Moto G Stylus 5G Review: Come for the Stylus, Stay for the Value

    Motorola’s new version of its Moto G Stylus 5G has one intriguing advantage over other phones: It’s the most affordable stylus-packing handset that can connect to 5G. This year’s Moto G Stylus 5G retails for $400 (down from last year’s $500), which could make it more appealing to anyone who wants an affordable phone with added functionality. Having a gimmick has become increasingly important, both for Motorola’s own lineup and for how the Stylus 5G stacks up to the likes of rivals from Google and Samsung. 

    International pricing wasn’t immediately available, but $400 converts to roughly £320 or AU$590.

    On the Motorola side of things, the 4G-only Moto G Stylus comes in at $200. After around a week of testing, I’ve found it to be a great value, but there are some reasons you’d want to pay double the price for a 5G version of the phone. The Stylus 5G gets potentially faster download speeds with 5G connectivity (though it only supports sub-6 5G) and it has better specs and a nicer display.

    This is the best of Motorola’s cheap phones coming out in 2023, but it’s tough to recommend over the $500 just-launched Google Pixel 7A, or the newly discounted $350 Pixel 6A from last year (which can get even cheaper when price drops down to $300). The $450 Samsung Galaxy A54 5G makes the field even more crowded.


    Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)


    • Bright display

    • Good specs and speakers

    • Long battery life Stylus is a fun addition

    Don’t like

    • 10W charging is slow

    • Night photos are blurry

    • Not many stylus apps

    What the Stylus 5G offers over its competitors is, yes, the stylus — which I found novel but not essential — and a decent 1,080p display alongside good battery life. Its stereo speakers and 3.5mm headphone jack make it great for watching videos or listening to music.

    The Stylus 5G should be prized for its value, in fact, rather than for offering an accessory that feels like a novelty without many uses.

    A phone is held up with one hand while the other writes 'Hello World!' on the screen using the stylus.

    The stylus is both the phone’s namesake and something that sets it apart from other affordable handsets.

    David Lumb/CNET

    Like the stylus, love the media experience

    The Moto G Stylus 5G is among the rare few phones that still have a stylus, and is the best option for folks who don’t want to pay $1,200 for a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. 

    While you won’t get a button on the stylus or a robust suite of stylus-related features compared to Samsung’s flagship, the Stylus 5G has a small array of apps designed to use its accessory. Pop out the stylus from its slot on the right side of the bottom edge, and the phone opens the Notes app (by default, though you can set any app to open) for you to start writing or drawing. There are a few other apps that are meant to use the stylus, like categorizing entries and sending live-written notes, as well as transcribing written words to text — a very notes-heavy experience.

    Having a stylus is a novelty and makes the Stylus 5G stand out among competitors, but a more subtle combination of factors distinguish it, too. The 6.6-inch Full HD (2,400×1,080-pixel) display is sharp and shows good detail for an IPS LCD. Though in side by side comparisons, premium phones with OLED displays had (unsurprisingly) more true-to-life color balance and slightly sharper detail. The Stylus 5G’s screen tended toward brighter, overly vibrant levels of saturation. 

    But for a $400 phone, I found it’s a good screen for watching media, especially with its 120Hz maximum refresh rate that makes swiping through apps or scrolling across the web a buttery-smooth experience. Add to that top-and-bottom stereo speakers that feel truly balanced and the Stylus 5G is great to use for watching shows or playing games.
    The Stylus 5G is also a respectably sleek phone for $400. At a distance, its matte rear cover looks metallic instead of plastic, as does its polished-looking plastic frame. The glass-covered square camera block on the back looks refined, and the lock button is large enough to double as a fingerprint scanner without being obnoxiously big.

    Like most phones with a stylus, when locked in the end of the stylus slightly protrudes so that you can push it in to extend the endcap enough to get a fingernail underneath to pry it out. 

    A phone lies face-down while the included stylus protrudes out of its bottom slot.

    You do see that on many phones… the headphone jack that is.

    David Lumb/CNET

    Strong battery life, weak charging speeds

    This year’s Stylus 5G has a 5,000-mAh battery which, in my testing, often lasted for a full day of use and even well into the second day. The phone can recharge at up to 20 watts, but you wouldn’t know that if you just used the basic 10-watt charger that came with the phone. In my tests, 30 minutes with the 10-watt charger juiced the phone up a measly 23% (from 5% to 28%). When I hooked it up to a charger supporting the phone’s 20-watt maximum and it recharged 38% (from 28% to 66%) in the same amount of time. 

    In my 45-minute usage test, the battery started at 96% and dropped to 93% after 10 minutes of gaming. It was at 91% after 10 minutes of watching video, 89% after 10 minutes of social media use, 87% after 10 minutes of video call and down to 86% after 5 minutes of varied use.

    The Stylus 5G doesn’t support wireless charging, though that’s common among budget phones. The phone has a water-repellent design, according to Motorola, which is equivalent to IP52 resistance to light dust and sprayed water — but the phone has no official IP rating. That means that unlike with premium phones, which have IP68 ratings that allow them to survive prolonged drops in the pool and tumbles in beach sand, you should be careful with the Stylus 5G around liquids and dirt.

    A phone is held up in front of a green grass background, showing the bright display and home Android screen.

    One of the best features is the giant battery.

    David Lumb/CNET

    Good performance for a midrange phone

    The Stylus 5G has respectable specs for its $400 price. The Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 chipset puts the handset’s performance above its peers. Motorola did make some compromises in the specs compared to last year’s model to get to a cheaper price. It offers only 4 or 6 GB of RAM rather than up to 8GB.

    I didn’t notice any slowdown when doing daily tasks like switching in and out of apps, watching media or playing games. There’s a momentary pause when opening the camera app, but nothing egregious. Even with the display set to a buttery-smooth 120Hz, I didn’t notice any hitching or lag while when I used the phone for basic tasks. 

    The phone handled gameplay without issue, running through PUBG matches and getting into shootouts with ease, whether I was playing at default settings or the graphics were bumped up (though the phone did feel warm with the latter). 

    This was impressive given the phone’s middling benchmarks, including a Geekbench 6 single-core score of 945 and multicore score of 2,753, which are just below the Samsung Galaxy A54’s scores but far below the Google Pixel 7A’s single-core score of 1,439 and multicore score of 3,560). But the phone does perform better than its cheaper Motorola siblings — a 3DMark Wild Life Extreme test resulted in a ho-hum score of 609 (3.7 fps), though that outperformed the 4G-only Moto G Stylus, which scored 191 (1.2 fps).


    Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) 945Samsung Galaxy A54 5G 1,006Google Pixel 7A 1,439

    Note: Longer bars indicate better performance


    Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) 2,753Samsung Galaxy A54 5G 2,780Google Pixel 7A 3,560

    Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

    3DMark – Wild Life Extreme

    Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) 609; 3.7 fpsSamsung Galaxy A54 5G 812; 4.9 fpsGoogle Pixel 7A 1,855; N/A

    Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

    The phone comes with 128GB of built-in storage, which is the same as in last year’s Stylus 5G but is nonetheless a respectable amount of space to start for a lower-cost phone. The Stylus 5G will also be sold in configurations 6GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of onboard storage, which is expandable up to 2TB via a microSD card.

    The Stylus 5G comes with a relatively clean version of Android 13 without too many add-ons or other modifications, though there are some annoying preinstalled apps and prompts to add ones from major shopping brands. Like other cheap phones, the Stylus 5G will only get one operating system upgrade — to Android 14, which is expected to come out later in 2023. The phone will get three years of security patches, but that still means owners will get left behind by next year’s Android update.

    A close-up shot of the dual rear cameras on the back of a gray-blue phone.

    The Moto G Stylus 5G’s camera bump.

    David Lumb/CNET

    Respectable cameras for the price, but no zoom photography

    The Moto G Stylus 5G comes with a pair of rear cameras that are largely capable of taking photos in and outdoors, with some decent landscape and portrait capability, though detail drops off with night photography and there’s no telephoto lens. 

    The phone’s dual rear cameras include a 50 megapixel f/1.88 main shooter, which captures plenty of detail in daylight photos and a wide range of colors. This year’s model has a bigger 2-micrometer light sensor (up from 0.64 micrometers in last year’s G Stylus), which captures a lot more detail and color, though the phone tends to lump adjacent hues together into a blended spread — this makes skyscapes look blown out as the cameras fail to render subtle cloud contours. 

    A colorful, decorated umbrella with vaguely apocalyptic text scrawled on it sits on a sidewalk under a gray Los Angeles sky.

    Shot with the main camera. Compare this to…

    David Lumb/CNET

    A colorful, decorated umbrella with vaguely apocalyptic text scrawled on it sits on a sidewalk under a gray Los Angeles sky.

    …the same scene shot with the ultrawide lens. Note the less vibrant color and less sharp detail.

    David Lumb/CNET

    The other rear lens is an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera, which takes noticeably less sharp photos. It can also be used for close-up photos (via a macrophotography toggle), capturing an admirable amount of detail in subjects mere centimeters from the lens, though focusing on the right part of the subject can take some practice.

    A close-up photo of deeply red-purple flowers.

    Taken with the “macrophotography” setting in the camera app.

    David Lumb/CNET

    A Los Angeles margarita pizza, in a style potentially offensive to east coasters, sits on a taupe-colored plate.

    David Lumb/CNET

    On the plus side, the cameras make food look tasty.  

    A drink sits on a glass table in a dimly-lit bar.

    Shot with portrait mode in a low-light bar.

    David Lumb/CNET

    The Stylus 5G doesn’t have a telephoto lens, meaning I relied on digital zoom to get closer to subjects — though its maximum digital zoom doesn’t look much blurrier than an iPhone’s. Through software tricks, the phone can take portrait photos that look reasonable, but it can take some effort to frame the focus on the right subject.

    The Stylus 5G captures respectable photos in low-light conditions, but nighttime pics are blurry, failing to capture much detail even with ambient streetlight. It’s the most major weakness of the phone’s photo capabilities. 

    A selfie of a man at dusk.

    David Lumb/CNET

    The 16-megapixel front-facing camera tucked in a punch-hole in the center of the display captures good detail in daylight, and while it can take sharp photos in low-light conditions, it may take a few tries and some unwanted blurry extras. Photos tend toward blown-out patches of brightly white subjects (like, you know, me), but otherwise they’re reasonably crisp.

    The phone shoots 4K video at 30fps, or 1080p at 60fps, with the option for 720p slow motion at 240fps.

    A phone lies facedown on granite showing its blue-gray back and stylus lying on top.

    David Lumb/CNET

    Moto G Stylus 5G: Bottom line

    Motorola made reasonable compromises with its 5G stylus phone to drop the price, which is crucial with the more expensive Pixel 7A leading the charge for best midrange phones and the Pixel 6A nipping at the Stylus 5G’s heels. 

    What separates the Stylus 5G from the pack is, yes, the stylus — and you really have to love its note-taking capabilities to prize it above the competition. The Pixel phones have better performance benchmarks and take arguably better photos than the Stylus 5G. Motorola’s phone does have one advantage in its battery, which lasts longer than other phones, though its recharge rate isn’t much to brag about. Getting up to 2TB of expandable storage could move the needle for users who like to store a ton of photos and media on their devices.

    There’s lots to like about this year’s Stylus 5G, with its price and specs at the top of that list. It may be hard to compete with the Pixel 7A’s Tensor 2 chipset, but coming in at $100 or 20% cheaper is significant, and may make this the right phone for those who don’t want to compromise on phone features while sticking to a budget.

    How we test phones

    Every phone tested by CNET’s reviews team was actually used in the real world. We test a phone’s features, play games and take photos. We examine the display to see if it’s bright, sharp and vibrant. We analyze the design and build to see how it is to hold and whether it has an IP-rating for water resistance. We push the processor’s performance to the extremes using both standardized benchmark tools like GeekBench and 3DMark, along with our own anecdotal observations navigating the interface, recording high-resolution videos and playing graphically intense games at high refresh rates.

    All the cameras are tested in a variety of conditions from bright sunlight to dark indoor scenes. We try out special features like night mode and portrait mode and compare our findings against similarly priced competing phones. We also check out the battery life by using it daily as well as running a series of battery drain tests.

    We take into account additional features like support for 5G, satellite connectivity, fingerprint and face sensors, stylus support, fast charging speeds, foldable displays among others that can be useful. And we balance all of this against the price to give you the verdict on whether that phone, whatever price it is, actually represents good value.

    Moto G Stylus 5G vs. Moto G Stylus, Pixel 7A, Galaxy A54 5G

    Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) Moto G Stylus (2023) Pixel 7A Galaxy A54 5G
    6.6-inch LCD display; 2,400 x 1080 pixels; 120Hz refresh rate 6.5-inch IPS LCD; 1,600×720; 90Hz refresh rate 6.1-inch FHD OLED, 60/90Hz 6.4-inch Super AMOLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels; 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate
    399 ppi 269 PPI 361 ppi 403 ppi
    6.41 x 2.9 x 0.37 in 6.41 x 2.91 x 0.36 in 6.23 x 3.02 x 0.32 in
    162.8 x 73.8 x 9.3 mm 162.9 x 74.1 x 9.2 mm 72.9 x 152.4 x 9.0 158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2 mm
    202 g (7.13 oz) 195 g 193g 1202 g (7.13 oz)
    Android 13 Android 13 Android 13 Android 13
    50-megapixel (main), 8-megapixel (ultrawide) 50-megapixel (main), 2-megapixel (macro) 64-megapixel (main) 4k at 6fps; 13-megapixel (ultra-wide) 4k at 30 fps 50-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro)
    16-megapixel 8-megapixel 13-megapixel 4K at 30fps 32-megapixel
    4K at 30 fps 1080p at 30 fps 4K 4K
    Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 MediaTek Helio G85 Tensor G2 Exynos 1380
    4GB RAM + 128GB; 6GB RAM + 128GB; 6GB RAM + 256GB 4GB + 64GB; 4GB + 128GB 8GB / 128GB 6GB + 128GB; 8GB + 256GB
    Yes Yes None Micro SDXC
    5,000mAh (20W wired charging, 10W adapter included) 5,000 mAh (15W charging) 4,385 mAh (18W fast charging 7.5W wireless charging) 5,000 mAh (25W wired charging)
    Side Side Side In-display
    Yes Yes None None
    Stylus, 5G (sub-6) Stylus, Moto Gestures 5G (5G sub6 / mmWave ), IP67 rating, 18W fast charging, 7.5W wireless charging 5G (mmw/Sub6), IP67 rating
    $400 $200 $499 / $549 (mmW) $449 (6GB/128GB)
    Converts to £320 Converts to £160 £449 £449 (6GB/128GB)
    Converts to AU$590 Converts to AU$295 Converts to AU$735 AU$649 (6GB/128GB)

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