Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) review: a good, midrange stylus phone

The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G gets some major upgrades in this year’s model, putting it firmly in the mid-range. If you’re looking for a high-performing stylus phone, but the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra feels like overkill, the G Stylus 5G is what you’re looking for.

Don’t confuse the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022 edition) with last year’s Moto G Stylus 5G or this year’s non-5G Moto G Stylus (2022). Somehow these are all distinctly different phones. While the previous Moto G Stylus 5G wasn’t exactly a step up from last year’s 4G-only G Stylus in terms of specs, this year is a different story. This time, the G Stylus 5G includes an improved Qualcomm chipset, a stabilized main camera and more RAM. That doesn’t sound like much, but those improvements really help set the G Stylus 5G apart from the budget range of $300 and under.

Good stuff

  • Strong overall performance
  • Very good battery life
  • Built-in stylus is useful for notes and doodles
  • Lots of built-in storage and RAM

bad stuff

  • Camera quality is inconsistent
  • LCD is hard to see outside
  • Very big phone

Of course, those upgrades come with a higher price tag: $499 for the unlocked version with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, a sharp increase from last year’s $399. But I think that extra $100 makes the Stylus G 5G a worthwhile mid-range phone rather than a forgettable device at the high end of the budget range. It’s more like a Galaxy Note Light than a cheap phone with a stylus in it.

The G Stylus 5G has a huge 6.8-inch screen with a high enough resolution of 1080p and a fast refresh rate of 120 Hz. Scrolling and animations look smooth as a result, and the phone uses that highest 120Hz rate in auto mode quite often, which makes battery life easier than leaving 120Hz on all the time.

This screen is an LCD, so blacks aren’t as dark and the contrast isn’t as rich as on an OLED. Video playback quality is fine, but not quite as enjoyable as a more expensive device (or even some other budget and midrange models that now have OLED screens). What bothered me more was that the display is hard to see outdoors in bright sunlight – in theory LCD technology has an advantage over OLED in bright conditions. This was not the case with the G Stylus 5G, as I was staring at the screen in bright daylight. Indoors, I usually had the screen brightness up to 80 or 90 percent, which is all to say that this screen isn’t the brightest.

That huge screen makes the phone look a little ridiculous in the side pocket of yoga pants, but it’s just the right size for all of the device’s stylus-focused functions. Remove the stylus from the built-in silo and you’ll see a shortcut menu appear with icons that direct you to Motorola’s note-taking app, GIF maker, and coloring book, among other things. A stylus isn’t essential to any of these per se, but the added accuracy helps.

The notes app is slightly simpler than what you find on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Rather than giving you access to all the tools at once, individual notes have separate tabs for scribbling, text entry, images, and voice memos. It’s more limited, but also less overwhelming. You can choose from a few different background options for your digital page, such as pastel blue with grid lines or soft gray with dots. They are inviting as is a new blank diary.

the unlocked version of the phone includes a very healthy 8GB of RAM

Outside of the notes app, the stylus plays more of a supporting role. You can use it to crop images in a free-form style, add handwriting to a screen grab, or fill out some Disney character-esque coloring book templates. It’s a capacitive stylus, so there’s no pressure sensitivity, and it lacks the connected features of Samsung’s S Pen, such as gesture-based Air Actions to control certain functions without touching the screen. Still, there’s a little bit of weight to it, and it feels precise and responsive enough for taking notes and sketching.

The overall performance of the phone is very good. The Snapdragon 695 is a lot better than the 400 series chipset used by last year’s model, and the unlocked version of the phone packs a very healthy 8GB of RAM. There are ways I can definitely see all that power at work: apps stay open in the background for a relatively long time, and I can run a very graphics-heavy game like Genshin Impact fairly smoothly. Performance is not flawless; some apps, like the camera app, are a little slow to open on the first launch. But overall, the G Stylus 5G offers good performance that often exceeded my expectations of a $500 Android phone.

Battery endurance is also healthy. Some budget phones from Motorola will actually last for days on a single charge if you’re a light or moderate user – the G Stylus 5G isn’t quite up to that level, but it will safely get most users through a full day. Even on a day of heavy use, I was still at 20 percent before bed. The battery life isn’t exceptional, but it shouldn’t be something device owners need to worry about.

A quick word about 5G: The unlocked version of the phone can use Verizon and T-Mobile’s sub-6GHz 5G networks, and Motorola spokesman Stephanie Stiltz says other carriers will be available “in the coming months.” Presumably that means AT&T. The G Stylus 5G supports the n77 C-band frequency that Verizon and AT&T are using to upgrade their long-haul 5G networks, so it should be able to take advantage of this when more of that spectrum comes online in the coming years.

the G Stylus 5G gets one OS platform upgrade and three years of security updates

The Moto G Stylus 5G comes with Android 12 installed, as it should be, as Android 13 is just around the corner. Motorola’s implementation of Android remains one of my favorites, including the “watch” notifications on the lock screen that are helpful without being distracting. The system will ask you to sign up for a suggested app feature on the home screen, powered by a company called Branch. In my testing, the suggestions aren’t that smart, and it just takes up space, but it’s easy enough to just not sign up for that particular feature.

Motorola’s Stiltz says the G Stylus 5G will get one OS platform upgrade and three years of security updates. That’s an improvement over the company’s previous policy of supporting phones for two years, though not quite as good as Samsung’s five-year policy for some of its budget phones, such as the Galaxy A53 5G. Still, it’s progress, and if you like to trade in your old device for a new one every few years, that’s enough.

In terms of camera quality, the Moto G Stylus 5G feels like it’s not quite living up to its potential. Sometimes image quality is good and the main camera’s optical stabilization seems to help preserve more detail in low-light shots. But Motorola hasn’t turned on its image processing and photos sometimes look overly bright with neon greens and reds.

The rear camera system of the G Stylus 5G consists of a 50-megapixel f/1.9 standard wide, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle and a 2-megapixel depth sensor that helps with portrait shots. There’s also a 16-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera with a very aggressive face-softening beauty filter that can thankfully be turned off.

Photos in portrait mode are generally good, although they are sometimes prone to errors, such as blurring over a subject’s ear. Macro photos are thanks to the ultra-wide angle lens, which is actually much more fun than using a dedicated low-resolution macro camera because you actually get autofocus. Low and low light photos sometimes look overly smooth and other times they look dark and contrasty. It’s just hard to know what you’re going to get. Video recording tops out at 1080/30p, and for $500, this phone should really be recording 4K. As it stands, video clips tend to look too bright, although the stabilization is good.

If you want a phone with a stylus that can handle demanding tasks and camera quality isn’t a priority, the G Stylus 5G is an attractive option. Not everyone needs the power of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and the Moto G Stylus 5G stands out as a much cheaper alternative with healthy performance. The LTE-only Moto G Stylus is an even cheaper option at $279, which is a great option if your budget is tight. But if you can spare the extra $200-plus, the 5G model is a worthwhile upgrade for its faster performance.

However, it’s not a phone I’d recommend as an all-round choice in its price range. If you’re not a stylus lover, then the Galaxy A53 5G is a better package overall. The 120Hz OLED screen is nicer, the camera quality is better and more consistent, and it’s slated to get five years of security updates. You don’t get that much storage or RAM, but it’s also $50 cheaper.

Now that LG is out of the mobile phone market, we only have two manufacturers left making stylus phones. The S22 Ultra sits much, much higher and is worth its high price if you’re looking for a stylus and the best of the best. The G Stylus 5G feels like a good middle ground for stylus fans, as long as you’re not too picky about image quality.

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