Saturday, September 23, 2023

Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022) review: a good bargain

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Shreya Christina
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The 2022 edition of the Moto G Stylus has a clearance rack, as it will likely be one of the last new phones sold in the US without 5G. But if Motorola is clearing room for a new season of 5G devices, the 2022 G Stylus is a steal.

The G Stylus costs $299 in theory, but it seems likely a permanent price cut to $279. That’s right in line with last year’s version of the G Stylus, but Motorola has made some upgrades in this year’s edition, including a larger 5,000mAh battery, an increase from 4GB to 6GB of RAM, and a 90Hz display for faster refreshes.

It still offers a huge 6.8-inch 1080p display and of course its eponymous built-in stylus. There’s another processor – a MediaTek Helio G88 – that takes the place of last year’s Snapdragon 678 chipset. A headphone jack, microSD card slot to expand the 128GB of storage and an in-box charger are all included, useful features that are slowly being phased out by manufacturers starting with flagships and trickling down to the mid-range. Grab them while you still can.

In general, not taking 5G with you is a bit of a drawback. 5G networks in the US are starting to get much better and will continue to do so for years to come. But depending on your carrier, where you live, and how you use your phone, having a 4G-only phone might not be an issue at all. That is the value proposition of the clearing rack; it’s not the latest and greatest, but if it’s the right choice for you then it just might be a winner.

Removing the stylus opens the basic Motorola note-taking app.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

For its eponymous feature, the 2022 Moto G Stylus offers a huge canvas: a 6.8-inch 1080p panel with a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s an LCD panel and it’s on the dark side. I used the phone more indoors than outdoors, but I still had to set the brightness to 80 or 90 percent all the time. Visibility isn’t great in direct sunlight, but it’s just good enough to see what you’re doing. The faster-than-standard refresh rate is nice, and you’ll notice a little extra smoothness as you scroll.

As you might have guessed, that huge screen makes the whole phone look big. Really big. There’s no chance of using this thing comfortably with one hand, and it looks ridiculous sticking out of the pocket of my sweatpants. I got used to it over the course of a few days, and the big screen certainly fits a lot of content, but it’s definitely a lot of phone.

The set of stylus functions includes all basic functions. There is a simple note taking app that is the first thing you see when you take the stylus out of the silo at the bottom of the phone. There is also a coloring book and a shortcut to take a screenshot so that you can annotate or doodle on the image. Nothing so luxurious or so sophisticated as the much, loads of more expensive Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra can do, but a nice tool for writing something down without unlocking your phone, even if you don’t use it often. My own mother, a Motorola enthusiast and owner of a 2021 G Stylus, even sealed hers with a cover that completely covers the stylus silo. She is perfectly happy with her phone without a stylus. To each his own.

Motorola claims the G Stylus’ 5,000 mAh battery lasts up to two days on a single charge, so I took that as a challenge. After the first day of testing the phone, the battery was about 50 percent dead, but I didn’t charge overnight and relied on it to last the next day. It did and in total I got about 6.5 hours of screen time and by the end of day two it was still 18 percent. I spent a lot of that time on Wi-Fi, which probably helped, but I increased the screen refresh rate to the highest setting to push it a bit. Either way, that’s impressive staying power, and even heavy users could probably get through a whole day without having to top up the battery.

The overall performance is also good. There are hiccups and slight hesitations here and there when I open apps and scroll through video and image-heavy screens, but nothing that affects my day-to-day use. The phone’s 6GB of RAM keeps many apps running in the background, and I’m impressed with how easily I can switch back to an app I was using hours ago and pick up where I left off. you can play a graphic intensive game like Genshin impact, just expect some noticeable stutters and dropped frames. But that’s not really what this phone is for.

Most new phones in 2022 will ship with Android 12 at this point in the year, but the G Stylus will still come preloaded with Android 11. Motorola says the phone will be upgraded to Android 12 — that will be the only upgrade from the OS version – but does not provide details on timing. The company also promises three years of security updates on a schedule every other month, which is a year longer than it promised with last year’s model. That’s an improvement, but still falls short of Samsung’s four-year commitment (and even five years for some of its A-series budget phones

This is normally when I would discuss which 5G bands this phone can use, but in this case it’s a simple answer: none of them. Unlike a year or two ago, 5G connectivity is something to consider when buying a new phone. T-Mobile’s 5G network is already quite strong; likewise, Verizon and AT&T’s networks will improve in the coming years. For the most part, that means noticeably faster speeds compared to 4G, so that’s something the Moto G Stylus can’t take advantage of.

It’s an attack on the Moto G Stylus, but not a deal breaker. The 5G expansion in the US will initially target major cities, so if you live somewhere more rural, having a 5G device probably won’t be a priority now or in the near future. And if you’re otherwise happy with 4G speeds or spend most of your time on Wi-Fi, you’ll be fine with a 4G device for years to come. The Moto G Stylus isn’t really designed to last much longer anyway.

The Moto G Stylus has a 50 megapixel main camera and an 8 megapixel ultrawide on the back.

There appear to be three cameras on the G Stylus’ rear panel, but one of them is a 2-megapixel depth sensor that you can ignore. There is a 50-megapixel f/1.9 standard wide-angle camera and an 8-megapixel ultrawide, plus a 16-megapixel selfie camera. Last year’s model had a dedicated macro camera; this time, the ultrawide doubles as a macro sensor.

Overall, the G Stylus’ cameras produce well-balanced images without going overboard on color saturation or HDR effects in high-contrast scenes. Both rear cameras do well in good lighting, but there’s some noticeable noise in images from the 8-megapixel ultrawide taken in moderately low-light conditions. There’s also a noticeable lag between when you tap the shutter and when a photo is actually taken, which is pretty common for a budget phone. Night vision is useful in very low light when your subject is not moving. It doesn’t work miracles, but at least this budget phone has a night mode — unlike another I’ve reviewed recently.

Video recording is only available at 1080p, which is unusual. (Most phones can record 4K video these days.) There’s a pretty aggressive crop, too, even if you turn off electronic stabilization. I can’t imagine the lack of 4K resolution video will bother a lot of people buying this phone, but 4K is pretty much the new standard for high resolution video so that’s something to note as video is important to you. Otherwise, 1080p clips are fine, and the smaller file sizes are easier to share anyway.

If you can live without 5G for years to come, the Moto G Stylus is a steal.

You won’t find the Moto G Stylus on the shelves of any Verizon or T-Mobile store. The major carriers are far too interested in getting 5G phones into the hands of their customers to waste all that valuable retail space on a 4G device. And it’s not all a marketing blunder anymore; real 5G is really coming, and it will really be faster than 4G. But just because the carriers think it’s the right time to put a 5G device in your hand, doesn’t mean you should absolutely buy one. If you’re okay with 4G and will continue to do so for years to come, the Moto G Stylus is a great deal.

For under $300, it offers good performance, a huge screen, competent cameras and excellent battery life. That’s not even considering the headline feature: the stylus. It’s handy, and even if it’s not used much, the phone is still well-priced even without it.

If you want something more future-proof, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is a good option while it’s still in stock. For the same price as the Moto G Stylus, it offers comparable performance and equally good battery endurance. The downside is that the screen is smaller and has a lower resolution, it only comes with 64GB of storage and of course there is no stylus.

If you’re not worried about future-proofing the next generation of wireless technology and a big phone with a big screen is just your size, the Moto G Stylus is the great deal for you.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge


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