Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen) Review

Camera Hardware And Software

The Moto E (2nd gen) comes with a 5MP rear camera, the same resolution as the previous generation. This is fairly typical for phones in this price range, although we are starting to see some devices that are even cheaper come with 8MP cameras now.

The Moto E (2nd gen) uses the Samsung S5K5E2 1/5" CMOS sensor for its rear camera, which is the same sensor the HTC One (M8) used for its front-facing camera. Its 1.12μm pixels could hinder the camera’s low-light performance. This is a weak point for other phone cameras in the $100-$150 price range, which may take decent pictures in well-lit conditions, but produce unusable results in low light.

Further hampering its low-light capability is the lack of an LED flash. Most of the Moto E’s competitors come with a flash, a useful feature not just for taking pictures in the dark, but to use as a flashlight alternative too.

The rear camera for the Moto E (2nd gen) does have one significant improvement over its predecessor: autofocus. With only a fixed-focus rear camera, most of the photos taken with the original Moto E ended up being blurry, rendering the camera next to useless. It’s hard to believe an OEM would include a rear camera without autofocus, but it still happens at the low-end of the market.

Another improvement for the new model is the addition of a front-facing camera. The sensor is an Aptina MT9V113 that measures 1/11” in size and uses 2.2μm pixels, which are even larger than HTC’s “Ultra Pixels.” Resolution is only VGA (640x480), but in this price range it’s difficult to do much better.

Moto E (2nd gen) Camera Software

Starting with the Moto X, Motorola introduced a very simplistic and intuitive camera application that it has been using ever since. The app is designed to work automatically, leaving little for you to tinker with. You just point and shoot.

To take a picture you just have to tap once on the screen. If the camera is in focus, then it will take the picture very quickly. If it is not, then it it will wait anywhere from a fraction of a second to a second to focus and capture the image. Long pressing the screen activates burst mode, taking about four pictures per second and making it easier to capture a good image of a moving target.

Changing the focus and exposure is done by simply dragging the focus ring over the desired object. This is the extent of the camera controls exposed through the stock camera app and even this can be turned off.

The camera supports a 4x digital zoom, which is activated by sliding your finger up or down on the screen. It’s use should be limited, however, as the resolution is already quite low by default and digital zoom will only make it worse.

Sliding a finger from the right edge of the screen to left allows you to browse through your latest images and edit them.

Sliding a finger from the left edge of the screen to the right will open a carousel-like menu, where you can change the HDR setting, enable manual exposure and focus control, select the video mode, take a panorama, turn on a shot timer, and enable geotagging. There’s also an option for choosing where to store the files.

Finally, there’s the “Quick Capture” setting that allows you to open the Camera app with two flicks of the wrist. This functionality also appeared for the first time in the Moto X. It’s quite useful as it does save some time opening the camera app, although not as much as I would’ve liked (the camera app is still a little slow to load). With the camera app open, repeating the gesture switches between the front and rear cameras.

Video

Shooting video with the Moto E (2nd gen) is about as basic as it gets. It records video at 720p@30fps, which is actually an improvement on the first Moto E’s 480p@30fps video mode. It can also do slow motion video at 720p. In either case, the video produced is not particularly good, but better than nothing.

Rear Camera Video Modes

Video ModeResolutionFrame Rate (fps)Video Bit Rate (Mb/s)Video
Codec
ProfileAudio
Codec
Audio Bit
Rate (kb/s)
HD 720p1280x7203010H.264HighAAC128 (mono)

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17 comments
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  • 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