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Motorola One 5G Ace Review – An A+ For Effort But Middling In Some Areas That Matter

00 Motorola One 5G Ace Review Title DG AH 2022
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Get a flagship-like build with much better battery performance

Motorola One 5G Ace
$399.99
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Flagship-like design and in-hand feel
  • 8+ hours of moderate-use screen-on time at max brightness
  • IP52 water resistant
  • Minimal pre-installed software
  • Adaptive performance for a smooth experience without hampering the battery
  • Full 5G support, including super fast mmWave
  • Snapdragon 750G processor
  • 3.5mm audio jack included
  • Snappy fingerprint scanner
  • Responsive, lag-free display
Cons
  • Camera is hit-or-miss and inconsistent
  • Display doesn't hold up under direct sunlight
  • Android 10
  • Slow "fast" charging at 2.5+ hours

The One 5G Ace from Motorola comes across more like a budget flagship phone on paper but we wanted to take a deeper look to see how this handset performs under review. And, for the most part, we weren’t disappointed.

There are, of course, some obvious issues to be found and we’ll discuss those momentarily. Those chiefly come down to fixable issues, if and when this phone gets an update. But at under $329.99, as of this writing, nobody expects perfection. Where this handset really stands out is on battery life, the high-resolution display panel, and performance. And it’s good enough in those areas where it excels to make up for where it doesn’t.

So let’s take a closer look at how the Motorola One 5G Ace does under day-to-day use.

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This handset showcases Motorola taking a much different approach to hardware

Motorola One 5G Ace hardware is better than I’d expected for a budget 5G smartphone

When it comes to the hardware in budget-friendly phones, Motorola isn’t one that I’d consider being a boat rocker. So, when I unwrapped and opened up the Motorola One 5G Ace, which only costs just under $330, for this review, I was somewhat taken aback. This phone doesn’t look or feel at all like the overwhelming majority of other handsets in its price bracket.

While the company has opted for cheaper plastics in the frame and rear panel, it feels a lot like glass. To the point of being incredibly slippery and fingerprint-attracting.

In fact, those are my two biggest complaints about the hardware. Although plastics will survive a drop better than glass would. And the Gorilla Glass 5 screen, which we’ll discuss momentarily, will to a certain extent too. At least compared to standard glass. This phone did have a tendency to slide off when put down on even slightly curved or tilted surfaces. And I did drop it more than once during use.

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The shape of that rear panel, conversely, is much closer to a flagship than to a mid-ranger. Albeit slightly thicker than a top-priced handset and slightly heavier too. Comparable, in fact, to a modern flagship phone such as the S21 Ultra. At least as far as hardware goes, this Motorola is comfortable to hold. Unless you’d like to use it one-handed. But that’s mostly due to the size of this device. And it’s easily among the best in terms of the highest build quality among devices in its bracket.

The build quality carries over to the buttons and ports as well. With both the USB-C and 3.5mm audio jack port snapping into place with a satisfying click. The same can be said of the volume rocker and power button. The latter of which is textured, making it easier to find.

Aesthetically speaking, Motorola One 5G Ace is fantastic. The gadget comes in a frosted silver coloration, accented by a holographic-like glint under direct lighting and a tight-knit grid pattern.

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The smooth curves and ports, as well as the accent-colored edge, are reminiscent of a Samsung flagship. And the square-shaped camera bump doesn’t get in the way or look unsightly. Chiefly because it doesn’t protrude too far. Especially by modern standards. The fact that it’s the same color as the rest of the phone helps with that too. But really, it’s just objectively a very nice-looking phone for the money.

The Motorola One 5G Ace display is great except where it wasn’t

The display on Motorola One 5G Ace was smooth and responsive under review but wasn’t the crispest

Now, Motorola gave the One 5G Ace a display that matches many of its top competitors for specs. Its 6.7-inch panel comes with a relatively slim bezel, with sides that are comparable to last year’s Pixel 5. And with bottom and top bezels that are too much wider. The FHD+ resolution, at 2400 x 1080 pixels, with a ppi of 394, is pretty great too.

But, despite those specs, during my review of Motorola One 5G Ace, I found this panel to be just slightly less crisp than some similarly-priced competitors. But while the display refresh rate — no longer at 90Hz — wasn’t the best, that wasn’t the biggest issue I ran into.

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The biggest issue I noted with this panel was its brightness. Outdoors under direct sunlight, glare was high enough as to nearly render the display unusable.

In any slightly dimmer conditions, it was fine. And its responsiveness and lack of latency to touch are fantastic. But using this in direct sunlight was such a hassle that I frequently simply avoided pulling it out in those conditions. Or needed to use my other hand to shield the display so that I could use it.

Motorola One 5G Ace performance goes beyond “on point” for its price bracket

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Adaptive performance helps Motorola One 5G Ace keep up with typically daunting tasks but doesn’t stack up to flagship killers

Now, Motorola equipped its One 5G Ace with an incredibly powerful chipset Snapdragon 750G in spite of its cost. And it backed that with up to 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM too. So, as might be expected, performance value for the money is high with this handset. In fact, during my review of the Motorola One 5G Ace, I only noted three areas of slow-down. And none of those was unexpected.

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It’s also worth pointing out that might have been fixed if I had turned off Adaptive performance. Or made other tweaks to settings. Specifically, this handset adjusts performance based on usage using AI. And that, in turn, results in better efficiency across the board. But it did suffer some slowdown under heavy multi-tasking with already heavy applications. Particularly where new apps are concerned.

So it won’t quite replace a flagship for those who actually need that kind of performance.

It also lagged behind my daily driver in the speed of processing in photo or video editing apps. As well as in the loading of some heavier apps. This isn’t altogether surprising either, given that this isn’t flagship internal hardware. And the experience using the One 5G Ace never dipped beyond acceptable levels on the performance front anyway.

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 Battery life is better than commendable with Motorola One 5G Ace

04 Motorola One 5G Ace Review Battery DG AH 2022
Fast charging and great battery management help this Motorola handset stay at the top of its game for just a bit longer

For charging, Motorola One 5G Ace includes a 10W rapid charger in the box to fuel up the 5,000mAh battery. But those figures, without some consideration for the fact that battery life is subjective, don’t really mean much.

Unfortunately, on the charging front, the Motorola One 5G Ace didn’t perform brilliantly under review. In fact, it took nearly two-and-a-half hours to charge up using the in-box charger. There’s no wireless charging in this package. And that’s fine. Especially since that would only have taken even longer.

The One 5G Ace makes up for its slow charging time on battery life itself. With the screen maxed out on brightness and running multiple split-screen apps across streaming, gaming, browsing, and day-to-day use, this phone lasted over 8 hours. That’s screen-on time. So several days of use on a single charge is more than attainable.

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Audio is fairly typical for any mobile device but with added features

The hardware on the audio front is well-designed and a 3.5mm jack is included with the One 5G Ace but smartphone audio is still not the best

Fortunately, Motorola opted to keep its 3.5mm audio jack in place for the One 5G Ace. Because, as should come as no surprise at this point, mobile speakers are awful. Although the company does include a ton of features on the audio front. Including a deep Audio effects option in Settings. That, by the way, has a full EQ not just for the loudspeaker but also for headphones. And multi-volume settings for controlling sound across different apps.

The trouble with the audio from the speakers during music playback — namely, muddiness, although each frequency I tested in music did show through to some extent — is fixed by listening over headphones. While the sound on that front is hardly mind-blowing, it’s better than I’d expected for the money.

Conversely, audio on ringtones and movies was better than acceptable. And volume is great too.

The cameras here are hit-or-miss, with a clean UI and not so clean captures

This phone’s cameras definitely clean up on the UI front but capabilities are, unfortunately, lackluster

Interestingly enough, the AI does a great job of recognizing faces and putting those into focus. It does much less well –as shown in our sample gallery at Flickr — when it comes to using other special features. For example, Cutout is a mode that’s designed to crop a person out of a photo to be put on a different background. That worked best during my review of Motorola One 5G Ace when used on painted artwork. Cutting actually people out of images failed more often than it succeeded.

Similarly, Spot Color mode wasn’t great at differentiating between background objects sharing colors, or at differentiating colors themselves. Taking a photo of a red Cello, for instance, and then increasing the threshold to try and get the entire Cello colored in while leaving everything else in black and white was an act of futility. Other instruments, colored brown, were colored in too, by the time the entire Cello was selected. And selecting for just the Cello resulted in parts of the instrument not being colored in.

Setting aside special features, standard shooting wasn’t perfect for this camera either. As shown in our sample images, although macro shots turned out well in any lighting, standard shots didn’t. Even shots with great lighting ended up pixelated in any area where shadows were present. And night mode made that worse, not better. Although detail capture, in a hit-and-miss fashion, was relatively high in that mode.

Summarily, the entire camera system here feels hit-or-miss. And while the shots it hits on are actually great for the money, the inconsistencies weren’t by a small margin when it does miss.

Motorola One 5G Ace comes with minimal software and great connective options

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Motorola continues to offer minimal bloat on its smartphones but our test unit did eventually install plenty from AT&T

As shown in the image above, showcasing all of the apps Motorola installed even after hooking up to AT&T’s network, bloatware is effectively non-existent on this phone. In fact, surprisingly, some of those apps were installed via a notification asking permission to install them. Rather than being included by default on my Motorola One 5G Ace review unit.  So users don’t even have to have all of those installed.

That undoubtedly lent to the great experience I had in terms of the smoothness of the software. This phone never stuttered, lagged out, or hung up at all during testing. Even during periods of intense multitasking. And without leaving out any key features from the primary OS.

The biggest caveat to that, of course, is that my One 5G Ace review unit didn’t receive any updates from Motorola during my review period. It’s still stuck on Android 10. Not even on Android 11, let alone Android 12.

Connectivity, conversely, worked exactly as I’d expected for my area. Download and upload speeds were as quick as my daily driver flagship. Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, and all other connections held steady throughout my test. Making for a pleasant experience despite that lack of a firmware update.

Is this phone worth the money?

Motorola just about hits the mark with its One 5G Ace

As highlighted here, the biggest caveats here are fairly important ones. But nearly all of those could be mitigated via a software update. An update that Motorola has still said is coming. In fact, it will eventually get Android 12 and that should come with some significant improvements beyond the OS too. That’s if Motorola’s previous update cycles are any indication.

So notes about camera inconsistencies, the lack of some of the newest features, and even some qualms about the display and charging could ultimately be mitigated to a certain extent.

Bearing that in mind, when the cameras here do perform properly, they’re brilliant for the money. The performance, display resolution, audio features, solid connectivity, and battery life, conversely, are all stellar. As this phone currently stands, it’s a great value compared to others we’ve reviewed. And that can only be improved with the incoming updates, if and when they arrive.