CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
In April, Samsung announced updates to its Galaxy A series, its family of budget phones that are poised to compete against Apple's latest iPhone SE for 2020. While some models have new features like 5G, all of them are less than $400 and have headphone jacks. One of the new phones, the Galaxy A51, is a sequel to 2019's Galaxy A50.
The Galaxy A50 from 2019 may not be as fancy as the latest Galaxy S20 phones or as cool-looking as the Z Flip. But at $350 at launch and now discounted by Samsung even more at $300, the A50 is one of two best Android phones that are under $400 and came out last year. (For more phones under $500, check out our roundup.)
That other choice is the Motorola Moto G7, which originally launched at $300 (£189, AU$349), but you can now get it for cheaper (in the US, Motorola currently sells it for $230). For the past few years, Motorola's G-series has consistently ranked as our favorite budget phone and the G7 continues this legacy as an exceptional phone for its price.
All in all, we still love the Moto G7. It's a fantastic, affordable phone, and it won our Editors' Choice for its inexpensive price, good camera and reliable performance. But I do think the Galaxy A50 is better, even if it's a bit more expensive. For that, it too earned itself an Editors' Choice. If you have an extra $70 to spare, go for the Galaxy A50 over the Moto G7. Though it doesn't shoot 4K video and I'm not a huge fan of Samsung's One UI, the A50's superior camera, sleeker design and longer battery life make it the better phone.
Though both phones are similar in size and design, there are a few details that elevate the Galaxy A50 above the Moto G7. For instance, the Moto G7 has a larger camera bump on the back. Having a bump isn't a deal breaker, and a lot of phones have it including the iPhone. The Galaxy A50's camera is way more flushed, it looks flatter and sleeker. The on-screen camera notch for the front-facing camera is also smaller, so it's less obtrusive when you're viewing the display. Lastly, because the Galaxy A50 has an in-screen fingerprint scanner, the device looks more seamless overall. The Moto G7, on the other hand, has a visible reader on the back that's emblazoned with the Motorola logo (and there's a Motorola logo on the front too, on the bottom bezel), which isn't as appealing.
In addition, the Galaxy A50 has an AMOLED display compared to the Moto G7's LCD screen. Though both phones have about the same resolution and pixel density, the Galaxy A50 screen is brighter and colors are much more vibrant. Blacks are much darker and inkier as well. When viewing both phones at different angles, the color shift is more severe on the Moto G7 too. That means colors wash out dramatically and the screen appears to get dimmer at certain angles.
One advantage the Moto G7 does have is that it's slightly water repellent. You can't fully submerge it underwater, but it does have a nano-coating that protects it against light water sprinkles and splashes. Samsung did not add water protection to the A50.
Both the Galaxy A50 and Moto G7 take clear and bright photos when conditions are ideal, as in settings with a lot of even lighting. And while the Galaxy A50 can record only 1080p video (compared to the Moto G7's 4K maximum), the Galaxy A50's camera still pulls ahead of the Moto G7 in many ways.
Pictures are sharper, so you can see finer details in things like leaves and bricks. In low light, the A50 brightens and punches up colors, while photos taken with the G7 are muddier with much hazier and washed out colors. The A50 also has a wider dynamic range, meaning scenes with different lighting situations are exposed more evenly compared to the Moto G7. I did notice that there were times when the A50's HDR effect looked a little too unrealistic, but I preferred it over the Moto G7 nonetheless. The Galaxy A50 has a second wide-angle camera too, meaning you capture more content within each frame. This is handy when you want to capture vast landscapes and scenery too.
Both phones pulled off the bokeh effect for portraits comparably and the fallouts between the fore and backgrounds were smooth and natural-looking. You can also take portraits with the front-facing camera on both phones. When I took a selfie, both phones showed some patchiness around my hair. However, I still prefer the Galaxy A50's picture because the white balance was more accurate.
Unlike the Moto G7 though, the A50 cannot shoot 4K video. Instead, it shoots 1080p video, and videos in that resolution were on par with the Moto G7. Objects were in-focus, colors were true-to-life and audio was clear. While I myself don't care for 4K home movies, if you want to shoot sharper and brighter video and have a 4K display, the Moto G7 is the choice between the two.
For our benchmark tests, the Galaxy A50 consistently edged out the Moto G7. But in real life, you won't notice a big speed difference between the two, and my day-to-day experience with both are relatively smooth. There are times though that I run into the occasional hiccup with the Galaxy A50. For instance, apps unexpectedly quit sometimes or just won't launch. And the fingerprint reader will take a beat or two longer than usual to unlock the phone. Again, the majority of the time the Galaxy A50 runs fine, but because its processor isn't top-of-the-line, you may notice the same stutters that I do.
Samsung's phone is also equipped with a higher-capacity battery and lasted much longer than the Moto G7. During lab tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the phone lasted an average of over 17 hours and 17 minutes. The Moto G7 lasted only 12 hours and 51 minutes.
One thing to note is that both phones employ one speaker at the bottom for audio. Their audio quality obviously doesn't compare to that of higher-end phones, but I did notice that audio coming out of the Moto G7 was notably louder and broader compared to the Galaxy A50. In contrast, the sound from Samsung's phone was not as good and sounded sharper and tinnier.
The Galaxy A50 and Moto G7 both run Android, but Samsung and Motorola layered on top their own take on the OS, respectively. I like the UI on the Moto G7 better; it's closer to stock Android, feels more streamlined and user-friendly and icons and menus look more sophisticated. If you like neither of the phones' UIs though, you can easily load a third-party launcher to change it up.
The Galaxy A50 does have some additional features though. On top of Google Pay and Google Assistant (which the Moto G7 has), you'll get Samsung Pay and Bixby. Samsung Pay is compatible with more payment terminals (for more info, read CNET's Apple Pay vs. Google Pay and Samsung Pay comparison) and Bixby is another digital voice assistant you can use to look up basic info and carry out shortcuts. Even if you don't end up using these services -- I myself don't use Bixby as much as I use Assistant -- the A50 gives you more options to choose from.
|Samsung Galaxy A50||Motorola Moto G7||Google Pixel 3A|
|Display size, resolution||6.4-inch AMOLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels||6.2-inch LCD; 2,270x1,080 pixels||5.6-inch gOLED; 2,220x1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||403 ppi||403 ppi||441 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.24 x 2.94 x 0.30 in||6.18 x 2.96 x 0.31 in||6.0 x 2.8 x 0.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||158.5 x 74.7 x 7.7 mm||157 x 75.3 x 8 mm||151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.86 oz; 166g||6.07 oz; 172g||5.19 oz; 147g|
|Mobile software||Android 9.0||Android 9.0||Android 9.0|
|Camera||24-megapixel (wide), 8-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (depth sensor)||12-megapixel (standard), 5-megapixel (depth sensor)||12.2-megapixel|
|Processor||Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9610||1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 632||2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 670|
|Expandable storage||Up to 512GB||Up to 512GB||No|
|Battery||4,000 mAh||3,000 mAh||3,000 mAh|
|Special features||Fast charging, Samsung Pay||Water repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging||AR in Google Maps, time-lapse video shooting|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$350||$299*||$399*|
*Prices at launch
First published Aug. 11, 2019.