Motorola Edge 40 Pro review: a premium performance smartphone with minor flaws

I was pleasantly impressed last year that the Motorola Edge 30 Pro managed to be the first on the market in Europe equipped with Qualcomm’s newest chipset, but this year, even before the Edge 40 Pro’s official announcement, I’ve already tested several models with the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. So it remains for this phone to impress with something else besides the high-end performance its spec list promises. Fortunately, Motorola didn’t sleep on one ear and invested enough resources in developing a truly high-end phone at a fair price, unlike other models we’ve tested recently.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro’s design goes for an extremely rounded look

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the design Motorola is adopting for its phones, especially in the camera area. The Edge 40 Pro doesn’t stray very far from the square camera island we keep seeing on Motorola Edge phones, but it does adopt a few design decisions that make the phone feel better in use. For example, the metal bezel is very thin, but protrudes a bit from the glass for a better grip.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro side

The glass back cover has a matte, non-scratch texture and is very pleasant to the touch. It’s the kind of soft touch texture we’ve seen in the past on other devices, like the OnePlus 10 Pro, for example. So while it’s a matte phone, it’s still very slick. Fortunately, there’s a cover in the package, a hard plastic one that’s a little stiffer than the silicone ones, but might offer even less protection than others.

That’s because it only covers the corners and partly the sides, while the screen remains quite exposed. The reason is that Motorola has chosen a design for the Edge 40 Pro with all edges curved, including the top and bottom. If on top, the choice of a curved area doesn’t have much use, at the bottom, you immediately feel the difference from other phones when using navigation gestures. Swiping from the bottom of the screen is much more pleasant. The phone also includes some internal protection, without other accessories, against water and dust, to IP68 standard

Motorola Edge 40 Pro accessories

Also included in the box is a 125W TurboPower plug adapter, which comes with USB-C cable on both ends. So you can use this charger for all your devices, including a laptop. One more thing I’d add: the Edge 40 Pro’s box is scented. Apparently Motorola has made a special scent for its phones, and the Edge devices come in boxes with that specific scent. It’s a pleasant scent you’d expect to find on a person, not on a phone’s box. This is not a plus or a minus, but an interesting curiosity. A plus would be that the Edge 40 Pro comes in a completely recyclable package.

The screen is among the fastest on the market

Those of you who follow my reviews on Go4it already know that I’m not a fan of curved screens. It seems to me that the sleeker design doesn’t bring enough benefits to justify the disadvantages in use. Besides a more “slick” design and higher risk of breaking the screen in case of a crash, the curved edges also bring extra reflections when using the phone, and certain elements such as virtual buttons can appear in that area and make it more difficult to use. Aside from dropping the phone, I’ve also run into all of these in using the Edge 40 Pro.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro screen bottom

Which is a shame, because I thought it had a very good screen, if not one of the fastest on the market. We’re talking about an OLED panel, with a 6.67″ diagonal and refresh rate at 165 Hz, something we’ve previously only seen on the highest performing gaming phones. That’s to be expected, though, given that Motorola was offering 144 Hz screens already last year. There is one drawback compared to other devices on the market: the resolution is only Full HD, not QHD, and the refresh rate is not variable, but can be set to different steps: 60, 90, 120 or 165 Hz. Auto mode only changes this value up to 120 Hz, so 165 Hz is only available if chosen manually. Personally, I don’t see a big difference in smoothness and recommend using Auto. I also recommend changing the color profile to Natural, it is factory set to Saturated mode.

The screen is otherwise a very bright one and among the “brightest” market in the sub-€1,000 phone area, at 1,300 nits. Asphalt, it’s compatible with formats like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision for a top-notch experience for watching video content.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro front handheld

Edge 40 Pro delivers performance comparable to the most powerful phones on the market

When it comes to performance, we had no doubt that the Motorola Edge 40 Pro fails to achieve test scores even comparable to the competition. That’s because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has already made its presence known in the market, breaking records in most tests. What I was interested to see from the new Edge 40 Pro, however, is how well it holds up under stress. After the Xiaomi 13 Pro managed its first “fail” of the year, being unable to finish the 3DMark stress test, and the OnePlus 11 achieving performance stability around 30%, I thought it was a problem with Qualcomm’s new chipset. However, it turns out it’s just inadequate cooling in those situations,

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Motorola Edge 40 Pro cases

The Motorola Edge 40 Pro not only doesn’t operate under a default power “economy” profile, having all the power at its disposal out of the box, but manages to deliver 65% performance stability in the extreme test, on par with the Galaxy S23 Ultra in this regard. So even with degraded performance due to temperature, the Edge 40 Pro will still deliver performance comparable to the highs achieved by last year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 models. And after testing, the phone just heats up, not fries, like other recently tested models. Given the 165 Hz display and pretty well sustained performance, I have no reservations in recommending this model for gaming as well. The Edge 40 Pro is, at launch, one of the best performing phones on the market.

Benchmarks

  • AnTuTu – 1.219.404
  • GeekBench 6 – Single-Core: 1,884 / Multi-Core: 5,061
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme – 3.642
  • 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test – Best Loop: 3.663 / Lowest Loop: 2.407 / Stability: 65.7%
  • PCMark – 15.662

Battery life isn’t top tier, but charging at 125W makes up for it

Motorola has many models in its cheap range that can truly say they’re top-notch when it comes to battery life, but its high-end models face reality here. You can’t also have a compact phone with a super-fast screen and top-notch performance with over two days of battery life. In fact, even two days is a bit of a stretch for this model if it’s used heavily. Those who choose to use the screen at 165 Hz certainly won’t last much past the first day, and taking photos in particular I’ve noticed leads to high power consumption. In standby, however, the phone performs very well. Incidentally, Motorola has made a small compromise on this model: it has integrated a battery of only 4,600 mAh, compared to 5,000 that other companies offer, to ensure that the design remains compact.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro charger

But there’s a silver lining: charging is extremely fast. At 125W, the Edge 40 Pro can be charged in 6 minutes for a full day’s use, so it’s up to 100% in 25 minutes. That includes the slower charging part, when the battery exceeds 80%. Of course, there’s also wireless charging, at just 15W, compatible with any Qi wireless charger, and PowerShare functions, with reverse charging.

Motorola’s software is neat, but the reliance on Google is sometimes a drawback

For a few years now, Motorola has been using a Google interface, with minor customizations in what it calls MyUI. The interface is streamlined and provides quick access to all functions. I haven’t noticed any strange customizations or different behavior than the default Google default. Even though it doesn’t have colored icons in the settings menu, they’re easily distinguishable for quick navigation, and Motorola provides users with a good selection of customization options.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro font center

Motorola is also doing well in the bloatware department, offering the option to refuse pre-installation of extra apps over the default ones. I ended up with Candy Crush and something called CallApp Contacts in the menu, but I guess I neglected to deselect them when they were offered. Because it uses many of Google’s UI elements, Motorola doesn’t even bother too much with proprietary apps. Aside from the camera app, and a few other proprietary Moto apps, all the apps are from Google, including Photos for the gallery.

There’s a downside here, though, especially with Photos. Once you take a portrait photo, for example, you can’t edit the blur level in the gallery like you can on all other phones. That’s because you need a One subscription to access this feature in Google Photos, with only Pixel models getting free access. I found this an odd feature that I’ve never encountered before.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro software

Another Motorola advantage would be Ready For, its competitor to Samsung’s DeX, which allows content from the phone to be displayed on larger screens. Unlike DeX, Ready For can be used both in a “desktop” mode and in dedicated modes for gaming and multimedia playback.

And in the software support department, Motorola is doing pretty well, but slightly below the market leaders. Three system updates are promised for the Motorola Edge 40 Pro and four years of security updates. Not great, not terrible.

Edge 40 Pro has stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, but audio quality remains average

Even though it’s 2023, and we’ve had fingerprint sensors on smartphones for over 10 years, still some companies fail to get a handle on this security technology. Fortunately, Motorola isn’t among those, integrating one of the fastest fingerprint readers in recent memory. It’s an optical sensor, located in the screen, that does its job very well. I’ve had no problems whatsoever with it, something that unfortunately isn’t true of all the phones I test, including those in the high-end area.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro speaker

Motorola has partnered with Dolby, offering Atmos compatibility and audio. However, the Dolby codec is used permanently when the sound is played from the stereo speakers, without the option to turn it off, as we’ve seen on the Xiaomi. And that’s a good thing, because the sound isn’t exactly flagship-level either u Dolby Atmos active. Without it the results would probably be even worse. There’s the option to set up various audio profiles, or even make a custom one, but the results aren’t great anyway. The sound is loud, but the frequencies get a bit muddled at high volume and bass is non-existent. Compared to other phones under €1,000, it’s comparable, but compared to flagships, the Edge 40 Pro lags behind in audio playback. Something interesting that caught my attention, however, is the presence of a grille at the top, which allows more sound to come out of the speaker for calls for better stereo playback. It’s a good idea that should be implemented on a device with better speakers.

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The camera continues in the Motorola direction of late: good, but not great

The Edge 40 Pro isn’t exactly a “camera phone”, as it doesn’t use any of the top features of flagship phones. It has a three-camera system, but they’re all based on older technology. For example, the main camera has OmniVision’s 50-megapixel 1/1.55″ sensor with stabilization and f/1.8 aperture. Decent, but not exactly comparable to Samsung’s 200-megapixel or Xiaomi or Vivo’s 1″ sensors. At least on paper. Then we’re dealing with an ultrawide also 50-megapixel f/2.2 with very wide aperture at 114 degrees and autofocus for macro mode, along with a 2X optical zoom of 12 megapixels. This is a portrait camera, as is now the fashion, with a very open aperture but a tiny 1/2.93″ sensor.

From my experience testing phones, I’ve learned that the specs list is only half the story, however, and it’s far more important to have good software that knows how to use even modest hardware. Unfortunately, Motorola isn’t there yet. The American brand has big ambitions, but the execution is not yet up to where it should be.

Motorola Edge 40 Pro camera

I took photos with all three cameras on the back and even the 60 megapixel front camera, and the results are good to very good, with minor exceptions. For example, photos taken with the ultrawide camera sometimes seem out of focus, but at other times are fine. Incidentally, the macro mode is also quite good and of significantly better quality than on phones with a dedicated macro camera. On the main camera, the shots capture detail and even colours well, but it seems like the dark areas are darker than they should be, there’s still room for HDR work on this camera. The zoom camera, however, is a bit problematic.â

Photo Day

It’s obvious that Motorola has designed it as a portrait camera and not one to use to photograph elements in the distance, as “remnants” of portrait mode also appear when shooting in auto mode without a subject in the frame. Certain elements are blurred out of the software for no obvious reason, in the style we see in portrait mode. However, this behaviour is “random”, with some frames lacking unwanted effects.

And that all came of portrait mode, Motorola does things differently than other companies that allow camera selection. We have three zoom modes for portrait, 35, 50 and 85mm. The downside is only the 2x camera is really equivalent to 50mm, the 35 and 85mm perspectives are achieved by digital zoom on the main camera, or zoom camera. The results are decent when we talk about cropping people and blur effect quality. However, there are cropping errors when sunglasses appear in the frame. Possibly occurring with other clothing items as well. Clearly more work could be done on this chapter.

Photo night

At night, however, Motorola continues the brand’s tradition of making Night Vision night mode usable only on the main camera. The ultrawide camera captures too little detail, and images are noisy and unfocused, while on the zoom camera all frames come out shaky and the aforementioned blurring problem occurs. The main camera can produce good images, but they seem a little too bright, sometimes almost completely changing the atmosphere of the images from the real thing. The night mode on this camera reminded me of the colors I used to get on Huawei phones back when they first introduced this option. For all the cameras and pretty much all the modes, though, you can see that Motorola applies a lot of sharpness, which makes the frames look pretty good on a phone screen, but annoying on a big screen.

On the shooting front, the situation isn’t exactly happy. As we see on many phones, the stabilization system can’t keep up with the phone’s movements, resulting in artifacts in the images that make any kind of moving shot unusable. So the fact that it has horizon stabilisation in Full HD resolution, something very new in the mobile phone space, doesn’t mean much, as even in that situation, image shake can be seen. The phone offers shooting up to 8K, something few people actually need. I tried shooting in 4K, but although I set everything correctly, the resulting clips still recorded in 1080p.

The Motorola Edge 40 Pro is an OK phone for most photo use cases, as long as you rely mostly on the main camera and don’t necessarily want the zoom of a smartphone. Night mode is also usable on the main camera, and shooting is only good in static situations, or for live action. For phone footage that you then use in more complex videos, I wouldn’t recommend this model.

Conclusions

The Motorola Edge 40 Pro is a high-end phone, but it’s closer to mid-range models in the camera department, while offering advantages on the performance, screen and charging side over other models on the market in the same price range. As such, it somewhat competes directly with the OnePlus 11 and Vivo X90 Pro, which we recently tested. I would prefer the software experience on Motorola and the fact that the performance is better on this model and the screen is faster, something probably useful for gamers, but both OnePlus and Vivo are better performers when we talk strictly about the photo side, where of these three models, OnePlus 11 is my favorite.

We’re dealing with a pretty well-balanced phone that could tend towards a no-holds-barred recommendation if the little issues on the camera front are fixed with software updates. Given the promise of long-term support, such improvements are possible. If I were in the market for a new phone and the Edge 40 was in my budget, however, I’d wait for confirmation from Motorola that they’d be working on improving photo performance before making a purchase decision.

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