There’s no shortage of inexpensive Android phones in the market, but most combine subpar hardware with outdated software to create a truly lamentable user experience.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+.