Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen) Review

Motorola’s second generation Moto E receives significant enhancements, including a faster 64-bit SoC, front-facing camera, and bigger battery. There’s even an LTE option. Is this budget smartphone worth more than its bargain price?

Flagships get all the glory and all the latest technology: blazing fast 64-bit octa-core processors; large, retina displays; wireless charging; high-resolution cameras with OIS and swift phase detection autofocus. While these premium phones may captivate our attention, not everyone needs their cutting-edge features or their extravagant prices. Fortunately, technology’s rapid pace of development has pushed once fanciful features into lower-cost phones.

Two years ago, Motorola launched the well-received, mid-range Moto G smartphone that cost only $179 for the 8GB version and $199 for the 16GB version. It had a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor, a 4.5-inch HD (1280x720) screen, and 1GB of RAM. These specs were seen in devices that cost almost double at the time such as the HTC One Mini or the Galaxy S4 Mini. With similar specs for half the price, the Moto G offered great value to customers looking for a low-priced, mid-range smartphone.

Then, about six months later, Motorola launched the even cheaper Moto E. Aimed at the 3G only market, it cost just $129 and came with a dual-core Cortex-A7 processor, a 4.3-inch qHD (960x540) screen, and also 1GB of RAM.

However, this device did not deliver the same value as the Moto G. It had a significantly worse camera with no flash, which is important for many customers in emerging markets, and no front-facing camera either. Motorola cut too many corners to create a device that was “only” $50 cheaper, which is why most people still recommended the Moto G over the Moto E. The Moto G was a much better package overall.

For the second generation of the Moto E, Motorola is offering two different versions that get several significant upgrades. There’s still a 3G only version for $120, but now there’s a 4G LTE version too for $150. Both models include 8GB of internal storage (twice as much as the original Moto E) and support microSD (up to 32GB). Battery size has also increased substantially from 1980mAh to 2390mAh, a 20% improvement. The new Moto E also adds a front-facing camera—a serious omission on the first generation—and the rear camera gets autofocus. Each version comes in either black or white.

The display has grown compared to the last generation Moto E, increasing from 4.3-inch to 4.5-inch. However, it keeps the same 960x540 resolution (245 PPI). Considering that the competing Lumia 635 comes with an even lower 854x480 resolution, the Moto E’s qHD resolution seems adequate for this price range.

Motorola Moto E Tech Specs

The second generation Moto E 3G still uses a Snapdragon 200 SoC like that found in the original version; however, it moves from a dual-core to quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU.

The Moto E 4G LTE, which we’ll be focusing on in this review, uses Qualcomm’s latest low-end SoC, the Snapdragon 410, which is the successor to the Snapdragon 400 found inside both generations of the Moto G. It has a quad-core 64-bit Cortex-A53 CPU and an Adreno 306 GPU.

This puts a bit of a kink in Motorola’s product lineup, since the Moto E 4G LTE should offer better system performance than the Moto G (2nd gen). Add in LTE support and it starts looking like a great value compared to the 3G only Moto G that costs $30 more. But what the Moto G lacks in system and wireless performance it makes up for with a larger, higher-resolution display, stereo front-facing speakers, and better cameras front and rear (with LED flash). The Moto G really needs LTE support to make it the clear mid-range option.

These jumbled system specs are a result of the staggered six-month release schedule, which gives the Moto E access to newer hardware. With LTE support becoming ubiquitous, we suspect this idiosyncrasy will disappear in Motorola’s third generation products.

Cellular

Model NumberMoto E 4G LTE
XT1527
Moto E 3G (US)
XT1511
Moto E 3G (Global)
XT1505
LTE2/4/5/7/12/17--
GSM850/900/1800/1900 MHz850/900/1800/1900 MHz
850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CDMA2000---
WCDMA2/4/52/4/51/2/5/8

The Snapdragon 410 SoC in the Moto E 4G LTE version includes Qualcomm’s third-generation Category 4 LTE modem on package. Functionally equivalent to the Qualcomm MDM9225 baseband processor, it offers 150 Mb/s down and 50 Mb/s up with carrier aggregation. It also supports HSPA+ Release 10 for 84 Mb/s down using dual-carrier HSDPA, along with most major radio modes, including GSM/EDGE, UMTS (WCDMA, TD-SCDMA), LTE (LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD), CDMA1x, and EV-DO Rev. B. It does not support CDMA2000, however.

We were unable to confirm this, but it’s likely that the primary transceiver is paired with the WFR1620 receive-only transceiver, since this baseband generation can’t support full Category 4 LTE speeds on its own.

The two 3G variants utilize the Qualcomm baseband integrated into the Snapdragon 200 SoC, delivering 3G speeds up to 42 Mbps. It supports GSM/EDGE, WCDMA, CDMA1x, and EV-DO Rev. A.

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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