Motorola One 5G Ace Review

An affordable 5G phone with a middle of the road loadout

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4.1

Motorola One 5G Ace

Motorola One 5G Ace

Jeremy Laukkonen

What We Like
  • Great battery life

  • Decent performance

  • Good price for a 5G phone

What We Don't Like
  • Uninspired design

  • Ships with Android 10

  • Cameras aren't great

  • Plastic frame and back

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a great deal if you’re in the market for a 5G phone and can’t afford to splash out for anything flashier, but the rest of this phone’s loadout doesn’t line up with the price tag quite as well.

4.1

Motorola One 5G Ace

Motorola One 5G Ace

Jeremy Laukkonen

We purchased the Motorola One 5G Ace so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a more affordable version of the Motorola One 5G that launched in late 2020. The killer feature is 5G connectivity, and it also brings a massive 5,000mAh battery to the table. Some of the specs line up with its predecessor, while the build quality, processor, and a few other areas took hits to meet a more affordable price point.

This is the cheapest 5G phone Motorola has ever offered, and it’s the path of least resistance if your only goal is to grab ahold of that 5G ring without shelling out for a much more expensive handset.

Before I can really dig into the Motorola One 5G Ace, it’s important to clear up some possible confusion regarding branding and naming schemes. If you’re curious how the Motorola One 5G Ace can be Motorola’s most affordable 5G phone when you’ve seen the Moto G 5G priced the same or even lower, there’s an easy explanation.

The Moto G 5G and the Motorola 5G Ace are the exact same phone with different branding. Motorola did the same thing last year with the Moto G 5G Plus and Motorola One 5G, which is the more expensive, and slightly superior, predecessor to the Moto G 5G and Motorola One 5G Ace.

Interested to see how Motorola’s push for more affordable hardware played out, I shelved my own phone and took the Motorola One 5G Ace for an extended test drive. I used the phone for about a week, getting a feel for its build quality, call quality, testing data speeds, and using it for every phone-related task that came up. 

Design: Cut from the same cloth as Motorola’s Moto G line

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a large phone, with a 6.7-inch display and a decent screen-to-body ratio. As you may guess from the fact that it also sells under the Moto G 5G name, it shares a lot of design DNA with the 2021 refresh of the Moto G line.

The frame and back are plastic, and it doesn’t even have the premium glass-like feel of the Moto G Stylus (2021). It looks and feels a whole lot like the less expensive Moto G Power (2021) in the hand, right down to the silver color of my review unit. The back does look a little better than the Moto G Power, with an attractive inlaid pattern, but the G Stylus actually looks and feels better in the hand.

Strangely enough, the Motorola One 5G Ace shares a button layout with the budget-priced Moto G Play (2021) instead of the more expensive Moto G Power (2021) and Moto G Stylus (2021). The G Power and G Stylus both shifted the fingerprint sensor to a thicker power button, but the Motorola One 5G Ace still features a thin power button and volume rocker on the right side of the frame, with the fingerprint sensor housed on the back and emblazoned with the Motorola logo.

Motorola One 5G Ace

Jeremy Laukkonen

The left side of the phone houses the SIM card drawer, which doubles as a microSD card slot. The top is bare, while the bottom edge of the frame houses the 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C port, and the speaker grill.

The rear of the phone is where you’ll find the aforementioned fingerprint sensor and a square camera array that stands out from the surface just a bit. It’s located on the left near the top instead of being centered, so the phone is a little wobbly when you set it on its back.

The overall build quality of the Motorola One 5G Ace feels solid enough, with no noticeable flexing or ugly gaps in construction. It will be a bit big and heavy for some, but I found it to be comfortable enough.

Display Quality: Big, bright screen with HDR10 support

The Motorola One 5G Ace features a 6.7-inch 1080 x 2400 IPS LCD panel with support for HDR10. It’s big and bright, and it looks great in most lighting conditions. Colors reproduction is excellent, especially with HDR10 content, and the picture is nice and crisp considering the size of the display and the resolution. It’s even pretty viewable in direct sunlight.

While this isn’t the best screen out there, even on a handset at this price point, it’s perfectly acceptable when taken as a whole with the rest of the phone’s features. If you’re used to a higher resolution, or just a higher pixel density, it may come as a let down.

It also doesn’t have the excellent contrast of an OLED, because it isn’t one. It’s a slight downgrade from the 1080 x 2520 resolution display of the Motorola One 5G, but the difference isn’t that great when you take price into consideration.

Motorola One 5G Ace

Jeremy Laukkonen

Performance: Tons of memory and storage

The Motorola One 5G Ace received a bit of a downgrade in terms of chipset, shipping with a Snapdragon 750G instead of the Snapdragon 765 found in its predecessor, but it performs and benchmarks at a higher level than you might expect.

Surprisingly enough, the Motorola One 5G Ace actually beat out the Snapdragon 765G-equipped Pixel 4a 5G in some benchmarks.

The first benchmark I ran was Work 2.0 from PCMark, which is a series of tests that show how well a phone can be expected to perform basic productivity tasks. It notched a decent score of 8,210 in that test, which blows the Moto G Power (2021) out of the water, and soars past the Moto G Stylus (2021) as well. For reference, the Pixel 4a 5G scored 8,378 in this test, or just barely higher than the 5G Ace.

Taking a look at specific tasks, the 5G Ace turned in a blistering 16,839 in the photo editing test, 6,400 in data manipulation, and 6,802 in web browsing. These results were all right in line with my own experience, as I had absolutely no trouble tearing through basic productivity tasks such as loading up web pages, writing emails, and keeping up with friends and coworkers in apps like Discord and Slack.

Surprisingly enough, the Motorola One 5G Ace actually beat out the Snapdragon 765G-equipped Pixel 4a 5G in some of the benchmarks I ran.

I also ran a handful of gaming benchmarks from GFXBench, starting with the Car Chase benchmark that simulates a fast-paced 3D racing game. The Motorola One 5G Ace managed only a paltry 17 FPS in that test, which isn’t great. However, the Pixel 4a 5G hit only 13 FPS in that same test.

Next up, I ran the less intense T-Rex benchmark, and the 5G Ace fared better there with an excellent result of 60 FPS. That’s better than the 44 FPS managed by the Pixel 4a 5G, and it indicates that the 5G Ace is more than ready to run basic games and even some more advanced games at lower settings.

For a real-world test, I installed the open-world adventure game Genshin Impact. It’s a cross-platform game you can play on both PC and mobile, and it doesn’t run on a lot of lower-end phones. I had a great time knocking out dailies on the 5G Ace though, with no lag, excessive load times, or dropped frames. I was even able to tackle bosses without any trouble, aside from the fact that I’m not a huge fan of touchscreen controls.

Connectivity: Excellent cellular and Wi-Fi speeds, but no mmwave

The Motorola One 5G Ace supports GSM, HSPA, LTE, and 5G for cellular connectivity, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, and includes NFC functionality. The killer feature here is 5G, as this is Motorola’s cheapest 5G phone. However, the inclusion of NFC is also fantastic. Motorola left it out of the rest of the Moto G line again this year, so it’s really nice to see here.

As a word of caution, the Motorola One 5G Ace supports only sub-6GHz 5G and not mmWave. That limits the upper bound of its 5G speed, which may or may not matter to you depending on whether your local coverage even includes mmWave. While mmWave offers the fastest 5G speeds, sub-6GHz offers a better compromise of speed and coverage.

I saw pretty great results from the sub-6GHz 5G, although your mileage will vary depending on network and coverage. I used the 5G Ace with a Google Fi SIM on T-Mobile’s network, and the fastest speeds I ever see out of LTE usually top out around 20 to 30 Mbps, with sub-10 Mbps common in a lot of places I go.

With the Motorola 5G Ace, I saw speeds up to 80 Mbps. At my desk, where T-Mobile struggles to hit 10 Mbps on LTE, the 5G Ace notched a much more satisfying speed of 41 Mbps.

For Wi-Fi connectivity, I tested the Motorola 5G Ace on my gigabit Mediacom cable internet connection in conjunction with my Eero mesh Wi-Fi system. The results were fantastic. Measured within about 3 feet of my router, the Ookla Speed Test app reported a download speed of 446 Mbps and upload of 68.2 Mbps. That’s significantly better than the Moto G Power (2021), which managed only 314 Mbps, and it’s one of the best wireless speeds I’ve seen on my network ever.

Next up, I moved into a hall about 10 feet from the router. At that distance, the speed dropped to 322 Mbps. Measured at a distance of about 60 feet with a few walls in the way, I saw the speed drop to 185 Mbps. At a distance of about 100 feet, out in my driveway, the connection speed dropped to 43.6 Mbps.

In terms of call quality, I found the Motorola 5G Ace to perform great on both cellular and Wi-Fi. Calls were uniformly clear, with no issues hearing or being heard. The phone is a bit big and heavy, which you’ll tend to notice more during long conversations, but I have zero complaints about call quality.

Sound Quality: Lackluster mono sound

The Motorola One 5G Ace fits right in with the Moto G crowd, with a pretty lackluster mono speaker. It’s less forgivable here than it is with the lower-priced Moto G handsets, but it’s also the exact same setup found in the more expensive Motorola One 5G, so I guess Motorola is just betting that most people aren’t trying to listen to their phones via the built-in speaker.

In practice, I found that the Motorola One 5G Ace comes across a bit more clearly than the G Power or G Stylus, with a slightly less hollow sound. It gets loud enough to fill a room, but there is a bit of unpleasant distortion at maximum volume, especially with higher tones. It’s heavy on the high tones too, without a whole lot of bass to speak of.

The 5G Ace does include a 3.5mm headphone jack, and you’ll probably want to get used to packing along a nice pair of headphones. The speaker is passable enough, especially at lower volumes, but I wouldn’t want to listen to music on it for any length of time.

Camera and Video Quality: Fails to impress

The Motorola One 5G Ace features a three-camera array on the back and a single selfie shooter on the front, and they’re all pretty mediocre for a phone at this price point. The Moto G Power (2021) has a similar setup, and I was far more impressed with these results in a $200 phone than in a $400 phone.

The main camera in the rear array is a 48MP sensor. It has an f/1.7 aperture and supports quad binning, turning in pretty slick 12MP shots given the right lighting conditions. It also has an 8MP ultra-wide lens, which is an improvement over the G Stylus and G Power, along with a 2MP macro lens. The selfie cam is a 16MP quad-pixel sensor that features an f/2.2 aperture.

The selfie cam turns in great results in good lighting conditions, with daylight shots taken outside turning in nice crisp results with great color.

I was able to capture some pretty nice shots with the 48MP main camera, but I found the results to be heavily dependent on having good light. With the right light, I was got nice, crisp shots with excellent color reproduction and decent depth of field.

In lower light, I ended up with several muddy shots without a whole lot of detail. Night Mode helps, but photos taken with that feature tended to look overexposed.

While the ultra-wide lens is an improvement over the G Stylus and G Power, neither of which have an ultra-wide lens in their 2021 incarnations, I wasn’t able to make much use of it. I found it to be even more heavily dependent on having great light, with most of my shots lacking detail and exhibiting an annoying amount of noise.

Motorola One 5G Ace

Jeremy Laukkonen

The macro camera didn’t turn in great results either. I had some frustrating experiences where the camera would bounce back and forth between wanting me to use the macro camera and wanting me to use the main camera, and the macro shots I did take tended to have focus issues.

The selfie cam turns in great results in good lighting conditions, with daylight shots taken outside turning in crisp results with great color. Low light shots turned out OK, if a bit flat. I’m less a fan of the portrait mode, with the bokeh effect failing to correctly operate in a lot of situations.

Battery: Plenty of power to go all day and then some

The Motorola One 5G Ace features a massive 5,000mAh battery, the same cell found in the G Power, and it provides pretty great results despite needing to shoulder a heavier load.

Motorola advertises the One 5G Ace as providing over two days of battery life, and that precisely lines up with my own experience. I consistently found myself with a decent amount of battery left after two days, but I’d throw it on the charger at that point just to be safe.

To see exactly what this battery is capable of when paired with the rest of the hardware, I performed a basic drain test. I switched off the cellular radio and Bluetooth, connected to Wi-Fi, and set the phone to stream YouTube videos nonstop. Under those conditions, it lasted 16 hours before it finally shut down. That isn’t as long as the Moto G Power, but it’s still a significant amount of run time to play with.

The One 5G Ace doesn’t support wireless charging, but it does support up to 15W fast charging. Unfortunately, Motorola gives you only a 10W charger in the box, so you’ll have to pick up a 15W charger if you want to spend an excessive amount of time feeding this massive battery. 

Software: Not an Android One phone

Despite its name, this is not an Android One phone. That means no cutting-edge Android out of the box, and no guaranteed two years of updates. In fact, the One 5G Ace ships with the exact same Android 10 operating system you got with last year’s Motorola One 5G, which actually was an Android One phone.

I’m a fan of Motorola’s flavor of Android 10, as My UX adds some nice conveniences, like snapping a screenshot by touching the display with three fingers, and shaking the phone in a chopping motion to activate the flashlight.

The inclusion of Android 10 is a bit of an annoyance in Motorola’s lower-priced Moto G line, but for a $400 phone seemingly positioned in the Motorola One line, it feels like a really questionable move. What’s more, Motorola has committed to only one upgrade, Android 11, instead of the standard two years of operating system upgrades typically seen from Android One devices.

Android 10 is a fine operating system, and the implementation presented with the Motorola One 5G Ace is close to stock, with the addition of Motorola’s My UX. I’m a fan of Motorola’s flavor of Android 10, as My UX adds some nice conveniences, such as snapping a screenshot by touching the display with three fingers or shaking the phone in a chopping motion to activate the flashlight.

The problem is that at this price point, this far into the life of Android 11, the phone should not have shipped with Android 10.

Price: Decent entry-point for a 5G phone

With an MSRP of $399.99, the Motorola One 5G Ace represents a decent enough deal if you’re looking for a 5G phone and you’re working on a budget. You can get a much better phone for your money if you’re willing to stick with LTE for a bit longer, but the 5G Ace provides a nice mixture of features and capabilities for a 5G phone at this price point.

Motorola One 5G Ace

Jeremy Laukkonen

Motorola One 5G Ace vs. Google Pixel 4a 5G

With an MSRP of $499, the Google Pixel 4a 5G provides pretty solid competition for the Motorola One 5G Ace.

The Pixel 4a 5G's display is a bit smaller, but you get a beautiful 6.2-inch OLED panel with a higher overall pixel density. It also has a lower MP main camera sensor, but the Pixel line is known for its cameras, and the Pixel 4a 5G turns in much better shots than the 5G Ace. Battery life is lower as well, thanks to a much smaller battery, but it supports significantly faster 18W charging in addition to wireless charging. The Verizon flavor of the Pixel 4a 5G also supports mmWave if you’re looking for the fastest 5G speeds around.

While the Pixel 4a 5G beats the Motorola 5G Ace in a lot of areas, including chipset, the Motorola 5G Ace actually benchmarks better in some tests. It also has a much more powerful battery and, crucially, costs about $100 less. If you’re all about that 5G, and price is your biggest concern, the choice is pretty clear.

Final Verdict

Decent option for anyone who needs 5G on a budget.

The Motorola 5G Ace doesn’t have the best specifications out there for a phone in this price range, but it does provide a nice mix of features, performance, and 5G connectivity. If you’re dead set on a 5G phone, and you’re working on a budget, then this is a pretty good option. If 5G isn’t important to you, there are better options for the money.

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Specs

  • Product Name One 5G Ace
  • Product Brand Motorola
  • MPN PALK0003US
  • Price $399.99
  • Release Date January 2021
  • Weight 13.1 oz.
  • Product Dimensions 6.81 x 4.37 x 1.93 in.
  • Color Frosted Silver
  • Warranty 1 year
  • Platform Android 10
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G
  • Display 6.7 inches FHD+ (2400 x 1080)
  • Pixel Density 394ppi
  • RAM 4GB
  • Storage 128GB built-in; up to 1TB via microSD card
  • Camera Rear: 48MP PDAF, 8MP, 2MP; Front: 16MP
  • Battery Capacity 5000mAh, 10 to 15W rapid charging
  • Ports USB-C
  • Sensors Fingerprint, proximity, accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope, e-compass, barometer
  • Waterproof IP52
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