Motorola Moto G Stylus review (2021): a Galaxy Note for the rest of us

The 2nd gen Moto G Stylus offers a rich experience but with poor cameras

Motorola Moto G Stylus review 2021
Moto G Stylus review

Bottom line

The 2021 Moto G Stylus is a large, affordable 4G phone with a stylus. While it provides a wonderful user experience, it suffers from lackluster cameras and lacks NFC.

Overall
3.7

Pros

  • Beautiful display
  • Solid battery life
  • Headphone jack
  • Superior user experience
  • Almost stock Android

Cons

  • It’s really big
  • Plastic build
  • Middling cameras
  • Mono speaker
  • No NFC

Design

Did I mention the G Stylus is big? It feels massive even to me, and I don’t have small hands. Once you get over the sheer size of it, this handset actually looks rather nice — in a generic kind of way. Aside from the Moto logo in the back, the design identity is derivative. The plastic build is also a little disappointing, primarily because some past G-series devices were glass and aluminum sandwiches (remember the lovely G6?)

Despite the darker finish being a bit of a fingerprint magnet, the G Stylus is well made. Plastic is also quite durable, so this phone is more likely to survive drops. In front, the chin is noticeable, but at least it isn’t an eyesore like on the OnePlus Nord N10 5G. The side-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor is quick and reliable but probably less convenient if you’re left-handed (I’m right-handed). Haptics are good, especially at this price.

Display

That vast 6.8-inch display is definitely one of the G Stylus’ pros. It’s beautiful, with punchy colors, excellent contrast, and decent viewing angles. As a bonus, it’s also bright enough in direct sunlight. But now that I’ve used so many handsets with high refresh-rates, I wish this was a 90Hz screen like on the $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G. Then again, Moto isn’t really known for pushing the envelope, so maybe next year?

Camera

Unfortunately, the cameras are one of the G Stylus’ cons. For years now, most of Moto’s phones have suffered from lackluster imaging performance due to middling hardware and a lack of software expertise. So while I’m not surprised, it’s still a bummer. The 48MP main shooter bins (combines) four pixels into one for better low-light performance, and outputs 12MP images. It’s the best of the bunch, but that’s not saying much.

Last year’s G Stylus featured a 16MP ultrawide that was only capable of video recording (what Moto calls an action camera). Instead, this year’s model comes with a more traditional 8MP ultrawide that supports both photo and video capture. While that’s a welcome change, there’s no night mode on this ultrawide, which limits its versatility. The macro carries over unchanged, and while the AF lens is a bonus, that 2MP sensor is just too small.

The 16MP selfie shooter is also identical to its predecessor’s, and supports night mode and 4-to-1 pixel binning, resulting in 4MP selfies by default (16MP in full-resolution mode). Video recording maxes out at 4k 30fps or 1080p 60fps with the main sensor, 1080p 30fps with the ultrawide and selfie cameras, and 720p with the macro lens — all stabilized (rear only). Sadly, audio is only captured in mono, unlike other modern handsets.

Motorola Moto G Stylus review 2021 camera
Motorola Moto G Stylus camera pod

Shooting modes are typical Moto, and include portrait, night, panorama, pro, macro, cutout, spot color, cinemagraph, group selfie, filters, slow motion (1080p 120fps or 720p 240fps), and time-lapse. Oddly, there’s no 48MP full-resolution mode on the main shooter, but spot color is available for both photos and videos. The camera app is also a typical Moto. It’s well laid out and pretty intuitive to use. I have no issues here.

Pictures taken with the 2nd Gen Motorola Moto G Stylus are fine in daylight, but quickly fall apart in low light — especially with the ultrawide. Zooming around 2-3x results in oversharpened images, and anything beyond that turns into a blurry mess. Night mode obviously helps, and turns photos that are otherwise dark and soft into something acceptable. Despite benefiting from AF, macro shots lack detail. Selfies and videos are alright though, so there’s that.