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Motorola One 5G Ace review: a big phone that doesn’t check enough boxes

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a $399.99 telephone that does a considerably convincing impression of a costlier telephone. It’s giant, which looks like a flagship sort of factor, even when that’s not strictly true. It’s comparatively heavy, which, in line with the knowledge of Jurassic Park’s unluckiest lawyer, means it’s most likely costly. It’s shiny. I held it up for a pal to have a look at it from six toes away, and he described it as “smooth, like an outdated iPhone.” And naturally, there’s 5G, which was (till considerably not too long ago) reserved for premium units.

It makes an excellent first impression, however when you look nearer, you begin to see the place it lacks the polish of a excessive midrange or flagship telephone. Its processor stumbles with heavy duties, that massive display screen lacks the decision or sooner refresh fee generally discovered on high-end units, and its cameras can’t compete with the perfect. As is so usually the case, you get what you pay for.

Although $400 is inexpensive by 5G telephone requirements, it’s nonetheless costlier than fairly good non-5G options. The Ace is one or 2 hundred {dollars} greater than different succesful price range choices — a few of which even supply 5G, too. The query, as all the time, is what compromises did Motorola make to supply this telephone at $400, and are these acceptable trade-offs for somebody contemplating it?

Verge Score

6.5 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Big, bright display
  • Excellent battery life
  • Well-priced for 5G

Bad Stuff

  • Camera struggles with low-light and high-contrast scenes
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Screen lacks contrast and resolution

Motorola One 5G Ace hardware

The One 5G Ace features a generous 6.7-inch screen. Depending on how you feel about big phones, that might be one of this device’s best selling points. Battery is another strength: the Ace is equipped with a 5,000mAh battery (likely a contributor to its big size), which is head and shoulders above the 4,000 or 4,500mAh capacity typical in budget and midrange phones.

The Ace is a little big for my comfort, but your mileage may vary.

The Ace is a large phone that makes itself known; you won’t forget it’s in your pocket, for example. It’s a hair taller and wider than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and 1mm thicker. It’s on the heavier side, too, at 212g, probably owing to the battery. I found its size a little awkward. It feels like a strain to reach my thumb across the screen with the phone in one hand. I also fumbled it a couple of times, picking it up too quickly and forgetting how much it weighs. This is very likely a Me Problem, though; my husband thinks it’s comfortable to hold one-handed.

The screen is a 1080 x 2400 LCD panel with a standard 60Hz refresh rate. It’s bright and viewable even in direct sunlight, but it lacks the nice contrast of OLED. Viewing it from slightly off angles results in a loss of contrast and slight color shift. Its resolution is stretched a bit thin on a screen this size, and if you’ve had higher-resolution phones before, you will probably notice it doesn’t look quite as crisp.

The Ace is just shy of 10mm thick.

Likewise with refresh rate: quick scrolling motions and animations are just a little choppy, particularly if you’ve used a 90Hz or 120Hz screen. If you aren’t switching from a phone with better resolution or a faster refresh rate, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything, and you’ll probably just appreciate what is a very large, pleasant-to-use screen.

With moderate use, I generally got two days out of the Ace’s huge battery. Gaming or watching a lot of videos would cut that down, but it’s hard to imagine a real-world scenario where you wouldn’t get at least a day and then some on a full charge. A 15W fast-ish charger is included in the box.

The Ace uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G chipset. It had no problem handling my daily scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, and it generally felt pretty snappy cruising through Zillow and starting the camera. It struggles with certain heavier tasks, like using certain JavaScript features on a webpage (image sliders on this site, for example).

You’ll still find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the Ace.

The Ace is offered with either 4GB of RAM / 64GB of storage or 6GB of RAM / 128GB storage, both of which are expandable via microSD card. I tested the 6GB of RAM variant. Overall, it feels like an appropriate amount of processing power for a $400 phone. The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is quick and mask-friendly as a bonus, and the Ace includes a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Then there’s 5G. Worth noting: the Ace supports Sub-6GHz 5G only, which is the more widespread “nationwide” variety. We still have complicated feelings about the state of 5G in the US, but carriers are pouring resources into expanding and improving their existing 5G offerings. In that sense, choosing a phone that supports it now will mean your device is future-proofed for what 5G brings in the next couple of years. Don’t expect a night-and-day difference just yet, though.


The rear camera bump includes a wide, ultrawide, macro, and a flash.

Motorola One 5G Ace camera

Motorola has equipped the Ace with three rear-facing cameras: a 48-megapixel standard wide that kicks out 12-megapixel images, an 8-megapixel ultrawide, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. Around front, there’s a 16-megapixel selfie camera.

Motorola also throws in a handful of useful software features. There’s an optional on-screen level, which I appreciate as a serial crooked photo-taker. You can opt for a very wide-format image using the main camera, turning the entire screen into a giant viewfinder, which is a fun creative exercise. There’s also a Pro mode if you want to take control of more settings. I didn’t use it much, partly because its insistence on displaying live Kelvin color temperature values stressed me out.

Like most others in this class, the Ace takes nice photos in good lighting conditions. I like its handling of color and white balance. Food looks appetizing, and it handles mixed lighting well. Overall, when it stays in its lane, the Ace is capable of very nice photos.

The Ace, unfortunately, does not always stay in its lane. Often, it tries to do too much with too little. In some high-contrast ultrawide shots, I saw a lot of noise where it tried to boost shadows — noticeable color noise like I haven’t seen since I was reviewing point-and-shoot cameras [redacted] years in the past. Night time Imaginative and prescient mode produces a really vivid picture that simply seems to be unusually synthetic and overcooked. Ultrawide photographs in something lower than vivid outside gentle look very smoothed-over from noise discount.

There’s additionally some noticeable shutter lag, which might positively trouble somebody attempting to {photograph} a shifting topic like a toddler. It was extra of a minor annoyance in my specific use instances of sleeping cat and road scenes.

Even photographs taken in normal picture mode with the principle digital camera look overworked with shut inspection. The digital camera captures a very good quantity of element, however sharpening may be aggressive and crunchy. A photograph I took of the dawn in my yard was spoiled by some noticeable halo-ing round darkish topics within the foreground. If the Ace had simply uncovered for the sky and let shadows be, it will have been effective!

To be clear, it’s not an issue {that a} $400 telephone can’t do the entire issues the Ace is attempting to do; it’s simply that it most likely shouldn’t attempt within the first place.

Motorola One 5G Ace software program

The Ace ships with Android 10, and an replace to 11 has been promised. That’s the one main platform replace you’ll get. Past that, Motorola will present two years of safety updates, up till January 2023. Motorola is, sadly, behind the curve by providing only one main replace, even for a price range gadget.

Motorola’s tackle Android consists of customizable dwelling display screen fonts, icon shapes, and colours, together with a few annoying pre-downloaded apps that may be hidden however not uninstalled. I like Moto’s dealing with of lock display screen notifications, or “peek notifications” because it calls them. They’re useful with out being intrusive.

The Ace doesn’t have numerous direct competitors as a $400 telephone with 5G, however that may change quickly.

“You get what you pay for” is an applicable takeaway right here, and I imply that in each a cautionary and a complimentary sense. Regardless of some resemblance, this isn’t a $1,000 telephone, and also you gained’t get a $1,000 expertise. However for $400, it’s best to anticipate to get a telephone that may get you thru your day with out supplying you with hassle. It ought to do the belongings you want it to do — even some belongings you need it to do — and it ought to see you thru a few years at the least.

The One 5G Ace meets all of these necessities, despite the fact that it does fall wanting good midrange and high-end units. Although succesful, its processor can’t fairly hold with the perfect of them. The digital camera is a little bit clumsy. The display screen, whereas loads massive and vivid, isn’t going to supply the wealthy viewing expertise of a competing gadget with an OLED.

For now, the Ace doesn’t have a lot direct 5G-capable competitors for $400, however that may change shortly. Should you plan to hold on to your telephone for the subsequent couple of years, it does make sense to select a 5G mannequin now. For a bit extra, the $460 Google Pixel 4A 5G gives a superior digital camera, a nicer display screen, and a barely higher processor. Or you would avoid wasting cash and get the $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G with a 90Hz display screen that’s virtually as massive and a greater digital camera, although it gives a much less highly effective processor. If it’s an choice, you would wait issues out for a number of months. Extra inexpensive 5G units are on the best way.

I don’t have an issue recommending the Motorola One 5G Ace if — and it’s an necessary if — a big display screen and nice battery are priorities for you above all else. However if you happen to assume you’ll need a greater digital camera or a nicer display screen, it will be greatest to look elsewhere.

Pictures by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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