Motorola g51 5G – well-priced, well-featured 5G (review)

The Motorola g51 5G is the company’s first 2020 Australian release. It is a 6.8″ Qualcomm SD480+, 6/128GB phone at a very reasonable $399.

Upfront, be clear that it is a no-risk purchase if you only have $399. It is future proof knowing you can use 5G if, and when, it is in your area and you want to pay a lot more for mobile data. So, think of it as a good 4G phone with potential future benefits.

But if you only want 4G and use a low-cost mobile reseller plan, there is a wide choice of decent 128GB handsets from $269 upwards. There are some ‘beauts’ in that group.

New Deep-Dive review format

It is now in two parts – a five-minute overview for most readers and a separate 300+ line database-driven spec including over 70 tests to back up the summary. It also helps us compare different phones and features.

5-minute review – Motorola g51 5G Model XT2171-2 6/128GB Dual Sim

Australian websiteProduct page
Price:$399
ColoursIndigo Blue and Bright Silver
From:Exclusive to JB Hi-Fi Indigo Blue or Bright Silver
Warranty:12-months ACL
Country of Manufacture:China
CompanyOwned by Lenovo (Est 1984) – a multinational technology company with its primary operational headquarters in Beijing and Morrisville, North Carolina. It is the world’s largest PC maker. It purchased Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014. Most of Lenovo’s smartphone business is now under the Motorola brand, and it has grand plans to become a ‘top five’ smartphone maker.
MoreOther CyberShack Motorola news and reviews
Motorola g51 5G

Better buy genuine, or 5G won’t work

We issue a strong warning that you must buy a genuine model with Australian firmware if you want to use 5G. Read Don’t buy a grey market phone to ensure you get the Australian model.

Do not buy any with 4GB, 16MP selfie or single SIM. These are models XT2171-1 or XT2171-3. But we are aware of country and telco carrier-specific models for the USA, China, LATAM and Europe that won’t work on 5G here. Make sure the software version is ‘retapac’.

It is easy to identify the Australian version – usually under Settings, About Phone, Legal Information, Regulatory compliance, you will see the Australian RCM C-tick mark.

Motorola g51 5G

First impression – a little heavier than expected

The Motorola g51 5G is an Indigo Blue or Bright Silver glass slab. Thankfully the back is glossy plastic and hides fingerprints well. The front Panda glass is reasonably scratch-resistant, and the plastic unibody won’t flex. It comes with a pre-fitted clear bumper case – use it.

It’s a big phone at 170.5 x 76.5 x 9.1 mm x 208g. All the buttons are on the right side, making them higher than you expect. It is not a one-handed use phone – unless you have big hands.

Screen 6.8″ is big

It is a relatively bright and colourful 1080p FHD+ with a choice of 60/120Hz. It is not adaptive, although our test software reveals a 90Hz setting– it swaps between 60 and 120Hz, and the latter takes about a 20% toll on battery life. Leave it on 60Hz.

It is daylight readable (in the shade), but you cannot expect more at this price.

Screen orientation is an issue. The combo Accelerometer and Gyroscope are very sensitive, and the slightest movement sends it to landscape. I had to turn autorotation off.

Summary: Good IPS screen for the price

Processor – Qualcomm SD480+ 8nm is all you need.

To put this in perspective, it is faster than a MediaTek Helio P0/G90/G70/Dimensity720 and slower than an SD730G.

It has a Gen 2 X51 modem for a maximum of 2.5Gbps download (it will never reach this).

The Adreno 619 GPU maxes out at 40fps for most games – not for gamers!

Performance is enhanced by the Australian version getting 6GB (all other versions are 4GB), and overall, it is pretty smooth.

The 128GB storage has microSD expansion to 512GB.

It passed all tests commensurate with this price bracket. Impressively, it does not throttle under load.

Comms – its all there

Wi-Fi 5 AC is all you can expect, and it connects at 433Mbps. The antenna strength is not as strong as some, and we experienced occasional Wi-Fi dropouts, but it does work out to 10m on the 5Ghz band.

BT 5.1 has Qualcomm standard codecs – SBC, AAC, aptX (most versions) and LDAC.

The dual GPS is welcome, but it easily loses satellites on cloudy days (and we are in the middle of a 100-year rain bomb).

NFC supports Google Pay.

Phone – dual sim, dual ringtone and solid signal strength

It is a dual hybrid SIM with one fitting a SIM or MicroSD. Only one can be active at a time, and if you have a 5G plan, it must be in SIM 1. It has two ringtones that are excellent for home and business users.

All you need to know is that it supports all Australian 4G/LTE and 5G sub-6Ghz and its low-bands.

It is a great city, suburbs, regional and rural area device with good strong antenna strength and it found four towers were many phones find one.

Battery – 5000mAh for two to three days use

The battery is 5000mAh. But it is laughable that it comes with a USB 2.0 5V/2A charger that can take over 5 hours. Using a USB-C 100W (well, anything above 25W) reduces this to 2 hours 33 minutes. We repeated the tests several times.

BTW – the supplied USB-A to USB-C cable is for charging only – it won’t transmit data, and it will not handle 15W charging – but a new charger and 3 to 5W cable.

PC Mark 3.0 battery test is one of the more accurate tests for heavy use, and it gives 14 hours and 29 minutes on the Adaptive setting.

  • GFX Benchmark T-Rex is a good 1080p video benchmark, and it gives hours and minutes.
  • GFX Benchmark Manhattan stresses the device a little more, but it had the dreaded out of memory error, which is not an issue.
  • Our video loop on-device storage, 50% screen and aeroplane mode was 17 hours and 30 minutes.
  • 100% drain screen-on was 13 hours and 25 minutes.

It has excellent battery life. Moto should have provided a 15W faster charger for the pittance that would cost.

Sound – mono says it all

Interestingly Motorola claims Dolby Atmos (DA). That’s like my Dolby Atmos toaster – good as a toaster and bloody useless as a speaker.

Overall, it’s a tiny, tinny speaker for clear voice only.

It can decode DA for the headphones only. DA comes into its own and sounds excellent when using the 3.5mm buds (supplied) or BT headphones (depending on earphone quality).

Build – solid

It is well-made and should withstand the knocks, especially with a clear bumper cover. However, IP52 is a joke – ‘Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure tilts at an angle of 15° from its normal position.’ Still, it should withstand light rain.

Android 11 – you will get 12

It ships with Android 11 and Motorola’s overlay My UX. You can reasonably expect Android 12 soon and two years of updates.

Android is almost pure, and the MY UX adds things like a camera app and Moto gestures.

Missing – not much

It has everything you need apart from a faster charger.

Motorola g51 5G camera

Let’s face it – it is an entry-level Samsung SK5JN1, 50MP with tiny .64um pixels binned to 12.5MP and 1.28um. Add to that the Qualcomm SD480+ has entry-level AI image processing and, well, it is adequate.

The result is generally good photos in day or office light. It struggles with low light introducing a lot of noise, but you will not see that on a 4×6″ print.

Night mode combines a bracket of shots to give an acceptable, still noisy result.

  • Video:  Poor dynamic range leads to washed-out colours and lack of detail in light and dark areas. EIS is pretty good.
  • Daylight photography has good colours and details but lacks details in the shadows and highlights
  • You can shoot at 50MP mode without AI and no HDR
  • The Ultrawide lens/sensor upscales from 8MP to 12.5MP and consequently has soft images
  • Macro is very sensitive – must be at 4cm or blurred
  • Low light – reasonably good in night mode by noisy otherwise
  • Portrait and bokeh – OK but noisy and loses detail
  • Selfie OK in good light

The new Google Camera 8.4 features (not all features are supported)

  • Wireless Mic Support
  • New Auto Exposure Feature
  • Some Minor UI Changes
  • HDR Enhanced and HDR + Option
  • Astrophotography Mode
  • Night Sight
  • Google Lens
  • Framing Hints Option for Better Photos
  • Social Share Feature that Helps to Share Photos Instantly Up to 3 Social Media Apps
  • Video Recording At 4K Video Recording Resolution is available
  • Video Stabilization – EIS on front and back primary lenses/sensors
  • New Video Stabilization Options Like Cinematic Pan, Standard Mode, Active Pan Mode & More
  • Many Others Like Photo Sphere, Panorama, and Time Lapse
  • Lens Blur, Slow Motion, Playground, RAW support, and more

It’s the same that runs on Google Pixel phones.

Daylight (it was overcast)

Macro

Office Light 400 lumens

Low light <40 lumens

Low light and an adequate but very noisy shot
Night mode cleans it up a lot

CyberShack’s view – Motorola g51 5G grew on me

 The more I tested and stressed it, the more impressed I became. At $399, it is terrific and punches well above its weight. If that is all I had to spend I would buy it.

I keep talking about what’s coming from other brands in 2022 in similar price brackets. At the end of the review, I can safely say this phone is all you need, so don’t wait.

Motorola, you are on a rolla! First the excellent Edge 20 series, now this. And I know you have even more up your sleeve.

You can read the ratings at the end.

CyberShack Smartphone comparison v 1.1 (E&OE)

Motorola g51 5G Model XT2171-2 6/128GB Dual Sim

BrandMotorola
ModelMotorola g51 5G (Moto)
Model NumberXT2171-2 Software version retapac
Price Base6/128GB
   Price base$339
Warranty months12-months ACL
 Tierlower-mid-range
WebsiteProduct page
FromJB Hi-FI exclusive
Indigo Blue
Bright Silver
Country of OriginChina
CompanyOwned by Lenovo (Est 1984) – a multinational technology company with its primary operational headquarters in Beijing and Morrisville, North Carolina. It is the world’s largest PC maker. It purchased Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014. Most of Lenovo’s smartphone business is now under the Motorola brand, and it has grand plans to become a ‘top five’ smartphone maker.
MoreCyberShack Motorola news and reviews
Test date1-4 March 2022
Ambient temp24°
ReleaseFeb-22
Other models not for Australia (Don’t buy)Must have RCM C-Tick and retapac software. Any with 4GB, 16MP selfie or single SIM or models XT2171-1 or XT2171-3. We are aware of USA, China, LATAM, and Europe models that won’t work on 5G here.

 Screen

Size6.8″
TypeIPS LCD
Flat, Curve, 2D, 3DFlat with slightly curved edges
Resolution2400 x 1080
PPI387
Ratio20:09
Screen to Body %85.6
Colours bits8-bit 16.7m colours
Refresh Hz, adaptive60 or 120 – not adaptive. Leave it at 60Hz.
Response 120Hz40ms GtG
Nits typical, test487
Nits max, test530-564 – a little uneven to the bottom
Contrast1800:1 (1841:1)
sRGBNatural 91%
DCI-P3around 50% of the 16.7m gamut
Rec.2020 or otherNo
Delta E (<4 is excellent)3.5
HDR LevelNo
SDR UpscaleNo
Bluelight controlYes
PWM if knownNo
Daylight readablePretty good on maximum brightness
Always on DisplayNo
Edge displayNo
AccessibilityUsual Android features
DRML1 for HD SDR playback
Gaming40fps at best
Screen protectionPanda Glass (like GG3)
CommentSlight blueish cast – best to use Natural setting. Overall a fit for purpose screen that is better than expected for this price.

Processor etc

Brand, ModelQualcomm SD480+
nm8
Cores2×2.2GHz + 6×1.8GHz
Modemx51
AI TOPSEstimate 7 TOPS (low-end AI)
GeekBench 5 Single-core544
GeekBench 5 multi-core1739
LikeQualcomm SD 730G but faster in multi-core like an SDS845
GPUAdreno 619
GPU Test GeekBench
Open CL1111
LikeSD 730G
Vulcan1013
RAM, type6 LPDDR4X
Storage, free, type128 (97GB free) UFS 2.1
micro-SDup to 512GB
CPDT internal seq. Read430.13 – reflects UFS 2.1
CPDT internal seq. write322.34
CPDT microSD read/write43.73/28.24 and mountable as storage
CPDT external (mountable?)31.83/24.46 OTG only
CommentAll are fit for purpose and price
Throttle test
   Max GIPS152062
   Average GIPS149628
   Minimum GIPS140201
   % ThrottleNil
   CPU Temp50°
CommentExcellent thermal management

 Comms

Wi-FI Type, modelWi-Fi 5 AC WCN3990 2×2 MU-MIMO
   Test 2m -dBm, Mbps-27/433
   Test 5m-38/234
   Test 10m-61/72
BT Type5.1
GPS single, dualDual but tends to lose satellites on cloudy days. Accuracy <10m.
USB typeUSB-C 2.0
   Alt DP, DeX, Ready ForNo
NFCYes
Ultra-widebandNo
Sensors
   AccelerometerYes -combo with Gyro is very sensitive
   GyroYes
   e-CompassYes
   Barometer
   Gravity
   Pedometer
   Ambient lightYes
   Hall sensor
   ProximityYes
   Other
CommentWi-Fi AC speeds are as expected, although 5 and 10m tests are a little below average.

LTE and 5G

SIMHybrid dual sim 1 x 5G and 1 x 4G with microSD
   ActiveOnly one active at a time
Ring tone single, dualDual – excellent for travellers
VoLTECarrier dependent
Wi-Fi callingCarrier dependent
4G Bands1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 18, 20, 26, 28, 32, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43
CommentAll Australian 4G bands
5G sub-6Ghzn1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41, 77, n78
CommentAll Australian 5G sub-6 and low bands
mmWaveNo
Test Boost Mobile, Telstra
   UL, DL, ms24/9.8/42ms
   Tower 1 -dBm, fW or pW-85/3.2pW
   Tower 2-92/631fW
   Tower 3-92/631fW
   Tower 4-115/12fW
CommentGood strong reception and found four towers – suitable for city, suburbs, regional and rural use. Dual ring tones are a bonus.

Battery

mAh5000
Charger, type, supplied10W supplied and capable of 15W
 PD, QC levelPD capable -Overcharge protection may influence results
Qi/wattageNo
Reverse Qi or cableNo
Test (60Hz or adaptive screen)
   Charge % 30mins25%
   Charge 0-100%2 hours and 33 minutes (fast charge using 100W PD or 5V/3A)
   Charge Qi, WN/A
   Charge 5V, 2A5 hours 28 minutes
   Video loop 50%, aeroplane17hrs and 30 minutes
   PC Mark 3 battery14 hours 29 minutes
   GFX Bench Manhattan batteryOut of memory error
   GFX Bench T-Rex338.7 minutes (5.65 hours) 3989 frames
   Drain 100-0% full load screen on13 hours 25 minute
   Watt full load1.5A
   Watt idle264mA
   Estimated battery life loss at 120Hz20%
   Estimate typical useEasily two to three days at 4 hours screen on time
CommentExcellent battery life. Moto should have provided a 15W faster charger for the pittance that would cost. Oh well, a cost-saving measure. Note the provided cable is for charging only and will not handle 5V/3A/15W, so you need a higher rating cable.

Sound

SpeakersEarpiece and mono down-fixing speaker
TuningNo
AMPQualcomm
Dolby Atmos decodeOnly for headphones – it makes no difference to the speaker
Hi-ResNo
3.5mmYes
BT CodecsSBC, AAC, LDAC and aptX/HD/TWS/Adaptive
MultipointYes
EQNot for speaker – choice of smart, music or movie for headphones.
Micsdual
Test dB – all on EQ flat DA off
   Volume max77
   Media (music)65
   Ring75
   Alarm77
   Notifications77
   Earpiece55 but it is very tinny
   Hands-freeWhile it has dual mics and some noise-cancelling, the volume is just adequate.
   BT headphonesGood volume and channel separation

Sound quality

Deep Bass 20-40HzNil
Middle Bass 40-100HzNil
High Bass 100-200HzSlowly build to 200Hz
Low Mid 200-400HzStill building to 1kHz
Mid 4000-1000HzStill building to 1kHz
High-Mid 1-2kHzFlat to 8kHz
Low Treble 2-4kHzFlat to 8kHz
Treble 4-6kHzpeaking
High Treble 6-10kHzdeclining
Dog Whistle 10-20kHzdeclining to 12kHz then off the cliff
Sound Signature typeAnalytical: (bass/mid recessed; treble boosted) – crisp but not pleasant for most music
   SoundstageNone – it is mono
CommentAt the price, this is all you can expect. The speaker is purely for clear voice, and music is unpleasant. Use earphones where DA adds more effect.

Build

Size (H X W x D)170.5 x 76.5 x 9.1 mm
Weight grams208
Front glassGlass
Rear materialPlastic
FramePlastic unibody
IP rating52 – light rain
ColoursIndigo Blue
Bright Silver
Pen, Stylus supportNo
In the box
   Charger10W
   USB cableUSB-A to USB-C charge only – no data
   BudsYes
   Bumper coverYes
CommentNice of Moto to provide a charger – it should have been 15W.

OS

Android11 – almost pure Android
Security patch date1-Jan-22
UIMy UX Personalise: Styles, Wallpapers, Layout
Display: Peek Display, Attentive Display
Gestures: Power Touch, Quick capture, Fast torch, Three-finger screenshot, Pick up to silence, Screenshot toolkit, Media controls
Play: Gametime Audio
OS upgrade policyShould get Android 12
Security patch policyTwo years security patches
BloatwareFacebook (uninstallable)
OtherGoogle Assistant button
CommentThere is a lot of added functionality in MY UX, which leaves the underlying Android alone.
Security
Fingerprint sensor location, typeOn power button – 8/10 test
Face IDYes, not tested
OtherLenovo Think Shield security for registered businesses – not for consumers
Comment

Motorola g51 5G camera

Rear PrimaryWide
  MP50 bins to 12.5
   SensorSamsung S5KJN1
   FocusPDAF
   f-stop1.8
   um.64 bins to 1.28
  FOV° (stated, actual)(63)
   StabilisationEIS only
   Zoom8X digital
Rear 2Ultra-wide
   MP8
   SensorSamsung SK54H7
   FocusAF
   f-stop2.2
   um1.12
  FOV (stated, actual)118
   Stabilisationno
   Zoomno
Rear 3Macro
   MP2
   SensorGalaxy Core GC02M1
   FocusFixed 4cm
   f-stop2.4
   um1.75
  FOV (stated, actual)88.8
   StabilisationNo
   ZoomNo
Special
   Video max1080p@60fps
   FlashLED
   Auto-HDRPrimary lens/sensor only
Limited AI from the Qualcomm SoC
   QR code readerVia Google Lens
   Night modeAI
Front
  MP13.1
   SensorSamsung SK53L6
   FocusFixed
   f-stop2.2
   um1.12
  FOV (stated, actual)(64.5)
   StabilisationNo – EIS only on video
   FlashScreen fill
   Zoom8X digital
   Video max1080p@30fps
    FeaturesDual capture front and back
Auto HDR
CommentThe video’s poor dynamic range leads to washed-out colours and a lack of detail in light and dark areas.
Daylight has good colours and details but lacks details in the shadows
50MP mode – no AI and no HDR
UW upscales 8MP to 12.5MP and has soft images
Macro – must be at 4cm or blurred
Low light – reasonably good in night mode
Portrait and bokeh – OK but noisy and loses detail
Selfie OK in good light

Rating – Motorola g51 5G

Features9
It is an entry-level 5G phone using the Qualcomm SDF+480+ SoC, and there is not a lot wrong with it.
Value10
It is one of the first 2022 5G low-mid rangers at $399. While that is pretty good value, there are 2021 phones on runout like OPPO A64 ($349), vivo Y52 ($339), Samsung A22 ($349) and spend $100 to get the OPPO FindX3 Lite with three years of OS updates.
Performance9
It is a value SoC fit for purpose. It is not for gamers.
Ease of Use9
My UX adds some value to stock Android
Design9
All plastic is OK, as is toughened Panda glass
Rating out of 109.2
Pro
1FHD+ screen
2Better than social media class camera
3Well-priced
4Excellent battery life – albeit slow charge
56/128GB RAM is good
Con
1Slow 10W charge but capable of 15W
2Video quality is adequate
3Photo quality is adequate – lots of noise
4USB 2.0 and cable won’t do data transfer or handle 15W
5
Final commentAt $399, the Motorola g51 5G is an excellent and safe buy. You can’t go wrong.

Motorola g51 5G

Motorola g51 5G 2022

$399
9.2

Features

9.0/10

Value

10.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • Bright FHD+ screen
  • Better than social media class camera
  • Well-priced
  • Excellent battery life - albeit slow charge
  • 6/128GB RAM is good

Cons

  • Slow 10W charge but capable of 15W
  • FHD video quality is adequate
  • Photo quality is adequate – lots of noise
  • USB 2.0 and cable won't do data transfer or handle 15W


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