Moto E5: Full, in-depth, review

Motorola E5
  • Motorola E5
  • Motorola E5
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Great price
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Uneven performance
  • Average camera

Bottom Line

Though there’s plenty to like about the Moto E5 on its own merits, it falls short when stacked up against last year’s E4.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

While the "high-end" Moto Z series devices are definitely interesting. They haven't always been easy to recommend. By contrast, Motorola’s budget and mid-tier devices have become a consistent strong point within the brand's portfolio. Each year, entries in the mainline G-series receives a strong-reception. As does the more-affordable E-series.

When we reviewed last year’s E4, we said that “as far as $249 smartphones go, the Moto E4 is hard to beat. Sure, some corners have been undeniably cut. However, where it counts, the experience is a whole lot better and smoother than a lot of what else is out there. Additional inclusions like a fingerprint sensor and support for Nougat’s Google Assistant contribute to making the E4 feel a whole lot more expensive than it actually is.”

Now, we’re checking back in with the new Moto E5.

Specs

Display size: 5.7 inches

Display type: IPS LCD, HD+ (720 x 1440 pixels), 18:9 ratio

Processor: Snapdragon 425

Weight: 174g

Dimensions: 154.4 x 72.2 x 9 mm

Operating System: Android 8.0

Fingerprint Sensor: Yes

Face Unlock: No

RAM: 2GB

Storage: 16GB

Durability: N/A

Ports: Micro USB, 3.5mm headphone jack

SIM: Single

Battery: 4000mAh

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 4, Cat 4 LTE

Rear Camera:13-megapixel rear-camera

Front-Facing Camera: 5-megapixel

Read more: Moto X4 review: This is what a world without MotoMods looks like

Colors: Flash gray, Fine Gold

Price: $229

Design - Look, Feel and Features

The first thing I noticed about the Moto E5 was that it was a little heavier than the E4 was. Despite this, it manages to come across as both sharper and cleaner when it comes to design. This might look like yet another Moto smartphone - but it doesn't look bad by any stretch.

There’s a handful of smart, keeping-up-with-Samsung-style additions on offer here. Where the E4 had a display with a conventional aspect ratio, the Moto E5 makes the jump to 18:9. Likewise, where its predecessor had a fingerprint sensor on the front, the E5 bumps the sensor to the back.

Otherwise, there’s not a huge amount of differences to report on here. The broad-strokes look of E5 is pretty synonymous with the broad strokes look of the E4.

Again, this similarity isn't inherently a weakness. To look at and to use, both devices come across as nicer than they ought to given the price. For better or worse, the E4 and the E5 also share a lot of the same kit. They both pack 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and support expansion via MicroSD card. They even share the same, solid, always-on display.

If anything, there’s enough shared heritage here that I don’t know how much I could recommend picking up the E5 over a discounted E4. The former is definitely the better device in feel and form-factor. But it rarely felt better enough that I could say I noticed all that much. If you're already using the E4, the pitch to upgrade here is also undercut by this synchronicity.

When it comes down to it, Motorola’s track record for mid-tier and budget-devices is as strong as these things get. The E5 continues that trend but it’s not a massive leap forward for the brand.

Camera - How does it compare to the competition?

That said, the camera on the Moto E5 does come with some modest improvements over its predecessor.

The version of the Moto E4 that came to Australia around this time last year featured an 8-megapixel camera.

The Moto E5 bumps that up to 13-megapixels and, as that you’d expect, that difference yields better results. Colors are bright, details are often lost.

At the end of the day, this is still a $229 smartphone - you get what you pay for here.

Daylight shots look nice, if occasionally overexposed. Low-light is a definite weakness.

If you've read many of my budget smartphone reviews before, this might be a familiar story - but it's just where things are at right now.

Performance - Software, Performance and Battery Life

Where the Moto E4 ran on Nougat, the Moto E5 upgrades the experience to Android 8.0 Oreo. Unfortunately, this particular advance doesn’t come without cost.

Moto’s particular strain of Android is usually pretty good when it comes to optimization. It's also pretty light on bloatware.

Unfortunately, this time around, that failed to be of consequence. I found that my experience with the E5 was constantly dragged down by performance issues.

I’d frequently tap on things, only for the input to lag or not be detected at all. More oft than not, it would take a good five swipes before my attempts to unlock the device were actually picked up.

Even if the Moto E5 is smooth once in motion, that quality rarely translated into actual responsiveness. Before long, this cocktail of frustration really soured me on the E5.

When it came to benchmarks, the Moto E5 held its own but didn’t exactly dominate the charts. Last year’s Huawei Y5 remained competitive here, as did the Moto E4.

Of course, the biggest selling point on the Moto E5's spec-sheet is the 4000mAh battery.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 4000mAh is currently the best way to go when it comes to smartphone batteries. It certainly pays dividends here. I wasn’t always thrilled with the consistency of the performance involved, the Moto E5 routinely lasted me two days per charge. Even if we forgot to leave the device on charge overnight, we’d still plenty of juice left to work with the next day.

We’re talking fourteen or more hours of average, active use here, though - as always - your mileage may vary. Particularly, if you watch or film a lot of video content or crank the brightness way up.

The Moto E5 does support fast charging via Micro USB but does not cater to any of the Qi wireless chargers out there.

The Bottom Line

Though there’s plenty to like about the Moto E5 on its own merits, it falls short when stacked up against last year’s E4.

Where other brands are going all-out packing value into their budget buys, Motorola have opted for a by-the-numbers upgrade to last year’s offering. The extra battery life does count for something - but it's not quite enough to give it an edge over the competition or its own predecessors.

If the performance was just a few notches more consistent or the price-tag just that little bit cheaper, it’d be an easy sell as a go-to budget device. As it is, the E5 fails to be anything but yet another Moto budget smartphone in an increasingly-crowded space.

That doesn't mean it's bad. But in a year where budget buyers are getting more value than ever, it's just not enough.

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Read more on these topics: Motorola, Moto, budget smartphones, Motorola E5, Moto E5
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