If you’re shopping for a smartphone with a built-in stylus, you can spend big bucks on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10, which is terrific but costs upwards of $1,000, or far less on LG’s Stylo 5, which is often free with carrier subsidies but falls short on performance. Luckily, Motorola’s new Moto G Stylus ($299.99) is a strong option for everyone searching in between those extremes. It’s better than the Stylo 5 in just about every way, with more power, a nicer display, and improved camera performance. It can’t quite compete with the Galaxy Note 10, of course, but it’s only about a third of the price. The $250 Moto G Power is a better value for the price and our Editors’ Choice, but the Moto G Stylus is a good alternative for note takers.
Design, Display, and Durability
For the most part, the metallic blue Moto G Stylus looks identical to the Moto G Power. It’s a little smaller, however, at 6.24 by 2.98 by 0.36 inches (HWD) and 6.77 ounces.
The front of the phone is dominated by a 6.4-inch LCD with a small camera notch at the top and minimal bezels. The screen has a 19:9 aspect ratio, and resolution clocks in at 2,300 by 1,080, for 399 pixels per inch. It looks crisp and gets bright, making it easy to see in direct sunlight. Colors are slightly cool, but it’s a very good display for the price.
On the back you’ll find a triple camera stack with a time-of-flight sensor (ToF) in the top left corner, while the fingerprint sensor is hidden beneath the Motorola logo in the center. The top edge of the phone is bare, and the bottom is home to a headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, and a speaker. The left side has a hybrid SIM/microSD slot, while the volume rocker and textured power button are on the right; both provide a satisfying click but are hard to reach with small hands.
Durability is our main concern about the design. The plastic back is more likely to survive an accidental drop than glass, but it scratches easily. And while Motorola says the phone is splash resistant, it lacks an IP rating, so as usual, we recommend you protect it with a case.
Audio, Call, and Network Quality
The Moto G Stylus ships unlocked and works on all major US carriers. It supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/18/19/20/25/26/29/30/38/39/40/41/66/71. In addition to band 71, which is good for rural T-Mobile customers, the it also features bands 18 and 19 for Japanese carriers.
We tested the Moto Power on Verizon’s prepaid Visible network in Downtown Brooklyn and saw impressive averages of 51.7Mbps down and 46.2Mbps up.
Call quality is also solid. Earpiece volume peaks at 86dB, making it easy to hear calls in noisy environments. Tests calls were crisp, with no interference or clipped voices, and noise cancellation worked relatively well.
The phone’s Dolby-tuned stereo speakers have a peak volume of 90dB. Even at high volumes audio sounds crisp and bright, albeit without even a hint of bass.
Bluetooth 5 is available for audio and wearable connectivity, as is dual-band Wi-Fi. NFC isn’t available, which is disappointing as mobile payments are quickly becoming the norm.
On the back of the phone, the primary sensor comes in at 48MP with an f/1.7 aperture. It supports 4×4 pixel binning for 12MP shots. There’s also an ultra-wide 16MP secondary lens with an f/2.2 aperture and 2.0-micron pixels for improved action and low-light photos, as well as a 2MP macro lens with an f/2.2 aperture. An ultra-wide ToF sensor assists with depth perception and object tracking.
Test shots with the primary and secondary lenses in good lighting look crisp and feature excellent depth of field, without any of the mushy details or edge distortion we noticed on the Moto G Power. Test shots with the macro lens, on the other hand, are lacking in fine detail and appear flat.
Low-light photos with the primary lens are also good, though we noticed some loss of fine detail in the foreground, likely due to over-aggressive noise correction. Test shots with the secondary lens appear a bit flat, with intermittent noise. The macro lens performs poorly in low light, which isn’t a surprise.
The front-facing camera comes in at 16MP with an f/2.0 aperture. Our daylight test shots feature crisp details and solid color accuracy, while low-light photos appear flat and lacking in detail. There’s minimal noise however, and the test shots are still good enough for sharing on social media.
The Moto G Stylus supports 4K video at 30fps and 1080p at 30/60/120fps with the primary lens; 1080p video at 30fps with the ultra-wide lens; and 720p video at 30fps with the macro lens. We tested video with the primary lens in 4K and the ultra-wide lens in 1080p. With the primary lens, video is decent but lacks any real depth of field. The same goes for ultra-wide lens, in addition to dropped frames when panning.
Specs and Performance
Like the Moto G Power, the Moto G Stylus ships with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chipset and 4GB of RAM. Storage comes in at 128GB, of which 112GB is available out of the box. If you need more room, the Stylus supports up to 512GB microSD cards.
See How We Test Phones
Performance is solid. We tested the phone with a dozen apps open and didn’t encounter any lag. With more than 10 Chrome pages open, however, we did notice intermittent caching when switching between tabs.
Gaming performance is also good. We played Asphalt 8 and PUBG: Mobile using Moto GameTime and didn’t notice any skipped frames or lag. Load times are a little slower than what you get on higher-end phones, but are not at all unbearable.
On PCMark Work 2.0, a suite a tests that simulate common smartphone tasks, the Moto G Stylus scored 6,819. That’s a bit short of the $399 Google Pixel 3a (7,378) not enough that you’ll notice a pronounced difference with normal use.
A 4,000mAh battery provides ample power for the Moto G Stylus. In our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the phone lasted 14 hours and 28 minutes. That’s less than the Moto G Power (which lasted 18 hours and 11 minutes), but it should easily get you through a busy day. A 10W charger is included in the box, and the phone supports up to 15W fast charging with an optional power adapter.
It should come as no surprise that the Moto G Stylus features a built-in stylus. Tucked in the bottom right corner of the phone, it’s easy to access and remove. It’s also easy to lose; luckily, you can adjust the phone’s settings to remind you if the stylus has been removed for an extended period of time, or the last place you pulled it out.
To use the stylus, you simply remove it from the bottom. If the phone is locked, a notes screen will appear. If it’s unlocked, a small stylus icon appear will appear. From the stylus icon you can open Moto Notes, Google Keep, take screenshots, or record your screen.
While Motorola’s software is thoughtful and works seamlessly, the phone lacks palm rejection, which makes using the stylus to take notes more difficult than it should be. That said, hopefully this can be fixed with a software update, since the LG Stylo 5 uses the same type of stylus and has palm rejection.
The Moto G Stylus ships with Android 10 and Moto’s custom UI. For the most part, it’s hard to tell Motorola even adds a custom skin to its smartphones, since the alterations are minor and tend to improve overall usability.
Moto Actions lets you use gestures, like flicking your wrist to turn on the flashlight or swiping the screen to activate single-hand mode. Moto Gametime allows you to stop notifications and tweak performance for gameplay. While we’re starting to see more phones adopt this approach, Motorola’s is the most thoughtful we’ve seen, allowing you to quickly access settings and features while playing by swiping left on the display.
Since Android 11 has yet to be announced, there’s no word on whether the phone will receive an update. That said, Motorola has a pretty solid track record of offering at least one major OS update on its G-series smartphones.
Aside from the expensive Galaxy Note 10, the Moto G Stylus is the best stylus-equipped smartphone you can buy. For $299, it offers solid performance, a big, bright display, and long battery life. That said, you can get nearly identical features and performance—not to mention longer battery life—for $50 less with the Moto G Power. And if you’re willing to spend more, we recommend that Pixel 3a for its more powerful hardware, faster OS updates, and best-in-class camera. Of course, neither of these alternative come with a stylus, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you can’t beat the Moto G Stylus for the price.
Moto G Stylus Specs
|Operating System||Android 10|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 665|
|Processor Speed||2 GHz|
|Dimensions||6.24 by 2.98 by 0.36 inches (HWD)|
|Screen Size||6.4 inches|
|Screen Resolution||2,300 by 1,080|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||48MP, 16MP, 2MP; 16MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||14 hours, 28 minutes|