Last year, Motorola changed the entry-level smartphone market with the release of the Moto G, a solid handset with impressive specs — 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 720 x 1,280-pixel resolution screen — for an affordable £135.
The device was an astounding success and proved once and for all that not everybody needs a top-end iPhone or Galaxy S5 when a cheaper device can do many of the same functions to a perfectly decent standard.
The Moto G’s success suggests Motorola has found its niche again, and the Moto E — an even cheaper smartphone with similarly solid specs — hopes to take it to the next level.
So is the Moto E the final word in entry-level smartphones?
[alert type=alert-blue]Design [/alert]
With its curved design, relatively small screen size (4.3 inches) and slightly heavy weight (142g), the Moto E is not dissimilar to the Moto G.
One of the best design features of the device is the brightly coloured shells that can be bought separately, allowing you to customise your handset.
Our review device was all black, which is perfectly fine for professional use, but we prefer the other, more playful options such as bright green and pink.
Design touches are minimal across the handset and amount to silver metallic strips on the two speakers at the front, just two physical buttons in the shape of the power and slightly larger volume controls and a large camera lens on the back.
There is nothing distinguishable about the design here. Colourful handsets are already the domain of the Nokia Lumia range — which will soon boast another entry-level handset in the form of the Lumia 630. Nonetheless, users should welcome the option to customise.
Motorola claims the screen on the Moto E — at 540 x 960 pixels and 256 pixels per inch — has the sharpest resolution in its class.
Looking around at similarly priced handsets, none can match that resolution, so it seems Motorola is right.
The slightly pricier Huawei Ascend Y300 has a lower 480 x 800-pixel resolution; the LG Optimus L3 II’s screen packs a meagre 240 x 320 pixels; and the ZTE Blade III has a 480 x 800-pixel resolution. So the Moto E is the outright winner.
It’s one thing to boast about your device’s specs on paper, but the results can be worlds apart when testing a device hands-on.
Thankfully, watching high-quality videos on the Moto E via YouTube offers a relatively crisp and smooth experience.
So, while there are better displays out there on higher-end handsets, the Moto E is by far the best in its class.
We should add that there’s little internal storage out of the box — just 4GB. So you’re unlikely to want to hog the space on your device with HD video clip downloads.
Just stick to streaming videos online unless you plan to increase the storage via the micro SD card slot.
Additionally, at 4.3 inches, the screen on the Moto E is slightly larger than on the aforementioned devices and even some high-end handsets such as the iPhone 5s. This certainly adds to the visual appeal, both when watching video clips and playing games.
Since it comes with the most recent Android operating system — 4.4 KitKat — pre-installed, the Moto E is quick out of the gate. From then on out, it never looks back.
The OS interface runs extremely smoothly and is a joy to use.
Image and video-heavy apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all took a second load timelines as we were quickly swiping through them. But for general browsing, this is not an issue.
Meanwhile, when performing multiple tasks such as app downloads, updates, and playing YouTube clips, it took a few seconds to open, and still all the video images didn’t appear.
However, the same waiting time can affect most handsets — even high- end devices — so it’s hardly a major complaint.
Most apps run smoothly on the handset and web pages load in a sufficiently acceptable time.
If you mostly use a phone for those things, the affordable Moto E is the perfect option. Its cheap price also makes it an attractive smartphone for first-time buyers such as younger users who are more likely to use the device for gaming. Unfortunately, this is where the Moto E slips up a little.
Its 1.2GHz processor means that while it can handle powerful titles — such as the large racing game Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed — the frame rate is slower compared to high-end devices with better chips. Additionally, we downloaded the high-end racing game Real Racing 3 and the device didn’t have enough built- in storage to update and load the title.
A less powerful game like the endless runner Jetpack Joyride performed perfectly well. Hardcore mobile gamers looking to play more powerful titles may want to seek out a device with a punchier processor, though that will obviously come at a higher price.
The Moto E is seriously lacking unique features, but for a price as low as this, cutbacks need to be made.
There is no front-facing camera and the rear- facing snapper has a poor 5-megapixel capacity and no real functionality settings. Meanwhile, video recording quality is unimpressive at 854 x 480 pixels and 30 frames per second. The camera is not great for capturing anything too detailed or panoramic.
The touch controls allow you to tap anywhere on the screen to take a snap, which again emphasises that this low-grade camera is better suited to taking multiple generic shots — perhaps as visual notes — rather than anything too detailed.
Despite a lack of features and some gaming constraints due to its processor, the Moto E works fine for most tasks.
Its operating system interface is as smooth as you will find on high-end devices and it only lags behind those same handsets very slightly when it comes to using apps and web browsing.
Its overall smooth performance and general usability mean that it is even worth a consideration for fans of more expensive devices.
For the price, you’ll be hard pressed to find another smartphone that runs as smoothly as the Moto E. For everyday tasks such as web browsing, using apps, watching videos and low-end gaming, it’s faultless. A joy to use.
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