Motorola Moto G51 5G review: 120Hz for $400 is great, but the battery is not
Quick verdict: The large display and promise of 120Hz refresh rates make the Motorola Moto G51 5G enticing. The average app performance and below par battery life do not.
- Large screen for the price
- 120Hz support
- Protective case included
- Battery life is sub-par
- Dead average app performance
- Mediocre cameras
- Android 11 rather than Android 12
2400 x 1080px
50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Finder rated as Good vs similar phones
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
It doesn't feel that long since Motorola last refreshed its G series line, but here we are with a new one in the form of the Motorola Moto G51 5G model which borrows liberally from the cheapest Motorola Edge phones. On paper that's a good idea. Adding 120hz support in this price bracket is quite unique, and there's a definite market for larger screens on budget phones too. However, the end results rarely move beyond average performance, and the price you pay in battery life is a definite downer.
Motorola Moto G51 5G review: It got bigger
The Motorola Moto G51 5G is a big phone, with a 6.8-inch 120Hz capable 2400x1080 pixel LCD display.
That's a bump up in size from the Motorola G50 5G phone that it effectively replaces in Motorola's line-up, although big phones don't suit everyone. I found its 170.47x76.54x9.13mm body reasonable to hold, but fans of smaller devices will need to look elsewhere.
The 120Hz capable screen is the star here, because it's not a common feature in the sub $400 phone category.
I've seen plenty of 90Hz capable displays at this price, including the one on the G50, but few 120Hz displays this cheap. 120Hz is great for web page scrolling and can be beneficial for gaming, although there are some catches to its inclusion on this phone. More on that later.
The G51 5G will sell in Australia in 2 colours, either "Indigo Blue", which is what I've tested out, or "Bright Silver" if you prefer a more traditional look.
Like the G50 before it, you do get the classic Motorola "batwing" logo on the rear of the phone, but it's not where the fingerprint reader lies. Instead, it's located on the side in a dual power button arrangement that I've been seeing on a lot of mid-range and budget phones lately.
I've typically found that arrangement to be a little fiddly when it comes to authentication, but pleasingly this wasn't an issue for the Motorola Moto G51 5G which unlocked cleanly every time I needed it to.
Just above the power button sits a standard volume rocker and a Google Assistant button. Tastes vary on whether or not you want such a button, although it's unusual to see it placed so very high on the phone body. You're quite likely to accidentally bump up the volume a few times while you get used to its placement.
Like many of Motorola's other phones, you do at least get a simple protective case in the box with the Motorola Moto G51 5G. Even cheaper phones deserve protection.
Motorola Moto G51 5G review: A 50MP triple camera system that… isn't
The Motorola Moto G51 5G places its rear cameras in a vertical orientation, with what Motorola rather cunningly calls a "50MP triple camera system".
That sure sounds like it's rocking 3 cameras, all 50MP, right?
It's not so. The primary lens is indeed 50MP, but its siblings are just an 8MP wide/depth camera and a 2MP macro camera, which is an incredibly standard recipe for cheap phone cameras right now. At the front, selfie duties are handled by a 13MP sensor.
The results you get out of the Motorola Moto G51 5G are also incredibly standard, for better and worse. The reality with most of these low mid-range (or high-end budget, if you prefer) phones is that they're generally capable in good lighting, but not particularly fast or suitable for more complex shots with variable lighting conditions.
Motorola at least keeps it simple with just default video and photo shooting modes in its camera app, alongside a hamburger menu that opens up the other shooting modes available to you. This is appropriate enough for a phone at this price point, but it's equally not that enthralling relative to what you can get for the same money.
By default you can quickly switch between the macro, standard and wide lenses, as well as use the standard pinch/widen gesture for zoom at up to 8x digital. The Motorola Moto G51 5G very clearly down samples that primary 50MP sensor, but results are less than stellar.
Here's a standard wide shot of a local landmark, and all is good:
It's still reasonably sharp, despite the lousy weather with the standard lens:
Moderate zoom delivers decent results:
But full zoom does not:
The Motorola Moto G51 5G doesn't impress relative to its price point, but it doesn't really do anything wrong here. It's very much an example of what you could expect to get out of a $399 phone in early 2022, and that's all.
Motorola Moto G51 5G Sample Photos
Motorola Moto G51 5G review: The performance is average for its class, but fine for its price
There's been a host of 5G capable phones in the sub-$400 space that have leaned heavily on the MediaTek Dimensity range of chipsets, and that's precisely what Motorola did for the Motorola Moto G51 5G's predecessor.
However, the Motorola Moto G51 5G itself uses a Snapdragon 480 Plus chipset instead, matched up with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, with support for microSD cards if you need more storage space.
As such, I was interested to see whether Qualcomm's general lead in processors would extend significantly in the lower end of the silicon pool. Here's how the Motorola Moto G51 5G compares against similarly priced handsets using Geekbench 5's CPU test:
While the Motorola Moto G51 5G doesn't win that category, the number differences there are so slight that you'd never pick it in real world performance.
Shifting over to graphics performance, here's how its Adreno 619 GPU compares against those same handsets:
Again, while the Motorola Moto G51 5G does well (and notably better than the G50, as you'd expect), it's still a close enough race that you're not going to get advantage or disadvantage in graphics terms across any of these handsets.
That then shifts the focus towards more subjective real world performance. Here, the Motorola Moto G51 5G is again average. It's running Android 11, which is a tad disappointing, but then Motorola has a mediocre record when it comes to general updates for its phones anyway. It was at least running the January 2022 security updates during the review period.
If you're running single apps across the Motorola Moto G51 5G, you'll typically get decent response, but once it's pushed a little harder, especially with games, it's not uncommon to see lag from time to time. It makes the inclusion of a 120Hz display feel just that little bit baffling; I can't help but wonder if some of the lag could have been reduced if Motorola had instead opted for a 90Hz display.
Motorola Moto G51 5G review: 120Hz and 5G really do take their toll on the battery
The Motorola Moto G51 5G has a 5,000mAh battery, which is all but standard now in this category. However, it's also got a large display with up to 120Hz screen capability and 5G networks to sap its store of power.
Phone usage can be incredibly variable, but to give a baseline I ran the Motorola Moto G51 5G through Finder's standard battery test.
Because the Motorola Moto G51 5G supports either fixed 120Hz, fixed 60Hz or an auto mode that picks the best for you depending on the app, the test was run multiple times to give scores for each usage type. My expectation was that auto or 60hz modes would deliver better battery life. Here's how the Motorola Moto G51 5G compared:
This is the real price that the Motorola Moto G51 5G pays for that 120Hz display, because typically phones that fall below 90% remaining in that test will struggle to last through a full day of usage.
Motorola may claim a battery that can last "up to 30 hours", but you'd have to be using it incredibly lightly for that to be remotely true. That's especially so if you're using it on 5G; on test days where the Motorola Moto G51 5G was connecting to 5G networks the battery sapped away even faster.
You do at least get a 10W charger in the box, along with a standard USB-C charging cable. Charge speeds at 10W are, as you'd expect, not rapid.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want a large screened phone with 5G capabilities.
- Don't buy it if you want a large screened phone with good battery life.
The value proposition of the Motorola Moto G51 5G rests almost entirely on that 6.8-inch display. It is quite nice for viewing web pages or scrolling your social media feeds, and can also work well as a simple streaming video viewer in a pinch.
However, the balancing factor there is that battery life isn't up to snuff even for a bargain phone relative to other models in the same price range I've tested before. If you're not a heavy phone user but you crave a large device this could be ideal for you. If you do use your phone frequently, you'll need to pack either a charger or battery pack to go with it before leaving the house.
Motorola Moto G51 5G review: Pricing and availability
How we tested
The Motorola Moto G51 5G was tested over a 2-week period, with a review unit loaned to Finder by Motorola for this purpose. All phone functions were tested and benchmarked, as well as used on a more ad-hoc basis as any consumer would do. Benchmarks, including battery benchmarks were run 3 times each to come up with an average, and compared with other handsets available at this price point.