The Motorola Moto E (2015) can definitely hold its own on the Android market, and that's coming in with a $150 price tag. It may not have the 'top of the line' specs, but it makes up for it with functionality and price.
Motorola came out of nowhere a few years back, with their devices such as the Moto G and Moto X in late 2013, with the Moto E following in early 2014. It showed Motorola still had the capability to produce high quality devices at both low and high price points. Not only that, but the devices manage to receive higher specifications and stay around the same budget price.
The Moto E (2nd Generation or 2015) is a complete upgrade from its predecessor. Among other things, it boasts a larger display, more on-board storage, a stronger processor, and has a front-facing camera. Although it features higher-end specifications, it still retains the budget phone mantra. How does the Moto E (2015) stack up at a budget price?
The long-standing quote “you get what you pay for” doesn’t apply to the Moto E. The device comes with two variants; $119 for the 3G model, whereas the LTE model comes with a slightly higher price tag of $149. We received the latter for the review, so for performance, our take will be based off the Snapdragon 410. Let’s get into the review.
The one thing about Motorola phones is that they are unique from the rest of the Android market. Although they feature a mostly plastic design, they all share Motorola’s own brand identity. That means the Moto E is no different, it just comes in a smaller package than its bigger siblings such as the Moto X or Nexus 6.
First off, the Moto E comes with two color options: Black or White. While it may not be as customizable as the Moto X, the Moto E does feature the ability to add different ‘bands’. They are sold in a three pack for $20; one pack features Turquoise, Purple, and Raspberry, whereas the other package features Red, Blue, and Golden Yellow. Our review unit is Black with the stock black ‘band’.
The Moto E comes in at 129.9 x 66.8 x 12.3 mm, which is only slightly taller and wider than its predecessor of 124.8 x 64.8 x 12.3 mm. The difference in weight is also negligible, as the Moto E (2015) weighs 145 grams whereas the Moto E (2014) weighs 142 grams.
With a sub $150 price tag, the Moto E comes with an all plastic build construction, but is definitely put together well. There are no creaks or play in the chassis and or buttons, as is common in other all plastic devices. Not only that, it is actually pleasant to hold, due to the wide edges and its rubberized grip. On top of the super grippy edges, the back of the device has a a slight grip to it, but is also a fingerprint magnet.
As per a typical Motorola device, the headphone jack is found at the top of the device in the center. On the right side you have the volume rockers with the power button, both are very tactile, firm, and make a satisfying click sound. I honestly prefer them over my Nexus 6’s buttons as they are very thin and wobbly. The microUSB charging port can be found on the bottom of the device.
The microSD card and SIM card slots can be found underneath the band, which is easily removed from the bottom left corner of the device. Both slots are found on the left side. This makes the phone look a little sleeker, with no visible ports.
One side note to mention is that the vibration on the Moto E is extremely strong so it is loud. This is nothing new with Motorola devices, so it isn’t a surprise their budget device suffers from the same issue. I’d definitely like Motorola to tone down the vibration on their future devices.
The Moto E ships with a IPS LCD 4.5 inch qHD display (not to be confused with QHD). That means that the device’s resolution is one fourth of full HD, hence the quarter high definition abbreviation. That means it sports a 540 x 960 resolution with a ppi of 245, which is very respectable for a $150 device.
The display seems to be a little bit cooler, which I personally like, especially when comparing it to the Nexus 6 which is known for its warmer display, especially at low brightness. Blues look very sharp and on point whereas reds seem a little washed out. Nothing too big, but it is worth noting. It has been awhile since I’ve used a device with a sub-HD display, but honestly I didn’t mind it too much. With a smaller screen, you tend to not notice the pixels as heavily as you would on a device with a 5+ inch display.
The device has an average brightness range. It can get decently bright, but when in direct sunlight it can be a tad hard to see what you are doing. As far as dimness, it can hold its own with a good amount of other devices, but still could go a little further I think. When in a dark room, the display still seems to light up a lot.
As far as colors and crispness go, I had no problem with the device and didn’t nitpick very much. Keep in mind, I’ve used a device with a QHD (1440 x 2560) display ever since mid-2014, so that’s saying something. From a normal distance away from the eyes, an average user will not notice. You have to get up to the device to start noticing pixels, but they are definitely there.
One thing that is a Motorola staple with their devices, is their Moto Display. I found this very useful, as it is my first true Motorola phone I’ve ever used. Being able to check notifications without even turning on or unlocking the device, was very convenient. The only problem is that while it is a great way to check notifications, Moto Display is built for AMOLED displays, whereas this one is an IPS LCD, as stated above. That means it can definitely affect battery life, but I still saw good numbers. More on that below.
The performance was my biggest question coming to the review. The device sports a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, backed by 1 GB of RAM. What really makes the device is that it runs Android 5.0.2 out of the box, which is interesting to see on a budget phone and is something I was excited to test. Previously, Android devices running KitKat and below seemed to lag behind, especially with low-end specs.
One thing Motorola has on point with their devices is their ideology of sticking as close to vanilla Android as possibly. That means that the device ships with no bloatware, only pre-installed Motorola apps, which is totally acceptable. What’s better than no bloatware, right? Prompt updates, that’s what. The Moto E gets that too. Currently as of this review, Android 5.1 is hitting the airwaves, but our review unit has yet to receive it.
I’m personally a huge fan of vanilla Android, as you can tell by my daily driver being a Nexus 6, so I feel right at home with the Moto E. Overall, the device runs very smooth, with the occasional stutter or lag after having multiple applications in the background. If this was happening on my Nexus 6, I would be truly disappointed, but because I’m a device with a $150 price tag, I find myself being much more patient.
Switching between apps is still pretty quick, as is scrolling through the card stack. The only thing I noticed was that it took a second after choosing a previous application. The app would switch, but it would take a second to load the content. Animations and transitions still seemed to go smoothly, they would just slow down slightly under heavy usage.
I’m curious as to how the device will perform with Android 5.1, as it really enhances performance and usability, but unfortunately no matter how much I check for updates, nothing comes up. You know how that is.
For the 2015 version of the Moto E, Motorola opted to stick with the same 5 megapixel rear-facing camera that came on the 2014 version. The device still doesn’t have a flash, but it does feature a VGA (.3 megapixel) front-facing camera, good for images with a resolution of 480 x 640.
This is my first time using a 5 megapixel camera since my T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide back in 2010, so it was definitely a different experience than I’m used to. For starters, the camera does boot up pretty fast, usually in around 1.3 seconds, which isn’t terrible. In comparison, the Nexus 6 camera fires up in 1.25 seconds, so it is a close race.
As far as image quality goes, it naturally isn’t the best, but Motorola does a good job processing the images for the most part. If there is a lack of light, even slightly, images get very grainy very fast. In well-lit rooms or outdoors during the daytime, images look just fine.
One nice feature that comes with the Moto E is Motorola’s signature twist twice gesture to open the camera. It is very responsive and it always worked. If the camera is currently opened, you can use the twist twice gesture to switch from rear-facing to front-facing cameras, and vice versa.
Although the images may not be what I am used, I keep reminding myself this device is only $150. When you look at it with that perspective, it is actually quite good. For a sub-$150, I would argue that the Moto E has one of the best cameras.
Coming to such a small device, I was definitely excited to give battery life a try. In 2015, devices seem to get slimmer and slimmer, which means they compromise battery size. That is not the case with the Moto E, as it actually marginally larger battery of 2,390 mAh, compared to 1,980 mAh of its predecessor.
I didn’t know what to expect personally, as the device does have a sizable battery with a low-resolution screen, but it definitely fared quite well. On average, my day is around 12-15 hours long consisting with school in the early parts with terrible reception, followed by work with excellent reception. Whether that is a combination of the aforementioned screen and battery or Android Lollipop’s ART run-time, I was impressed.
During a normal day, I would end at 60%, but never below that. This was definitely awesome to see, as my previous devices, such as the S6 edge, Nexus 6, and G3 all seemed to end with around 20-40% depending on usage. It just goes to show you specs aren’t everything, and a lower-tier device can definitely hold its own and compete.
As far as screen on time, I always ended with at least two hours on time, or very close to it. I never really got the change to heavily tax it, as it was finals week, but if you were to average it out, it is definitely on par for five hours of screen on time without being connected to WiFi, which is awesome.
While the Moto E may not boast the high-end specs, but it does boast a high-end bargain. For the amount of money this device costs, there is no other better device at a sub-$150 price. The term you get what you pay for definitely does not apply for this device.
Nothing really stands out for the Moto E, but that is a good thing. It functions quite well for 1 GB of RAM on a device for 2015 and receives prompt updates in a nearly stock Android package. It runs smooth for the most part but isn’t free of the occasional stutter.
If you are in the market for a budget device that is has good performance, the Moto E (2015) is the right device for you. Not only does it comes with a great user experience, but it comes in at a great price. It is definitely an upgrade from the Moto E (2014), and for $150, who can complain?