(Pocket-lint) - What's this, a 'Pro' Moto phone? Well, not really. The Moto G Pro is arguably a misnomer - because this is just the European name for the Moto G Stylus (with added NFC anyway), which launched in the USA with, just as that name suggests, an integrated stylus.

So the namesake might be a bit throwaway, but the Moto G Pro does make for a very appealing prospect. It's affordable for a start, as Moto phones have been over recent years - the pricier flagships, such as the Edge+, seem to carry the full rather than abbreviated Motorola name - largely aping the features of the Moto G8 Power with a slightly cut-down battery capacity.

But the big take-away is that the G Pro has got that integrated stylus, which makes for a really handy note-taking device. So if you've been seeking that specific feature, but haven't wanted to fork out a small fortune on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, does Motorola hold the answer to your wishes?

Design & Display

  • Dimensions: 158.6 x 75.8 x 9.2mm / Weight: 192g
  • 6.4-inch LCD display, 1080 x 2300 resolution
  • Water repellent design (not IP rated)
  • Rear-positioned fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card support
  • Finish: Mystic Indigo

We moved into the Moto G Pro after reviewing the Poco F2 Pro - and the drop in thickness and weight was an immediate positive. This Moto phone doesn't oversell itself with curved this, curved that, it's just a well-sized and nice-to-hold device with a flat screen.

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Although a lot of this review will, in part, echo that of the Moto G8 Power, the G Pro doesn't take on the burden of that former device's thickness - as the battery isn't as capacious here, which is a space-saver for the design footprint.

As we've said of other recent Moto phones - take your pick, there's been a bunch - the company has been refining its handsets by trimming back on the excessive branding and giving more space to the screen to dominate within the design. The G Pro has a 6.4-inch panel, which features a fairly unobtrusive punch-hole front camera.

That resolution hits the Full HD+ mark - which you can think of like an HD television, with a bit extra to accomodate the height, squashed into the palm of your hand. That's plenty of pixels for this scale and befitting of the price point. It's a step above the base Moto G8 too, which is one reason this device earns its Pro handle.

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The G Pro also brings a 3.5mm headphone jack for wired headphones use, while the SIM slot is large enough for two cards (or use one for microSD storage expansion). That's great and all, but with a phone holding the 'Pro' name we really miss the in-screen fingerprint scanner login method. Sure, the rear-positioned circular scanner works just fine, but we keep trying to press the fingerprint alert on the screen itself to sign into apps.

As we said up top the G Pro adds NFC (near field communication) which is something of a rarity in budget phones (the G8 Power lacks it, as does the G8, and you won't find this feature in almost any USA-sold devices given the limits of contactless payments there). That comes in handy for quick pairing Bluetooth devices or using Google Pay if you want.

About that stylus: What can it do?

  • Integrated stylus pen

But onto the real reason you'd consider buying this phone: the stylus. It's tucked away to the bottom corner and can be removed easily by catching a fingernail across the exposed corner and pulling it downwards.

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Doing so, by default, launches a pop-up floating window, which then shrinks into a smaller transparent nub once a selection is made (so it's easy to access again when needed). The window contains quick-access for Moto Note (for scrawling notes), a screengrab annotator/editor, and Google Keep.

You're not just restricted to using the stylus for such tasks though - you can use it for any of the normal controls that you would otherwise use fingers for. Of course you don't need a stylus to open Facebook, but there's nothing stopping you.

The stylus itself is very small, so a little finickity for writing, but it does work. Don't expect multiple layers of pressure, plus there's no decent palm rejection here - so it's no high-end Wacom tablet or similar by comparison.

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However, having used the Samsung Note 10+ for some time, it's not a drastic difference overall.

Performance & Battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor (octa-core), 4GB RAM
  • 4,000mAh battery, 15W TurboPower fast-charging
  • Moto app (Display, Actions, Gametime, Tips)
  • Android 10 (Android One) with Moto app
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Most of the 2020 Moto G models feature the same Qualcomm SD665 processor. It's not top of the line, but it more than acquits itself for the majority of tasks.

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In the case of the G Pro the note-taking isn't laggy, playing games isn't a problem (just have expectations about settings for higher-end and more demanding titles), and getting around the user interface is no drama. It doesn't act like the budget phone that it is.

The only time you'll see slowness is when downloading large files. Or restarting the phone. Some apps can take a little longer to fire up. And sometimes it can take a while for a full list of settings to load. That kind of stuff. But all things that are a non-issues nonetheless.

Unusually this Moto runs Android One - something that we've not seen since the Moto One back in 2018. For all intents and purposes this is almost identical to Google's Android 10 operating system. That's good news, too, as it means it's clean, doesn't come pre-installed with a load of unwanted nonsense, and runs well.

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Motorola does add its own app, called Moto, which handles a few additional controls: Actions, Tips, Display, Gametime. The first allows for physical actions to deliver outcomes, such as flip phone to Do Not Disturb. The second lets you know what's new in the operating system. The third permits peek display to show notifications, or always-on display when it recognises you're looking at the phone. The last is relatively new, delivering detailed controls over notifications and actions during gaming sessions. They're all welcome controls and additons, so it's only positive here.

Whereas we've complained about the bit-too-slow download speeds, that's better here than it is in, say, the G8 Power. That's because the G Pro comes with Wi-Fi that supports the all-important "ac" (not just "b/g/n") frequency - meaning it can benefit from 5GHz connections from your router.

Although the Pro doesn't feature the most capacious battery in the G series line-up, its 4,000mAh cell is more than good enough for the job. With mixed use over 15 hours - including approaching five hours of screen time - we've whittled it down from fully charged to about 40 per cent remaining. Think of it like a single day phone and even heavy use won't cause you problems.

Cameras

  • Triple rear camera setup
    • Main: 48-megapixel, f/1.7 aperture, 0.8µm pixel size, Quad Pixel technology
    • Wide 'Action Cam': 16MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm, dedicated video camera (1080p)
    • Macro: 2MP, f/2.2, 1.75µm
  • Front-facing punch-hole camera: 16MP, f/2.0, 1.0µm

Another area where the G Pro looks to earn its 'Pro' name is in the cameras department. This also differs from the G8 Power - it's actually closer (but not identical) to what you'll find in the older G8 Plus.

That's because the main event of the triple rear camera setup is a 48-megapixel sensor. It sounds highly resolute, but is default used with Quad Pixel technology for 12MP output (using the data of four combined pixels for better results).

The other two lenses cater for wide-angle video and there's a low-resolution macro camera too. The former is dedicated for shooting landscape orientation video while holding the phone in portrait mode - but there's no wide-angle stills camera, which is somewhat baffling. The macro is also limited in ability, meaning it adds little value.

The real win, therefore, comes from that main sensor. Its results are fairly compelling at this price point, too, capable of delivering decent detail from well lit scenes. There's also some intelligence in the camera with auto-prompts to change mode - such as when it's dark and night mode should be engaged - which can be handy.

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That night mode looks great on the phone's screen, but blow the size up and you'll see a fair few misgivings and some mushy processing. Not a big problem for social sharing, but it is indicative that the G Pro isn't a leader when it comes to low-light photography. Hand it some good light, don't pinch to zoom in, and you'll be pleased with the results.

Verdict

Ignore the name for a minute - G Stylus makes a lot more sense than G Pro - and this Moto phone does a sterling job of bringing stylus pen functionality at a cut of the price compared to its competition.

It's not perfect as there's no decent palm rejection or pressure levels for stylus use, while the extra cameras are of little worth, but that's really about all that's up for question. This European version even has NFC (note: the US G Stylus does not).

So if you're looking for a stylus in a phone and all the functionality that brings, but don't have an absurd budget to spend, the Moto G Pro is just the ticket. 

Also consider

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Samsung Note 10 Lite

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It might cost about twice the price, but that's still a long way off the full-fat Note 10 release. There's more battery and a more complex camera arrangement here too.

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Moto G8 Power

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There's no stylus here. But you do get a bigger battery for greater longevity, plus this option is cheaper still.

Writing by Mike Lowe.