Moto Edge review: cutting the wrong corner

Not a bad deal for $499

Moto Edge review
Bottom Line
The Moto Edge is a nice affordable flagship that’s let down by mid-range cameras. It’s worth $499, not $699.
Pros
Nice display
Solid performance
Excellent battery life
Great user experience
Headphone Jack
Cons
Extreme “waterfall” screen
Middling cameras (no OIS)
No wireless charging
Too expensive (at $699)
3.7

It’s not a stretch to say that these days, Moto is best known for making worthy budget-friendly mid-range phones. The company’s G-series handsets — in particular — always deliver decent features and a great user experience at an affordable sub-$300 price point. But earlier this year, Moto decided to rejoin the big leagues with the Moto Edge+, a Verizon-exclusive $1000 premium flagship with 5G.

That’s nice, but $1000 is a lot of money, exclusives suck, and while the sub-$300 G-series is lovely, there’s a big hole in the $500 price range. Abroad, Chinese manufacturers are actively filling this gap with phones like the €399 OnePlus Nord and $550 Poco F2 Pro — for example. Here in the US, Apple recently joined the party with the excellent $399 iPhone SE, and LG just launched the $599 Velvet.

Which brings us to the Moto Edge, a $699 unlocked 5G handset currently on sale for $499. It’s built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chip and inherits many of the Edge+’s specs — making it more of an affordable flagship than a premium mid-ranger. So, is the Edge any good? What corners did Moto it cut, if any? Is it worth $699 or just $499? And should you buy it? Let’s answer these questions in my review.

Hardware and design

Obviously, the Moto Edge takes most of its design cues from the Edge+ flagship, including the extreme “waterfall” screen and oblong camera pod. Like most phones at this price, it’s a metal and glass sandwich. And I have to give Moto credit for making the Edge look and feel just as premium as the Edge+. My review unit came in a dark blue-ish hue called Solar Black, with Midnight Magenta being available in some markets outside the US.

In front, the Edge shares its 6.7-inch 90Hz 1080p OLED display with the Edge+, complete with the same crazy 90-degree curved edges that cover half the sides. I’m not a big fan of these kinds of screens, but at least Moto added some interesting features to make the most of it. The Edge also uses the same 25MP punch-hole selfie camera as the Edge+. Bezels are small, and the earpiece doubles as one of the stereo speakers.

Around the back, the 64MP main and 8MP 2x telephoto cameras are arranged in a vertical pod in the top left corner, along with a ToF (Time-of-Flight) sensor. The 16MP AF ultrawide shooter is located right above and in-line with this pod, and is flanked by an LED flash. A subtle Moto logo is visible under the rear glass. Inside, there’s a 4500mAh battery, but unlike the Edge+, there’s no wireless charging coil here.

You’ll find a headphone jack (yay!), USB Type-C port, primary mic, and speaker along the bottom edge, and the SIM / microSD tray and secondary mic on top. A very thin volume rocker and power / lock button (with tactile ridges) are located on the right side, but there’s nothing on the left. While the Moto Edge is a big handset (161.6 x 71.1 x 9.3mm), it’s narrower than the competition and easier to hold. Overall, I like this design a lot.

If you’re wondering about water resistance, the Edge lacks an IP rating (just like the Edge+). According to Moto, there’s a water-repellent nano-coating instead.

Display

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The Moto Edge packs a beautiful 6.7-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080 pixels, 385ppi, HDR 10+) OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. But it’s the extreme 90-degree “waterfall” curved edges that really make this phone stand out — hence the “Edge” name. While this design hides the side bezels and looks futuristic, there are some drawbacks, like optical distortion. The curved edges also make framing shots a lot more difficult when using the camera.

On the plus side, this “waterfall” screen means the Edge is not as wide as its 19.5:9 aspect ratio implies. Moto includes a neat software feature that lets you double-tap a customizable area on the left or right side of the display to switch the aspect ratio to 21:9 — and back, blacking out the curved edges. The Edge also includes better than average accidental touch rejection, which reduces some of the usability issues.

As you’d expect from an OLED screen, colors are vibrant, blacks are nice and deep, and viewing angles are good. This panel also gets bright enough in direct sunlight. My only gripe, and it’s minor, is that the auto-brightness dims the display a bit too aggressively in low light. Overall, Moto didn’t cut any corners here. The Edge and Edge+ basically share the same screen — and that’s pretty cool.

Camera

Unlike the Moto Edge+, which went all out on camera specs, the Edge tones things down a bit, with results to match. The 108MP main shooter makes way for a 64MP setup, and the telephoto drops from 3x optical zoom to 2x. But the biggest downgrade from the Edge+ to the Edge is the removal of OIS on the main camera and telephoto. That’s really disappointing, especially when cheaper handsets like the OnePlus Nord and iPhone SE have OIS.

I could stop writing right now, and you’d pretty much know where this is going. The 64MP main shooter uses Samsung’s GW1 0.8-micron Quad Bayer sensor with an f/1.8 lens with PDAF. It “bins” (combines) 4 pixels into one for better low-light performance, resulting in a 16MP image with larger 1.6-micron pixels. The other two cameras are a 16MP f/2.2 1-micron 117-degree ultrawide (with AF plus macro), and an 8MP f/2.4 1.12-micron 2x telephoto.

Selfies are handled by a 25MP f/2.0 0.9-micron front shooter that also bins 4 pixels into one for a 6.2MP output. The Moto Edge supports video recording at up to 1080p 30fps (stabilized) with the selfie camera, and 4k 30fps and 1080p 60fps (stabilized) with the main and ultrawide shooters. It also captures slow-motion video at 1080p 120fps or 720p 240fps. The telephoto is not used for video — zooming is done digitally.

So what are the resulting photos and videos like? Honestly, it’s a mixed bag. Shots are pretty good in daylight, but the lack of OIS is really obvious in low light, with pictures looking soft and exhibiting blown highlights. Night mode helps, but only works with the main and selfie cameras and tends to over-sharpen things. Also, the main shooter has trouble with exposure at times. Video recording is decent, though, and so is the macro.

While the cameras are generally fine, Moto’s obviously cut some corners in the imaging department, and it shows. That’s unfortunate.

Reception and sound quality

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I used the Moto Edge primarily on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s low-band 5G networks (bands 850MHz / n5, and 600MHz / n71, respectively) in and around San Francisco, but I also tested it on Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Obviously, the Edge doesn’t support Verizon’s mmWave 5G network — that’s what the Edge+ is for. Everything worked as expected: calls sounded loud and clear, and I didn’t have any problems with data speeds.

Like the Edge+, the Edge’s stereo speakers sound very nice, but don’t quite match Moto’s excellent G Power ($250) and G Stylus ($300). And unlike the G-series, there’s no Dolby branding for the audio settings. Regardless, the Edge has a headphone jack, and that’s just great. As a bonus, Moto’s built-in DAC and headphone amp are surprisingly decent too. Clearly, no corners were cut for audio. Kudos to that!

Performance and battery life

Like the OnePlus Nord, the Moto Edge features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G, which slots below the flagship Snapdragon 865 found on the Edge+. On paper, it’s a slower chip, but it’s also more power-efficient since the X52 5G modem is built-in. Still, in actual use you’d be hard-pressed to notice any major performance deficit unless you fire up the most intensive 3D games. It’s also way more cost-effective.

Here in the US, Moto pairs this processor with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage (with microSD support up to 1TB). A 4GB / 128GB variant is also available in other markets. Other specs include WiFi 5 (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5.1 (with LE), NFC, A-GPS/ GLONASS / Galileo positioning, an FM radio, and the standard assortment of sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, SAR, and compass).

The Edge felt pleasantly quick no matter what I threw at it. It juggled my usual assortment of apps without missing a beat — seamlessly hopping between the camera, Photos, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Chrome, and YouTube. Moto’s clean build of Android 10 and that 90Hz screen certainly help a lot here. Still, I’m impressed — the Edge generally manages to keep up with the extra smooth OnePlus Nord.

Haptics are pretty decent thanks to a linear vibration motor, and the optical in-display fingerprint works pretty well, with fast and reliable scans. Finally, battery life is very good. After nearly two days of use, which included taking all the sample photos in this review, the Edge’s 4500mAh cell was down to 49%, with 4 hours and 36 minutes of screen-on time. I’m confident that this phone will last more than a day of heavy use on a full charge.

The Edge supports 18W wired fast charging and comes with a matching brick in the box. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging here, unlike the Edge+ — and that’s really the only corner Moto’s cut on the specs front.

Software

Like the vast majority of Moto’s recent handsets, the Edge runs a near stock build of Android 10. Forget annoying skins or customizations: this software feels clean and responsive, and provides an outstanding user experience thanks to a handful of helpful tweaks. Take Moto’s excellent clock/weather/fitness widget, for example: it’s simple yet effective. Let’s check out some of the other features, in case you’re not familiar.

Moto Actions lets you control the Edge using gestures, like a double hand chop to toggle the flashlight on and off, a double wrist twist to launch the camera, or a three-finger swipe to take an auto-scrolling screenshot. Moto Display makes it easier to interact with your phone, like keeping the screen on while you’re looking at it, or showing the date, time, weather, and notifications if you tap on the screen or reach for your handset.

I’d still prefer a bonafide always-on display, but Moto Display is extremely intuitive and even lets you respond to some notifications right on the lock screen. Then there’s Edge Touch, which lets you place a small translucent “pill” on the left or right side of the display. Double-tap this “pill” to switch to a 21:9 aspect ratio and black out the curved edges — or back to full screen. Not all apps support this (the camera doesn’t) but it’s clever.

You can also slide the “pill” up, down, and towards the center of the display, to bring up recent apps, or the app tray, or up to six app / contact shortcuts of your choice — respectively. Edge Lights turns the curved edges into a notification light. And finally, there’s Moto Gametime, a feature rich game mode that lets you configure a pair of virtual trigger/shoulder buttons on the one side of the display, complete with haptic feedback.

Thankfully (and unlike the Edge+) the Edge doesn’t come with boatloads of preinstalled software. You have Google’s app suite, a few apps from Moto, and that’s about it.

Price and competition

Here in the US, the Moto Edge (6GB / 256GB / Solar Black) is available unlocked for preorder now (shipping July 31) from Motorola, Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo Video for just $499. This special deal expires August 9 — the regular price is $699. At $499 it’s definitely worth considering, but for $699 you can get an unlocked, Snapdragon 865-equipped OnePlus 8 that will leave the Edge in the dust.

Another option is the LG Velvet ($599) on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The specs are similar to the Edge — including the Snapdragon 765G — and it offers an optional dual-screen case. Ditto the Galaxy A71 5G ($649). Outside the US, there are plenty of $500-ish phones with 5G to choose from, like the OnePlus Nord, Vivo’s X50-series, Redmi’s K30-series, Poco’s F2 Pro, Oppo’s Reno4 Pro 5G, ZTE’s Axon 11 5G, and the Nokia 8.3 5G.

If you’re looking for flagship-grade performance and can live without 5G, consider last year’s OnePlus 7T ($499).

Bottom line

Overall, the Moto Edge has all the makings of an affordable flagship. It packs a lovely screen (if you can live with those extreme curved edges), unlocked 5G support, solid performance, excellent battery life, great software, and even a headphone jack — all wrapped in a premium design. Unfortunately, the (OIS-less) shooters don’t live up to the rest of this handset, and only deliver mid-range results.

Imaging is a smartphone pillar. Moto didn’t just cut a corner here, it basically removed a pillar. At the current $499 sale price, I can look past the middling cameras, lack of wireless charging, and missing IP rating. It’s not a bad deal. But $699? There’s absolutely no way I can recommend the Edge for $699. No way — not when the OnePlus 8 costs exactly the same and features Qualcomm’s flagship processor.

Moto, if you’re listening: make that $499 sale price permanent, and work on some software updates to improve those shooters.

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