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Motorola Moto E review

Verdict

Makes plenty of compromises, but performs where it counts; the Moto E is another winner from Motorola

Review Date: 20 May 2014

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £12.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £90
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The Motorola Moto G has been such a huge success since its launch in 2013 (it's Motorola's best-selling smartphone of all time) that the company has decided to follow it up with another low-cost handset, the Moto E. Continue reading for our Moto E review. See also: the 11 best smartphones of 2014.

Unusually for a new smartphone, we're not talking about bigger screens, faster processors or more megapixels with the Moto E. The headline is the price, which at £90 unlocked makes this one of the cheapest smartphones we've ever reviewed.

Motorola Moto E review

Motorola Moto E review: screen

At such a low price, the Moto E inevitably makes some compromises. Its 4.3in display is notably smaller than that of the Moto G, and the 540 x 960 resolution gives a lower pixel density of 256ppi. However, image quality, which was a major strength of the Moto G, remains very strong.

To the eye, despite an ever-so-slightly more pixellated look than the Moto G, images and graphics appear both punchy and bright. We measured peak brightness hitting 408cd/m2 and contrast reaching 1,133:1; those are figures that pretty much match its larger sibling. It's an excellent display.

Motorola Moto E review: core specifications and performance

At this price we didn't expect the most powerful CPU, and indeed the Moto E offers a distinctly middle-of-the-road specification. It has a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 302 GPU, with only 4GB of onboard storage for apps, videos and pictures. One odd limitation is there's no onboard compass, which is a shame, since when walking it's often useful to know the direction you're facing.

The phone feels mostly snappy and responsive, but benchmark results reveal that it's far from the fastest phone on the block, with a SunSpider time of 1,643ms, and Geekbench single- and multicore results of 320 and 601 respectively. This puts it a little behind the Moto G, which wasn't exactly a rocket ship itself.

Give the phone something demanding to do, and further weaknesses surface. Panning and zooming around in Google Maps isn't the smoothest experience, and in the GFXBench T-Rex HD benchmark, a frame rate of 10.7fps indicates the Moto E will have trouble with intensive 3D games. Bejewelled fans will be perfectly happy; Asphalt 8 aficionados less so.

Motorola Moto E review

Motorola Moto E review: camera

The Motorola Moto G's biggest weakness was its camera, and the Moto E's 5-megapixel snapper, alas, is no better. After spending a few days photographing everything in sight, we were far from satisified with the results.

The big problem is that the Moto E's camera is fixed-focus, so it's hopeless at capturing crisp, close-up subjects. When we did manage to take a sharp picture, the Moto E's white balance and metering often got things badly wrong, and every image we snapped looked smeary and over-compressed.

Motorola Moto E review: camera quality

We were even less impressed with the phone's video capabilities. With resolution limited to 854 x 480, footage lacks detail, and the phone does a terrible job at adjusting exposure and white balance on the fly. Move from dark scenes to lighter ones and you can see the camera visibly stepping from one exposure level to the next.

Suffice it to say, the Moto E's camera is good for the occasional snap, but little more, and the camera app itself is sluggish and unresponsive, making it a chore to take photos.

Motorola Moto E review: calling and audio

A further area of weakness is audio quality. Although call quality is fine via the earpiece, microphone and headset jack, and volume is perfectly acceptable, we're less than impressed with the Moto E's speaker.

Motorola Moto E review: speaker

At medium volume and up, the front-facing speaker beneath the screen is afflicted by an annoying, rustling distortion. It's there all the time, whether you're playing music, watching a film or talking to someone on speakerphone.

Motorola Moto E review: battery life

The Moto E's battery life is impressive, and Motorola's claim that the phone will last a full day of use turns out to be well founded. Throughout our intensive testing, it lasted the full course of every day, often with plenty of capacity remaining.

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User comments

Actually it could be argued that this phone is a step up from the Moto G because this one can take a micro SD card......
If they could do it with such a cheap phone why did they cripple the G?

By TiredGeek on 13 May 2014

Actually it could be argued that this phone is a step up from the Moto G because this one can take a micro SD card......
If they could do it with such a cheap phone why did they cripple the G?

By TiredGeek on 13 May 2014

@TiredGeek

Good new. The new Moto G announced at the same time takes a micro SD card, but costs £150.

By tirons1 on 13 May 2014

_____________

"The Moto E's smaller 4.3in display sports a more coarse 540 x 960 resolution"

Which is still a bigger screen and better resolution than the original flagship Galaxy S, from way back in the dim mists of 2010. For the price that's pretty good.

My current phone (an ancient "dumb" Sony 750i) cost me about £80 on PAYG and that was considered a good price at the time.

By Alfresco on 14 May 2014

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