Motorola Moto E full review

Motorola has announced a new budget smartphone in the form of the Moto E which is a sort of follow-up to the popular Moto G. Here's our Motorola Moto E hands-on review from the London launch event. See also: 21 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.

Motorola Moto E review: Price

The Moto G set a new benchmark for budget smartphones with its outrageous price of just £135. Well Motorola has managed to hit an even lower price point with the Moto E which it hopes will 'end the feature phone'. Also see: Best budget smartphone 2014: Motorola Moto G vs Motorola Moto E comparison review

You will only need to pay £89 to get your hands on a Moto E, unlocked and without a contract. That's an amazingly low price which is dirt cheap rather than even budget. You can get it even lower than this too – just £79 on O2 PAYG. If we could give it 11 for value, we would.

There are downgrades, of course, when compared to the Moto G so read on to find out what they are and what we think of the Moto E.

Read: The 10 best budget smartphones: what's the best budget smartphone?

Motorola Moto E review: Design and build

The Moto E looks very much like the Moto G, and the Moto X for that matter. It has the same curved rear cover and what Motorola describes as an 'edge-to-edge' display. However, there is a bit of a bezel on either side of the screen so we don't totally agree with that.

Motorola Moto E review

The look is simple and uncomplicated and we like that. It's just sometimes difficult to remember which way up the device goes because of its symmetrical shape. It's slightly odd that the ear piece at the top is smaller than the combined mic and speaker at the bottom. That's no big deal but dirt does tend to collect in these.

Nevertheless, the Moto E is like a nice little smartphone with its pebble-like shape and feel. It's fits neatly into the hand and is easy to use one handed. It's not the thinnest smartphone around at 12.3mm but who cares? It's also no heavier than the Moto G at a shade over 140g.

Motorola has decided to offer both a black and white facia with the interchangeable shells other cases for the rear. The Moto Shell for the Moto E will come in nine different colours.

Motorola Moto E removable shell cover

Although the rear cover does come off, you can't access the battery. You only need to remove it to insert or remove your SIM- or memory card.

For just £89, the Moto E is well built and feels a fair bit more expensive than the price tag suggests it will. It's very much the feeling we get from the Moto G, so well done Motorola.

Motorola Moto E review: Hardware and specs

At that mega low price, it's no surprise that the Moto E has a less impressive spec than the Moto G. However, you might be surprised at just the kind of spec you get for your money.

It's got a slightly smaller screen than the Moto G at 4.3in compared to 4.5 and a slightly lower resolution too. But qHD (540x960) on a phone this cheap is a rather impressive feature and means a pixel density of 256ppi.

Motorola Moto E screen

Under the covers is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 chip, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor which is coupled with 1GB of RAM. Handling graphics is an Adreno 302, a 400MHz single-core GPU according to Motorola's spec sheet.

Once again going back to the price, this is impressive and the performance of the phone is generally very good. You do get the occasional sign of lag, but most of the time the Moto E is smooth and can switch between apps quickly. Part of the performance is down to the fact Motorola keeps things as simple as possible on the software front with stock Android (see software below).

Our benchmark result from Geekbench 3 and SunSpider don't make for very impressive reading at 608 (multi-core) – the kind of single-core score we expect from top-end smartphone – and 1877ms. Web browsing is quite jerky and the phone takes a couple of seconds to zoom in when you double tap.

Moving onto graphics and the Moto E surprised us with 11fps in the T-Rex GFXBench test which is just shy of the far more expensive Huawei Ascend P7 and the same result as the Moto G. In the extremely demanding Manhattan test, the Moto E managed to match last year's flagship HTC One with 5fps.

There's just 4GB of internal storage which isn't much at all but pretty standard for a really cheap phone. When you consider the operating system, there's about 1.5GB free for apps, games and media. However, Motorola has made sure that users can add more by way of a microSD card slot which can handle up to 32GB. It would be wise to order a memory card with the phone.

Motorola Moto E rear camera

There's little else to talk about in terms of hardware because, unsurprisingly, the Moto E is a fairly basic smartphone. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (4.0 Low Energy) and GPS but nothing fancier. The device is limited to 3G mobile networks so if you want 4G on a budget, take a look at EE Kestrel.

Motorola Moto E review: Camera

There's no front facing camera but at the rear is a 5Mp which is the same resolution as the Moto G but the LED flash is no more. The Moto E takes reasonable photos and videos but only in good conditions and even then, they're nothing special. See our test images below and click to see them full-size.

It's impressive that the phone has an HDR mode – which is on auto by default. There's also a panorama mode but little else to mention of in the basic camera app which takes a photo when you touch the screen. However, you can switch on a mode which gives you a bracket which can be dragged around the screen to choose the focus point. Unfortunately, it's not really capable of getting anything close to it in focus so no macro shots here.

Motorola Moto E camera test Moto E camera test - no HDR.

Motorola Moto E camera test Moto E camera test - with HDR.

Motorola Moto E review: Software

Motorola prides itself on giving uses the latest software. The Moto G and Moto X have 88- and 91 percent adoption for the newest version of Android so it's no surprise that the Moto E comes pre-loaded with 4.4 KitKat.

It's important to note that Motorola is guaranteeing an upgrade to the next major version of Android for the Moto E. Motorola's T&Cs state "The device will receive at least one software update to bring it up to date with the current KitKat 4.4.3 operating system."

See also: Android 4.5 release date and features: When will the next version of Android (Lollipop) come out?

As we mentioned earlier, Motorola keeps things simple on the software front with a plain version of KitKat. As usual it does include some of its own software but the firm doesn't go over the top. This is great and keeps things nice and simple for users, providing a sort of blank canvas.

Motorola Moto E Alerts

The Moto E comes with existing Motorola apps such as Motorola Migrate, Motorola Assist, the firm's camera software and an FM radio app.

A new app, which will be exclusive on the Moto E initially, is Motorola Alert (above). This can let people know you've arrived safely somewhere, you can use it to help meet a friend and there's an emergency mode for, well, emergencies. It could be handy for some users but isn't exactly a deal breaker for us.

Motorola Moto E review: Battery life

The Moto E has a 7.3Wh (1980mAh) battery which is only marginally smaller in capacity to the Moto G's. Once again it's non-removable despite the rear cover being the opposite.

Motorola says the smartphone will last a day and we can vouch that it does. Most users will have to charge the device every night unless they are a particularly light user – ie someone not playing games and checking social networks regularly.

There's just the basic Android battery saver which will restrict background data when the juice is running low.


Motorola Moto E: Specs

  • Android 4.4 KitKat OS
  • 4.3in qHD display (540x960), 256 ppi
  • 1.2GHz Dual-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 CPU
  • Adreno 302 GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB internal storage
  • microSD up to 32GB
  • 5Mp rear camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • GPS
  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • CDMA 850/900/1900MHz 7.3Wh (1980mAh) non-removable battery
  • 65x125x12.3mm
  • 142g