Motorola Moto E review - Android 5.0 incoming
Processor: Dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200, Screen Size: 4.3in, Screen resolution: 960x540, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 4GB, Wireless data: 3G, Size: 125x65x12.3mm, Weight: 142g, Operating system: Android 4.4.4
Motorola's had a string of hits with its budget range of smartphones. First came the excellent Moto G (both in its original 3G form and 4G counterpart), which set the benchmark for all sub-£150 handsets. Then, a year later, Motorola released the even more astonishing 2nd Generation Moto G, which raised the bar even higher. Both phones are fantastic value, but for those looking for something even cheaper, Motorola's Moto E could be the phone for you.
At just £90 SIM-free, the Moto E is much more affordable than both the first and second generation Moto Gs, and the fact that it will also be getting a prompt upgrade to Android Lollipop once it's released makes it far better value than any other £90 smartphone currently available.
The Moto E may be a chunky 12.3mm at its thickest point, but its smooth, soft-touch chassis curves and tapers to a slim 6.2mm at each edge, making it supremely comfortable to hold in your hand. At 142g the Moto E is also a gram lighter than the old Moto G, and it feels just as sturdy and well-made. You'll also be able to remove the rear of the phone and swap it for a range of colourful snap-on shell cases to give your Moto E a little more personality.
One of the most impressive things about the Moto E is just how smoothly it runs Android 4.4 KitKat. It's unusual to see KitKat on such a cheap handset, as most budget phones are often lumbered with older versions of Android that don't require much memory. The Moto E, on the other hand, has 1GB of RAM. That’s not a lot, but is enough to make the Moto E responsive when swiping through our home screens.
MOTO E APPS - SMART AND SAFE
Like the Moto G, Motorola has left the Android user interface largely untouched in terms of design, but the Moto E does come with a few exclusive apps that help the phone seem smarter in everyday use. The newest app is Moto Alert, which is especially handy if you're a parent buying the Moto E for a child. There are three ways the app can alert others. The first is Emergency, which can send a text alert to certain contacts during an emergency, sound an alarm automatically or auto-dial your chosen emergency contact number. It works surprisingly well, and worked happily with both landline and mobile numbers. Moto Alert can also keep track of when you leave and arrive at places you visit regularly, such as school or work, and automatically alert your chosen contacts when you do so.
The second feature is Follow Me, which sends your current location to select contacts at specified intervals so that concerned family members know where you are. It’s also handy for helping your friends track you in busy, crowded areas. Meet Me, meanwhile, can send a text to your contacts telling them where to meet you.
The other main Motorola app is Moto Assist, which can affect your phone's behaviour at specific times of the day. It can automatically set your phone to be silent at night but still ring if a specified contact calls, or if someone calls twice within five minutes. It can also access your calendar and make your phone silent during meetings as well as send callers a text message saying you're busy. It’ll also read text messages and let you know who's calling while you're driving.
MOTO E SCREEN
The Moto E's 4.3in screen has a resolution of 540x960 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 256ppi, which is much lower than the Moto G's 1,280x720-resolution screen and 329ppi pixel density. Even so, text still looked sharp and crisp on the Moto E’s screen. The screen also has an anti-smudge coating to help keep fingerprints at bay, and uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it from scratches.
The display is excellent for such a cheap phone. With a measured sRGB colour gamut score of 90.7 per cent, colours looked bright and accurate, and its measured contrast ratio of 923:1 is close to the Moto G's contrast ratio of 1,116:1. Black levels were also good, and we measured a black level of 0.38.cd/m2. We also measured a pretty good peak brightness of 354cd/m2, and we could use the phone outdoors in bright sunshine with no problem. Viewing angles suffered when we put the phone down on a table, with whites turning a dull shade of blue, but this is typical with budget phones.
MOTO E PERFORMANCE
We also had to zoom in to read news headlines on desktop-based sites, as we found them difficult to read otherwise. In general, though, web browsing was a very smooth experience thanks to the Moto E's 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor. There was a very small delay when scrolling through image-heavy web pages such as The Guardian's home page, but its performance when zooming and panning proved much less frustrating than that of other budget phones we've tested. Indeed, the Moto E’s performance in the SunSpider benchmark is very close to that of the Moto G, with the Moto E completing the SunSpider benchmark in 1,658ms and the Moto G completing the benchmark in 1,410ms.
The Moto E's Adreno 302 graphics processor wasn't far behind the Moto G's graphics performance either, scoring 4,066 in the 3DMark Ice Storm test, which roughly translates to 16.2fps, compared to the Moto G's score of 5,412. The Moto E also produced an admirable 33.7fps in Epic Citadel with Ultra quality graphics settings. This is just one frame behind the Moto G. Admittedly, the Moto G has a larger screen to fill and more pixels to render, but the Moto E certainly won't disappoint those looking for decent graphics performance in a budget phone.
MOTO E BATTERY LIFE
The Moto E’s Battery life was excellent, and its 1,980mAh battery lasted just three minutes shy of 10 hours in our continuous video playback test. This beats the old Moto G’s performance in our battery test by 45 minutes. You should be able to use the Moto E all day without worrying about having to charge it mid-afternoon.
MOTO E CAMERA
The only weak point of the Moto E is its rear 5-megapixel camera. It's worth noting that the Moto G's camera also failed to impress, but our shots on the Moto E were noticeably worse, even with its HDR feature enabled. The sky was well-exposed and shots didn’t look too oversaturated, but colours were very dreary and areas of detailed brickwork often appeared as blurry clumps of pixels.
Colours looked washed out on Auto mode
photos lacked detail when we zoomed in to 100 per cent
Enabling HDR brought a little more punch to our photos but this ended up making them look more artificial.
With HDR turned on, colours looked more vibrant with more clearly defined outlines...
...but HDR also made photos look unnatural in places
MOTO E CONCLUSION
Camera issues aside, the Moto E is a great phone for its price. Its screen isn't quite as good as its larger Moto G cousins, but it does have a longer-lasting battery and helpful new apps. Whether you're looking to buy your child their first phone or just want a superb budget handset for yourself, the Moto E is an excellent choice, particularly as an Android Lollipop upgrade is just around the corner.
We'd definitely recommend buying this over the old Moto G, which is now becoming ever more scarce as its successor becomes more widely available, but if your budget can stretch to an extra £50, we think the new Moto G is much better value.