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Moto Z4 vs. Galaxy S10 E, Pixel 3A XL, OnePlus 6T: $500 phones compared

With prices ranging from $449 to $520, here are five midrange phones battling for your hard-earned cash.

The Moto Z4 costs $500. Its biggest problem? All of the other great phones you can get for that price.
Angela Lang/CNET

I recently reviewed the Motorola Moto Z4, which sells for $499 unlocked here in the US. It's part midrange phone, part modular monster and, with the addition of a $349 mod, part gateway drug for Verizon's fun-sized 5G network. The reason it's difficult to recommend the Moto Z4 to anyone other than 5G early-adopters or people up to their ears in Moto Mods is that there are a number of solid phones that cost around the same price. If you have a budget of around $500, boy oh boy, do you have some great phone options in 2019.

For starters, there's the $459 OnePlus 6T and the $479 Google Pixel 3A XL, the latter of which has one of the best cameras on any phone you can currently buy. Then there's last year's Moto Z3, which Motorola still sells for $480. But perhaps the most jaw-dropping alternative is the Samsung Galaxy S10E, which can be bought through Verizon, AT&T and B&H for $550, or on Amazon for $520.

Here's how the Moto Z4 stacks up against the Galaxy S10E, Pixel 3A XL, OnePlus 6T and Moto Z3. For even more phone options under $500, check out our roundup of the best phones under $500.

Now playing: Watch this: Moto Z4 is a $500 rival to Google's Pixel 3a

Moto Z4 vs. Galaxy S10E

A flagship phone for the cost of a midrange one


Currently you can nab the $750 Galaxy S10E for $520.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Moto Z4 and Galaxy S10E are two very different phones that by some twist of fate cost nearly the same -- at least for the time being. The Galaxy S10E is essentially a scaled-down Galaxy S10 and includes a Snapdragon 855 processor, one of the best camera systems and wireless charging that can also be used to charge accessories like wireless earbuds or a smartwatch. At its original price of $750, the Galaxy S10E was an excellent deal. For $520 it's incredible.

At $500, the Moto Z4 lacks wireless charging and has a modest processor compared to the Galaxy S10E. On the other hand the Moto Z4 lasted 2 hours, 21 minutes longer in our looped video tests in airplane mode, has a larger screen and can be modded into a 5G phone with the addition of a 5G Moto Mod. Also, Motorola's friendly and easy-to-use software on the Z4 is a delight. The near-stock take on Android is honestly one of our favorite versions of the operating system out there.

All that said, the Galaxy S10E for $520 is an absolutely bonkers deal for what you get and I think would be a better fit for most people than the Moto Z4.

Now playing: Watch this: Galaxy S10E is worth every penny

Moto Z4 vs. Pixel 3A XL

Google's budget wonder changed the affordable phone game


Remarkably, the Pixel 3A and 3A XL both have one of the best cameras found on any phone you can buy.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google ruined budget phones for us when it released the Pixel 3A and 3A XL. The biggest reason is that the affordable phones have the same camera found in the Pixel 3 -- one of the best you can buy. Most other budget phones, including my favorite the Moto G7, have decent cameras for the price, but with the Pixel 3A rocking the one from its older brother, it's hard not to take notice.

The Pixel 3A costs $399 and the larger Pixel 3A XL, which seems more in line size-wise with the Moto Z4, costs $479. Both Pixels run stock Android and Google has promised a minimum of three years of software updates for the phones.

The Moto Z4 has a nice screen that's also larger: 6.4 inches compared to the Pixel 3A XL's 6-inch one. The Z4 lasted over 2 hours longer than the Pixel in our battery tests, despite having a lower-capacity battery. And the build quality of the Z4 feels much more premium than the plastic body of the Pixel 3A and 3A XL.

If you're a camera nerd, the Pixel 3A or 3A XL is the way to go, but if you want a bigger screen and longer battery life, the Moto Z4 is worth considering.

Now playing: Watch this: Google goes 'budget' with Pixel 3A and 3A XL

Moto Z4 vs. OnePlus 6T

Last year's flagship for less


OnePlus phones have always been a wonderful value and with the 6T you get last year's flagship for the price of a midrange phone.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Though it launched in November last year, the OnePlus 6T still offers more flagship appeal than the Moto Z4. It has a better design, build, display, cameras and faster performance. And if Motorola's software take on Android is my favorite, OnePlus' OxygenOS, with its elegant and simple UI, is my second favorite.

The Moto Z4's battery lasted 2 hours, 18 minutes longer than the OnePlus in our tests, however. And the Moto Z4 is 9 months newer than the 6T.

If you want to save $40 -- you can buy it for $459 on Amazon -- the OnePlus 6T is the way to go. Unless you want to be on Verizon, then the Moto Z4 is the better option.

Now playing: Watch this: OnePlus 6T's in-screen fingerprint reader looks to the...

Moto Z4 vs. Moto Z3

5G 'budget' phones


If you're choosing between the Moto Z3 and Z4 to use on 5G, the Z4 and its long battery life is a must have.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Currently Motorola sells the Moto Z4 for $500 and the Moto Z3, which has a more powerful Snapdragon 835 processor and can also use the 5G Moto Mod, for $480. The Moto Z4 has a much longer battery life, comes with twice the storage and newer cameras on the front and back.

Aside from the processor, the Moto Z4 seems like a better phone, especially its monster battery, which lasted 5 hours longer in our looped video tests in airplane mode than the Moto Z3.

Both phones are able to be used on Verizon's 5G network via a $349 mod. Though I didn't test the Moto Z4's 5G connectivity with the 5G Moto Mod, my colleague Jessica Dolcourt got to test a Moto Z3 with the 5G mod this spring. She describes the experience as "kludgy at best." Her biggest issue with the Moto Z3 and 5G mod setup was the horrible battery life.

If you want to get one of these phones to use with the 5G mod, grab the Moto Z4, since it offers a bigger battery. Otherwise, the Moto Z3 is compelling if you're into more graphics heavy tasks like gaming, editing photos and recording video.

Now playing: Watch this: Moto Z3 has a long wait for its 5G moment

Moto Z4 specs compared with the Pixel 3A XL, OnePlus 6T, Moto Z3, Galaxy S10E

Motorola Moto Z4 Google Pixel 3A XL OnePlus 6T Motorola Moto Z3 Samsung Galaxy S10E
Display size, resolution 6.4-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels 6.0-inch gOLED; 2,160x1,080 pixels 6.41-inch AMOLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels 6.0-inch OLED; 2,160x1,080 pixels 5.8-inch AMOLED; 2,280x1,080-pixels
Pixel density 403 ppi 402 ppi 402 ppi 402 ppi 438 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.2 x 2.95 x 0.3 in 6.3 x 3.0 x 0.3 in 6.20 x 2.94 x 0.32 in 6.16 x 3.01 x 0.27 in 5.6 x 2.8 x 0.27 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 158 x 75 x 7.35 mm 160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2 mm 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm 156.5 x 76.5 x 6.75 mm 142 x 70 x 7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.82 oz; 165g 5.89 oz; 167g 6.5 oz; 185g 5.5 oz; 156g 5.3oz.; 150g
Mobile software Android 9.0 Android 9.0 Android 9 Pie Android 8.1 Oreo Android 9.0
Camera 48-megapixel 12.2-megapixel 16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto 12-megapixel, 12-megapixel mono 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle)
Front-facing camera 25-megapixel 8-megapixel 16-megapixel 8-megapixel 10-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 2GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdraon 670 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 2.35GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 128GB 64GB 128GB, 256GB 64GB 128GB, 256GB
Expandable storage Yes No No Yes Yes
Battery 3,700 mAh 3,700 mAh 3,700 mAh 3,000 mAh 3,100 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-display Back In-display On the side Power button
Headphone jack Yes Yes No No Yes
Special features In-display fingerprint reader, Moto Actions, Moto Mods AR in Google Maps, Timelapse video shooting In-display fingerprint sensor, dual-SIM, Dash Charging, notifications toggle Compatibility for Moto Mods, extra battery pack Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Price off-contract (USD) $499 $479 $459 $480 $520