A big camera and a big screen don’t always mean a big price, as the mid-range Moto Edge 20 tries to show.
Big phones come in lots of price points, but if you want big features to come with them, you can typically expect a tremendous tag alongside. It’s not always the case, but it’s clearly often enough.
However the tech does eventually trickle down, something we’ve been seeing in 5G as of late. A few years ago, 5G was the big deal feature you could rely on that would cost extra. These days, not so much.
In 2021, it’s more about having a well-rounded device that does everything well, and for a price you can be happy with.
At $699, the Moto Edge 20 5G could well be that device given what it offers. One of three Edge 20 models released in Australia, the standard Edge 20 5G features a big screen, battery, and a camera setup practically like no other phone at its price point. It even features 5G and a clean and simple look. The price almost seems too good to be true. Is the phone a well thought out bargain?
If you’ve seen a phone sporting a flat edged design in the past year, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an iPhone, as that’s the style Apple is using lately. And it’s also similar to the style Motorola is using on its Moto Edge 20 line, with the main Edge 20 softening the look slightly but still keeping everything fairly minimalist.
The edges are mostly flat save for how they meet at the front and back, which curves slightly, while the front and black are just flat except how the camera extrudes from the back. That edge is made from an aluminium alloy, while the front is glass and the back is plastic.
You could easily call this approach to design monolithic because the Edge 20 kind of resembles the black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a flat edged dark rectangle that also just happens to be a phone.
Inside that monolithic form, Motorola has equipped some modest specs, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778, a chip that’ll be accompanied by 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.
Three cameras sit on the back of this phone, and they’re surprisingly meaty, or at least one of them is. You’ll find a massive 108 megapixel standard wide camera in the Moto Edge 20, set to an aperture of F1.9, alongside an ultra-wide 16 megapixel F2.2 and a 3X telephoto running at 8 megapixels and F2.4. The main camera’s special technique isn’t to provide 108 megapixel images, even if you can through a special mode. Rather, it will offer 12 megapixel images by downsampling to a magnitude of nine.
The Moto Edge 20 camera also has other techniques, such as 4K video capture, a stills portrait mode, and a night stacking mode for images. There’s also a 32 megapixel F2.25 camera up front for selfies.
Connections are fairly standard here, with a Type C port the only wired one available,e while wireless is covered with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, GPS, and Near-Field Communication (NFC) for mobile payments, as well as support for 5G over sub-6.
All of this comes under a 6.7 inch screen running the Full HD+ resolution of 2400×1080, running on an OLED panel and supporting up to a 144Hz refresh rate for smooth animation.
It all sits in a body made from aluminium, glass, and plastic, measuring 6.99mm thick and weighing 163 grams, with three buttons covering power, volume, and the Google Assistant, with a fingerprint sensor under the power button. The Moto Edge 20 5G sports a small amount of water resistance at IP52, and comes with a 4000mAh battery, rocking Android 11 out of the box.
Grab the phone and start using it, and you’ll find the monolithic design doesn’t necessarily add anything to the experience of the phone, though it does make for a big screen that’s easy on the eyes.
Sporting a minimal frame and bezel, the 6.7 inch Full HD+ OLED on the Edge 20 is pleasing enough, complete with a surprisingly fast 144Hz refresh rate that can be pulled back to a standard 120Hz keeping the look slick, while the fairly thin 6.99mm thickness helps it stand out ever so slightly.
In a sea of same-same smartphone styling, this look is something different, even if Android is not.
Out of the box, you’ll find Google’s Android 11, though we suspect Android 12 is on the way having recently gone final. Motorola has made some tweaks, though, as this isn’t a stock experience, and means you can customise the grid size, the look of your Android experience, and you’ll get some of Moto’s classic extras such as shaking the phone to launch the camera.
The power button on the right also features a fingerprint sensor underneath, giving you the ability to unlock the phone from your grip without trying.
There’s also a Google Assistant button on the left edge of the phone, something we’re not entirely sure is necessary, but is there if you need it.
Performance is mostly strong, too, thanks in part to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 778, a mid-to-high-end chip that can handle its own quite nicely, especially given it’s paired with 8GB RAM.
You may find the odd spot of lag here and there, notable in using the camera (more on that later), but for the most part, the Edge 20 5G is a slick experience.
That slickness doesn’t just sit on the system performance, but with 5G, as well, capable of hitting high speeds if your network allows it and you’re within reach of some juicy speeds.
When we spent time with our Moto Edge 20 review unit, our 5G tests on Telstra in Sydney maxed out around the 180Mbps mark which wasn’t fantastic, though we suspect that may come down to telco reach in general. Your speeds may vary, however, and given the hardware inside, is suggestive that high-speed connections are a possibility from Motorola’s second-generation Edge handset.
With a decent performance and support for high-speed 5G, our main focus for the Edge 20 is actually on the camera, because that’s the other big deal feature for this mid-range phone. Simply put, there’s a 108 megapixel camera lurking under the hood of this $699 phone, something of a surprise that we don’t think anyone has tried at this price point.
It’s a camera approach Xiaomi and Samsung initially worked on together, and something Xiaomi released first, before Samsung offered it in the Galaxy S20 Ultra, and again this year in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. And now Motorola gets one, as well, as a positively massive camera makes its way to a not so massively-priced phone.
The 108 megapixel sensor is one of three cameras in the Edge 20, but it’s seriously the one doing the heavy lifting, with detailed shots in daylight and some soft backgrounds, while the ultra-wide is what you’ll switch to if you need to capture a macro shot which tends to do so with lots of detail, but little in the way of compositional excellence.
It’ll surprise you — it certainly did with us — but the big camera of the Edge 20 is actually not bad at all, producing a good assortment of lovely images in 12 megapixels thanks to a down sampling by nine times, though you can even capture a full 108 megapixel image if you so choose.
Low-light isn’t super breathtaking on the camera, but it does the job and works better with the stacking of night mode, delivering some fine shots especially if there’s a smidgen of light to work with.
Alongside a surprisingly capable mid-range camera is an equally capable battery, and one that pushes beyond what you’d expect a $700 phone to hit.
In our tests, we found the Moto Edge 20 5G could hit nearly two full days of battery life, only really needing a charge on the second night. It means you don’t need to lean on the USB charger with this phone, and can make charge every two nights, meaning big nights out don’t have to come with the risk you’ll run out of battery life.
This year when phone batteries have felt largely meh, it’s nice to see a phone that goes the distance and hits a goal almost everyone has seemingly been missing.
And hitting a value of $699, Motorola’s Edge 20 standard edition actually isn’t a bad effort.
We’re quite used to seeing strong value propositions in the Moto G series, models that have impressed over the years, but for the just under $700 price, the combination of a big camera, big screen, thin design, and support for 5G makes the Moto Edge 20 5G feel like a bit of a steal.
What needs work?
Yet while the price achieves a lot for a mid-range mobile, managing to feel a whole lot like a flagship, there are things missing from that flagship focus, and things Motorola has experience in but has declined to include.
Things like water resistance.
No wireless charging we can live without, especially for the sub-$1000 price, but Motorola once included water resistance on its less expensive G-series phones and seems to have forgotten about it since.
To Motorola’s credit, the Edge 20 5G has some water resistance, but it’s not much to speak of, sporting an IP52 rating, which basically means the phone is dust resistant and marginally resistant to dripping water. Not very useful to be honest.
It would have been such a nice touch in the Moto Edge 20 5G, a phone that sports so many other great features, but misses out on that one, and something that has been ticking around in phones since around the Samsung Galaxy S5 some seven years ago.
We would also have loved to see a faster camera, because the Moto Edge 20 5G isn’t always remarkably quick at firing a shot. You could press the on-screen shutter and find it doesn’t fire until half a second later, potentially losing the shot in the process. That’s not a quick response, and the sort of thing Moto could clearly work on.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
It can seem like all Motorola does these days is mid-range phones because honestly that’s all we’re really seeing. There’s the G series and the Edge series, and there are quite a few of the former and a handful of the latter, which this one sits in.
A little higher end than the G-series, the 2021 Moto Edge 20 is a bit of a steal worth checking out, with a pretty solid feature set and a great value overall. There are things we’d love Motorola to include, such as water resistance and a little more on the storage front, but they’re small issues.
If you’re looking for a mid-range phone that feels more like a flagship, the Moto Edge 20 is worth checking out.