We don’t get our hands on enough Motorola phones at Stuff Towers. That’s because, surprise surprise, they more or less have to be imported though you can now get them through a certain online store that rhymes with orange. Wait…
Anywho, that’s how I got my hands on the Moto E, the basic Android 5.0 smartphone from Motorola. And if this review was being done just a little bit sooner, it might have turned out different. But the Xiaomi Redmi 2 appeared in our offices at about the same time and… well… that race got extremely close.
A Slightly Grainy Texture
Enough of that, though, we’re actually here to talk about the Moto E. It’s not a premium phone by anyone’s measurements. Even a blind person would be tablet to tell you that, based purely on the phone’s heft and the knurled texture of the back-plate. That same person would be able to tell you that the Moto E also doesn’t feel cheap – if you’re looking with your fingertips, you’ll know that it’s built to last.
It’s just not terribly attractive or inventive. The curved, textured back is non-slip and the 4.5-inch 540 x 960 display is more utilitarian than pretty. There’s a single charge port at the bottom of the phone, a headphone jack on time and the power/volume keys on the right-hand side (also textured). Basic, what you see is what you get, and it gets the job done. This will become a theme later.
Lacking In The Specs Department
Well, you would expect a phone like the Moto E to be a bit lacking in places. One of the spots where that lack is most apparent is with the 4.5-inch display. That 540 x 960 screen could have been brighter and a whole lot less reflective. The slightest bit of light turns this handset into a handy little pocket mirror – nice if you need to check makeup (hey, don’t judge), not so great if you need to check an SMS.
There’s a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 inside here, as well as 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. Theoretically, anyway, the operating system chews up a big chunk of the storage space. It’s a good thing that there’s a microSD slot tucked away with the SIM card slot under the backplate. Limited to a 32GB upgrade. Aw, bugger.
Better In Some Places
Benchmarks are fun, aren’t they? It’s gotten to the point that Google just downloads them for me every time I sign into a new Android (yes, I know that’s a setting thing). As usual, I hit the Moto E’s somewhat skimpy specs with a smachdown from Geekbench and come up with a 473 single core score, which is comparable to the Xperia Z. 1442 was the multi-core result, closer to the Nexus 10 from Samsung. It’s also damned close to the results achieved by the Xiaomi Redmi 2, the closest competition we’ve seen to the Moto E. But AnTutu tells a different story, the Moto E scored 22,186 – about 2,000 more than Xiaomi’s handset managed. And that’s why we’ve given the Moto E props for the performance edge.
The internet connectivity is another area where the Moto E and the Redmi 2 are close. Both of them pack LTE and they’re equally as fast so the crown has to go to the Moto E by a whisker. Just ‘coz of that AnTuTu difference, really. I like to think of it as a photo finish.
Not So Great In Others
Speaking of photos, that’s one area where the Redmi 2 is a winner. Motorola have included a decidedly average 5MP camera here. It’ll graft if you’re going to put it in ideal conditions but if you’re going to those lengths then you might as well unship a real camera. But you’re not going to be buying the Moto E with photography in mind (besides, if you’re going after a budget LTE phone with a decent cam, the Redmi 2 has an 8MP sensor you should look at).
The other deficient areas have already been addressed, the display could have been less blinding and Motorola’s storage claims are a little misleading but I can deal with that for LTE without paying all the money for it.
The Moto E isn’t the world’s best phone. It’s not even in the top 100 unless you’re looking at a balance of features that offsets its ability to run Android Lollipop relatively hassle-free, access LTE networks and run for ages on a charge (Oh, yes, it does like to do an Energiser Bunny impression). There are sacrifices made to get it to this point while keeping it cheap. And the price is arguably the best thing about the Moto E. A sub-R2,000 phone with LTE and Android 5.0? I’ll take two. Not entirely sure what I’ll do with all those phones but no matter.