Motorola One 5G Ace review: A good $400 phone, a fantastic $20 one

A solid 5G phone that costs less than your dinner -- if you can get one fast enough.

Updated Feb. 26, 2021 3:09 p.m. PT

Written by  Patrick Holland
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Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
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Motorola One 5G Ace
8/10 CNET Score
$191 at Amazon
8.0/ 10

Motorola One 5G Ace

$191 at Amazon


  • Battery life is outstanding
  • Available for $20
  • Better performance than other 5G budget phones


  • Regular $400 price is higher than competitors
  • Screen isn't bright in sunlight
  • Ultrawide and macro cameras feel like an add-ons

Motorola is no stranger to creating compelling feature-packed phones that won't empty your wallet. The new Motorola One 5G Ace is the most recent example. The Ace is the company's second take on the Motorola One 5G phone released last summer on AT&T and Verizon. At $400 (which converts roughly to £285 or AU$500) the Ace is $45 cheaper than last year's phone which you can still buy.

When I set out to review the Ace I immediately ran into a problem: The price. At the time I'm writing this review, you can buy the Ace for $20. That's not a typo. And that led to the question: Was I reviewing a $400 phone, a $300 phone or a $20 phone?

The Ace is listed on the Metro by T-Mobile site for a discounted price of $280. But for a limited time, you can get the Motorola One 5G Ace for $20 when you port an existing number to Metro. For less than the cost of dinner, you can get a brand new 5G phone. The catch? Well, there really isn't one. The $20 version is locked to T-Mobile but for only six months.

The Metro promotion isn't likely the only deal you'll get on the Ace. Motorola has a solid track record discounting its phones throughout the year. Right now, you can get last year's Motorola One 5G for $300. If you're already on AT&T or Verizon and aren't planning to switch carriers, that's the way I'd go -- as long as you can handle all the carrier branding and bloatware.


The Motorola One 5G Ace is truly a phone that won't break the bank.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Ace isn't the only 5G budget phone to consider. The $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G represents an incredible value. It has a smaller screen, a smaller battery and a slower processor than the Ace, but comes with a 90Hz high refresh rate display and a fast-charging wall adapter (Warp charge), which the Ace doesn't.

The Motorola One 5G Ace is a good $400 phone, a great $300 phone and an absolutely fantastic $20 phone. Aside from a few absent features, which I'll discuss later, the Ace is similar to last year's Motorola One 5G. I encourage you to read my Motorola One 5G review.

Watch this: Review: Motorola One 5G Ace is a $400 phone you can buy for $20

The Motorola One 5G Ace is chonky

At 212 grams, the Ace is a heavy phone. To give you some perspective the Galaxy S21 Ultra weighs 229 grams and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 228 grams. The Ace isn't the heaviest phone I tested, but it's not the lightest either. That heft makes the Ace feel solid and well-made for its $400 price. Also, I like the plastic back and finish. It looks attractive and contemporary.

The Ace gets incredible battery life

A lot of the weight comes from the battery. Motorola deserves praise for including large capacity batteries in their budget phones over the past few years. The Ace has a 5,000-mAh battery, which in my testing got through a day and a half no problem and often made it through two days on a single charge. There are phones that cost two or three times as much as the Ace and don't last anywhere near as long.

Motorola One 5G Ace is a budget phone that doesn't look cheap

See all photos

In battery tests on the Ace for continuous video playback on Airplane mode it lasted 25 hours and 8 minutes. That is the second longest battery life on any phone we tested in the past few years. Only the LG V60 ThinQ 5G beats it with a whopping time of 31 hours, 14 minutes on a single charge.

The screen could be brighter

The Ace has a 6.7-inch LCD screen with a punch out for a single selfie camera. Gone is the vampire bite from the 2020 One 5G that housed its two front-facing cameras. The display and bezels on the Ace look sleek as a package. The screen has FHD plus resolution and support for HDR10. In everyday use, it looked good, but I wish the screen got brighter. When I was outside on a sunny day, it was difficult to make out what was on the display.

The Ace lacks the 90Hz high refresh rate screen found on the 2020 One 5G. As much as I enjoy high refresh rate screens, I don't miss it here and think it was a wise compromise on Motorola's part.


The screen is good, but can be hard to see when it's sunny out. For a cloudy day like in this picture, it does well.

Sarah Tew/CNET

More cameras are not better

The Ace has a main wide-angle camera, an ultrawide-angle camera, a macro camera and a single selfie camera. The main 48-megapixel camera uses pixel binning to combine multiple pixels into one. This helps reduce image noise and increase brightness.

I'm impressed with many of the photos the Ace captured, especially with the main camera. But nearly all of these photos were taken in bright lighting. In dimmer situations, the quality of photos becomes more hit-or-miss, and noise reduction makes the details in photos too soft.

Motorola One 5G Ace

The Ace nails the exposure and the reflection in the water.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

In this photo, it did a good job handling the mix of highlights, shadows and textures 

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

This picture shows off the natural bokeh qualities of the main camera on the phone.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

The phone went into HDR mode here and the results are good.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

Here's another HDR photo that captured the sunset.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

Photos taken in low and medium light start to fall apart. Details are soft. There's image noise. The Ace has a night mode called Night Vision, which didn't impress me.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

Here is the same scene as above taken with Night Vision. The photo is definitely brighter. But it's not as drastic an improvement as you'd find on the Google Pixel 4A or iPhone SE.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

A selfie taken with the Ace. Skin tones look good but dynamic range is limited. Notice the highlights in the sky going to white.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The ultrawide camera performs just OK. Even its good photos aren't anywhere near the image quality of the main camera. Unless you're in good lighting, you're going to get mediocre ultrawide photos.

Motorola One 5G Ace

I like this photo taken with the ultrawide camera. The lighting is good, details are good and it's not over sharpened.

Patrick Holland/CNET
Motorola One 5G Ace

This photo captured with the ultrawide-angle camera is more typical of the results I got. Details are soft, the sky is noisy and there's a lot of noise reduction. Look closely at the white building on the right.

Patrick Holland/CNET

I don't get the appeal of a macro camera on a phone. If you're into ridiculously close-up shots then it's there for you. I wish Motorola would remove the macro camera, take the money spent on it and use it to improve the ultrawide camera.

A few times while framing a photo, a prompt would appear urging me to change to the macro camera. I would. Then, when I was framing with the macro camera, a prompt would appear suggesting I use the 1x (main) camera. Also, autofocus with the macro camera isn't great. Frequently when I took a photo, the camera would struggle to grab focus.

Motorola One 5G Ace

I tried taking this macro photo five times. Four of them were out of focus. Even this photo is a little soft

Patrick Holland/CNET

In terms of video, image quality isn't great and the focus tends to hunt. Good lighting offers good results. And the image stabilization in video is surprisingly good. Check out the video below to see footage shot at both 4K and 1080p resolutions with the Ace.

If the Ace were a $700-plus phone I'd be disappointed with its camera system. But it's solid for a $400 phone. You'd have to pay $99 more to jump up to the stellar cameras on the Google Pixel 4A 5G. As long as you know what the trade-offs are, you're going to be able to take some good photos with the Ace's main camera.

The Ace has a new processor but last year's software

The Ace runs Android 10. For a $300 or $20 phone Android 10 is just fine. But for a $400 phone, I wished it shipped with Android 11. Motorola promises an update to Android 11, but there's no details yet on when that will happen.

The Ace has a Snapdragon 750G 5G chip and 6GB of RAM which is two more gigabytes than last year's One 5G. In my time with the Ace, it worked well. I didn't experience any hiccups or lag time throughout day-to-day tasks. In benchmark testing, it was on par with last year's One 5G sometimes scoring better and sometimes scoring lower. The Ace performed much better than the OnePlus Nord N10 5G and last year's Pixel 4A 5G. See the results below.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Motorola One 5G Ace 4,146Motorola One 5G 4,378OnePlus Nord N10 5G 3,343Google Pixel 4A 5G 3,818
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Motorola One 5G Ace 651Motorola One 5G 587OnePlus Nord N10 5G 604Google Pixel 4A 5G 573
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

Motorola One 5G Ace 2,003Motorola One 5G 1,755OnePlus Nord N10 5G 1,861Google Pixel 4A 5G 1,567
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Motorola One 5G Ace specs vs. Motorola One 5G, OnePlus Nord N10 5G, Google Pixel 4A 5G

Motorola One 5G AceMotorola One 5GOnePlus Nord N10 5GGoogle Pixel 4A 5G
Display size, resolution 6.7-inch LCD, 2,400x1,080 pixels6.7-inch FHD; 2,520x1,080 pixels6.49-inch LCD; 2,400x1,080 pixels6.2-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 393 ppi409 ppi405 ppi413 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.54x3x0.396.61x2.91x0.35 in6.4x2.94x0.35 in6.1x2.9x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 166.1x76.1x9.9mm168x74x9mm163x74.7x8.95 mm153.9 x 74 x 8.2 mm (Sub-6 only); 153.9x74x8.5 mm (mmWave + Sub-6)
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 7.49 oz; 212g7.3 oz; 207g6.7 oz; 190g5.93 oz; 168g (Sub-6 only); 6.03 oz; 171g (mmWave + Sub-6)
Mobile software Android 10Android 10Android 10Android 11
Camera 48-megapixel wide-angle, 2-megapixel macro, 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle48-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (depth)64-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (ultra-wide), 2-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (monochrome)12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide)
Front-facing camera 16-megapixel16-megapixel, 8-megapixel16-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor Snapdragon 750G 5GSnapdragon 765GSnapdragon 690Snapdragon 765G
Storage 128GB128GB128GB128GB
Expandable storage Up to 1TBUp to 1TBUp to 512GBNo
Battery 5,000 mAh5,000 mAh4,300 mAh3,800 mAh
Fingerprint sensor RearSideRearRear
Headphone jack YesYesYesYes
Special features 5G enabled, IP52 water and dust resistence, IP54 for T-Mobile5G enabled, 90Hz refresh rate, 15W Turbo Power charging5G enabled, 90Hz display, Warp Charge5G enabled; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); fast charging
Price off-contract (USD) $400$445 (AT&T), $550 (Verizon)$300$499
Price (GBP) Converts to £285Converts to £315£329£499
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$500Converts to AU$560Converted from UK: AU$600AU$799