PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN
(CNN) —  

Motorola had a rocky reentry to the flagship smartphone space in 2020.

The foldable Razr was nostalgic but filled with lackluster hardware. That said, the smartphone maker still holds a strong spot in the midrange market with the Moto G, and the Edge+ proved to be a formidable flagship.

Now the Edge, the younger sibling of the Edge+, is launching as an unlocked flagship in the US. The best news with this device? It’s not tied to Verizon and carries over many of the features of the Edge+.

Notably, the Edge still features a 6.7-inch Endless Edge display that flows down the left and right sides of the phone. That’s paired with a slightly slower processor, half the RAM and a different set of three cameras.

It’s also on sale for $499 (down from the $699 MSRP) through August 9 and will start shipping on July 31.

So should you run out and purchase this smartphone? Let’s answer that question.

The same unique design

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

In form, the Edge is nearly identical to the Edge+, and as we wrote in our Moto Edge+ review, the smartphone has a simple design with a unique trait. You still get the 6.7-inch Endless Edge display, which is how the phone stands out in a super packed smartphone market.

Turn on the Edge and you’ll quickly see that the display flows onto the left and right sides. The preloaded waves wallpaper showcases this quite well, as the blue ocean waves crash and roll down the respective sides of the device.

This could seem gimmicky, to a degree, but Motorola continues to implement it well. For starters, you can turn off the edges if you find them distracting or if you experience accidental taps. There’s also an app drawer built into the side that you can pull out and customize, and we especially like that the edges glow when the phone is charging or to showcase notifications.

Aside from the display, there’s a 25-megapixel front camera housed in a pinhole in the top-left corner. The power and volume rocker sit on the top-right side, while the left is barren. The top features a combination microSD card and SIM card slot. The expandable storage is a much-appreciated addition to the Edge, especially with only 128GB of internal storage.

The bottom features two ports: a USB-C port and a headphone jack. (Yes, Motorola is keeping the headphone jack alive, and we’re on board with it.) You may recall that the Edge+ opted for the headphone jack on top.

The rear is standard, with three cameras and a sensor array in the top-left corner, and, of course, the classic Motorola batwing logo in the center. Interestingly enough, the Edge features a stealthy iridescent effect. The color appears a darkish navy gray, but when the light hits it right, you can see a glow. It’s still a glossy glass finish, but it’s not slippery, so you can still get a nice grip on the Edge.

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Like the Edge+, the Moto Edge is a large and tall smartphone. It has a 6.7-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. We would have liked to see a 120Hz refresh rate on the Edge, like the Galaxy S20 family features. It’s essentially how quickly the screen can refresh itself and creates the buttery smooth effect when using the device.

And don’t get us wrong, 90Hz is faster than the iPhone and makes a noticeable difference. It pairs nicely with the Full HD+ OLED panel that is quite vibrant while still delivering deep blacks. The sloped left and right still present issues here: When you have a white or lighter background screen, the edges bleed through. Essentially, the left and right side appear much darker or have an incorrect amount of light shining through on the edges. That’s likely due to the OLED panel and how it lights the edges from the same core panel underneath the glass. These sides still reflect light as well, and the fix is repositioning how you hold the Edge.

Even taking into account annoyances with the edges, the software additions and enhancements make it useful. The Motorola Edge app drawer is basically identical to what Samsung has offered, and you can pick six apps to live in this easy-access panel. You’ll set this up within the Moto Actions app or in Settings. The same goes for controlling Edge Lighting, which allows you to see a visual representation of the battery filling up and even notifications for apps as they come through.

As expected for a 2020 flagship, the Motorola Edge has an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is as good as any other fingerprint sensor in that it generally works well but can sometimes be finicky. Setup, however, is a breeze, and we especially like how the Edge doesn’t have a pre-installed screen protector. We’d say it unlocked the Edge about nine out of 10 times. As far as unlocking a smartphone goes in 2020, we’re still partial to Face ID as the fastest and most secure method.

Three cameras for a plethora of scenarios

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

The Moto Edge has a slightly different camera setup than the Edge+. The setup includes:

  • A 64-megapixel main lens: This is the main shooter that we favored. It’s a do-anything lens and has a nice wide degree for capturing people, pets, scenic arrays and even cars.
  • A 16-megapixel ultrawide and macro vision lens: This lens technically does double duty, but we found it most useful for capturing wide shots. Obviously, we can snap a wide sky shot while on a plane, but it can capture city streets and backyards with ease while keeping details.
  • An 8-megapixel telephoto lens: Like any telephoto lens, this lets you capture a closer-up shot without having to physically move.

A lens with 64 megapixels is nothing to mock, but it’s less than the S20 Ultra. However, unlike those superzoom lenses, this is your standard shooter and captures a nice amount of detail. When shooting with auto, it captures a rich amount of details and the colors seem balanced. And as we expected, by default, the 64-megapixel lens uses pixel binning technology and delivers a 16-megapixel quad pixel quality. Interestingly enough, you can also move it to 48 megapixels via 12-megapixel quad pixel shooting methods.

We’re disappointed that you can’t capture a full 64-megapixel photo. In the end, though, quad pixel or pixel binning is pretty much a standard across devices and works to reduce noise, essentially delivering an image that keeps more detail. Similarly, switching to the ultrawide delivers an image with similar quality that allows more into the view. You can see a few examples of these in rapid succession below.

The telephoto lens features a drop in quality. The images aren’t as rich, and the noise is more noticeable. It only increases when you zoom in on an image you captured.

Still, this is a set of lenses that work in a variety of scenarios and don’t have major quality issues like the lenses on the Moto G or TCL midrange devices. And at $699 full retail, this is upper midrange. Check out our test gallery below.

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN
PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN
PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN
PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

A fluid Android experience

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Arguably, the biggest change with the Moto Edge is a weaker processor powering the entire experience. The Edge’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 processor with 6GB of RAM is a step lower than the Edge+, Galaxy S20 family and even the OnePlus 8. You could argue that it’s not a flagship processor, but in our week with the Edge, we found that it delivers a fluid experience.

The 765 processor feels efficient, can speed up when necessary and delivers 5G network support. In fact, the Edge supports sub-6Ghz 5G networks in the US. With everyday use, we didn’t experience major slowdowns with phone calls, checking and responding to emails, snapping photos, using social media and even Web browsing. Gaming resulted in slower load times, mainly with “Fortnite,” “Call of Duty: Mobile” and “Real Racing 3.” There wasn’t much latency while playing the titles, but the setup and load times were noticeably increased. Less intense games like “Candy Crush Saga” and “Toy Story Drop!” felt fluid. The Edge is also much faster than other midrange items and low-end smartphones.

As we do with every device we review, we put it through a series of benchmarks. We conduct these to set a standard to compare quantitative testing of multiple devices alongside our daily use, testing and perceptions.

We used Geekbench 5, a benchmarking app that tests the devices by running intense processes that mimic real-life use cases. Similarly to the Edge+, which scored lower than other 2020 flagships, the Edge also scored lower: a 582 on the single-core test and an 1,850 on the multi-core test. The Edge+ scored a 906 on the single-core test and a 3,336 on the multi-core score. So, yes, it fell short, qualitatively, but we don’t believe it will deliver a negative experience with everyday use.

Battery life is seriously impressive and is an area in which Motorola continues to excel. The Edge’s 4,500mAh battery easily powered us through a full day of use. Motorola also includes an 18-watt TurboPower fast charger that can fill the Edge to 100% in under two hours.

It also did well on our battery test, where we put the device on airplane mode (turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off) and set the display to 50% brightness. We then opened a 4K video file in VLC and let it run on a loop until the device powered off. The Motorola Edge lasted 14 hours and 13 minutes.

Bottom line

If the headphone jack, sloping displays or a clean Android experience appeal to you, we think the Edge deserves a look. At just $499 until August 9, we think it delivers a large amount of value.

At full retail of $699, the line blurs. But for now, the Edge feels less like a lower-end flagship and more like a higher-end midrange smartphone that has a well-rounded set of features. We also can’t stress enough how happy we are that it’s not locked to Verizon.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.