Motorola Moto e5 range, First Take: A tale of three budget handsets

Two of Motorola's three e5 smartphones show what can be achieved at the affordable end of the market, while the third arguably sacrifices too much in pursuit of an attractive price point.

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Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Why bring out one new handset when you can bring out three? Motorola certainly thinks the three-way split is worth doing, and has come up with the Moto e5, e5 Plus and e5 Play budget handsets to prove it.

The 5.7-inch e5 is pocket-friendly, with good features and an affordable £119 price. But those looking for a larger handset might find the 6-inch e5 Plus more compelling at £149. The smaller 5.3-inch e5 Play is a more difficult handset to like, although its £89 price is definitely attractive.

Here's a quick comparison of the three handsets' key features:


Moto e5 PlusMoto e5Moto e5 Play
Price£149£119£89
Dimensions 160.9mm x 75.3mm x 9.35mm154.4mm × 72.2mm × 8.95mm147.88mm x 71.2mm x 9.19mm
Weight197g174g150g
Display6-inch, 1,440 x 720 pixels5.7-inch, 1,440 x 720 pixels5.3-inch, 960 x 480 pixels
OSAndroid 8Android 8Android 8 (Go edition)
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 425Qualcomm Snapdragon 425Qualcomm Snapdragon 425
RAM2GB2GB1GB
Internal storage16GB16GB16GB
MicroSDyesyesyes
SIM slots111
Rear camera12MP13MP8MP
Front camera5MP5MP5MP
Fingerprint sensoryesyesyes
Battery capacity5000mAh4000mAh2000mAh (removable)

All three handsets are single-SIM with a MicroUSB card slot, so their restrictive 16GB of internal storage can be augmented, and they are all charged via Micro-USB rather than USB-C.

The three handsets also share similarities of physical design -- the camera housing and positioning of a fingerprint sensor on the back (with a neatly designed Motorola logo inside its indented circle), for example.

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The Moto e5, e5 Plus and e5 Play share the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor; the e5 and e5 Plus support this with 2GB of RAM, while the e5 Play has just 1GB. Not surprisingly, the 2GB handsets deliver similar Geekbench 4 multi-core scores of 1840 and 1842 respectively. Not surprisingly this is nowhere near the performance level of flagship smartphones running on the Snapdragon 845 chipset (which score 8,000 or more), and there's a little lag while apps run. But considering the price of these handsets, the wait is not unduly long.

The 1GB of RAM in the e5 Play brings the Geekbench 4 multi-core score down to 1474, and there's a longer wait for apps to run. It's a matter of judgement, of course, but I found the lag in this case a bit too long.

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The Moto e5 family (left to right): 5.3-inch e5 Play (£89); 5.7-inch e5 (£119); 6-inch e5 Plus (£149). All run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 425 chipset.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The larger of the three phones, the 6-inch Moto e5 Plus, has the highest-capacity battery, a generous 5000mAh, but then it has more screen to keep powered -- albeit with the same number of pixels as the e5 (1,440 x 720 pixels). Still, it manages excellent battery life, and managed to take me from one morning on a full charge to the following evening before finally needing a recharge. That would be impressive for a top-of-the-range handset, and here it's arguably a deal-maker.

The 5.7-inch Moto e5 has a 4000mAh battery and it also managed to last well into a second day of use before needing mains power. I didn't find it quite as good as the larger phone, but getting from morning to lunchtime the following day on a single charge is no mean feat. I was less pleased with the battery of the Moto e5 Play: at just 2000mAh, it couldn't meet my requirement for a full day's use between battery charges, although -- unusually these days -- it is removable.

motorola-moto-e5-rangestorage.jpg

All three e5 handsets have just 16GB of internal storage, of which around a third is occupied by the OS and preloaded software. MicroSD card expansion is available.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

All three handsets have just 16GB of internal storage, which is pretty tight -- particularly when you consider what's used up out of the box. The Moto e5 Plus's 16GB is reduced by 5.38GB, the e5 by 5.64GB and the e5 Play by 4.12GB, before the user even visits the app store. That's unlikely to be enough for many users, and so the purchase cost could well include a decent-sized MicroSD card.

Camera performance is increasingly important in today's smartphones, and here the Moto e5 and e5 Plus both do well. The wide-aspect shooting mode is welcome, and photos are bright and sharp. The slowish processor inevitably means a noticeable wait while various settings options pop up on-screen, but it's by no means problematic. The Moto e5 Play also took pretty good photos, although its 8MP sensor did mean the end results were not as sharp or vibrant. All three cameras feature a rather fun slow-motion capture mode.

Conclusions

We have two key observations from this tale of three handsets, the first of which is that it's very difficult to deliver an effective smartphone for under £100. The £89 Moto e5 Play is likely to leave purchasers hankering for more fairly quickly.

On the other hand, the e5 and e5 Plus are both excellent examples of what can be achieved at the affordable end of the market. The longer battery life of the e5 Plus may be a greater lure than its larger screen, but either would make a fine phone for someone on a tight budget. Just factor in a little more money for a MicroSD card.

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