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Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: A £100 wonder

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
100
inc. VAT

There are better smartphones than the Moto E6 Plus, but not without spending a fair bit more

Pros 
Great price
Decent performance
Solid camera
Removable battery
Cons 
Battery not as big as last year’s model
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Update: No, you don't want the Moto E6 Play instead

Motorola has released another member of the E6 family - the E6 Play. I've just finished reviewing it elsewhere on the site, and the headline is that you definitely don't want one.

It may be £10 cheaper, but with that saving you also lose about 50% of the multi-core performance. On top of that, the battery is five hours' weaker and it feels sluggish out of the box. It really is not worth your time if you can afford to may that 10% more.

The original review continues below.

Regular readers of Expert Reviews will know that Motorola already makes our top budget pick: the £179 Moto G7 Power. But what if that’s nearly double what you’re hoping to spend? Can you get a decent smartphone experience for under £100?

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: What you need to know

If anyone can, Motorola can, you’d have thought, and the Moto E range has a pretty good pedigree. The E6 Plus’ pair of predecessors – the Moto E5 and E5 Plus – both punch above their feather-weight pricing.

Curiously, the regular Moto E6 appears to have bypassed the UK, so we’re left with the Plus version of a handset that doesn’t exist on our shores. The E6 Plus is a 6.1in device that seems to have all the trappings of a phone at least twice its price: that means you get a fingerprint reader, a dinky little notch for the front-facing camera and dual cameras on the back.

There’s no Qualcomm chip for the money, though. Instead, a 2GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P22 processor is running the show, backed by 2GB RAM (4GB in some regions, but not on our review model) and 32GB of internal storage (again, doubled to 64GB in other regions).

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: Price and competition

Not exactly thrilling specs, then, but the main selling point is clearly the price: a penny under £100 at only £99.99. Crucially, this is £50 cheaper than last year’s E5 Plus, with the non-Plus version sitting at £100.

There’s little competition at this price level, and even less that’s seriously worth considering. First, let’s discount two £100 handsets from contention: the Doogee S40 and Alcatel 1X are both dreadful, and you can certainly do better.

Our two main picks for £100 are the Vodafone Smart X9 and the Xiaomi Redmi 7A. Both are excellent and provide plenty of niceties for the price.

Finally, if you have a bit more budget, do consider the Motorola Moto G7 Power. It goes for around £160 now, but the cost increase gives a substantial performance boost, not to mention a massive 5,000mAh battery (hence the “Power” in its name).

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: Design

As smartphones go, the Moto E6 Plus doesn’t really stand out when it comes to looks. In this case, I think that’s a good thing, though. At a glance there’s precious little difference between this and a handset two or three times the price.

The screen bezel may be a little thicker than most flagships, but it’s nowhere near offensive, even if you’re easily offended by such things. It has a border of around three millimetres across the top and sides, and a far thicker bezel along the bottom – roughly eight millimetres in width. To make this possible, the front-facing camera is contained in a little notchlette at the top, which perfectly circles the lens.

Flip it over and you’ll find a shiny and unapologetically plastic back. The dual-camera array is neatly contained in the top left-hand corner, and a small circular Motorola logo doubles up as a fingerprint reader in the middle, near the top. At the bottom is a decidedly old-school micro-USB port for charging.

But the most interesting thing about the Moto E6 Plus is a real blast from the past. No, not a headphone jack – though it has one of those too – but a removable back panel. Yes, you can sub out the battery yourself, which is superb. You don’t have to worry about battery deterioration here, and you can even keep a spare about your person, too.

This removable back also means there’s no SIM or microSD tray – you have to open it up to put them in. But there is room for both a nano-SIM and a microSD card of up to 512GB in size.

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: Screen

The 6.1in screen is an IPS affair with a resolution of 1,560 x 720 – or around 282 pixels per inch. That’s lower than most handsets nowadays which tend to hit 1080p and above, but in terms of pixels per inch, it’s not too far behind what Apple calls “retina” – the magic point where your eyes can supposedly no longer differentiate pixels. Apple puts that point at 326ppi, but then it would, given that’s what it's phones have hit since the iPhone 4.

Anyway, it’s not a bad screen at all, for the price. It’s nice and bright, for a start, hitting a solid 511cd/m² at its top setting, and contrast is an equally respectable 1,463:1. Most importantly, our colourimeter showed 91% gamut volume from an sRGB gamut coverage of 84%. That makes for a very good screen considering its budget credentials. No, it’s no Galaxy S10, but it does go for £699 less.

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: Performance

As outlined above, the Moto E6 Plus is powered by the MediaTek Helio P22 octa-core processor, with four cores running at 1.5GHz and four at 2Ghz. This is backed by 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

That’s a departure from the previous generation which used Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, but if your heart sunk when you saw the word “MediaTek” then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. As well as feeling smooth enough in day-to-day use, it actually outperformed most of its Qualcomm-toting rivals in our benchmarks.

In multi-core tests, in particular, it’s a massive improvement on last year’s Moto E5 family, and it’s almost in reach of the Moto G7 Power, which is impressive. It comfortably beats the Xiaomi Redmi 7A and is essentially a rounding error away from tying with the Vodafone Smart X9. Impressive stuff.

It’s a similar story when it comes to graphics processing. The E6 Plus ranks significantly ahead of last year’s Moto E, and within touching distance of the Moto G7 Power. At a glance, it seems to be well ahead of the Vodafone Smart X9, but resolution is important here: while the Redmi 7A and Moto E6 Plus have 720p screens, the Vodafone handset has a 1080p panel – hence the numbers are levelled when the tests are done offscreen.

Sadly, in one key metric the Moto E6 Plus has gone backwards on last year’s model. While last year’s E5 Plus lasted 23hrs 2mins in our standard battery test, the E6 Plus conked out at 15hrs 3mins.

To be clear, that’s not a bad time at all, and it’s also very much to be expected. While the E5 Plus packed a 5,000mAh battery, the E6 Plus drops to a 3,000mAh cell. All things considered, 15 hours looks pretty damned reasonable even if it would be nice to match the all-day and all-night power of last year’s phone.

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: Camera

The Moto E6 Plus gets a handy upgrade in the camera department, though, switching to a dual-lens array. The main camera is a 13-megapixel f/2.0 affair, and it’s supported by a 2-megapixel depth sensor for bokeh effects. Not as handy as a wide lens or a telephoto one, but beggars can’t be choosers for £100.

As with last year’s camera, it also punches well above its weight. No, it’s not going to be a match for the £800 Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or even the £399 Google Pixel 3a, but as £100 smartphone cameras go, it’s very hard to fault. On an overcast day in London, the Moto E6 Plus was still able to pick out plenty of detail and colour, as you can see below.

At this point it’s definitely worth reflecting on what some manufacturers try to get away with in £100 smartphones. Here’s the Doogee S40 taking the same shot on the same day. You can see, especially in the building at the back, just how poor phone photography can be in this price bracket.

Of course, the real challenge comes from indoors when light is at a premium, and you often get lots of nasty visual noise when phones try to compensate for camera deficiencies with heavy-handed processing. Again, it’s not too bad here, even if post-processing aggressively softens the edges of objects – it’s especially prominent around the teddy bear’s ears, for instance.

But again, think how bad it could be. Take it away, Doogee:

In short, you should be very grateful to get anything anywhere near this good in a £99 camera. Good job, Motorola.

The front-facing camera is an 8-megapixel, f/2.0 unit and it’s not bad at all. Shooting and recording options are pretty barebones, but it takes a good picture that’s fine for selfies or video chat, even letting you blur the background for arty shots. As ever, the beauty effects should have the word “beauty” in heavy italics, but everyone is guilty of that these days.

Motorola Moto E6 Plus review: Verdict

While the Moto G7 Power remains our budget pick, if you absolutely can’t spend more than £100 then it’s hard to find too much fault with the Moto E6 Plus. It’s good looking, long-lasting and performs well enough for the price. The camera is solid, and the ability to replace the battery yourself is something that I’m very happy to see the return of.

Should you spend more if you can afford to? Absolutely. But if you can’t, the Moto E6 Plus won’t let you down.

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