“The Motorola Edge 5G UW stands tall in the crowded midrange field, with a big 144Hz display, long battery life, and support for both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G.”
- Crisp 6.8-inch display with a 144Hz refresh rate
- Supports 5G NR mmWave and Sub-6GHz
- Extremely responsive touchscreen
- Long battery life
- No wireless charging
- Single bottom-firing speaker
- Camera struggles in low light
The Motorola Edge 5G UW (2021) is a Verizon-only handset (largely identical to the unlocked model currently available) that delivers more than you might expect based on its midrange pricing. It looks more like its siblings in the 2021 Moto G lineup than its immediate predecessor, the Motorola Edge (2020), but looks can be deceiving. It packs in a super-responsive 144Hz display, an impressive main camera, and enough juice in the battery to keep going for days between charges.
While there’s more good than bad, Motorola did stumble a few times here. There’s no support for wireless charging, the single speaker produces underwhelming results, and the downside of a screen this big is that the phone will just be too cumbersome for some people to use comfortably.
The Motorola Edge 5G UW (2021) is the Verizon-exclusive version of the second-generation Motorola Edge, and it’s a sharp departure from the first generation of the hardware that launched last year. That phone had a bold curve to the edges of the display and zero bezel on the sides, while the second generation of the hardware looks a lot more like Motorola’s other 2021 phones. It features a big 6.8-inch LED display that dominates the front of the handset, but the bezels are fairly chunky all the way around. The top bezel is too thin to house a camera sensor, so it has a pinhole cam.
The overall construction of the Edge
The volume rocker and power button are both located on the right edge of the frame, with the power button pulling double duty as a fingerprint sensor. The sensor worked flawlessly during my time with the phone. It never misread my thumbprint even once, and it’s incredibly responsive as well. Tap the sensor with your thumb, and the response is so close to instant that my eyes can’t tell the difference.
The left edge is clean and bare, the top features a microphone, and the bottom edge houses the SIM drawer, another microphone, the USB-C port, and the single speaker grille.
The glass-like plastic back is beautiful, but it’s also an absolute fingerprint magnet. When wiped clean with a microfiber cloth, it catches the light in a way that’s almost a shame to cover up with a phone case. Motorola calls the color scheme nebula blue, and it’s the only color option on offer for this model.
The camera array rises from the back of the case a few millimeters, which makes the phone a bit wobbly when you set it down with the screen facing up. The three camera sensors are arranged vertically, with a microphone and flash located to the side.
It’s a shame to lose the OLED, but the faster refresh rate and higher pixel density are absolutely worth the trade-off.
It’s a shame to lose the OLED, but the faster refresh rate and higher pixel density are absolutely worth the trade-off. Everything from menu navigation to games looks slick beyond belief — to the point where it’s almost difficult to go back to a phone with a significantly lower refresh rate.
Sound is a completely different matter, as the Edge
Volume isn’t an issue, as the speaker is more than loud enough, but it’s unpleasant at max volume. At lower volumes, it’s hollow and tinny. If you accidentally block the grille of the single bottom-firing speaker, the sound is muffled into nothingness.
While the speaker itself is a disappointment, the listening experience is completely different if you connect a Bluetooth speaker or earbuds. The Edge
The 108MP main sensor turns in extremely strong results given decent lighting, with brilliant color and excellent details. Shots also turned out pretty good in mixed lighting conditions, like landscape photos that included bright swaths of sky and deep shadows on the ground. In lower lighting conditions, like dim light inside, I noticed more noise than I’d like. The same is true of night mode shots, which came out plenty bright even in relatively dark conditions, but at the price of a lot of grainy noise.
The front camera works well enough for selfies and video chat, but it doesn’t turn in the kind of results I expected just from the raw numbers. I noticed a lot of grain in shots taken in anything less than perfect lighting, but details came out pretty good. Portrait mode washes out both colors and details, softening and lightening everything.
The camera comes with a number of fun and useful options beyond portrait mode. Spot color lets you pick one color and have everything else in the shot rendered in grayscale, cutout lets you capture images of people with the background automatically cut out, and dual capture lets you snap a shot with the main camera and selfie cam at the same time — just in case that’s something you ever wanted to do.
The biggest thing to overcome if you’re coming from a stock Android experience is that dragging up from the bottom brings up the app switcher instead of the app drawer. To get the app drawer, you have to drag up from just slightly above the bottom of the screen. You can also access Assistant by dragging up from the bottom-left or bottom-right corners of the screen.
The gesture controls allow you to perform useful tasks like grabbing a screenshot by tapping the screen with three fingers.
The most important change Motorola makes to stock Android is the addition of motion and gesture controls. These controls can be toggled off if you don’t like them, but the gesture controls allow you to perform useful tasks like grabbing a screenshot by tapping the screen with three fingers, turning the flashlight on with a chopping motion, and opening the camera with a quick twist of the wrist.
Navigation is snappy and silky smooth, and apps launch fast. Overall performance is excellent, leaning on the Snapdragon 778G chip and your choice of 6GB or 8GB of RAM. The unit I tested came with 6GB, which was enough to have a dozen apps open with zero slowdown when swapping between them.
For a bit of hands-on testing of gaming performance, I used the Edge
True to the name, the Edge
Rounding out its wireless connectivity, the phone also supports NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, and Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi connectivity is solid and fast, with support for Wi-Fi calling. I was able to send and receive calls over Wi-Fi, download and stream games, and stream music and videos without any issues.
For physical connectivity, the phone has a USB-C port to connect accessories and facilitate rapid charging. Motorola’s lower-priced midrange phones and budget-range handsets come with headphone jacks, but the Edge
Motorola advertises the Edge
While the battery size and battery life are high points, the overall charging situation isn’t as positive. The Edge
Other manufacturers offer faster charging in this price range, but 30W is perfectly serviceable in my experience. I was able to charge the Edge
The Motorola Edge
The Motorola Edge
Verizon Adaptive Sound adds an extra dimension if you connect Bluetooth headphones or a speaker.
The bottom-firing speaker could use an upgrade, but Verizon Adaptive Sound adds an extra dimension if you connect Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. I’d also prefer to see wireless charging in a phone at this price point, and the camera performance does suffer in low light, all of which does hold this phone back a bit. This particular model is also locked to Verizon, which is a hitch if you’re married to a different carrier, but Motorola does offer an unlocked version if you’re on board with everything else and that’s your one hang up.
Is there a better alternative?
At the promotional $550 price point, this is one of the best options on the table, though the calculus changes a bit once things revert to the $700 MSRP. If you’re looking for a phone with an exceptionally fast refresh rate on the display, that’s especially true. The Samsung Galaxy A52 is one decent option, as it offers a 6.5-inch AMOLED with a refresh rate of 120Hz and costs about $500. It does have a slightly slower processor and a weaker camera array, but it’s an extremely solid option at that price. Your next best option is the Google Pixel 5a. You won’t get the high-refresh screen, but it has a beefed-up battery and great camera capabilities, especially in low light.
How long will it last?
Aside from the standard one-year warranty, Motorola is set to provide two major Android updates along with bimonthly security updates for two years, which means the Edge
Should you buy one?
Yes, you should consider picking this phone up, with a couple of caveats. The extremely attractive $550 price point is technically an introductory price, with the potential that the phone will be back at its $700 MSRP for the unlocked model after the launch window. The competition gets a lot stiffer the further that price climbs, so keep an eye on that if you’re buying later.
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