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Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) vs. TCL Stylus 5G: Pick your pen

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  • Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)

    Budget stylus king

    $250 $400 Save $150

    The 2023 edition of the Moto G Stylus 5G ticks several boxes for those wanting a nice budget Android phone. A high-refresh-rate display, an efficient processor, good-enough cameras, two-day battery life, and clean software make for a good combination. Throw in an integrated stylus, and you have a winner. 

    Pros

    • 120Hz refresh rate display
    • More RAM and storage
    • Larger battery with faster charging
    Cons

    • Display isn’t bright outdoors
    • Ships with a slow charger

  • A TCL Stylus 5G smartphone with its stylus standing next to it

    TCL Stylus 5G

    A good first attempt

    The TCL Stylus 5G, released in 2022, is still TCL’s only smartphone with a stylus, but it is one of the few mid-range smartphones with a stylus available on the market. It has a pretty large display and a nicely designed stylus with some useful software features.

    Pros

    • Larger display
    • microSD card slot takes up to 2TB cards
    • Handy stylus features
    Cons

    • Less RAM and storage
    • Smaller battery capacity
    • Weaker processor

Motorola is the only brand to consider if you want a budget smartphone with stylus support. Its Moto G Stylus series, available in 4G and 5G variants, has been the go-to choice for many consumers, even when options such as the LG Stylo series existed. With LG out of the smartphone business, Motorola has solely catered to this niche category.


However, in 2022, TCL decided to grab a share of the market when it announced its first smartphone with a stylus, the TCL Stylus 5G. While it is yet to announce a successor, the TCL Stylus 5G is still available for purchase, but is it worth buying over the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) for those who want the best budget Android phone with stylus support?


Price, availability, and specs

The Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) is the more powerful and, unsurprisingly, more expensive 5G variant of the Moto G Stylus (2023). While its $400 starting price tag could be said to be on the expensive side for a budget smartphone when it was announced, it usually sells for significantly less than it launched for, thanks to Motorola’s tradition of quickly discounting its phones. On Motorola’s site, the unlocked variant of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage can be purchased for $250, a whopping $150 off its launch price.

On the other hand, the TCL Stylus 5G, which has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, is exclusive to T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile. It sells for $258 and $269, respectively, the same prices it sold for in 2022 when it was announced.

  • Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)TCL Stylus 5G
    SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1MediaTek Dimensity 700
    RAM4GB, 6GB4GB
    Storage128GB, 256GB128GB
    Battery5,000mAh4,000mAh
    PortsUSB-C, 3.5mm audio jackUSB-C, 3.5mm audio jack
    Operating SystemAndroid 13Android 12
    Front camera16MP f/2.4513MP
    Dimensions162.83 x 73.77 x 9.19mm169.6 x 76.5 x 8.98mm
    Weight202g213g
    Charge speed20W wired18W wired
    Rear camera50MP, f/1.88 main; 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide50MP main; 5MP ultrawide; 2MP depth sensor; 2MP macro
    ConnectivityNFCNFC
    ColorsCosmic Black, Rose ChampagneLunar Black
    Display dimensions6.6″6.81”
    Display resolution2400 x 10802460 x 1080
    Display typeFHD+ LTPS LCD, 120HzLCD, 60Hz
    IP RatingNoneNone
    StylusYesYes
    Wi-Fi connectivityWi-Fi 5Wi-Fi 5
    BluetoothBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.2

Design

Plastic won’t break, at least not as easily as glass

Motorola has adopted a new design for the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023). On the front, the display is smaller but still retains the centered hole punch for the front-facing camera, while on the back, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) drops the triple rear cameras of its predecessor for a dual camera setup housed in a redesigned camera island. The Moto G Stylus 5G, like a lot of budget smartphones, has a plastic frame and a curved plastic back. There is no official IP rating, but it has a water-repellent design that protects it from accidental spills, splashes, or light rain. Overall, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) should be more comfortable to hold as it is now slimmer and lighter than the 2022 edition.

A Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) with a stylus on top of it lying face down on a table

For the TCL Stylus 5G, you also get a phone with a glass front, plastic frame, and plastic back. The display is flat with a centered hole punch, and the chin is a bit thicker than the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023). The back panel is generally flat but curves slightly where it meets the frame. TCL has given the frame and back panel a textured finish, providing a better grip and hiding fingerprint smudges. The TCL Stylus 5G has four rear cameras stacked and enclosed in a slim rectangular housing. Like the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), there is an audio jack, and it sits at the bottom, on the opposite side of where the stylus is stored. Despite its size, TCL has placed the power and volume buttons in a spot that is easy to reach.

For the stylus, Motorola’s phone ships with a silver cylindrical stylus with a top that matches the color of the phone. The TCL Stylus 5G, on the other hand, has a flat stylus that many describe to be similar to a carpenter’s pencil. This flat design means it won’t roll away when placed on a flat surface. The stylus has a glossy clickable top, but pressing it performs no function whatsoever. Neither of the styluses is smart, nor do they connect over Bluetooth to the phone like Samsung’s S Pen Pro.

Display

A high refresh rate should be standard in 2023

A hand holding a TCL Stylus 5G with a plant in the background

The phones’ displays account for the biggest differences. Although they both have LCD panels, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) is a smaller 6.6-inch FHD+ panel with a 120Hz refresh rate, whereas the TCL Stylus 5G has a 6.81-inch FHD+ NXTVISION screen that refreshes at 60Hz. The 120Hz refresh rate of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) should translate to a smoother experience when scrolling as well as when using the stylus.

Surprisingly, TCL went with a 60Hz panel for its phone, considering that a high refresh rate is a standard feature expected of any modern Android smartphone. Nevertheless, its proprietary NXTVISION technology does offer a handful of benefits. It can upscale SDR content to HDR, reduce harmful blue light, and improve readability when outdoors. It also has a paper-like mode that is easier on the eyes. Neither Motorola nor TCL mentions whether the phone displays have any type of glass protection, so purchasing a screen protector is a smart decision to shield them from scratches and drops.

Software

Android updates could be better

The Moto G Stylus 5G launched with Android 13 out of the box and will only receive one OS upgrade to Android 14. It will also receive three years of security updates. On the other hand, the TCL Stylus 5G launched in 2022 with Android 12 with a promise to receive a single OS upgrade to Android 13. (So far, there hasn’t been any report of the Android 13 update seeding to users.) TCL also promised two years of security updates, which means support will end in 2024.

Motorola ships the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) with an almost stock version of Android along with some useful additions, such as Attentive Display, which keeps the screen awake as long as you are looking at it, and the fan-favorite Moto Actions. The TCL Stylus 5G has a custom interface on top of the Android software called TCL UI. It is not complex to use, and it is not trying to copy the iPhone.

Stylus features

A hand holding a Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) with its stylus partially ejected

There are some similarities between the experience you get when using the stylus on both smartphones. For starters, ejecting the stylus from either phone’s slot opens a menu that contains apps and tasks that work with the stylus. However, while Motorola adopts a sidebar approach, TCL uses a floating menu. Both are customizable; users can choose which apps appear on the menu. Notwithstanding, some features set them apart.

For instance, removing the stylus of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) when the phone is locked opens the Moto Note app (this can be changed to a different app, like Google Keep). Also, if the stylist is removed for too long, you’ll get a notification. Furthermore, should the stylus go missing, you can check the location of where it was last removed so it’s easier to find. The Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) supports handwriting-to-text and even lets you write in the text boxes of several apps. There is also a feature called Automatic shaping, which converts drawn shapes into ready-made ones.

A person holding a TCL Stylus 5G in one hand and the stylus in another hand

Source: TCL

The TCL Stylus 5G also has interesting stylus features. For starters, when the phone is locked and the stylus is removed, a blank note with a black background appears, so you can quickly jot down information. This can be useful in bed, as the black background is easier on the eyes than a brightly lit screen. The TCL Stylus 5G also has a calculator app that supports handwriting input. You can even write algebra equations and solve them. Another standout app is Nebo for TCL, a TCL version of the popular paid note-taking app that can be used for notes and editing PDFs. It also supports handwriting-to-text and shape conversion. The TCL Stylus 5G also has an E-signature feature that lets you save your signature on the phone and easily append it to documents.

Performance

A good processor and a healthy amount of RAM are key

The Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) is powered by the 4nm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1, and with 6GB of RAM, a 120Hz refresh rate, and a practically stock version of Android; it is a snappy mid-range phone. Users will enjoy the smooth gameplay of demanding games, although not at the highest graphics quality. There is also 256GB of internal storage for apps and games, and if you need more storage, it has a microSD card slot that supports up to 1TB cards.

TCL has gone for a MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor, which is less powerful than the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1, thanks to having the older Cortex-A76 cores and not the more recent Cortex-A78 cores of the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1. There is also just 4GB of RAM, which could be considered small in 2023. The combination of an older chipset and small RAM isn’t favorable, as apps sometimes need to restart after being in the background for a while, and switching between apps and tasks can sometimes feel slow.

The TCL Stylus 5G also has 128GB of storage, which is not bad for a smartphone but is half of what you get on the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023). If you want more storage, there is a memory card slot that supports a variety of microSD cards (2TB max).

Battery life

Leave your charger at home

Motorola has put a 5,000mAh battery under the hood of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), which is significantly bigger than the 4,000mAh battery inside the TCL Stylus 5G. Apart from the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) packing a larger battery capacity, it also has a smaller display than the TCL Stylus 5G. This, in conjunction with its more power-efficient processor, helps it achieve its claim of up to two days of battery life. While individual usage will vary, our review does confirm users can comfortably get two days of usage on a single charge. In contrast, the TCL Stylus 5G provides all-day usage or up to 16 hours of use between charges, but in our review, it lasted more than a day.

Charging

On the charging side, Motorola once again has the upper hand. The Moto G Stylus supports 20W fast charging, whereas the TCL Stylus 5G maxes out at 18W. While both phones ship with a charger in the box, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) has a slower 10W charger. Those who charge overnight probably won’t be bothered by the slow charging, but those who prefer charging at the maximum speed can pick up any USB-C Power Delivery adapter with a 20W or higher rating. Unlike Motorola, TCL ships the TCL Stylus 5G with an 18W adapter, so you get the maximum charging speed right out of the box.

Camera

Fewer is better in this case

A hand holding the TCL Stylus 5G with the back facing up

The Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) has a 50MP f/1.9 main rear camera paired with an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera that can also take macro photos and a 16MP camera on the front. Considering this is a budget smartphone, the camera performance isn’t outstanding, but it takes mostly decent photos. It even has a pro mode for those who want more control when shooting; a Night Mode that helps take better photos in low-light environments; and a Spot Color mode, which allows a single color to be selected in a photo or video while the rest is turned black and white. In addition, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) can record in 4K at 30fps, in FHD at 30/60fps, and in slow motion at 240fps for HD and 120fps for FHD.

The TCL Stylus 5G has double the number of rear cameras on the Moto G Stylus. This includes a 50MP f/1.8 primary camera, a 5MP ultra-wide angle camera, a 2MP f/2.4 macro camera, and a 2MP f/2.4 depth camera. There is also a 13MP f/2.3 camera on the front for selfies. Like the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), the main camera takes decent photos in daylight but begins to struggle in low light. The ultrawide camera allows you to fit in more people when taking group photos or capturing more of the backdrop. However, since it is a 5MP sensor, it doesn’t capture many details.

TCL’s phone also has a 2MP macro camera, and while users should be able to take some nice macro photos, the fact that it is a measly 2MP sensor means the photos don’t turn out well. Lastly, the main rear camera and the front-facing camera can only record in 1080p at 30fps.

Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) vs TCL Stylus 5G: Which is right for you?

The Motorola Moto G Stylus series continues to be a hit when it comes to budget smartphones with an integrated stylus. For the 2023 edition of the 5G variant, Motorola has adopted a new design and also trimmed off some unnecessary features from the previous generation.

Sure, Motorola has more experience manufacturing phones with styluses, but that’s not what gives it an edge over the TCL Stylus 5G. It has a better display, a more powerful processor, more RAM, and double the storage of the TCL Stylus 5G. It also has better cameras, despite being fewer than that of its rival; a bigger battery capacity, and supports faster charging. In addition to these, it can often be purchased unlocked and for a cheaper price than the TCL Stylus 5G.

A photo showing the rear and front of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)

Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)

The right choice

Another Motorola winner

$250 $400 Save $150

The Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) is a great budget smartphone, and the integrated stylus makes it even better. The screen is nice, the battery life is awesome, and the cameras take decent photos and have some cool features.

The TCL Stylus 5G isn’t a bad first attempt at a stylus-toting smartphone. The display size is pretty nice for taking down notes, and the stylus has a nice design and is comfortable to use. Also, the battery, while being smaller, will easily last a day, too. Unfortunately, the 60Hz refresh rate, low RAM, outdated Android version, and the fact that the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) can often be purchased for a cheaper price make it hard to recommend. However, a follow-up that fixes these shortcomings will be more of a challenge to Motorola’s phone.

A TCL Stylus 5G smartphone with its stylus standing next to it

TCL Stylus 5G

Runner-up

A good first attempt

The TCL Stylus 5G may appeal to T-Mobile or Metro by T-Mobile users who want a smartphone with a stylus. It has a large display, nice battery life, and a well-designed stylus. However, it is long overdue for a significant price cut.

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