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Motorola Edge review: back under the spotlight

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Sometimes things do not turn out the way we thought it would. This happens to be the case with Motorola – because some have seen the once-mighty US brand slide down the smartphone pecking order, although the Razr relaunch did allow the US brand to show some bite for the first time under the Lenovo umbrella. Now, the Motorola Edge series intends to build on the back of that momentum, showing how Motorola is still capable of building conventional smartphones that can compete with flagship models from other manufacturers, such as the OnePlus 8 or Huawei P40.

Good

  • Great 90Hz display
  • Long battery life
  • Loud stereo speakers with good performance
  • Very close to a stock Android interface

Bad

  • 18W fast charging technology is average at best
  • Unimpressive night shots
  • Curved edge display does not add value

Motorola Edge release date and price

It looks like Motorola is back in the flagship smartphone arena with the release of the Motorola Edge+. This high-end model has what it takes to keep up with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, Huawei P40 Pro, OnePlus 8 Pro, and similar flagship handsets. With the Motorola Edge, you get a 5G smartphone at an attractive price, which happens to share a similar chassis as well as display with its big brother, the Edge+.

The Edge, which is currently only available from Motorola via their online shop, is quite attractive at €599 ($656), and it is pretty much a complete handset with decent technical specifications underneath the hood.

Motorola Edge design and build quality

Throwing a glance at the Motorola Edge, one cannot help but notice the extremely elongated form factor. Sporting a 19.5:9 format, the Motorola Edge can be deemed to be a “beanpole” within the smartphone circle. Only Sony Xperia smartphones such as the Xperia 5 arrive in an even narrower 21:9 format.

The Motorola Edge stands out for being narrow-looking. / © AndroidPIT

In reality, narrow smartphones are more suited for one-handed use simply because you don’t have to reach around as much. Unfortunately, the Motorola Edge’s unusual smartphone display negates this theoretical advantage. The Motorola Edge relies on a display that runs very far around the edges of the smartphone. In the smartphone market, such a display is often marketed as a Waterfall Display. Apart from the Motorola Edge, the Huawei Mate 30 Pro happens to be the only other handset that carries a similarly wide circumferential display.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge side hand
The waterfall display on the Motorola Edge. / © AndroidPIT

Such a display forces manufacturers to reposition the side buttons that are normally reserved for volume control and also the on/off switch. Having it in the center of the frame is simply impossible, as this is where the edge display runs. The volume buttons and the on/off switch would have to be relocated to the back of the smartphone, bringing back memories of the LG G2 and LG G3. It will take some time to get used to the remapped buttons, although this would translate to a greater degree of difficulty in hunting down protective covers for the Motorola Edge.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge side screen
The keys move down unusually far. / © AndroidPIT

The back of the Motorola Edge also comes with an interesting design that seems to buck the current trend. While there is no groundbreaking design or layout change, not to mention an outstanding color scheme, the cameras behind the Motorola Edge do not stick out and unbalance the device in an obvious manner unlike many other models in the market. While there is a ring island around the lenses, it does not stick out like a sore thumb.

Motorola Edge display

If one refers to the technical specifications of the Motorola Edge’s display, the most striking thing would be this: the OLED panel is not all that special. Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro is well-known for its waterfall display. We’ve already seen 90Hz refresh rates appear in the OnePlus 7, Google Pixel 4, and others since last year. In 2020, there will be smartphones with 120Hz displays, such as the OnePlus 8 Pro or even the Samsung Galaxy S20 series.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge screen side
The waterfall display looks chic but it can be impractical at times. / © AndroidPIT

Nevertheless, the 6.7-inch OLED display that comes with a resolution count of 1,080 x 2,340 pixels, does not disappoint when it comes to brightness and capability. In order to achieve the maximum brightness, however, one should ensure that the adaptive brightness control is enabled.

Unfortunately, in everyday life, you sometimes have to contend with the waterfall display’s sides being activated by accident. This means that there is an accidental trigger from time to time, and this tends to happen when you reach around and your palm happens to get in touch with the edges. Motorola is aware of this issue and thankfully, has offered an option to disable the edges for compatible apps under the settings options.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge front camera
The Motorola Edge has a really big display. / © AndroidPIT

The waterfall display does come in handy when it comes to playing games like PUBG or Fortnite. Under those circumstances, the two most frequently used on-screen controls can be mapped to the upper display’s edge as shoulder buttons. This would ensure that you get more viewing real estate that is not covered by your thumbs.

Motorola Edge software

In terms of software, the Motorola Edge offers a near-stock Android experience.  With the Motorola Edge, it runs on its own Android skin with the addition of Moto Actions, which is a slew of phone interaction via movement. Among them include a karate chop in order to toggle the flashlight, a twist motion will launch the camera app, while you can capture a screenshot with a three-finger gesture, among others. Sporting personalisation options, you will be able to
select and configure accent colours and styles similar to Oxygen OS from OnePlus. You will also be able to use the Edge’s edges to personalise the overall appearance of the Edge, where you can view incoming calls or alarm alerts, notification alerts, and remaining battery level.

Motorola Edge lights
The Edge’s edges can also be used to display information. / © AndroidPIT

Since Motorola decided to stick to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chipset for the Motorola Edge (the ‘G’ stands for Gaming), it is not surprising at all to find Gametime as part of the software mix. In Gametime, you will be able to manipulate different kinds of game settings and configuration options, such as assigning virtual shoulder buttons on the Motorola Edge. While this is not a really surprising innovation, it is still a nice enrichment for the Motorola Edge owner who is invested in a more complete mobile gaming experience.

Motorola Edge Software
It is all about personalization with the Motorola Edge. There are also other nifty functions like the ruler app and the possibility to assign shoulder buttons in games. / © AndroidPIT

Motorola Edge performance

For the very first time, Motorola will include Qualcomm’s 7 series chipset in one of its smartphones. Until now, this SoC has mainly been available only on handsets from Chinese manufacturers such as OPPO, Xiaomi, and co. In recent months, however, other smartphone manufacturers like Nokia with the
Nokia 8.3 and LG with the recently launched Velvet seem to have taken a liking to Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line mid-range model.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge back
Inside, the Snapdragon 765G is the SoC with the best price-performance ratio from Qualcomm. / © AndroidPIT

One of the reasons could be the simple fact that this processor from Qualcomm’s current line happens to be the only one that has an integrated 5G modem. The larger and more expensive sibling, the Snapdragon 865, arrives radio-ready with an additional modem chip at a far higher cost. Hence, it makes much more financial sense to settle for the Snapdragon 765G. While you will not be able to find the Motorola Edge keep up with Snapdragon 865-powered handsets in benchmark tests, the Motorola Edge will still perform admirably well where everyday tasks are concerned armed with the Snapdragon 765G chipset, 6 GB LPDDR4X RAM,128 GB UFS 2.1 memory (expandable via a microSD slot).

Motorola Edge benchmark comparison

  Motorola Edge Realm X50 Pro 5G Samsung Galaxy S20
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1 3023 7133 6187
3D Mark Sling Shot Vulkan 2801 6553 5285
3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0 4313 8806 7462
Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi) 754 / 1849 909 / 3378 896 / 2737
PassMark Memory 20770 26380 22045
PassMark disk 66899 98991 36311

Motorola Edge audio

If you are looking for a small and portable ghetto blaster, you should definitely take a closer look at the Motorola Edge. Better yet, listen to it. From the outside, this small and slim multimedia box hardly gives off the idea that the two speakers pack a punch. Personally, I haven’t heard speakers this loud in a smartphone for a long time.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge usb
Powerful loudspeakers and an analog headphone output should convince audio fans of the Motorola Edge. / © AndroidPIT

It’s also great that Motorola has given the Edge a good old 3.5mm headphone jack, allowing you to listen to your favorite tunes from a curated playlist on wired headphones without causing any sound pollution nearby.

Motorola Edge camera

As part of the ‘performance’ for its return to the premium smartphone segment, Motorola decided to pack a quad-camera setup at the back, with a 3D ToF camera as part of the deal. In front lies a 25MP Quad Pixel camera for high-resolution selife shots. Our resident photo and video expert Stefan Möllenhoff took a closer look at the Motorola Edge’s camera setup and has drawn his analysis from an expert’s point of view:

The Edge is a big deal for Motorola. I was curious about the camera – 64 megapixels, which is something Motorola has never included before. And the 1/1.72 inch Samsung Isocell Bright GW1 should also set all size records for this Lenovo product.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality colors
Strong daylight conditions, yet pictures still turned out dull. © AndroidPIT

However, after the first few photos, there some disillusionment has crept in: Even daytime shots seem a bit dull and had low contrast. Despite the tweaks that came with the latest software update (build number QPD30.70-28) brought options such as HDR mode, it didn’t help improve the situation at all.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality red
Strange spots: A look into the red channel showed how the image processing algorithm delivered rather strange results. / © AndroidPIT

Even with the high-resolution 64-megapixel sensor, it does not really see the Motorola Edge shine. On the contrary, the opposite seemed to have happened. When viewed at maximum magnification, the 16-megapixel images show a tad more detail. Hence, you would be better off turning off the maximum pixel setting when taking photos.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality 64 vs 16 mp
I really checked three times to see whether I mixed up the pictures, which I didn’t. The 16-megapixel photo actually carried a bit more detail than the 64-megapixel one. / © AndroidPIT

It is not all doom-and-gloom though. The photos from the three sensors seem to rather uniform in performance, with no particularly jarring differences when it comes to color reproduction. While the wide-angle module and the main sensor offer a decently detailed reproduction, the telephoto module, unfortunately, suffers from a considerable performance drop.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality focal lengths
This is how the three rear camera modules of the Motorola Edge compare to each
other in a direct comparison: at the top, each in its original width and slightly trimmed at the top/bottom, while the bottom is a 100% extension. / © AndroidPIT

By the way, Motorola decided to go without the dedicated macro sensor found in the latest Moto G devices on the Edge. This is not a loss at all, with the ultra-wide-angle module offering an extremely low close-up limit and actually delivers very detailed macro photos.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality macro
For such detailed macro photos, a windless moment is crucial. / © AndroidPIT

The telephoto camera also comes with a secondary function: it is meant to capture portrait shots. However, that’s a bit of a shame because the reproduction of details is not ideal even under optimal lighting conditions. Fine details such as hair look muddled when viewed at higher magnification levels. There is a positive aspect to this though, where the background is neatly separated in addition to a successful bokeh effect.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality portrait
There is no free lunch – despite the bright daylight, the white balance shifts the skin tones into green territory. / © AndroidPIT

Finally, the Motorola Edge does well in low light conditions. Although image noise increases and detail decreases, the quality remains adequate. The dedicated night mode extends the exposure and processing time, and there is a slight improvement in the end product. However, one should not expect a quantum leap such as Huawei’s long time exposures.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality low light
Berlin’s Nordbahnhof station, which is quite sparsely lit, still looks reasonably well with ISO 2313. / © AndroidPIT

Finally, the selfie camera looks quite promising on paper. In theory, the quality is fine. The cropping of the background falls within acceptable standards, and the exposure is also always optimized for the face. You shouldn’t zoom too much for selfies, as the captured shots are more suitable for Instagram and other social media platforms, and not for large format prints.

AndroidPIT motorola edge image quality selfie
Don’t zoom in too much, please: You’d lose a degree of detail when zooming in too much. / © AndroidPIT

Overall, the camera setup of the Motorola Edge can be said to deliver solid results on its report card. There is still time for Motorola to improve the quality with the help of software updates. Even during the ten days of our review, Motorola rolled out a major firmware update and also updated the camera app once.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge camera
An unobtrusive look: the rear cameras on the Motorola Edge. / © AndroidPIT

Motorola Edge battery

Underneath the hood of the Motorola Edge lies a battery with 4,500 mAh capacity. However, as we have already often pointed out, the battery’s capacity on paper isn’t a totally decisive factor when it comes to the smartphone’s overall runtime. There are other factors that one ought to consider, including the types of components used, software optimization, and user behavior, all play important roles in the overall battery life.

If we leave the human factor aside and let the PCMark do the talking when it comes to the battery life test, then the Motorola Edge achieves an incredible 17 hours and 11 minutes when the display runs non-stop at 90Hz. The total battery life increases to 19 hours and 38 minutes with a refresh rate of only 60Hz.

AndroidPIT Motorola Edge front
All in all a good overall package with long-lasting battery life. / © AndroidPIT

In everyday life and taking the human factor into consideration, which in this case is yours truly, the Motorola Edge easily manages to last through an intensive working day. At the end of the day, I still see it sport 35 percent remaining battery life, despite using it at a refresh rate of 90Hz.

If the battery has run completely empty, you ought to display some patience, because the 18W TurboCharger requires 2 hours and 33 minutes to recharge the 4,500 mAh until it is full. It is this aspect where Motorola falls behind its competition and there is still plenty of work that can be done.

Early Verdict

Sometimes a little time off is helpful. In the case of Motorola, it seems that taking a breather from the premium and flagship smartphone market has done the company a whole world of good. Sure, the Motorola Edge has nothing that hasn’t been seen before in other smartphones of the same class, but this is a solid foundation from where Motorola can build upon and grow from strength-to-strength.

The Motorola Edge targets users who primarily want a smartphone that delivers good performance and long-lasting battery life. The fact that the camera is only average is something you can live with and hope that Motorola will look into improving its quality over time with subsequent software updates.

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