Jeremy Laukkonen is automotive and tech writer for numerous major trade publications as well as the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. A fan of EVs since the early 2000s, he stays up-to-date on the myriad complex systems that power battery electric vehicles.
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Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire
Good battery life
Built in stylus
Poor palm rejection
The Moto G Stylus brings good performance, decent battery life, an attractive design, and a built-in stylus to the table. The stylus is handy and works well, but it comes with an increased cost that doesn’t seem warranted.
We purchased the Moto G Stylus so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Moto G Stylus represents part of the eight generation of Moto G hardware, with the other two being the Moto G Power and Moto G Fast. This one includes a built-in stylus, a better camera, and a higher price tag than the others, along with a lower battery capacity than the Moto G Power. If you’re looking for a significantly more affordable take on something like the Galaxy Note 20, you’re squarely in Motorola’s sights here.
Having already tested the Moto G Power, I swapped my SIM into a Moto G Stylus and used it as my daily driver for about a week. I tested things like performance, connectivity, and call clarity, while paying special attention to features like the stylus and 48MP main camera.
Just looking at the specifications, I wasn’t sure whether the inclusion of a stylus, improved main camera, and increased onboard storage would be enough to warrant the increase in price compared to the Moto G Power or Moto G Fast. The 4,000 mAh battery in the Moto G Stylus shouldn’t be underestimated though, and always having a stylus at hand is pretty useful.
Motorola is pretty good at making budget and mid-range phones that look and feel more expensive than they really are, and the Moto G Stylus fits that bill. It had a basic glass sandwich design with a big 6.4-inch display, black metal sides, and a glass back that flashes just a hint of metallic blue when the light catches it just right. It’s very similar to both the Moto G Power and Moto G Fast, but this is definitely my favorite of the three in terms of looks.
The front of the Moto G Stylus is dominated by the IPS display, which features fairly thin bezels for a phone in this price range. It also has a tiny hole punch camera instead of a thick top bezel or teardrop, which lends a bit of an upscale look to the phone. Around back, the thumbprint sensor is cleverly disguised with a Motorola logo. To the left is the camera array, with the 48MP main sensor, wide-angle sensor, and depth sensor stacked vertically.
The physical controls, limited to a volume rocker and power button, are on the right side of the phone, while the SIM tray is on the left. Lined up along the bottom edge, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C port, speaker grill, and the stylus from which this phone takes its name.
The phone automatically launches Motorola’s note-taking app if you remove the stylus with the screen off, making it easy to jot things down any time you want.
The stylus is a simple affair, fitting almost flush with the bottom edge of the phone, it’s easily removed by prying with a fingernail. This isn’t a fancy Bluetooth unit like you’ll find in some flagship devices, it’s just a stubby little stylus that you can use to jot notes on the screen. The phone automatically launches Motorola’s note-taking app if you remove the stylus with the screen off, making it easy to jot things down any time you want.
The Moto G Stylus doesn’t have the best screen I’ve ever seen, but it does look good for a phone in this price range. The panel is big, at 6.4-inches, and it features a decent resolution of 2300x1080, with a pixel density of 399ppi. The IPS display is bright enough that I was able to use the phone outside in full sun without issue, and colors are decent if a bit muted.
As mentioned previously, the big display is surrounded by bezels that are fairly thin for a phone in this price range. They’re definitely noticeable, but this phone has a pretty good display to body ratio of about 89 percent. That isn’t exactly flagship level, but you’re not paying flagship prices here either. Coupled with the hole punch camera, the decent display to body ratio helps make the phone feel more expensive than it really is.
Of course, I can’t discuss the display of this phone without touching on the stylus. When the screen is locked, pulling the stylus out automatically launches a new note to facilitate quick note-taking on the go. If the screen is unlocked, removing the stylus instead opens up a side menu that gives a few options like creating a new note or opening Google Keep.
The stylus works well enough as a writing tool, but it’s not something I’d want to use for anything other than quick notes. It works well for that task, but it isn’t something I’d want to use as a general writing tool. It’s also good for navigation, making it easy to tap small icons and text links in Chrome and other apps that are difficult to hit accurately with your finger.
Palm rejection is pretty hit or miss. While the phone seemed pretty good at not registering my palm or knuckles as pen inputs with the stylus out, I also had an issue where it wouldn’t register the pen at all if I accidentally brushed the screen with my palm. Not that huge an issue when jotting down a quick note, but it could get annoying if you were trying to write out anything of length.
The Moto G Stylus packs in a Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage. I’ve used other handsets with this processor before, including the Moto G Power, and I’ve found it to be a pretty decent option for phones in this price range.
To test the Moto G Stylus, I started out by running the Work 2.0 benchmark from PCMark. This is a productivity benchmark that tests how well a device handles tasks like web browsing, word processing, and image editing, or the sort of tasks people are likely to need their phone for on a daily basis.
The Moto G Stylus scored a respectable 6,878 overall in the Work 2.0 benchmark, which is right in line with the score I saw from the Moto G Power. Individual scores included 6,707 for web browsing, 7176 for writing, and a massive 11,219 for writing. These numbers are all lower than you’ll see out of more expensive hardware, but they’re all indicative of a device that isn’t likely to give you much of a headache during regular use.
True to the numbers, the Moto G Stylus worked quite well during my time with it. I never noticed any slowdown or lagging, apps always launched and loaded quickly, and I was able to multitask without issue. Video streamed seamlessly through apps like YouTube and HBO Max, and Chrome never skipped a beat even when saddled with an unreasonable number of open webpages.
The stylus works well enough as a writing tool, but it’s not something I’d want to use for anything other than quick notes.
Beyond basic productivity, I also downloaded GFXBench and ran some gaming benchmarks. First up, I ran Car Chase. This is a 3D benchmark that’s meant to simulate a game with advanced shaders and other resource-intensive features. The Moto G Stylus stumbled a bit here, managing just 6.7fps. That’s right in line with the score I saw from the Moto G Power, and wouldn’t have been very surprising either way. If you’re looking for a high-end gaming phone, this really isn’t it.
Next up, I ran the T-Rex benchmark. This one is also a 3D benchmark that’s meant to simulate a game, but it’s more forgiving in terms of requirements. The Moto G Stylus managed a much better result of 33fps here, which would be perfectly playable if this were a real game and not a benchmark.
With that in mind, I downloaded Asphalt 9 and ran a few races. Asphalt 9 is a 3D racing game, but it’s pretty well optimized. It looked great on the 6.4-inch IPS display, and it ran without a hitch. I didn’t notice any frame drops, stuttering, or any other issues.
The Moto G Stylus supports a variety of LTE bands depending on the version you choose and the carrier you use, in addition to Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It doesn’t have NFC, which is a bit of a let down considering how competent the phone is in most other areas.
To test out cellular connectivity on the Moto G Stylus, I used a Google Fi SIM connected to T-Mobile towers. The results were impressive, though a bit less impressive than the numbers I saw from the Moto G Power. The fastest download speed I saw from the Moto G Stylus was 19.7Mbps, compared to 27.2Mbps from the Moto G Power. By way of comparison, my Pixel 3 only managed 15Mbps down in the same location that I measured those speeds from the Moto phones.
The Moto G Stylus provided uniformly good reception and connectivity during my time with the phone, consistently turning in the same or better results than I’m used to with the Pixel 3 on the same service.
When connected to Wi-Fi, the results were similarly impressive for the most part. For that testing, I used a Gigabit connection from Mediacom that measured just shy of 1Gbps at the router at the time, along with an Eero mesh Wi-Fi system. When measured in close proximity to the router, the Moto G Stylus managed to hit 280Mbps down and 65Mbps up. At the same time, in the same location, my Pixel 3 hit 320Mbps down, while the Moto G Power notched a download speed of 288Mbps.
Next up, I moved the Moto G Stylus about 30 feet from the router with moderate obstructions, and the speed dropped to 156Mbps. At a distance of about 50 feet, that dropped to 120Mbps. Finally, I took the phone down into my garage, about 100 feet from the router or any beacon, and the speed dropped to 38Mbps. That’s quite a drop, but still more than fast enough to stream video, make Wi-Fi calls and do just about anything else you might want.
The Moto G Stylus features stereo Dolby speakers that sound absolutely fantastic. At full volume, the phone is loud enough to fill a huge room, and with very little noticeable distortion. At half volume, it comfortably filled my office, and with a quality that’s higher than a lot of smart speakers I’ve used, let alone phones. I already knew more or less what to expect after being blown away by the speakers in the Moto G Power, but this is still a massive strength in a phone that’s already punching above its weight class in a lot of areas.
In addition to the great Dolby speakers, the Moto G Stylus also includes a 3.5mm audio jack. So if your friends or coworkers don’t happen to appreciate whatever tunes you feel like blasting from these great speakers, switching to headphones is literally a matter of plug and keep playing.
Where the Moto G Power turns in reasonably acceptable shots with its main camera, the Moto G Stylus shoots to kill.
Aside from the stylus, the camera is the biggest improvement in the Moto G Stylus compared to the other two phones in the line. Where those phones feature a 16MP main sensor, the Moto G Stylus has a 48MP rear camera. The rear camera array also includes a 2MP macro camera and a 16MP wide-angle action cam. The front-facing camera also features a 16MP sensor.
Where the Moto G Power turns in reasonably acceptable shots with its main camera, the Moto G Stylus shoots to kill. Given good lighting, snaps taken with the main camera turned out uniformly crisp and colorful with great detail. I noticed a lot of instances where shots taken by the Moto G Power would struggle with closely grouped variations of the same hue, instead rendering them similarly, and I didn’t get any of that from the Moto G Stylus.
The main camera also does pretty good in low and poor lighting conditions, with a noticeable loss of detail. There’s clearly some noise-correction at work there, but most of the shots I took in those conditions turned out fairly well. I wasn’t as impressed by the macro lens, but it works well enough for a camera in this price range.
The front-facing camera turns in great results given the right lighting conditions, with bright colors and reasonably sharp details. A lot of that gets lost in translation in low light though, so you’ll want to make sure to have your lighting situation sorted if you plan on using this phone for video calls.
The battery is the biggest thing that differentiates the Moto G Stylus from the less expensive Moto G Power, but it isn’t as big a difference as you might expect. Instead of a 5,000 mAh battery, you get a 4,000 mAh battery. That’s significant enough, but 4,000 mAh is pretty substantial in its own right.
While using the Moto G Stylus normally for calling, texting, web browsing, and some video streaming, I was able to go about two and a half days between charging. You may get less than that, or significantly more, based on your own usage, but I was pretty impressed overall.
In order to get a better idea of what the Moto G Stylus is really capable of, I charged it to full, connected it to Wi-Fi, set the brightness to full, and streamed YouTube nonstop until it died. It lasted well over 13 hours, which is in line with what I saw out of the Moto G Power when considering the different battery capacities. The Moto G Power lasts a few hours longer, but the Moto G Stylus is definitely no slouch in this department.
The Moto G Stylus ships with Android 10 that has been tweaked with Motorola’s custom UI and a few extras. Unlike some custom Android installs, Motorola’s flavor is completely painless. Most things are either left alone entirely or tweaked in ways that either don’t matter or provide a bit of extra utility. It runs well, and I didn’t have any real issues with it.
The biggest thing Motorola brings to the table here is what they call Moto Actions. This addition allows you to use gestures and specific movements of the entire phone to achieve various effects. For example, chopping with the phone like an axe will open the camera, and you can also swipe the screen to shrink it for single-hand operation.
Motorola also adds Moto Gametime, which pops up whenever the phone detects that you have launched a game. This provides a little menu on the side of the screen where you can access useful settings and options that are likely to be useful when gaming.
I’m a big fan of stock Android, but Motorola gets a lot right with their little tweaks and additions.
With an MSRP of $300, the Moto G Stylus provides a whole lot of value, and it compares favorably to most of the competition. The biggest issue is that Motorola gave us a cheaper option that does most of what this one can do, which paints the price of the Moto G Stylus in an entirely different light. While it’s a good price for a phone with these specs that includes a built-in stylus, it’s a tough sell if you aren’t absolutely head over heels for that specific feature.
I’ve already touched on this a few times, but the Moto G Power is probably the most important competitor that the Moto G Stylus has to contend with. I could compare this phone with another stylus phone, but the comparison with the Moto G Power is more important due to how much hardware they share.
With an MSRP of $250, the Moto G Power offers almost everything that you get from the Moto G Stylus, has a bigger battery, and costs $50 less. You lose some internal storage and the main camera isn’t as good, but the Moto G Power is still the better deal for most people. The only exception is if the lack of a stylus is a dealbreaker for you, in which case the Moto G Stylus takes the win here regardless.
It’s very similar to both the Moto G Power and Moto G Fast, but this is definitely my favorite of the three in terms of looks.
It’s worth noting that the Moto G Fast is technically on the periphery of this conversation as well, with an MSRP of $199.99. It has the same processor as the other two, less RAM, less storage, the camera from the Moto G Power, and the battery from the Moto G Stylus. It also has a white back and is banded by silver, instead of the all-black look of the other two. While the price is attractive, the lower RAM and storage are reason enough to go with a Moto G Power or Moto G Stylus instead.
Great option if you need a stylus at this price point.
The Motorola G Stylus would look a whole lot better if it hadn’t launched alongside the Motorola G Power. If you’re a die-hard fan of having a stylus built into your phone, then the Motorola G Stylus is an easy recommendation. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a tough sell. While the Moto G Stylus is a great phone in its own right, and well worth the price even as an unlocked handset at full MSRP, you need to ask whether the few extra features are worth the increased price.
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