Motorola Edge full review

The Motorola Edge, along with the high-end Edge Plus, signal Motorola’s return to the high-end smartphone market after years without what many would consider a flagship device. There was the premium Motorola Razr, but let’s be honest, at $1500 with mid-range specs, it wasn’t for the everyday consumer.

Motorola wants to tempt consumers in with a flashy curved display and high-end look without the high price tag - but with such a competitive market, has Motorola done enough? I’ve spent a lot of time with the Motorola Edge, and here’s what I think. 

The high-end look

Curved displays are all the rage these days, with companies seemingly battling to see which can achieve the most extreme curve possible. You’ve seen it with flagships including the Huawei Mate 30 Pro and the Vivo NEX 3, and it seems Motorola wants to join the competition with the Motorola Edge. Motorola calls it the Endless Edge display, utilising the company’s experience in flexible display technology (remember the new Razer?) to achieve an extreme 90-degree curvature on both the left and right of the screen.

The extended OLED display looks incredible and provides functionality not available on flat displays, including Edge Lights which illuminate the edges to notify you of an incoming message when placed face-down and virtual trigger buttons to provide a more controller-esque four-finger experience when playing shooters. These are undoubtedly handy features that do enhance the overall experience, but much like the competition, Motorola’s Endless Edge display tech isn’t perfect. 

The biggest issue is accidental touches caused by the palm when gripping the phone. It’s something I’ve experienced on nearly every single smartphone with a curved display, so it’s more of an issue with the general design, but Motorola's palm rejection technology isn’t quite as advanced as what companies like Huawei have on offer.

There’s also the problem with content; most apps aren’t designed with such a curved display in mind, meaning some text and graphics appear to ‘slip’ off the display around the edge. It’s especially noticeable in the current build of Instagram, where you have to actually tilt the phone to the right to see the last few letters of a photo caption, but it’s also prevalent in other apps and games. You can disable the edgeless display effect, but even that doesn’t seem to fix the problem in certain apps.

Display tech aside, the bright, detailed FHD+ (2340 x 1080) screen measures in at 6.7in and while that might sound a bit unwieldy, the tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio means it’s much taller than it is wider. That means it’s easy to hold and type on one-handed, but it also makes it awkward to reach the top of the display with your thumb.

There’s also a 90Hz refresh rate on offer, aligning the Edge with other premium smartphones available in 2020, but it’s admittedly a step behind the 120Hz display of the OnePlus 8 and 144Hz refresh rate of the gaming-focused Red Magic 5G. Still, it’s a nice feature that’ll no-doubt enhance your overall experience - just make sure to toggle it on in the Settings menu, as the default ‘auto’ mode rarely forces the display to use the higher refresh rate.

In-display fingerprint scanning tech is all the rage at the moment, so it should come as no surprise that it’s present and accounted for on the Motorola Edge. It’s not the most impressive implementation I’ve ever used, with the occasional read error, but there’s also the selfie camera-powered facial unlock and the good ol’ PIN to back it up. 

The Edge is one of a shrinking number of smartphones in 2020 to feature a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside the USB-C port, which should be music to the ears of those that are yet to make the transition to wireless headphones. You’ll also find a standard power button and volume rockers mounted on the side, despite the Endless Edge design. 

Overall, then, the Motorola Edge looks and feels like a flagship in every respect - even if the curved display isn’t to everyone's liking.  

Good, but not great, camera performance

On the rear of the Motorola Edge, you’ll find a main 64Mp snapper alongside a 16Mp ultra-wide lens, an 8Mp 2x optical zoom lens and a Time-of-Flight sensor to provide improved focus accuracy and the bokeh effect on Portrait-style shots taken on the phone. What is nice is that Motorola is marketing it as a triple-lens setup, deciding to not include the ToF sensor as a lens like many rivals do. Flip it over and you’ll find a high-resolution 25Mp hole-punch camera embedded in the top-left of the display. 

Unsurprisingly, the main 64Mp camera is the star of the show. Though you can take full 64-megapixel resolution images, the Edge uses quad-pixel technology to combine four pixels into one, resulting in detailed 12Mp photos. The photos captured by the main sensor are indeed detailed and well exposed, but only when the subject of the shot is close to the phone - shots of landscapes, for example, are much softer overall.

The large 1/1.72in sensor of the main snapper also helps with low-light photography, but with stellar night modes on offer from the likes of Google and Huawei performing well, the Edge simply can’t compete. It’ll produce decent shots if you’ve got a stable surface (and a bit of light) but the on-board AI simply isn’t up to the task of removing the shake common with handheld long exposure shots. 

Motorola Edge camera test

Ultra-wide cameras on smartphones are great for capturing wider scenes, but let’s face it, the performance is never that great.

Thankfully, the 16Mp ultra-wide lens of the Motorola Edge bucks that trend, utilising the same quad-pixel technology as the main sensor to provide a noticeable improvement to overall quality. Admittedly some of the ultra-wide shots are still soft, especially when zooming in, but it has the potential to take great shots. It also doubles up as a macro lens with decent results, but let’s be honest, when was the last time you wanted to take a macro shot?

The 8Mp 2x optical zoom lens is a handy camera to have when your subject is a little too far away for the main 64Mp snapper, but while the images captured look okay on the surface, there’s a lack of detail compared to the other lenses available - possibly due to the lack of quad-pixel tech. 

No matter the lens you opt for, you’ll have a variety of shooting modes including the night mode discussed above, a Portrait Mode that’ll blur out the background for more professional-looking shots and a Pro mode complete with a 32-second long-exposure mode for those that really know how to get the most out of the smartphone’s camera setup. 

The biggest downside to camera performance is the long processing time when using the quad-pixel and night shot technologies - due to the use of the Snapdragon 765, I imagine. It can often take 5+ seconds for a photo to fully process, something that can quickly become irksome when taking and reviewing a lot of shots in sequence. 

On the video front, the Motorola Edge can record up to [email protected] on the rear and [email protected] on the front, which isn’t quite as much as the experimental [email protected] on offer from the Edge Plus, but I think most consumers would rather have decent quality 4K footage anyway. There’s also a slow-motion mode, providing either 120- or 240fps depending on the video resolution, and a timelapse mode too. 

A lack of power under the hood

It’s when you look under the hood of the Motorola Edge that the budget-friendly nature of the phone becomes apparent. Unlike the Edge Plus, which boasts a Snapdragon 865 CPU, Adreno 650 GPU and 12GB of RAM, the standard Edge features the Snapdragon 765 alongside the Adreno 620, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. 

Admittedly, the Edge is buttery-smooth in general - especially with the 90Hz refresh rate on offer - handling media-heavy apps like Twitter and Facebook without a hint of stutter, but it’s not as powerful as some rivals. Looking at the benchmark results, and the graphic benchmarks in particular, the Motorola Edge can’t quite keep up the performance compared to flagship rivals. As you can see, even in the basic GFXBench T-Rex benchmark test, the Motorola Edge couldn’t hit the maximum 90fps available with a 90Hz display. 

That being said, the average joe isn’t really going to notice a difference in performance compared to most flagships in 2020. It’s still possible to play Call of Duty Mobile with high textures enabled, and taking snaps on the phone is near-instant (albeit with longer processing times), but you might not be able to hit the full 90fps where theoretically available. 

The good news is that, despite not featuring the Snapdragon 865, the Motorola Edge offers 5G connectivity alongside dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC. It’s a nice future-proofing feature, but with the high-speed 5G rollout still taking place, large areas of the UK are yet to gain access. It’s probably best to take a look at a coverage checker in your area before you pick the Edge up on a 5G contract. 

It’ll keep on going

Motorola claims that the Snapdragon 765 chipset is so efficient that the 4500mAh battery can last a full two days with moderate use, and that is pretty much on the money - as long as you keep the display to 60Hz. With a lower refresh rate, the Edge easily lasted a day and then some, even with casual gaming, YouTube streaming and snapping the occasional pic for social media.

But sadly, I haven’t found that to be the case with the 90Hz display enabled. With the high refresh rate enabled, I found that it’d just about last a full day with what I’d call average use - scrolling social media, listening to music, playing the occasional game - but there was no point where I felt confident enough to not charge the phone overnight.

So, while you can get two days of battery out of the phone, personally, I’d much rather have a smoother display - if you’ve got it, use it, right? 

That’s also helped by the fact that the Edge features Motorola’s TurboCharge tech. It’s not anywhere near as fast as some rivals, capped at 18W, but it’s still fast enough to provide 37% of charge in half an hour and 72% in an hour. That allows me to use the phone with a high refresh rate and quickly top it up when required, negating any real battery life issues. The catch is that you can only use the charger in the box - using any other 18W charger will charge the phone at much slower speeds. 

Stock software with a hint of Moto smarts

When it comes to software, the Motorola Edge doesn’t disappoint. Like pretty much every other phone in the Motorola collection, you’ll find a near-stock version of Android free of annoying skins and pre-installed apps aside from the Google Suite and Motorola’s own Moto app. 

The latter provides a user-friendly way to enable handy features of the Motorola Edge, including the side-swipe menu and the gesture-based navigation introduced in Android 10, which are usually buried deep in the Settings menu. There’s also a bunch of Motorola-specific shortcuts, like making a chopping action with the phone to turn on the camera (which I must admit I used way more than expected) and flicking the wrist to access the camera when the phone is locked, that enhance the near-stock experience on offer.

That’s pretty standard across the Motorola, but what isn’t is the ability to tweak the design of the user interface. It seems Motorola has taken a hint from companies like OnePlus, whose OxygenOS UI offers the ability to make extensive changes to the look of the software, allowing Edge users to customise things like app icon shapes and sizes, fonts and the colour scheme applied throughout the phone. It’s a nice touch, and the fact that it’s built into the Moto app means there’s no need to go hunting in the Settings menu.  

If you hate heavily-customised versions of Android like Oppo’s ColorOS and Huawei’s EMUI and want something close to what Google envisioned for Android 10, the Motorola Edge is an ideal candidate. The company also confirmed that it’ll get at least one operating system upgrade, meaning users will get to enjoy Android 11 on the smartphone sometime after its release later this year. 

Impressive value for money

Considering the high-end look of the Motorola Edge, it’s available to buy right now for only £549.99 (around $675) from the likes of O2 and John Lewis in the UK, although those in the US are out of luck - only the $999 Edge+ is available.

That’s an attractive price for a phone with such a high-end display and 5G technology - as long as you’re happy to put up with the potential downsides of the curved design - although the inclusion of the Snapdragon 765 means it's underpowered compared to the similarly-priced OnePlus 8 and Realme X50 Pro.

It’s a decision of form over function: do you want the most powerful phone, or the best-looking? Motorola is undoubtedly the latter, but there are more powerful - and cheaper - options available right now, complete with 5G connectivity. 

If you’re unconvinced, I recommend taking a look at our selection of the best smartphones, and the best mid-range smartphones too - the mid-rangers have definitely come a long way in the past few years. 

Verdict

Despite featuring the same design as the truly flagship-level Motorola Edge Plus, the standard Edge is a different beast altogether. For one, it’s aimed at the cheap end of the flagship market with that attractive £550 price tag despite the high-end look, which should get consumers more excited. 

The OLED display is the star of the show; Motorola’s Endless Edge display looks absolutely incredible and introduces a handful of unique features that improve general browsing and gaming too, although the palm rejection tech needs some work. The 90Hz refresh rate is a welcome addition too, but it’s certainly not the 120- or 144Hz displays on offer from competing devices.

There’s also a decent, but certainly not market-leading, camera setup that has the ability to snap great quality snaps, but chances are you’ll be taking a few before you get that perfectly lit, perfectly focused shot. 

The biggest flaw of the Motorola Edge is the sub-par internals; almost every competitor in the £500-600 range sports the flagship Snapdragon 865 processor, while the Edge features the less-powerful Snapdragon 765, and it’s noticeable when it comes to processing images and playing high-end games. 

That said, there aren’t any similarly-priced smartphones that look as good as the Motorola Edge, and it does offer great battery life if you’re not fussed about high refresh rates, so it’s really a question of what’s most important to you - performance or design. 

Specs

Motorola Edge: Specs

  • 161.6 x 71.2 x 9.3mm
  • 190g
  • 6.7in OLED display with Endless Edge technology
  • In-display fingerprint scanner
  • Stereo speaker playback
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 765
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB storage, expandable via microSD card
  • 4500mAh battery
  • 18W Turbo Charge
  • IP52 water resistance
  • 5G
  • NFC
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C port
  • 64MP main camera
  • 16MP ultra-wide camera
  • 8MP 2x optical zoom camera
  • 25Mp front-facing camera
  • Up to 4K Video
  • Up to 240fps slow-mo video