Thursday, February 18, 2021

Motorola One 5G Ace review

Two-minute review

The Motorola One 5G Ace is another value-oriented phone coming from Motorola, and it adds yet another 5G phone option for shoppers on a budget. It hits a middle-of-the-road price point that seats it competitively against phones from OnePlus and Samsung.

Design-wise, the Motorola One 5G Ace fits its price point. It has a pleasant enough look, but opts for plastic over premium materials like glass and metal for the frame and back cover.

It also comes with just a modest IP52 rating rather than the extensive water protection offered by devices with an IP68 rating. Motorola did keep the microSD card and 3.5mm headphone jack intact though, even as more and more phones ditch the handy technologies.

You do get a lot of screen space for the price. At 6.7 inches, it competes with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus for size. It’s even got the same resolution as the latter phone. But it’s not a premium OLED panel and it lacks the fast refresh rate that’s one of the more exciting features of the latest smartphones.

Though it’s not the most impressive screen, it doesn’t exactly pale in comparison to its flagship competitors. It’s bright enough and sharp enough to get the job done in everyday use, and it even tacks on HDR support.

Surprisingly, the Motorola One 5G Ace is an ace when it comes to performance. Its Snapdragon 750G chipset doesn’t compete with recent iPhones or Android phones running a Snapdragon 800-series chipset from the past couple of years, but it has proven itself faster than just about all the Snapdragon 700- and 600-series phones we’ve tested, and that speed holds up in our day-to-day use.

Better still, all the power is drawing from a 5,000mAh battery that has no trouble going a day (or even two if you’re a moderate user) between charges.

The new chipset also comes with support for 5G, and Motorola has set the phone up to run on Sub-6GHz 5G networks. Unfortunately, that may not mean much for some users, as the current state of 5G doesn’t always offer an appreciable difference compared to 4G LTE.

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: Future)

The one area the phone feels like it’s the most lacking is the camera department, even though it has a total of four cameras. For the basics, the Motorola One 5G Ace has it made. It’s primary camera and selfie shooter are competent and snag clear pictures all around. But the extra capabilities aren’t dazzling.

The ultra-wide camera won’t blow you away, and the macro camera probably won’t be heavily used even if it does capture decent detail. Video is also on the weak side.

All told, the phone is a bit of a utilitarian champ. It may not offer the style or some of the premiums coming from the OnePlus Nord or Nord N10 5G, but it has both phones beat for speed, and its battery is nothing to scoff at.

Motorola One 5G Ace price and availability

  • Motorola One 5G Ace price: $399 (about £290, AU$520)
  • Motorola One 5G Ace US release date: January 14, 2021
  • Available now in the US

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a follow-up, in a way, to the Motorola One 5G (also known as the Moto G 5G Plus). But there’s enough that’s changed that we wouldn’t call it quite the same phone. One particular shift is in the price, as this new model comes in at just $399 (about £290, AU$520) unlocked.

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Motorola One 5G Ace isn't currently available in the UK or Australia though, and it's unclear if of when it will be landing in these regions.

Even in the US, at the time of writing, only one version of the handset is available, packing 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM, and a Frosted Silver color, though a 64GB model should also be on the horizon. The pricing doesn’t make it quite the most affordable 5G smartphone, but it still positions the phone competitively.

Design

  • Plastic but pretty
  • microSD and 3.5mm jack still hanging on
  • A bit chunky, but not excessively

As we mentioned, the Motorola One 5G Ace is stylistically similar to the One 5G that preceded it, but there are enough differences when you take a closer look. The Ace drops one camera on the front and one on the rear (replacing it with the flash), moves the fingerprint scanner from the side to the rear, and changes the shape ever so slightly.

The phone still has a plastic construction that, although not cheap-feeling in the hand, does hint at the budget nature of the phone. The styling on the back cover creates a neat, metallic rainbow effect that helps make up for the plastic though. And, besides, even flagship smartphones are starting to turn to plastic for the rear panels (looking at you, Samsung Galaxy S21).

It’s not clear to us what type of glass is used on the front of the phone, but with some slight blemishes developing just in our review period, it’s likely not the most robust glass.

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: Future)

At 166.1 x 76.1 x 9.9mm and 212 grams, the Motorola One 5G Ace is no meager phone. It’s not much bigger than it needs to be though. Since it’s packing in a 6.7-inch display and a sizable 5,000mAh battery, it does a decent job of staying reasonably trim thanks to narrow bezels around the display.

Unfortunately, the extra bezel space at the top isn’t used to include a powerful second speaker for stereo audio.

Motorola is kind enough to keep a few long-standing features around. There’s still a dedicated microSD card slot on the SIM tray, and there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the phone. Motorola also continues to offer a small degree of water resistance with an IP52 rating for this phone – enough for a sprinkle but not for a dip.

Display

  • 6.7-inch, 20:9, Full HD+ display
  • HDR10 support
  • Basic IPS LCD panel

The Motorola One 5G Ace has its large display lending it prominence. It’s no small phone, and its 6.7-inch display is no small screen. It’s actually as big and sharp as a Galaxy S21 Plus display, and it can support HDR10 for high dynamic range playback from many streaming apps.

The display has been bright enough to hold up in any setting in our testing, but we haven’t had a chance to challenge it with the noon-time sunshine of a cloudless summer day, which tends to be where the very best displays get to show off what sets them apart.

That said, put next to the Galaxy S20 with both phones at maximum brightness, the Motorola One 5G Ace appeared on par with the Galaxy.

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: Future)

One strange quirk of this display appears around the selfie camera. The camera is one of the punch-hole variety, and it appears to create something of a penumbra on the display area around the sensor.

For all its sharpness and brightness, the One 5G Ace’s screen still isn’t the most exciting. As it’s a basic IPS LCD panel, it’s not offering the infinite contrast ratios that can make for extra impressive visuals. Motorola also didn’t add in any fast refresh rate technology, so it’s not as smooth as the 90Hz and 120Hz displays seen on other devices, including the more affordable OnePlus Nord N10 5G.

Camera

  • Three rear cameras: wide, ultra-wide, and macro
  • 16MP selfie camera with quad-pixel binning

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The square camera bump on the back of the One 5G Ace gives the impression that it’s going to be a quality photography machine, but the truth is that it’s a rather plain shooter. It features three rear sensors: a 48MP f/1.7 wide camera that pixel bins down to 12MP, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera, and a 2MP f/2.4 macro camera.

The meat of the shooting experience comes from the main wide-angle sensor, and that’s where it should stay. It gets satisfactorily crisp imagery with realistic colors and an effective dynamic range. A bright window in one scene didn’t blow out or drop the rest of the shot into darkness.

The ultra-wide camera unfortunately suffers from a softness that’s all too common even on more expensive phones. The images manage to capture a lot of scenery, making the camera effective for showing whatever you’re looking at, but they don’t capture fine detail well.

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: Future)

Despite only having a 2MP f/2.4 sensor, the macro camera proves more impressive. Assuming it’s bright enough (which the flash can help ensure), it can produce some great detail when extremely close to subjects.

The 16MP f/2.2 selfie camera is also capable of capturing detail. We find the results to be plenty sharp for sharing, almost in that way where we wish they were a little less sharp – no one needs to see individual beard hairs, do they? However, it does have a propensity for over-exposing shots.

Video is less impressive on the phone. Though it does support 4K video at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps, the video itself is rather grainy and brightness levels jump around considerably.

Camera samples

The bulk of our shooting (and the first four shots in the gallery below) used the main wide-angle camera, as it’s the star of the show.

Image 1 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

The main camera shows off plenty of detail and doesn’t get confused when faced with tons of snow. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 2 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

Another example of what the main lens is capable of. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 3 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

(Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 4 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

(Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 5 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

The ultra-wide lens can get a lot into one shot, but it comes at a cost to sharpness. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 6 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

Snout snooping with the macro camera. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 7 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

A pixel peeping macro shot. (Image credit: TechRadar)
Image 8 of 8

Motorola One 5G Ace camera sample

You can almost get a thread count with the sharpness of the selfie camera. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Specs and performance

  • Snapdragon 750G chipset that outperforms 765G
  • Sub-6GHz 5G support
  • 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a fighter. Even though it’s coming in with a Snapdragon 750G chipset that would appear on paper to put it behind devices packing the Snapdragon 765G, like the OnePlus Nord or Google Pixel 4a 5G, the One 5G Ace manages to beat both phones in our benchmarks.

It earned an impressive 1,999 multi-core score in Geekbench 5. This sees it only falling behind flagship phones with Snapdragon 855 and higher chipsets or iPhones from the iPhone XR on up.

Those benchmarks actually translate into smooth everyday use. We experience minor and infrequent hiccups switching between apps or jumping in and out of full-screen videos, but otherwise we get a fluid experience.

Scrolling Twitter remains impressively smooth, even as the occasional video fires up. Even a graphically intensive game like Thatgamecompany’s Sky runs smoothly on the phone, though wouldn’t offer up the 60fps performance mode in settings.

Sadly, the phone’s 5G performance is only as good as the carriers offering it. The phone supports Sub-6GHz 5G for T-Mobile for now, with the capability planned for AT&T and Verizon. But our testing on the phone hasn’t shown improvements over 4G LTE.

Motorola has the phone running Android 10 out of the box, which is a bit annoying to see as Android 11 has been out for months now. At the time of testing, the phone is also still running on the November 1, 2020 security patch with no pending updates.

All that said, Android 10 still has some life in it, and proves perfectly serviceable on the phone. It’s readily customizable, and Motorola hasn’t gone out of its way to make too many alterations to it.

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

  • 5,000mAh battery
  • Easily lasts a day or more

The Motorola One 5G Ace packs in a considerable battery. At 5,000mAh, it’s made for the long-haul. We easily get through a single day of use, and with lighter activity consisting mostly of texting and browsing, we can see two full days easily.

Running our 90-minute video test with the phone’s display set to 50% brightness, we barely saw the Motorola One 5G Ace’s charge budget. It dropped by just 4% at the end of the test.

When it comes time to charge the One 5G Ace back up, it supports up to 15W fast charging. That’s not the fastest speed you’ll find phones offering nowadays, but it helps get a phone refilled, especially from empty – too bad Motorola only includes a 10W charger in the box.

Should I buy the Motorola One 5G Ace?

Motorola One 5G Ace

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You’re on a budget
The Motorola One 5G Ace is on the affordable side, but you don’t get a phone that will expire quickly. It proves plenty speedy for most uses, and has 5G support to get you onto the latest cellular technology.

You want a big screen
With a 6.7-inch display, the Motorola One 5G Ace is about as big as they come. The display is plenty bright, as sharp as it needs to be, and even offers HDR to round out the package.

You want a good, general purpose smartphone
The Motorola One 5G Ace doesn’t excel in any area, but it’s fairly capable in just about every area. The main camera snaps decent shots, the chipset runs smooth, the screen is big and bright, the battery holds up all day, and the price is right in the middle of the road.

Don't buy it if...

You are all about cameras
The Motorola One 5G Ace doesn’t have the most robust camera system. The main and selfie cameras may do the job, but a lackluster ultra-wide camera and no proper zoom holds it back.

You want something fancy
This phone definitely deserves credit for its can-do attitude, but it holds to a value-oriented utilitarianism that not everyone will love. You can find phones with more premium designs at this price point, but they may make sacrifices elsewhere.

You want the fastest 5G speeds 
Sub-6GHz 5G will likely be the go-to band for the masses, as it blends speed with coverage, but it’s not the fastest. mmWave 5G takes the crown for raw speed, and the Motorola One 5G Ace doesn’t support it.

First reviewed: February 2021

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