Tech 

Moto E5, E5 Plus first impressions: Massive batteries, middling hardware

Motorola launched the Moto E5 family of phones at a rather fancy, “Box Office” themed event in Delhi on 10 July. The whole point of the theme was that phones are our primary source of entertainment, and that battery life was the biggest constraint to a life of endless entertainment.

With the Moto E5 and E5 Plus, Motorola aims to fix this by offering some of the biggest batteries in their respective price brackets. The E5 retails at Rs 9,999 and the E5 Plus at Rs 11,999.

The Moto E5 Plus. Image: tech2/ Anirudh Regidi

The Moto E5 Plus. Image: tech2/ Anirudh Regidi

Specifications and features

First, let’s get the specs out of the way.

The Moto E5 is powered by a Snapdragon 425 SoC backed by 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, expandable by up to 256 GB via a microSD card. The screen is a 5.7-inch HD+ IPS LCD in an 18:9 aspect ratio. The all-important battery is a 4,000 mAh unit.

Cameras include a 13 MP f/2.0 unit on the rear and a 5 MP f/2.2 unit on the front. Both cameras are supported by an LED flash.

The more expensive E5 Plus is powered by a slightly more powerful Snapdragon 430 SoC and a more generous 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage. This is also expandable by up to 256 GB via a microSD card.

The battery is a much larger 5,000 mAh unit and cameras include a 12 MP f/2.0 rear camera and a 5 MP f/2.0 front camera. The rear camera features a slightly faster laser AF system, says Motorola.

Just glancing at the specs, it’s immediately obvious that both Moto phones are at a significant performance disadvantage. The Redmi Note 5 and Oppo RealMe 1, which retail in the same price bracket, are much more powerful. Both phones are also better specced overall, offering higher resolution displays, 3-4 GB of RAM and 32-64 GB of storage.

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In fact, the Moto E5 only outclasses the Realme 1 in battery life. The Redmi Note 5 offers a 4,000 mAh battery at the same price.

Clearly, the only hope the E5 has of holding its own among the competition is in offering such stellar battery life that its performance shortcomings are more than compensated for.

Build and Design

I liked the build of both phones. They’re similarly designed of course, with the signature Motorola camera bump and fingerprint scanner. The phones differ in materials used, with the cheaper E5 offering a brushed aluminium finish and the E5 Plus offering a polymer back.

The polymer back feels very nice in hand. Image: tech2/Anirudh Regidi

The polymer back feels very nice in hand. Image: tech2/Anirudh Regidi

The E5 Plus certainly feels more expensive, and that polymer back has a lot to do with it. Its back is glossy and feels like glass, but didn’t seem very slippery. The E5’s metal finish was also very nice and I must admit, the phone certainly felt like it was worth more than Rs 10,000. As a comparison, the lovely Honor 9 Lite looks more expensive but feels cheaper.

Software and OS

Both phones were launched with Android 8.0 Oreo support, and Motorola’s use of near-stock Android is much appreciated. Certain Motorola-specific features like MotoGesture (gesture-based controls), MotoCamera (more on that later) and lock screen enhancements are included.

Thankfully, these add on to Google’s stock Android experience rather than replace it.

Performance

I could only spend a few minutes with the device, and in that time, I didn’t notice any notable lag when using the phone. The lower resolution screen seems to have ameliorated some of the pains of using a low-end chipset. I’m yet to try any games on the device, so a full report on the performance will be presented in a full review of the devices.

Camera

The camera UI is clean and friendly with an option for “Pro” controls that offer manual control over settings like shutter speed and ISO.

There's a Pro Camera mode in software, which gives you manual control over most settings. Image: tech2/Anirudh Regidi

There’s a Pro Camera mode in software, which gives you manual control over most settings. Image: tech2/Anirudh Regidi

To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by the camera performance. Images were noisy and a bit blown out, and colours seemed a tad over-saturated. That being said, I couldn’t use the phone in natural light and most phones in this price range will struggle in indoor lighting.

This is something we’ll examine more closely in our upcoming review.

And speaking of cameras, the Moto E5 and E5 Plus are easily outclassed, on paper, by Xiaomi’s Redmi Y2, which features a 16 MP front camera and a 12 MP + 5 MP dual camera on the rear.

Battery life

As mentioned earlier, the only thing going for both phones is the battery capacity. Obviously, spending a few minutes with the devices is not going to give anyone an indicator of how long they’ll last, but we can make some educated guesses based on the hardware.

Given that the phones are running low-end hardware compared to the competition, and that these chips are powering displays at half the resolution of the competition’s phones, one can actually expect battery life to be pretty good. Motorola, in fact, claims that you’ll get up to 18 hours of continuous video playback from these phones.

Supporting these batteries is a 10 W “Rapid Charger” that’s bundled with the devices, which will, well, rapidly charge the massive batteries. Apple only bundles a 5 W charger by default.

Conclusion

I’m unsure of what the future holds for the E5 and E5 Plus. They are indeed very good devices and exceptionally built ones at that, but the competition seems to be in another league altogether.

The performance deficit, even if it is just on paper, is simply too large to ignore and is the biggest concern for me right now. If you care about cameras, you have the Redmi Y2, if you care about raw horsepower, you have the Redmi Note 5 Pro or Oppo Realme 1, if you care about the display, every single phone in this price range is better.

If you only care about battery life above all else, the E5 and E5 Plus make sense.

Pending a comprehensive review, I’m already worried about for the fate of the E5 and E5 Plus.

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