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Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Great value and performance at a budget

Moto E 2015 press shot
Our Rating :
£142.49 from
Price when reviewed : £109
inc VAT SIM-free

The camera isn't great, but the new Moto E is still great value, with a bigger, better screen, faster internals and a longer-lasting battery


Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Screen Size: 4.5in, Screen resolution: 960×540, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 130x67x12.3mm, Weight: 145g, Operating system: Android 5.0.2

Since the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 arrived in the market, it put pressure on other budget smartphone manufacturers to step-up their game. The Ultra 6 was so good, that it not only outclassed the 2nd Gen Moto G, but also the 3rd Gen Moto G too. This also gives the cheap 2nd Gen Moto E a run for its money.

The Ultra 6 is a 5.5in smartphone, and we know that not everyone wants to have a large smartphone – the 2nd Gen Moto E is a 4.5in phone, making it a lot easier for some to use it for one-handed operations.

The 2nd Gen Moto E has 4G support, a great screen, a fast quad-core processor, a front camera, good amounts of storage and runs Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop. Originally reviewed at £109, it can now be found for under £90.

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Design

The new Moto E is based around a 4.5in display and is a compact if slightly chunky 130x67x12.3mm. In terms of looks, though, the new Moto E retains the same comfortable, ergonomic design as the original Moto E and its strong unibody chassis makes it by far one of the best-made phones you’re likely to find under £110.

Motorola Moto E 2015 rear header^ Here’s the Moto E with the optional Grip Shell case, that replaces the band around the edge of the screen and covers the rear of the case

The only major difference is rather than having a removable back panel, you can now detach the phone’s frame and swap it for different coloured bands or transparent grip shells, adding an extra touch of style and personality to its otherwise plain white or black chassis. Both are very easy to put on, but getting the bands off again will either need a sharp set of nails or a bit of elbow grease. Still, underneath the band, you’ll find slots for a micro SIM and microSD card, which can expand the phone’s 8GB of onboard storage up to 32GB.

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Android 5.0 & Moto apps

We’re pleased to see some of Motorola’s premium features make their way down to the new Moto E as well. For instance, the Moto app lets you configure Motorola’s Moto Display, which shows the time and small notification icons when the screen’s turned off. You can also jump straight into those notifications by sliding your finger up toward the top of the screen, or ignore them by swiping to the left or right.

Admittedly, this isn’t quite so important now that Android 5.0 does essentially the same thing on the lock screen, but it’s still nice to be able to see the time without having to press any buttons whatsoever. Sadly, the new Moto E’s Moto Display is nowhere near as responsive as the version on the Moto X, as we found the phone often wouldn’t register that we’d picked it up, showing nothing but a blank screen.

This is a shame, as this is by far one of our favourite Motorola features and, if it was on par with the Moto X, would give the Moto E a serious advantage over its more expensive cousin, the Moto G, which currently doesn’t have Moto Display support.

Motorola Moto E 2015 Moto Display^ Moto Display is very handy if you want to save battery, but it’s a shame it’s not quite as responsive as the Moto X’s Moto Display

Still, we certainly appreciate Motorola’s other features. Sleep Mode, for instance, will keep the screen turned off at night so it doesn’t disturb your sleep, but still let the phone ring or receive messages from priority contacts. Strangely, you have to configure the latter setting using the Sound & Notification’s Interruption menu, but here you’ll be able to decide whether you still want to receive calls, messages and event reminders during your ‘downtime’ hours. The same applies to meetings. Here, the phone will look at your calendar to work out when you’re busy and will send auto-reply texts to anyone who tries to contact you during that time.

Moto Alert makes a welcome return as well, which is particularly handy for parents if they’re buying the Moto E for a child as it lets others know about the phone user’s whereabouts. Follow Me, for instance, will send your current location to select contacts at specified intervals so that concerned family members know where you are, but it’s also useful for tracking down friends in a large crowd.

Motorola Moto E 2015 Moto Alert app^ Moto Alert is a great feature if you want to keep an eye on where your friends and family are

Meet Me, on the other hand, will send texts to contacts telling them where to meet you. Lastly, Emergency will sound an alarm, auto-dial your chosen emergency contact number and send a text alert to them to let you know you’re in trouble. It worked extremely well when we tried it out ourselves, both on landline and mobile numbers, so it should give you extra peace of mind if your child’s out with friends unsupervised.

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Camera

If you want to quickly capture a photo, you can also twist the phone back and forth in your wrist to instantly activate the phone’s rear-5-megapixel camera. Admittedly, the camera isn’t fantastic, as our test images alternated between looking quite muddy and far too overexposed depending on the surrounding lighting conditions. Detail was a little grainy at times as well, and the phone’s HDR mode looked very harsh and washed out compared to the normal camera mode.

Motorola Moto E 2015 camera test^ The camera coped well with the overcast weather conditions, but the sky still looks very grainy and overexposed at full resolutionMotorola Moto E 2015 camera test HDR mode^ HDR mode helped correct the exposure, but also made colours look very harsh and unnatural in the process

A big difference between this model and the old Moto E is the addition of a front-facing camera. It only has a 640×480 resolution, so you’re not going to get the best selfies from it, but for video chat and the quick snap, it’s very handy.

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Performance

Fortunately, the rest of the phone has received several much-needed improvements since the original Moto E. Now that it supports 4G, the Moto E (2015) is powered by a faster quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor and 1GB of RAM, putting it on par with several mid-range phones such as the HTC Desire 620 which is twice as expensive. A cheaper 3G-only version of the handset uses a different, slower chipset; it’s not available in the UK but beware if you see a cheap grey import.

With a SunSpider JavaScript score of 1,323ms and a PCMark score of 3,411, the 2nd Gen Moto E is very quick for such a cheap phone. Its document writing score of 4,844 in PCMark is also one of the best we’ve seen, so composing texts and editing emails should be lightning fast and extremely responsive. Web browsing was equally impressive, as we were able to load and scroll down web pages with hardly any lag whatsoever, and panning and zooming in were smooth and judder-free.

A faster processor usually means better graphics performance as well, and the Moto E was able to produce 23.1fps (or 5,344) in our 3DMark Ice Storm test. It will struggle with more complex 3D games as it only managed 15.5fps (or 2,511) in Ice Storm Extreme, but these scores are still roughly 5-7 frames faster than the original Moto E, and we were pleased to see an average of 44.8fps in Epic Citadel on Ultra High quality settings as well.

Our newer benchmark uses GFX Bench and the Moto E managed 394 frames (6.4fps) in the onscreen test, with 112 frames (1.8fps) in the offscreen test. Neither scores will set the world alight but the Moto E 2nd Gen will happily play more simplistic titles such as Threes! or Candy Crush Saga without too many issues. Gaming performance is significantly better compared to the similarly-priced Samsung Galaxy J1, which was incapable of even completing the GFX Bench test.

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Battery life

The 2nd Gen Moto E’s battery life was even better, as its 2,390mAh battery lasted an outstanding 13h 30m in our continuous video playback test with the brightness set to 170cd/m2 (a little below half brightness). This is more than three hours longer than the original Moto E, which already set a fairly high standard for budget phones with its battery life of just under 10 hours. Again, the Moto E 2nd Gen eclipsed the Samsung Galaxy J1 here as well, with the J1 lasting 10 hours and 7 minutes.

This also beats Motorola’s 2nd Gen Moto G, which lasted just 9h 43m in the same test with its 2,070mAh battery. This is outstanding for a phone of this price and gives the 2nd Gen Moto G a serious run for its money. If you want to compare it to recent phones have a look at our Best battery life phones.

Motorola Moto E 2015 vs Moto E 2014 rear^ Like the old Moto E (right), you still can’t remove the battery on the new Moto E (left), but we much prefer the removable bands to a removable back panel

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Display

The Moto G still has a few advantages over its little sibling, though, as its larger 5in 1,280×720 screen is much easier on the eyes than the Moto E’s more compact 4.5in 960×540 display. Desktop sites were particularly hard to see on the Moto E without zooming in, and the phone’s viewing angles weren’t particularly wide either, as the screen would quickly darken when we weren’t looking at it face on.

Still, the screen’s image quality was very good, as our colour calibrator showed it was displaying 95.2% of the sRGB colour gamut. Its blue and magenta coverage was a little short, but the rest of its colour coverage was evenly spread across the gamut, producing warm, vivid colours that were pleasing to the eye. Blacks were deep, too, measuring 0.35cd/m2, while its contrast ratio of 1,010:1 meant that images showed plenty of detail.

Motorola Moto E 2015 vs Motorola Moto G 2014^ The 2nd Moto G (left) is larger than the 2nd Moto E (right), but both share a very similar design

Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen review: Conclusion

The Motorola Moto E (2015) is a fantastic budget smartphone. It may not have the best camera in the world and the Moto apps could be easier to set up, but with 4G support, a fantastic battery life and Android 5.0, it’s a great value handset that’s an excellent alternative to either the 3G or 4G versions of the 2nd Gen Moto G and superior to rivals at this price such as the Samsung Galaxy J1.

However, those looking for a real bargain and don’t mind having a massive phone should definitely consider the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, as it’s not only much faster and has a much better camera, but it also has a gorgeous 5.5in Full HD display and comes with the same plain version of Android 5.0. If none of these suit your needs, though, then check out our regularly-updated Best Smartphones and buying guide.

ProcessorQuad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Screen size4.5in
Screen resolution960×540
Screen typeIPS
Front cameraVGA
Rear camera5-megapixel
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.0.2
Battery size2,390mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£109
Price on contract (inc VAT)N/A
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
Contract/prepay supplierN/A
Part codeXT1505

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