Peacemaker trailer Xbox Series X mini fridge The Flash trailer NASA's Lucy launch Apple October event: How to watch PS5 Pro
CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Motorola Edge 5G UW review: The middle child of phones

With a 144Hz high-refresh-rate display and an impressive battery life, the Edge is packing a lot of value.

Motorola Edge 5G UW

The Motorola Edge (2021) and Motorola Edge 5G UW have a Nebula blue finish that catches lights in stunning ways.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The Motorola Edge (2021) and Motorola Edge 5G UW are solid phones that boast premium features and a reasonable price. The phones are part of Motorola's 2021 premium lineup. Up to this point, the Chicago-based company, which is owned by Lenovo, has spent most of 2021 launching a slew of sub-$500 phones in the US. These include the Moto G Stylus 5G, Moto G Power and Motorola One 5G Ace.

The Edge (2021), announced in August, is defined by simplified improvements. The curved display is gone and replaced by a decidedly flat one with a 144Hz high refresh rate. The glass back has been swapped out for a lighter plastic one with a striking blue finish that, almost hypnotically, changes depending on how it catches the light. A new software feature called Ready For lets you wirelessly connect your phone to a TV or monitor.

7.9

Motorola Edge 5G UW

Like

  • Battery life is outstanding
  • Ready For gaming on a TV is good
  • You can switch the screen refresh rates up to 144Hz

Don't Like

  • Camera lags between taking photos
  • Screen can be hard to see outdoors
  • Ready For's cursor interface feels clunky

The Edge normally costs $700 which converts roughly to £520, AU$980 and is currently on sale for $600. The Edge has 256GB of storage, 8GB of RAM and 5G support for low and midband 5G networks on T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon.

Starting Oct. 14, you can buy a $550 version called the Motorola Edge 5G UW, which I tested for this review. The Edge 5G UW is specific to Verizon. It has 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM and, as the UW in its name suggests, works on Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G network. Ultra Wideband is the version of 5G that allows truly impressive speeds; you just need to be in a specific spot where it's offered. Luckily, I tested the phone in San Francisco and was able to get speeds of 800mbps near where I was staying.

Among the sea of competing phones, the Motorola Edge is the middle child. For about the same $700 price there are more premium offerings like the iPhone 13. But even when you compare the Edge with its discounted price, there are phones like the Google Pixel 5A with 5G that cost less, have better cameras and receive software upgrades for years longer. Compared to the Moto G family and the Motorola One line of phones, the Edge is a significant step up in terms of features and quality.

Overall, I like this second-gen version of the Edge even more than the original. It represents a great value for what you get, especially in terms of battery life. 

The Motorola Edge has an excellent battery life

While phone cameras get a lot of the attention in terms of reviews, not everyone cares about having the latest groundbreaking camera tech on their phones. Most people would rather have a phone with a long battery life. And that's where the Edge's giant 5,000-mAh battery comes in.

Motorola advertises the Edge as a "two-day phone" and I agree. Even when I was connected to 5G Ultra Wideband, the Edge made it a day and a half on a single charge. During my time with the Edge, my screen-on time averaged 4.5 hours.

In CNET's looped video playback test with airplane mode turned on, the Edge lasted 21 hours and 20 minutes. And that was with the screen locked in at 144Hz. 

Speaking of the screen, I like that I can choose to lock it in at 144Hz or put it into an adaptive 120Hz mode. Indoors, the screen's brightness is fine, but there were a few times outdoors when the display was washed out by sunlight.

The Edge has a Snapdragon 778G chip, which was fine in everyday use. There were a few times where I wanted the phone to be more peppy. I especially noticed this when opening apps or with Android animations that seem to take longer than they would on other similarly priced phones. For example, if I have Chrome open and rotate the phone from horizontal to vertical, there's a moment of hesitation before the screen changes. Is this horrible? No, but it is annoying.

Now playing: Watch this: We go hands-on with the $700 Motorola Edge
5:54

Ready For takes the Motorola Edge to the big screen

The Edge can be connected to a TV or monitor with a software feature called Ready For. You access Ready For via the Quick Settings shade. A window pops up and you have two options: You can connect your phone to a PC or to a display. I tested Ready For with a couple of TVs.

Once connected, the TV can mirror everything on the phone's screen or you can use Motorola's Ready For interface. The main window looks slick and feels like a hybrid of Android and Windows. I was able to play games on the Motorola Edge while using my 65-inch TV to display them. It was a blast. I also used Bluetooth to connect a controller to the Edge and play PUBG mobile on my TV.

Motorola Edge 5G UW

Ready For is a software interface that lets you connect your phone to a TV or monitor.

Patrick Holland/CNET

You can also do video chats using Ready For. It uses your phone's cameras to film you and displays the meeting on your TV. There is a neat Subject Tracking camera feature that can seemingly reframe and follow you during a call. It's similar to Apple's Center Stage feature on the new iPad Mini.

Sometimes I found the Ready For interface clunky. You can use your phone's screen as a trackpad, for example, to navigate a cursor on your TV. But it lacks the finesse and precision I'm used to on an actual trackpad. The good news is you can connect a mouse over Bluetooth.

The Edge has an average main camera

The Edge has three rear cameras: a main 108-megapixel camera that uses pixel binning to create 12-megapixel photos, an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera that can also take macro photos and 2-megapixel depth camera for Portrait Mode and similar features. Overall the main camera is good. I reliably got photos with good image quality in bright and medium light situations. But as lighting got dimmer, photos looked more processed and details became soft.

Motorola Edge 5G UW

I like that the main camera doesn't oversaturate the colors of the pumpkins.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola Edge 5G UW

This was taken with HDR. Details in the shadows look soft.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola Edge 5G UW

This is a good photo, but I want the details and textures to look more crisp.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola Edge 5G UW

I like how the Edge handles skin tones.

Patrick Holland/CNET

There were several times where I noticed a lag between taking one photo and the next. I should clarify that this wasn't bad, but it's not as peppy as I've become accustomed to on other phones.

The ultrawide camera offers a wonderful perspective but it's a noticeable step down in terms of image quality compared to the main camera. Even in the best lighting, details look soft.

Motorola Edge 5G UW

This was taken with the ultrawide camera. Everything looks soft. Details are muted.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola Edge 5G UW

Here is another photo from the ultrawide. This might be the best one I took, but it still isn't great.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The front-facing camera has a 32-megapixel sensor and uses pixel binning to produce decent selfies.

Overall, the camera system on the Edge is just OK. It's still a step behind what Apple and Google are doing.

The Motorola Edge prioritizes value

Motorola should be proud of the new Edge. It offers amazing value in terms of features. And if you're set on getting one, keep an eye out for deals. Currently Motorola is taking $100 off the price of the Edge (2021) and Verizon is selling the Edge 5G UW for $13.29 a month over a 30-month contract.