phone.

Battery life is also healthy. Some of Motorola’s budget phones will really run for days on a single charge if you’re a light or moderate user – the G Stylus 5G isn’t quite that level, but it will get most users through a full day of safe use. Even on a day of heavy use, I was still at 20% at bedtime. Battery life isn’t exceptional, but that shouldn’t be something owners of the device will have to worry about.

A quick word on 5G: The unlocked version of the phone can use Verizon and T-Mobile’s sub-6GHz 5G networks, and Motorola spokeswoman Stephanie Stiltz said other carriers will be available “within coming months”. Presumably, that means AT&T. The G Stylus 5G supports the n77 C-band frequency that Verizon and AT&T use to upgrade their long-range 5G networks, so it should be able to take advantage of that when more of that spectrum comes online over the course of the year. of the next two years.

The Moto G Stylus 5G comes with Android 12 installed, as it should, because Android 13 is just around the corner. Motorola’s implementation of Android remains one of my favorites, including lock screen “peek” notifications that are helpful without being disruptive. The system will prompt you to enable a suggested app feature on the home screen powered by a company called Branch. In my testing, its suggestions aren’t that smart, and it just takes up space, but it’s pretty easy to opt out of this particular feature.

Motorola’s Stiltz says the G Stylus 5G will get an OS platform upgrade and three years of security updates. That’s an improvement over the company’s previous policy of supporting phones for two years, but not quite as good as Samsung’s five-year policy for some of its budget phones, like the Galaxy A53 5G. Still, it’s progress, and if you like swapping out your old device for a new one every few years, that’ll do the trick.

The phone’s main rear camera includes optical stabilization, which helps keep shots looking sharper in dim light.

When it comes to camera quality, the Moto G Stylus 5G feels like it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. At times, image quality is good, and the main camera’s optical stabilization seems to help retain more detail in photos taken in low light. But Motorola hasn’t dialed in its image processing, and photos sometimes look too bright with neon greens and reds.

The G Stylus 5G’s rear camera system consists of a wide standard 50-megapixel f/1.9, an ultra-wide 8-megapixel, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor that helps portrait mode photos . There’s also a 16-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera with a very aggressive face-smoothing beauty filter that can be disengaged, thankfully.

Portrait mode photos are generally good, although sometimes prone to errors like blurring of a subject’s ear. Macro shots are courtesy of the ultra-wide lens, which is actually a lot nicer than using a low-res dedicated macro camera, as you actually get autofocus. Photos in low light and dim conditions sometimes look too smooth and other times dark and contrasty. It’s just hard to know what you’re going to get. Video recording peaks at 1080/30p, and for $500 this phone really should shoot 4K. As it stands, video clips tend to be over-lit, although stabilization is good.

This year’s Moto G Stylus 5G is a nice upgrade over the LTE-only model.

If you want a phone with a stylus that keeps up with demanding tasks and camera quality isn’t a priority, then the G Stylus 5G is a compelling option. Not everyone needs the power of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and the Moto G Stylus 5G comes as a much cheaper alternative with healthy performance. The LTE-only Moto G Stylus is an even cheaper option at $279, which is a good option if your budget is tight. But if you can spare over the extra $200, the 5G model is a nice upgrade for its faster performance.

It’s not a phone I’d recommend as an all-around pick in its price range, though. If you’re not a stylus enthusiast, then the Galaxy A53 5G is altogether a better package. Its 120Hz OLED screen is nicer, camera quality is better and more consistent, and it’s expected to receive five years of security updates. You don’t get as much storage or RAM, but it’s also $50 cheaper.

With LG out of the mobile phone market, we only have two stylus phone manufacturers left. The S22 Ultra is much, much higher and worth its high price if you’re looking for a stylus and the best of the best. The G Stylus 5G seems like a good middle ground for stylus fans, as long as you’re not too picky about image quality.

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