Motorola Moto E 4G full review
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Motorola has upgraded its super-budget smartphone, the Moto E, for 2015. The new Motorola Moto E has received some useful hardware upgrades for faster performance, and comes in a version with 4G LTE, making it a better buy than the Moto G 4G. (Also see: Best budget smartphones 2015.)
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Price and availability
Motorola's 4G Moto E is available now at £109. Note that many networks will also require you to buy a £10 top-up, however. For example, you can buy the Moto E 4G on O2's network from Amazon for £119. The non-4G model will be available in the US, Latin America and India from 3 March, with other countries to follow. That 3G version will cost $119.99 in the US, but a UK price is not yet known.
At £109 this budget 4G phone goes up against the likes of the EE Kestrel and Doogee F1 Turbo Mini. With some useful hardware upgrades that we'll outline below, the Moto E is no longer just a cheap phone for first-time or light users, but a proper Android smartphone that is more than capable enough for day-to-day use. (Also see: Best cheap 4G phones.)
Motorola Moto E 4G vs Motorola Moto G 4G
Throughout this review you'll see how we've compared the new Moto E 4G to other budget phones such as the EE Kestrel and Doogee F1 Turbo Mini. The more obvious comparison is to Motorola's own Moto G, of course. (Also see: Old Moto E vs new Moto E.)
The Moto G has had a bit of an odd history, first sold as a 3G phone (mk 1, reviewed), then upgraded to 4G (mk 2, reviewed), and then a second version was released without 4G (mk 3). Motorola has since told our Mikael Ricknas that it would never again sell a (new) 4G version of the Motorola Moto G in the UK, which is weird, given that it's just added 4G connectivity to the entry-level model in the line-up.
So ignoring the fact the mk 2 Moto G, which comes with 4G, is now over a year old, is there any reason why you might choose to buy the Moto G 4G over the Moto E 4G?
In a word: no.
Sold SIM-free at the Carphone Warehouse for £139, this £30 cheaper Motorola Moto E matches or improves on many of its core specs. Placed on the desk in front of me the difference in size and weight is barely noticeable (the Moto G 4G is just 2g lighter and only 0.7mm thinner). The new Moto E 4G has a newer processor, faster graphics and a larger-capacity battery. Meanwhile, the Moto G 4G has a slightly higher-resolution still-4.5in screen at 1280x720 (326ppi vs the 245ppi of the new Moto E), and an LED flash at the rear. Worth an extra £30? No chance.
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Design & build
The new Moto E 4G is very similar in its design to the original Moto E, with the same curved rear, chunky design that feels good in the hand, and reasonably thin screen bezel. It's lost one of the two metal bars at the front, now with just the one at the top to hide the speaker. For a budget phone, it looks pretty good.
Whereas you could change the rear shell on the original Moto E, with this new version you can also change the grippy band that runs around its edge, allowing you to mix-and-match colours and create your own design. Motorola shells and bands are sold separately, though, and the Moto E ships with matching black or white shell and band. (also see Best smartphones 2015 and Best Android phones 2015.)
A key difference is the slightly larger screen. Now a Kestrel-matching 4.5in rather than the 4.3in we saw in the original Moto E, the Motorola offers slightly more screen space on which to watch videos and play games. The resolution hasn't changed, though, meaning this qHD (540x960) IPS display has a slightly lower pixel density of 245- rather than 256ppi. Show us the difference and we'll show you a liar.
The display itself is good for the price, bright and reasonably clear for a qHD screen. IPS tech means colours are true and viewing angles are good. The Moto E's screen is now splashproof; it also has an anti-smudge coating and is protected with Gorilla Glass 3.
Despite the increase in screen size, the new Moto E is just 3g heavier than the original. The reassuringly heavy 145g smartphone is the same width at 12.3mm, which is a tell-tale sign of its budget price, and just a little longer and wider at 66.8x129.9mm.
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Hardware and performance
The new Moto E features several hardware upgrades. It still has a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, but the 410 chip seen here is quad- rather than dual-core. Memory is the same, at 1GB, while storage has doubled to 8GB. As before you can add up to 32GB via microSD. (Neither the memory or storage allocations would be anything to shout about with a flagship phone, but at this price they're very reasonable.) And where the original featured the Adreno 302 GPU, this new Moto E has the 306.
We ran the new Moto E 4G through our usual benchmarks and were pleasantly surprised with its performance. Whereas the original managed 608 points in Geekbench 3.0's multi-core component, the new Moto E recorded 1463. In the single-core component we saw 464 points. In terms of raw performance, that makes it significantly faster than the original Moto E, quite a bit faster than the EE Kestrel, and lagging only the Doogee F1 (but that's a grey-market phone, and you may prefer to stick with one intended for sale in the UK).
In SunSpider it lagged those phones with its 1301ms score, but again saw a marked improvement over the original Moto E's 1877ms. And it was the same story for graphics performance, with the new Moto E 4G turning in 6fps in Manhattan and 13fps in T-Rex (the original managed 5fps in Manhattan and 11fps in T-Rex). You can compare these results to all the phones we've recently tested in our article what's the fastest smartphone 2015.
In actual use, the new Moto E feels pretty swift in general, but there can be annoying delays when opening apps. There's also slight hesitancy when navigating around Lollipop, but nothing you won't quickly get used to.
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Cameras
One of the additions to the new Moto E is a front-facing camera. It's only a VGA model, and not much cop for selfies (although you can set a timer), but those looking to Skype or video chat through other means will appreciate its presence.
As before the rear camera is 5Mp, here with a f2.2 aperture, 4x digital zoom and several features such as a burst mode, auto HDR, tap to focus and quick capture. HD (720p) video is supported at 30fps, and there's also a slo-mo video mode. There's no LED flash, which is not at all unusual for a budget phone, but it's a pain if you were hoping to use your phone as a torch.
The results are very much the same as we saw from the original Moto E. Images are generally well exposed, but lack detail and reveal heavy-handed compression when you zoom in and look closely. They're fine for sharing online, but won't produce good enlargements for printing to put on the wall.
A neat feature of this new Moto E is its ability to quickly launch the camera with a quick double-flick of your wrist, even if the phone is in standby. As usual, you'll need to change the default aspect ratio in the camera app from 16:9 to 4:3 in order to get the full resolution of the sensor, otherwise you'll be getting 3.7Mp images.
Here's our usual shot of St Pancras. (All are original 5Mp photos from the phone - unedited and not resized.)
Video is understandably shaky since there's no stabilisation. However, it is captured in HD now - 1280x720 as opposed to the 854x480 of the old Moto E. It is much better than the old phone and colours are decent enough, but detail is lacking compared to the best smartphone video (possibly due to compression again) and it isn't particularly sharp, either:
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Connectivity
Here's the key change in the new Moto E: for an extra £20 over the original it includes 4G connectivity, operating on LTE bands 1, 3, 7 and 20. You can learn more about 4G in our complete guide to 4G, but suffice to say it is the fastest mobile data standard, and both network coverage and pricing within the UK is getting better all the time.
Other connectivity specs remain unchanged, and the new Moto E 4G features Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and GPS.
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Software
Whereas the original Moto E ran Android KitKat, the new Moto E 4G has Lollipop version 5.0 out of the box. Amazingly, for such a cheap phone, Motorola is also guaranteeing an upgrade to the next version of Android. Read more about Android M
It's a reasonably plain implementation of Lollipop, but with some unique Moto software features. It can show notifications without waking the screen, and monitor your activity to create useful new features and functions. Motorola Assist keeps your screen off while you sleep or in a meeting, plus there's the double-twist gesture we mentioned earlier to launch the camera. Motorola Migrate also features, easing the transition from your old phone, and there's Motorola Alert, which can share your location with your friends and family.
Motorola Moto E 4G / New Moto E review: Battery life
Motorola has also upgraded the Moto E's battery. Whereas before it was fitted with a 1980mAh battery it now has 2390mAh. That's perhaps not a big a jump as it sounds, given the faster hardware, although Android Lollipop *should* be more efficient than KitKat.
We've not had this phone long enough to thoroughly test the battery, but early indications are very good, and we're sure the 'E will last a full day with mixed use, just as Motorola claims.
Read next: Best new smartphones coming in 2015.
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Motorola Moto E 4G: Specs
- Android 5.0 Lollipop (with guaranteed upgrade to the next version of Android)
- 4G LTE bands 1/3/7/20, 3G 900/2100MHz, 2G 850/900/1800/1900MHz
- 4.5in qHD (540x960, 245ppi) IPS display, with Gorilla Glass 3 and anti-smudge, splashproof coating
- 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor
- 400MHz Adreno 306 GPU
- 1GB of RAM
- 8GB of storage, expandable through microSD up to 32GB
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0 LTE, GPS
- 5mp rear- and VGA front cameras, 720p video at 30fps
- 2390mAh battery