Motorola One 5G Ace review: Great battery life and 5G aren’t enough

The Motorola One 5G Ace offers great battery life and performance, but can it compete with other mid-range phones?

It wasn’t too long ago that Motorola was leading the pack when it came to budget phones thanks to devices like their Moto G7 Power. More recently, Motorola has been taking on the mid-range, and the 2nd gen Motorola One 5G Ace is their attempt to compete with the rapidly growing mid-range 5G handset market. To that end, the Motorola One 5G Ace is also Motorola’s most affordable 5G phone to date. But is this the mid-range 5G handset you should buy? Read on for our Motorola One 5G Ace review.

The build quality of the Moto One 5G Ace is solid enough but not great. The plastic backside of the device is covered in a reflective back pattern that creates a subtle rainbow lighting effect. Unfortunately, the pattern doesn’t help cover up fingerprints very much and it looks kind of cheap. It’s a little bit bulkier than we’d like, but its curved edges on its backside do help make the device easier to grip. Motorola has managed to include a 3.5mm jack, which is always a nice touch and to its credit, the phone is also IP52 water-resistant. Overall the phone’s design and build are nothing to write home about and are quite dull and disappointing, even for a mid-range phone.

Motorola One 5G Ace review

On the front side of the phone, the display houses a hole-punch camera and it’s surrounded by relatively thick bezels on all four sides. The large 6.7-inch Full HD+ display itself is solid and capable, even if it does lack a 90Hz refresh rate. To that effect, it gets bright enough and its colors are pretty accurate but they aren’t very vibrant.

Due to the likes of the Pixel 4a and the iPhone SE, the camera competition in the mid-range market has really been heating up, which is why we’re disappointed by the Ace’s poor camera performance. On one hand the camera packs in both a wide-angle lens and a macro lens which are always welcome. Unfortunately, the Macro mode is useless due to the lack of OIS and most macro shots come out blurry. Also, the camera quite slow for some reason, and in general, produces mediocre photos. To that effect, while daylight photos are solid, if you try taking a photo indoors or in low light settings and the camera struggles when focusing and images often come out blurry.

Fortunately, the phone’s performance is really good thanks to it being powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor and 6GB of RAM. Everything you do on the phone feels smooth and responsive. Battery life is excellent too, thanks to the Ace’s 5,000 mAh battery, you’ll get about two full days on a single charge.

Motorola has put an emphasis on the 5G support that the Motorola One 5G Ace offers at such a low price. And indeed, it’s one of the most affordable 5G smartphone options out there – but there’s a catch, and that is that its 5G is limited to sub-6 speeds, which means speeds actually won’t be all that much faster than LTE. In any case, we don’t see any reason for most folks to buy a phone just for its 5G speeds, especially at a time when so many people are working from home and most of the networks haven’t really fully taken advantage of 5G’s fastest speeds yet.

Like with Motorola’s other handsets, the Motorola One 5G Ace comes running a near-stock experience of Android, which is always the direction we prefer to take. Unfortunately, we’re disappointed by the fact that the Motorola One 5G Ace comes running the outdated Android 10 and that Motorola is only offering a single software update for the Motorola One 5G Ace. That single update will mean that the phone will indeed be upgraded to Android 11, but beyond that, the likelihood of another software update is slim. Also, there is no ETA on when that Android 11 update will actually arrive.

Should you buy the Motorola One 5G Ace?

The biggest selling point of the Motorola One 5G Ace is that you’re getting a 5G smartphone for under $400. But we actually prefer Motorola’s more affordable 2021 Moto G Stylus over the Motorola One 5G Ace. While the $300 Moto G Stylus doesn’t offer 5G, it’s priced more affordably than the Motorola One 5G Ace and it offers something very unique in its price range – and that is stylus support.

Ultimately, the Motorola One 5G Ace is indeed a solid affordable 5G handset but its biggest issues are that its design is dull and that its camera is middling. Nowadays the mid-range smartphone market is very competitive and full of more exciting and compelling options, and that includes options like the Pixel 4a that offer incredible cameras for a low price. With that said, we would love to see a more compelling mid-range option from Motorola, even if it lacks 5G.

The 2021 Motorola One 5G Ace retails for $399.