Motorola goes back to basics and the £80 E7i Power is impressive for the price
- Extremely cheap
- Decent battery life
- Decent performance
- No 5G or NFC
- Very basic camera
Motorola sent shockwaves across the smartphone market when it released the first G-series phone way back in late 2013. A cheap and cheerful Android phone that held its own against handsets costing twice as much, Motorola basically led the way for competent Android phones at alarmingly low prices.
Since then, the Moto G series has exploded into a plethora of models, some better than the original, some not so good. Many might argue that in trying to offer a budget phone for everyone Motorola rather lost its way and ended up with a bewildering array of devices under the Moto G and Moto E banners.
Now, however, Motorola is trying to repeat the success of the Moto G with the Moto E7i Power, a phone with the admirable intent of offering a decent, desirable device for a lot less than pretty much anything else on the market.
Motorola E7i Power review: What you need to know
No matter how well-intentioned the maker is, a budget phone will incur some major compromises. You won’t be getting a Full HD or OLED display for one and you probably won’t get an NFC chip or 5GHz Wi-Fi capabilities either.
As for memory and storage, you can expect 2 or 3GB of RAM at best and maybe 64GB of storage, though 32GB is more likely. But just as long as there’s a MicroSD card slot there’s no reason to worry about the latter. Fast charging? Unlikely. Good low-light or nighttime photography? Again, that’s a no.
But what you should expect is a fingerprint scanner, a decent loudspeaker, good battery life and build quality that doesn’t suggest it’s been made from a chopped-up council wheelie bin. And the good news is that the Moto E7i Power covers all of these bases.
Motorola E7i Power review: Price and competition
The E7i Power is yours for just £80, SIM-free and unlocked and it comes in either Coral Red or Tahiti Blue. Spend any less and you’re looking at a dumb phone or two empty tin cans and a long bit of string.
In the sub-£100 market there’s really only one competitor, the Nokia 1.4, which has a very similar specs list to the Motorola right down to a 6.5in 720p display, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. However, the Nokia has a smaller battery than the Motorola, a micro-USB connector and a quad-core processor, albeit one made by Qualcomm. It’s also a tenner more expensive at £90.
There is some decent competition in the sub-£150 range but you’re still going to end up without 5G or a Full HD display unless you pay closer to £200. The Samsung A02s is currently available for just £105 which makes it a bit of a bargain. It has a 48MP main camera that performs creditably given the price and the 5,000mAh battery lasted for a whopping 22 hours 30 in our tests. There’s also support for two SIM cards and a MicroSD card at the same time.
Of all of its Moto siblings, the G10 is the most easily recommended. For under £130, you get a handset that is just a little better than the likes of the Nokia 1.4 and Motorola E7i Power with 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and three cameras. That said, I’m not entirely convinced that the improvements are enough to justify the extra £50.
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Motorola E7i Power review: Design and build quality
For this sort of money, you’re only going to get something made from plastic but despite that, the E7i is still a solid and smart handset that doesn’t look or feel cheap. The slightly anodised finish helps here, as does the nicely rounded design.
There’s more bezel above and below the screen than with more expensive phones but it’s not too much of an eyesore. The 5MP selfie camera sits in a water droplet notch while the volume, power and dedicated Google Assistant buttons on the left are sensibly placed. The Assistant and power buttons each have a different texture, too, which helps to tell them apart if you’re fumbling with your phone in the dark. Unlike the majority of more expensive phones, the E7i Power has a 3.5mm audio jack.
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At 165 x 76 x 9.2mm and weighing 200g, the E7i isn’t the smallest or lightest phone with a 6.5in screen, but it’s not overly large or heavy either. The Nokia 1.4 is slightly lighter but also slightly larger and like the Nokia, the E7i Power’s screen isn’t protected by Gorilla Glass, so be careful or use a screen protector (there isn’t one on the box). Motorola says the E7i has an IP52 water- and dust-resistance rating.
The fingerprint scanner sits on the back and is easy to use and reliable, and with so many bankings apps and the like requiring a biometric login this is a vital feature these days. The E7i also has a proximity sensor, accelerometer and ambient light sensor.
You can only run one SIM in the Motorola but the dedicated MicroSD card slot supports cards up to 1TB in capacity. Usefully, the E7i uses a Type-C connector rather than the micro-USB plug that Nokia foisted on the 1.4. With Type-C ports being faster and increasingly ubiquitous this is a big tick for Motorola.
Motorola E7i Power review: Display and audio
The E7i’s 6.51in 1,600 x 720 IPS panel is pretty good for how little it costs. Brightness maxes out at a decent 356cd/m2 and colour registration measured up well at 98.6% of the sRGB volume with 90.4% coverage. The Delta E colour accuracy score of 3.04 was just over the generally accepted limit, but only by the tiniest of margins.
The pixel density of 270ppi can’t match the latest flagships but it’s sharp enough; it was certainly beyond my eyesight to detect any pixelation. The screen only refreshes at 60Hz but again, that’s asking a lot for a phone that costs less than £100.
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There’s only one speaker, which is placed low on the right-hand side of the back. Sadly, this is placed perfectly to be muffled by your palm if you hold the phone in your right hand. That aside, it’s really rather good with plenty of volume and a nicely balanced soundscape. There’s not a lot of bass but it doesn’t sound overly tinny either. I’ve heard worse from phones costing more.
Motorola E7i Power review: Performance and battery life
The E7i Power is, ahem, powered by an octa-core Unisoc SC9863A processor that uses four ARM Cortex A55 1.6GHz cores and four 1.2GHz cores. Graphics are managed by a PowerVR GE8322 GPU which shares 2GB of RAM with the CPU.
This is significantly more powerful than the quad-core Snapdragon 215 chipset in the Nokia 1.4 and you only have to glance at the GeekBench 5 and GFXBench scores to spot that. As with all lower-powered Android devices, the key to keeping the E7i running smoothly is shutting down any unneeded apps that may be ticking over in the background, but performance here is generally very good.
The E7i is by no means a gaming phone but it runs titles like Modern Combat 5, Real Racing 3, Unkilled and LIMBO smoothly. Be warned though, some high-storage games just won’t install without expanding your storage, and that list includes one of my current favourites Sky: Children of Light.
Battery life is an E7i strongpoint as well, although it still could be much better. Our standard video rundown test drained the 5,000mAh battery in 15hrs 20mins, which is one hour more than the Nokia 1.4. There’s no fast charging tech, though, so a full charge from the 2.0A 10W charger can take a few hours.
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Motorola E7i Power review: Software
Like the Nokia 1.4, the E7i Power runs Android 10 Go. This is the paired down version of Android designed for entry-level devices with as little as 1GB of RAM. Truth be told, I think the hardware inside the E7i is more than capable of running full-fat Android but presumably, Motorola thought the extra 15% performance boost (Google’s figure, not mine) would make the UI run that bit more smoothly and indeed it does. Incidentally, I can find nothing to suggest that the E7i will get a bump to Android 11, something Nokia has confirmed for the 1.4, but that’s still a possibility.
The differences between Android Go and regular Android are pretty small, as is the difference between the various Go apps and their regular counterparts. The good news is that apart from the full-fat Google search app all the regular apps install and run on the E7i. So if you prefer Google’s Photos app which has more editing functions than the Go Gallery app, you might want to download it instead.
The basic Go launcher is a little limited. For instance, you can’t put widgets on the screen. But once I’d downloaded the Nova launcher, everything worked perfectly and I was able to populate the E7i’s screens with the same widgets I use on my Xiaomi 10T Pro.
Motorola E7i Power review: Cameras
By 2013 standards, the cameras in the E7i are reasonable. By 2021 standards, however, they are very basic. The main 13MP 1.12µm (f/2.0) camera will take a fair picture in good daylight but beyond that, it all falls apart pretty quickly. The results of low-light photography are noisy and drab while nighttime picture taking is pretty much out of the question. It’s not an overly quick camera either; taking an unblurry photo of my dog proved quite a challenge even when he was sitting still.
The camera does have an HDR setting but it doesn’t really do much and I’m not sure how much use the 2MP macro lens will get, though it works well enough. The 5MP webcam does a solid enough job and is sufficient for WhatsApp video chats and quick to-camera pieces for your TikTok account.
Both the front and rear cameras can record video at 1080p and 30fps compared to the Nokia’s 720p. The video results from the 13MP camera are still pretty humdrum and you need to keep the phone very still to get decent image quality. Usefully, the PDAF focus is quick to lock and stays locked with no discernible hunting.
Motorola E7i Power review: Verdict
When the Nokia 1.4 was launched back in May it was by some margin the best smartphone you could easily buy in the UK and get change from £100. The Motorola, however, has it beaten: it’s cheaper, faster, can record higher resolution video and has a type-C rather than microUSB connector. If you expect any more for £80 you’re being unrealistic.
As a second or backup phone the E7i is perfect, but more than that I think it would easily satisfy the day-to-day needs of a large percentage of today’s smartphone users. The Moto G is back in full force.