Motorola Edge 5G has a premium feel for a mid-range price

After several days with the new (ultra-wideband) Moto Edge 5G, my main takeaway is this: Boy, it’s absurd what you can get for less than $600 these days.

That’s because the Verizon-exclusive variant of the latest Moto Edge, which starts at $549.99, is packed to the brim with specs that would’ve crossed the $1,000 barrier not that long ago. The fact that you can get a 6.8-inch display with a 144Hz refresh rate, a fairly beefy battery, great cameras, and benchmark results that are just about on par with recent Samsung flagships is totally out of this world.

I don’t love every aspect of the Moto Edge 5G, as its size can be cumbersome and some of its gimmicks don’t fully pan out, but if you want a solid Android handset that isn’t a Samsung or Pixel phone, you won’t find a lot to complain about here.

Big boy season

Look at that gorgeous screen.
Credit: molly flores / mashable

I’ve talked a big game already about the value of the Moto Edge 5G, but to really hammer the point home, here are the pertinent specs that you get for that $549.99 starting price:

6.8-inch full HD display with a 144Hz refresh rate and HDR10

Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor

6 or 8GB RAM

128 or 256GB storage

5,000mAh battery

Three rear cameras: 108MP main lens, 8MP ultra-wide lens, 2MP depth lens

32MP selfie camera

Fingerprint sensor on power button and face unlock

WiFi 6E support

mmWave and sub-6 5G support in the Verizon model

Those specs bring the new Edge more in line with last year’s more premium Edge Plus rather than the entry-level 2020 Edge, with the notable difference that you had to lay down $999 for the Plus. The Edge Plus had the advantage of 12GB RAM and an OLED screen, but its refresh rate was capped at 90Hz. So while you’re sacrificing a slight bit of performance and display quality by paying more than $400 less for the Edge 5G, you’ll also get a better refresh rate. I’ll call that a win.

For the Edge 5G, Motorola has ditched the curved edges that originally justified the line’s “Edge” branding, which enabled swipe gestures from the sides of the screen that Mashable reviewer Brenda Stolyar found more gimmicky than useful. This time, there’s a traditional but fairly thin bezel on all sides of the screen. The phone’s name might not mean much anymore, but in practice, this is probably an upgrade in terms of everyday usability.

Those display specs are obviously a flashy selling point for the Edge 5G, as there isn’t a single model of the decidedly more expensive iPhone that offers a 144Hz refresh rate. In fact, the price for the lone 120Hz iPhone 13 model crosses the four-digit threshold, so this is a serious value in that regard. It’s a massive screen that makes just about everything look sharp and vibrant, but one serious complaint I have is that a 6.8-inch phone is just too big for my hands.

I don’t have a specific hand size measurement at the ready (I haven’t entered the NFL draft yet so nobody’s ever measured it), but I’d wager my hands are on the larger side and I still occasionally had a hard time handling this phone with just one hand. It’s far too tall to effectively use one-handed, and at times, I fumbled it just trying to do something as simple as browse Instagram while in bed. It’s not overwhelmingly heavy at 201.6 grams, but the weight is distributed throughout such a long and lanky body that it can be a tad annoying to hold at times.

Aside from that, the only other complaint I have about the Edge 5G’s physical build is that there isn’t a headphone jack. Last year’s Edge Plus had one, but that had to get cut in order to drop the price by so much, I guess. I’ve fully adopted the Bluetooth headphones lifestyle, but if you haven’t, you’ll need to find a USB-C dongle.

One last gripe: The Verizon model of this phone doesn’t come with a charger in the box. Any old USB-C charger will do, but still, that’s ridiculous.

Not a flagship, but close enough

No headphone jack makes us sad.
Credit: molly flores / mashable

At the risk of stating the obvious, you’re not going to get flagship performance out of a phone that costs $549.99. What you will get out of the Edge 5G, however, is something that comes as close as it can, which is really all we can ask for.

The Geekbench 5 benchmarking software scored the Edge 5G at 754 for single-core performance and 2620 for multi-core performance. There’s lots of technical geekery as to how it arrives at those numbers, so to make things easier, I’ll just say that it’s roughly the same score in both regards as the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. For a $549 phone to nearly match the performance of a phone that cost well over $1,000 in 2020 and had the more powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus processor inside, it is undoubtedly impressive.

In terms of how that actually applies to everyday use, I found the Edge 5G to be a joy to use. Everything is quick and snappy, with nary a hitch, long load, or other performance dip to be found. I used it as an everyday device for social media, web browsing, streaming from YouTube and Spotify, and chatting with friends, and really can’t muster any complaints about the experience. This feels like a premium phone even if it isn’t one.

I could say the same for the battery — for the most part. Motorola claims you can get up to two days of life out of a single charge of the 5,000mAh battery, but I wasn’t quite able to replicate that. A full charge got me through 24 hours of heavy usage before I had to plug it in again. That’s not exactly two days, but it’s still pretty darn good.

Verizon 5G needs some more time in the oven


Credit: molly flores / mashable

As for the Verizon 5G aspect of this particular model, I’m not all that impressed. Verizon’s “ultra-wideband” mmWave 5G is supposed to be faster than the relatively “slower” sub-6GHz 5G but, in practice, I didn’t see much of an increase. In fact, real-world data from Ookla (Note: Mashable and Ookla are owned by the same parent company, Ziff Davis) tells us that T-Mobile (which primarily offers sub-6GHz 5G) is the king in terms of 5G speed. If you look at Verizon’s 5G coverage map, you’ll see that north Brooklyn (where I live) only gets ultra-wideband coverage on small stretches of certain streets.

The effect this has on real-world use is that the Edge 5G would frequently bounce back and forth between 4G LTE and 5G while I walked around my neighborhood. The network speeds themselves are totally fine, as I was able to get north of 100Mbps in download speeds in a city that’s notoriously hostile to wireless networks, but that’s not any different than what I’ve gotten out of other 5G devices over the past couple of years.

5G is still in its relative infancy, so maybe Verizon’s mmWave networks will be more useful down the road. For now, though, don’t consider that a selling point for this phone.

Not ready for “Ready For”

While Motorola ditched the curved edge display with its useless gestures from previous Edge models, there are still a number of Moto-specific gesture controls in this phone that are worth engaging with. If you bop on over to the pre-installed Moto app, you’ll find toggles for things like shaking the phone twice to turn on the flashlight or touching three fingers to the display at once to take screenshots.

While I don’t think any of these gestures are strictly necessary, their inclusion is a plus overall. Screenshots are easier to take without having to hold down buttons, in particular. One odd gesture lets you quickly swipe from left to right and back across the middle of the screen to go into a split-screen mode where you can look at two apps at once. The Edge 5G’s display is definitely big enough to accommodate this, but I found many apps either didn’t support it or weren’t super useful in this configuration. I can’t knock the phone too much for the inclusion of a silly gimmick that you never need to use, but that feature specifically feels half-baked.

The most bizarre and interesting thing you’ll find here is Ready For, a sort of AirPlay alternative that casts your phone to a separate display. If you swipe down from the top of the phone, you’ll find Ready For among other settings like Bluetooth. Tap that button and you’ll be taken to a list of nearby devices you can connect with. My TCL TV was compatible and connected to the phone without any problems, which produced a totally-not-Windows desktop view with a mouse cursor you control using the touchscreen on the phone.

It’s not Windows, folks.
Credit: alex perry / mashable

You can open all your apps on the bigger screen, including mobile games if you want more screen real estate to work with. There’s also a screen mirroring mode to blast your phone display to the TV, as well as support for video calls. This isn’t something I would ever personally use, but again, it’s completely optional and works as intended, as far as I can tell.

Triple lens affair

It should come as no surprise that, with camera specs like these, the Edge 5G can produce some great-looking photos. There’s a toggle for “ultra pixel” mode in the settings menu that basically just jacks up the resolution of your photos, making them look real, real nice. Here’s a basic shot I took without altering any options:


Credit: alex perry / mashable

Of course, there’s a full suite of options here, like panorama shots, nighttime photography, macro photos, and portrait mode. I was pretty pleased with what I got out of macro photos in particular, as they capture the small details in things like flowers and berries that are pretty tiny in-person and might not capture well on a more limited phone camera.

Macro mode.
Credit: alex perry / mashable

Portrait mode, of course, adds a a nice depth of field effect to up-close shots of any subject.

Credit: alex perry / mashable
Credit: alex perry / mashable

The only real complaint I have about the camera is that Night Vision for low-light photography had a tendency to blow out the image and make nighttime shots look a little artificial in my testing. I prefer a more naturalistic look that preserves the nighttime feel rather than trying to turn night into day, but sometimes the Edge 5G did the latter instead of the former.

The shots don’t always look bad, but they could look better, if you ask me.

Default settings.
Credit: alex perry / mashable
Night Vision.
Credit: alex perry / mashable
Default settings.
Credit: alex perry / mashable
Night Vision.
Credit: alex perry / mashable

Obviously, the camera array on the Edge 5G isn’t going to match a more expensive flagship like the iPhone 13 Pro or a true DSLR, but that’s not the point. This is a heck of a camera setup for a mid-range budget phone and its job is to make your social media shots look attractive.

Mission accomplished.

An agreeable Android phone

In terms of value, the Motorola Edge 5G gives you a lot for a relatively low asking price. For just $100 more than the Google Pixel 5a, you get a much bigger display with a much better refresh rate. Seriously, the Pixel 5a is still stuck at 60Hz. Moto’s 5,000mAh battery also edges out the Pixel’s still impressive 4,680mAh battery, but just barely. If photography really matters to you, though, Pixel is still the cream of the crop when it comes to Android cameras.

For just a bit more money at $629, The Asus Zenfone 8 is another option. Its 5.9-inch display is significantly more comfortable in the hands than the Edge 5G, and its newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor puts it on par with much more expensive phones in terms of performance. I might personally go for that one just because the size is more accommodating for me, but you can’t go wrong either way.

Oh, both the Pixel 5a and Zenfone 8 also have headphone jacks. Sorry, Moto. You don’t win that one.

In a world where there are a nice number of good mid-range Android phones, the Moto Edge 5G is a nice pickup…if you’re a Verizon customer. I’d personally go with either the Pixel 5a or Zenfone 8 if Verizon wasn’t my carrier of choice, as the unlocked version of the Edge retails for $700 when it’s not on sale. Still, if you use Verizon, it’s tough to get an Android phone with a bigger, smoother screen, a better battery, and cameras this good for less than $600.

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