Motorola’s 2021 Moto G lineup isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it does include some excellent phones regardless. The Motorola One 5G Ace is a streamlined version of last year’s Motorola One 5G that cuts $150 off the price of the 2020 phone. Despite that, the One 5G Ace keeps the 6.7-inch screen, an equally large battery, the same 48-megapixel main rear camera lens, and the 5G connection. On the other hand, it also cuts back a few perks, adding a slightly weaker processor and doing away with its predecessor’s 90Hz refresh rate.
Even without those extras, it’s still a solid phone. But it has plenty of stiff competition in the best cheap 5G phones, with the Google Pixel 4a 5G being its most notable rival. We compare these two phones to find out which is the best overall, which should help you pick which is the mid-priced Android phone for you.
|Motorola One 5G Ace||Pixel 4a 5G|
|Size||166.1 x 76.1 x 9.9mm (6.54 x 3.00 x 0.39 inches)||169.2 x 72.6 x 8.2mm (6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 in)|
|Weight||212 grams (7.48 ounces)||168-171 grams (5.93 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.7-inch LCD||6.2-inch OLED|
|Screen resolution||2400 x 1080 pixels (393 pixels per inch)||2340 x 1080 pixels (413 ppi)|
|Operating system||Android 10||Android 11|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes||No|
|Tap-to-pay services||Google Pay||Google Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G|
|Camera||48-megapixel wide, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro rear, 16MP front||12.2MP wide, and 16MP ultrawide rear, 8MP front|
|Video||4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 60 fps||4K at 30/60 fps, 1080p at 30/60/120/240 fps|
|Ports||USB-C, headphone jack||USB-C|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes, rear-mounted||Yes, rear-mounted|
Fast charging (15W)
Fast charging (18W)
|App marketplace||Google Play Store||Google Play Store|
|Network support||Most major U.S. carriers||Most major U.S. carriers|
|Colors||Volcanic Gray, Frosted Silver||Just Black, Clearly White|
|Buy from||Motorola, Best Buy||Google Store|
|Review score||3 out of 5 stars||News|
Design, display, and durability
From the front, both the Motorola One 5G Ace and Pixel 4a 5G look pretty similar. They both rock edge-to-edge displays with a punch-hole selfie camera at the top (in the top-right corner with the 4a 5G), and they both feature fairly wide bezels around their respective displays. Around the back, they’re both made of plastic, though the 4a 5G features a matte black plastic rear, while the One 5G Ace’s plastic reverse looks almost metallic. This is arguably preferable, as it looks a touch more stylish and sophisticated.
The displays of both devices are also fairly similar. The Motorola One 5G Ace packs 2400 x 1080 pixels into its 6.7-inch screen, which works out at 393 pixels per inch. The Pixel 4a 5G’s screen is noticeably smaller, at 6.2 inches, although with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels, it offers 413 ppi. In practice, this difference isn’t really noticeable, yet the Pixel’s use of an OLED — as opposed to an LCD — display means that it gives the viewer deeper blacks and a more vivid dynamic contrast.
Both phones lack an official IP rating, even though the Motorola has been given a water-repellent coating. Still, with plastic rears, they should be fairly durable.
Performance, battery life, and charging
The Pixel 4a 5G carries a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, which isn’t top-of-the-range but still powerful enough to handle 5G processing and also the vast majority of apps you’re likely to use. As for the Motorola One 5G Ace, it houses a Snapdragon 750G, which tests indicate is slightly faster than the 750G. That said, you’re unlikely to notice a significant difference in practice if any at all.
With internal memory, the One 5G Ace features only 64GB as standard, while the 4a 5G provides 128GB. However, if you’re in the United States, you’ll get the 128GB model as standard, which also comes with 6GB — rather than 4GB — of RAM. In addition, the Motorola device has a microSD card slot (regardless of the model you buy), so you can upgrade its storage capacity, which is something that can’t be said for Google’s phone.
Another thing that can’t be said for the Pixel 4a 5G is that it comes with a massive 5,000mAh battery. The Motorola One 5G Ace certainly does, and thanks to its large powerhouse, it will easily see you through to a second day, even under heavy use. By contrast, the Pixel 4a 5G’s 3,885mAh battery will last until the next morning, but not quite as comfortably. Both devices offer a very similar charging experience, though, with the Pixel 4a 5G capable of fast charging at 18W and the One 5G Ace at 15W.
Winner: Motorola One 5G Ace
Yes, it may not sound like much, but Pixel 4a 5G’s 12.2MP camera is one of the very best in the business. It’s the same main lens used on the Pixel 4a, which our review described as “astounding” and the “best $349 smartphone camera.” It will take great pictures in pretty much every situation, and the addition of a 16MP ultrawide lens gives it great versatility as well.
The Motorola One 5G Ace, however, isn’t quite so hot. As our review found, its three rear camera lenses punch below their weight. It struggles particularly with low-light shots, introducing a considerable quantity of noise into most shots. Its macro lens is also largely redundant, meaning it effectively has the same basic setup as the Pixel 4a 5G, but without the precision, detail, and software smarts that make Google’s phone an absolute stunner.
The Pixel takes this round hands-down.
Winner: Google Pixel 4a 5G
Software and updates
Software is arguably the Motorola One 5G Ace’s biggest weak point. It ships with Android 10, while the Pixel 4a 5G ships with Android 11, the latest version. Unfortunately, Motorola has said it will only provide one software update to Android 11. After that, you’ll be left on Android 11, while the Pixel 4a 5G will no doubt be treated to Android 12, and so on.
The Motorola will receive security updates for two years, which is reassuring. However, the lack of more extensive software support is disappointing and makes this round an easy win for Google’s phone.
Winner: Google Pixel 4a 5G
As their names suggest, both phones support 5G. Unfortunately, the Motorola One 5G Ace’s supports only the slower sub-6Hz 5G band, while the Pixel supports the faster mmWave band. However, the Pixel’s mmWave is only available on a Verizon-locked, and you’ll have to pay $100 more for the privilege. Still, even sub-6Hz 5G is a nice feature to have if you’re in touching distance of a 5G network, so it’s hard to declare a winner on 5G alone.
Beyond 5G, the two phones offer some modest special features. The Pixel 4a 5G offers some Google-exclusive special features, such as the very helpful artificial intelligence-powered Call Screen, which tells you when a caller is “spam,” for example. As for the Motorola One 5G Ace, it includes a variety of very useful gestures (Moto Actions), such as chopping twice for the flashlight or twisting the phone for the camera app.
It’s tempting to give this round to Google’s phone since it does include mmWave 5G support if you’re on Verizon. However, because this costs $100 extra, we’re calling another tie.
Price and availability
The Motorola One 5G Ace is priced at $400 and can be bought directly from Motorola. It’s also available from most major retailers, and it happens to be supported by all major carriers.
The Pixel 4a 5G starts from $499, although the mmWave version costs $599 and is available only through Verizon. It can be purchased from Google and most major retailers, while it’s supported by all major networks.
Overall winner: Google Pixel 4a 5G
The Google Pixel 4a 5G may not offer a wide range of bells and whistles, but its core features are mostly excellent. Its camera is among the best on any phone, its software is very user-friendly, its updates will be timely and plentiful, and it includes 5G support. It also looks more or less as attractive as the Motorola One 5G Ace (although neither are breathtaking), and it has a slightly better display and comparable performance. The only advantage the One 5G Ace really has is its superior battery life, although the Pixel is hardly a slouch in this department.
Simply put, the Pixel 4a 5G is probably the best mid-range Android you can buy right now. Its strengths put it on our best 5G phones list, and it’s clearly better than the Motorola One 5G Ace.
If you’re looking for a deal, also check out our collection of the best 5G phone deals, as you might find yourself a solid deal on one of these two phones, or something you hadn’t expected.
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