Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen) Review

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of inexpensive Android phones in the market, but most combine subpar hardware with outdated software to create a truly lamentable user experience. Motorola broke the status quo with the first Moto G by combining decent hardware with a current version of Android—along with the promise of regular updates—all for an affordable $180 price. It then created the Moto E, an even more affordable phone targeted at first-time smartphone users.

Motorola made too many compromises with the first Moto E, however. It had a slower processor, less storage, smaller screen, lower resolution, no front-facing camera, and a next to useless rear camera with no autofocus or LED flash. Far too much to sacrifice for a mere $50 savings.

For the second generation, Motorola fixes many of these shortcomings. Performance gets a boost from the new Snapdragon 410 SoC and its improved Cortex-A53 CPU cores. System performance is about 10-20% better than the more expensive Moto G, a difference that is noticeable in real-world use.

The Moto G offers more raw GPU performance, but because of the Moto E’s lower screen resolution, it actually offers better onscreen graphics performance. You might not be able to play the most intense 3D games on the Play store, but the Moto E can handle the more casual 2D games that are prevalent.

The new Moto E also sees its internal storage double to 8GB, the same as in the Moto G. Only 4.58GB are available to the user out of the box, but this can be expanded with a microSD card. We did find the Moto E’s internal storage a bit slow, but it did not appear to affect overall performance substantially.

Motorola’s simple and intuitive camera app powers an upgraded camera experience. There’s now a low-resolution VGA camera on the front, which is better than nothing, and the rear camera gets autofocus. It produces decent images in bright light, but the 5MP rear sensor produces dark and very noisy images in less than perfect lighting. Without an LED flash to brighten up the scene, the Moto E’s camera is essentially unusable in the evening or in romantically lit rooms.

A similar dichotomy exists for the new Moto E’s display. Size increases from 4.3-inches to 4.5-inches, but it retains the same 960x540 resolution as the first generation, reducing pixel density to 245 PPI. This gives the screen a bit of a grainy look, but the color accuracy is quite good. We were surprised to see such a well calibrated screen at this price point, especially considering how poor the screen on Motorola’s flagship Nexus 6 looks.

We did find it disappointing that the screen bends slightly even under light pressure. The problem with this is that your fingers will slide with greater friction on the screen, just enough to make it a little frustrating to use. The Moto G’s rigid cover glass makes using the touchscreen much more accurate and enjoyable. The potential upside to the Moto E’s semi-flexible screen is that it might be more resistant to cracking if dropped.

Like the screen and internal storage, the Moto E’s battery size has also been increased. The battery held out for more than eight hours of continuous use in the PCMark battery test, and we were able to get two to three days of moderate use on a single charge, significantly more than with the Moto G.

While not perfect, the Moto E 4G LTE is a solid smartphone and a good value. For $30 less than the Moto G (2nd gen), you get better performance and battery life, not to mention the Moto G is 3G-only. Sure, there are similar phones that are even cheaper, but they can’t match the polish of the Moto E 4G LTE and its overall user experience. That is why it comes Editor Recommended.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering News. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Matt Humrick is a Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones and Tablets. Follow him on Twitter.

Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.


This thread is closed for comments
17 comments
    Your comment
  • emad_ramlawi
    Lenovo k30-W for the win
    all the above +
    HD ready resolution 720p
    internal storage 16GB
    the only con, is there OS, which is good, but not really vanilla android
  • atljsf
    i bought one and had to return it, it restarts while charging and motorola at this moment hasn't solved the problem, a shame because it is a nice fast phone
  • tekelymailcom
    The only international variant mentioned is the XT1505 but there are more. I found very interesting the XT1523 which has 16GB, dual sim and digital TV reciever.
  • HideOut
    There might be an error in the speaker/sound part above. "Plugging in a set of good headphones provides a similar listening experience. Relative to the iPhone 6, bass has less punch and the Moto E lacks clarity; the signal-to-noise ratio seems higher." The S/N ratio on the Moto E should be LOWER, not higher if it sounds like its lacking clarity.
  • HideOut
    There might be an error in the speaker/sound part above. "Plugging in a set of good headphones provides a similar listening experience. Relative to the iPhone 6, bass has less punch and the Moto E lacks clarity; the signal-to-noise ratio seems higher." The S/N ratio on the Moto E should be LOWER, not higher if it sounds like its lacking clarity.
  • HideOut
    site posting is not working well...Either nothing or multiples
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    The S/N ratio on the Moto E should be LOWER, not higher if it sounds like its lacking clarity.


    Good point. I must have been thinking of THD, which is expressed as a percent. I've made the necessary correction.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • Dr3amCast
    I also purchased this phone and experience the restart while charging issue. Also, the performance is on par with a very, very basic Lumia 510 I had the misfortunate of having to use for a short time. The phone chugs while multi-tasking. And I mean by just hitting the home screen instead of closing out of apps. And even that takes an inordinate amount of time. I'm talking a noticeable 3-4 seconds after you hit home: your background wallpaper shows up, but no icons or app try icon, then another second or 2 later the icons show up. It's performance is dreadful. As well is its 1GB of memory. If I'm in the car I use bluetooth and Google Play Music / Google Maps. If I begin navigating to a destination and begin playing music Maps will close. I'm assuming due to lack of sufficient RAM. If I'm at a stop light and open snapchat, Google Play Music, Maps or Waze will close if I view a Snap. It's really rather frustrating the more you use the device. And I don't have many apps on here at all. Essentially just FB, Twitter, Snapchat, Waze, WatchESPN, HBOGo. That's all. It's frustrating seeing reviews like these on this phone that don't actually put it through its paces for a decent amount of time.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    I also purchased this phone and experience the restart while charging issue. Also, the performance is on par with a very, very basic Lumia 510 I had the misfortunate of having to use for a short time. The phone chugs while multi-tasking.


    I'm sorry you had a poor experience, but thanks for taking the time to add your story. This is why we included the HTC Desire Eye in our performance evaluation, so our readers could see the performance delta between some lower-cost devices and last year's flagships running Snapdragon 801 SoCs, which are now considered mid-tier.

    Our unit did not experience the restart while charging issue, and while this comes as no solace to you, the Moto E handled its 1GB of RAM better than the Lumia 830 did during our testing and evaluation.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • quadrider21
    I've experianced BT connectivity problems with both the Moto G and this new Moto E when connected to various cars. I'd be wary purchasing these phones if you rely on BT connectivity in your cars.
  • MyDocuments
    Interesting reading and thanks for the review.

    I bought the original Motorola-E (3G) for an older family member as a replacement for their aging Nokia clamshell phone that barely managed a days life depite having a new battery. The problem was not only living in a relatively weak signal area but more that it was constantly running Bluetooth whilst being paired with a car-stereo for hands-free operation. Therefore I assumed that a more modern cellphone with a newer Bluetooth implementation could last a whole lot longer.

    After extensive internet research I dicovered that the original Motorola-E had very good battery life (a few day of talk time) and very good call-quality, and seeing as said family member was likely to be using it mainly for calls I could assume that the internet-reviewed (hammered!) battery-life could thus be extended, and indeed this was proven correct.

    At that time and around 90-100 GBP from the local Argos & SIM free I considered it a cheaper alternative for a mainly calls, minimum data use (unless at home on the WiFi of course - I'm thinking of updates), small-ish, slightly rugged; Gorilla-Glass, removable back-cover and serviceable (replacement batteries). A throw in the bag type mobile that might survive a re-shuffle with other items in said bag (keys, pens, loose-change, etc.). It also uses a (charger not supplied) standard micro-USB connector for charging, so the car-charger and home-charger can be any number of generic cheap types. Thieving was another consideration, hence a cheaper-end phone hopefully providing a less attractive target.

    A chubby-stylus was added for less that a pound, the type that can be attached with a small line to the headphone socket for safe keeping, as older family members tend to have drier skin and so touch screens aren't always as accessible to them.

    The only thing missing iirc was the camera light that can be a handy aid on dark nights, however to mitigate that the main-screen illumination can also be sufficient for emergency use.

    I have to say that I am still pleased with the original Motorola-E purchase and have to wonder how the battery life compares with light useage when the newer model likely required a larger battery due to the faster processing power and extra electronics that it now facilitates, some can be switched off I know but always leaking power.
  • tstng
    I have an issue with the Battery Life tests you've done. The new 2015 Moto G uses the same 2390mAh as the new Moto E, and not the 2070 mAh. The 2070 mAh is used in the old Moto G versions. So, while the 4.5in screen of the Moto E would increase battery lifetime over the 5.0in Moto G, the difference should not be that big.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    I have an issue with the Battery Life tests you've done. The new 2015 Moto G uses the same 2390mAh as the new Moto E, and not the 2070 mAh. The 2070 mAh is used in the old Moto G versions. So, while the 4.5in screen of the Moto E would increase battery lifetime over the 5.0in Moto G, the difference should not be that big.


    The Moto G (2nd gen) has a 2070 mAh battery according to Motorola, and this is the model we tested. I should have used the generation nomenclature (like in the text) in the chart rather than the year to avoid confusion.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • tstng
    There are currently 4 versions of the Moto G:

    The original, released in Nov 2013, which had 4.5in screen, 5 mpx cam, and 2070 mAh
    The updated one, released in May 2014, same specs except had storage expansion and LTE, same 2070 mAh.
    The first 2nd gen, released in Sep 2014, which had 5in screen, 8 mpx cam, no LTE, same 2070 mAh.
    The updated 2nd gen, released in Feb 2015, same as above, except has LTE and 2390 mAh. This is the one you should have been reviewing, but i guess you mixed them up. Dont believe me, here's the comparison of the last 3 versions (the original excluded cause the site can only compare 3 at a time)
    http://www.phonearena.com/phones/compare/Motorola-Moto-G-LTE,Motorola-Moto-G-2014,Motorola-Moto-G-LTE-2015/phones/8655,8898,9155

    And before you say that site has it wrong, ALL proper reviews comfirm it has 2390 mAh battery, and decent battery life span in tests backs this up. And I even checked at my usual online shop and confirmed it as well.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    There are currently 4 versions of the Moto G:


    While a 4G version of the Moto G (2nd gen) with a larger 2390 mAh battery does exist, my understanding is that it was only ever released in Europe. There is no mention of it on Motorola's US website, and when I requested a Moto G review unit from Motorola, they sent me the 3G (2nd gen).

    Have you actually seen one for sale in North America? Can you buy one unlocked? I checked online and could only find the 4G (1st gen) for sale.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
  • tstng
    1814010 said:
    Quote:
    There are currently 4 versions of the Moto G:
    While a 4G version of the Moto G (2nd gen) with a larger 2390 mAh battery does exist, my understanding is that it was only ever released in Europe. There is no mention of it on Motorola's US website, and when I requested a Moto G review unit from Motorola, they sent me the 3G (2nd gen). Have you actually seen one for sale in North America? Can you buy one unlocked? I checked online and could only find the 4G (1st gen) for sale. - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware


    Well, that is the oddest thing I have ever seen. Why wouldn't Motorola sell the best version of their merchandise in the US of all places? That's just bad business in my opinion. Well, at least the confusion is cleared up, but the review is misleading to anyone in Europe.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    Well, that is the oddest thing I have ever seen. Why wouldn't Motorola sell the best version of their merchandise in the US of all places? That's just bad business in my opinion. Well, at least the confusion is cleared up, but the review is misleading to anyone in Europe.


    It's definitely confusing, but not as bad as the Galaxy Note 4, for example. It comes in over 20 different SKUs for different regions and carriers, and they have different combinations of SoCs, baseband processors, audio codecs, camera sensors, etc.!

    While we have readers from all over the world, the main Tom's site focuses on North America. We do have regional Tom's sites (UK, Germany, France, Italy, etc.) that cover products sold in those areas, though.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware