Motorola first launched the Moto E5 alongside the Moto G6 and siblings back in the early part of 2018 but although the Moto G6 arrived almost immediately, it’s taken five months for Motorola to finally bring us the super-cheap Moto E5. Presumably, that’s because Motorola didn’t want to undermine sales of the Motorola G6 with what, initially, looked like a better value phone.
Like the Moto G6, the Moto E5 comes in three different flavours: the regular Moto E5 which is on review here, the Moto E5 Plus, which comes with a ridiculously large 5,000mAh battery, and the E5 Play, which is the baby and cheapest of the bunch.
Motorola Moto E5 review: What you need to know
The Moto E5 series is positioned to appeal to those on a tight budget. Prices range from £79 to £150 so the phones are even more reasonably priced than the already-extraordinarily-good-value Moto G6 and G6 Play.
The Moto E5 itself doesn’t look like a budget phone, though. It’s an Android handset running Oreo 8.1 has a large 5.7in 720 x 1,440, narrow aspect display, a 13-megapixel f/2 rear camera and a 4,000mAh battery. Inside, it runs the same core hardware as its more expensive sibling, the Moto E5 Plus – a 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor – and it comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage.
Motorola Moto E5 review: Price and competition
If the core specifications are impressive, the price is even more tempting. The Moto E5 is priced at £120 SIM-free and at that sort of price you have a few alternatives to consider. Our pick of the bunch right now is the Honor 7A, which you can pick up for £120 SIM-free but you should also consider the Vodafone Smart N9, which you can nab for £10 less.
You should also consider upping your budget by £30, at which point the Motorola Moto E5 Plus and Moto G6 Play come into the equation. Both are superior phones to the Motorola Moto E5 and if you can stretch your budget further, those are the phones you should be buying.
Motorola Moto E5 review: Key features and design
If you really can’t stretch your budget, though, then the Motorola is a prime candidate for your cash; it certainly looks the part. Like pretty much all 2018 phones it has a narrow and tall, 18:9 aspect ratio display so it sits comfortably in the hand despite its 5.7in screen measurement. From a distance, there’s nothing obviously low rent about it at all.
The first sign of the Moto E5’s budget lineage is the plastic rear but, again, it doesn’t feel as cheap as you might expect it to. In fact, the Moto E5 is pretty well built: give it a twist and it doesn’t creak or groan and the silky matte finish feels rather pleasant under the finger.
Flip it around and the high-quality feel continues. There’s Gorilla Glass on the front, which means your fingers don’t stick while swiping or pinching. The presence of premium glass on the front also means the screen doesn’t pick up and hold onto fingerprints like the regular glass you find on most really cheap smartphones, either.
It’s clearly a well-made, well thought through phone and it’s reasonably attractive, too. The circular camera housing at the rear and Motorola logo neatly stencilled within the fingerprint reader set things off rather nicely.
Despite the plastic housing, the Moto E5 doesn’t have a removable battery and nor does the model we were sent have provision for dual-SIM operation. You can, however, add up to 256GB of extra storage to the phone’s internal 16GB via a microSD card via a space on the E5’s SIM tray.
Other physical details are as you might expect. The volume rocker and power button sit next to each other on the phone’s right-hand edge, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the phone and the phone charges via Micro USB, which means no fast charging. This being a budget phone, there’s no phone dust or water-resistance either. Mind you, none of its direct rivals are weatherproof, either.
Motorola Moto E5 review: Display
If the fact that the screen is topped with Gorilla Glass isn’t impressive enough, the way the display looks once you turn it on should. The specifications don’t look anything special. This is a 5.7in 720 x 1,440 resolution screen using IPS tech just like you get on the Honor 7A, which is our current favourite sub-£150 phone.
First impressions are that this is a far superior display, though. Colours look saturated and vibrant no matter the source material, black is inky and clearly quite bright, too.
When I put it through our rigorous testing procedures, the numbers backed up these impressions nicely, with peak brightness reaching 498cd/m2, the contrast ratio at an excellent 1,570:1 and colour coverage that sits at 83.8% of the sRGB colour space. Simply put, these are excellent figures for a phone this cheap, even if absolute colour accuracy isn’t the best. It’s a lovely thing to behold.
Motorola Moto E5 review: Performance
This, however, is where things begin to go slightly awry and it’s performance that begins the erosion of the Moto E5’s appeal. The culprit is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425, a chipset I haven’t come across in a smartphone before. The paltry 2GB of RAM doesn’t help either.
It’s not great. From the moment you switch on the Moto E5 it feels sluggish and laggy. Homescreens chug by as if afflicted by rheumatism, websites appear to load in ultra slow-motion and demanding games like PUBG Mobile crawl along at an incredibly frustrating speed.
The graphs above tell pretty much the whole story. The Motorola Moto E5 is a significantly slower phone than its closest rival, the Honor 7A and only very slightly quicker than the year-old Motorola Moto E4. In other words, if you’re coming from an older, also budget smartphone, don’t expect a bump up in performance.
There’s one big compensation for this, however, and that’s battery life. In our test, the Motorola Moto E5 lasted a stonking 19hrs 39mins, which is four hours longer than its nearest rival in this category, the Moto G6 Play, and miles better than the rest of the competition. Significantly, the Honor 7A lasted 11hrs 39 in this test, a full eight hours short of the Moto E5.
Motorola Moto E5 review: Camera
You don’t get a dual camera on the Motorola E5 like you do with the Moto G6 phones and so there’s no portrait mode. In fact, the camera offers a pretty basic roster of facilities, with very few extra modes beyond panorama.
The hardware you do get looks pretty good, though: a 13-megapixel camera at the rear, with an aperture of f/2 and phase-detect autofocus, capable of shooting 1080p video at up to 30fps; plus a 5.5-megapixel f/2.2 camera at the front. Unusually, there’s an LED flash at both the rear and the front.
In use, the camera performs exceptionally. Outdoor shots are packed with detail and contrast, and HDR mode boosts that even further without making everything look unnatural. In our test shots The Moto E5 was so far out in front of the Honor 7A it was embarrassing.
It performed significantly better than the Honor in low light as well. Images are still murky, soft and noisy in these conditions (this is a budget smartphone after all) but they’re cleaner, brighter and sharper than those the Honor 7A Pro produced.
Video looks great, too. The Moto E5 can only capture clips at 1080p and 30fps with no image stabilisation but, just like the E5’s stills, videos look crisp, with balanced exposure and loads of detail.
In short, the Motorola Moto E5’s camera is the best I’ve seen on a sub-£150 smartphone and it’s a big improvement over its nearest competitors. If image quality matters to you, it’s a shoo-in: get yourself a Moto E5.
Motorola Moto E5 review: Verdict
The Motorola Moto E5, in most respects then, is an absolutely amazing budget smartphone. It has a cracking display, a highly impressive camera and superb battery life. And, let’s not forget, Motorola’s software is pretty good, too: it’s close to pure Android and Motorola doesn’t include loads of extra software you don’t need.
Performance is slow, which is reason enough to consider saving an extra £30 and buying a Moto G6 Play instead, however, considering how good it is in other areas, I’m just about ready to forgive it for its sluggishness. Ultimately, you’re getting a very, very good phone for your £120.