Moto E4 review: The best budget smartphone since the Lenovo P2?


Budget smartphones don’t always hit the mark. True, Vodafone has treated us to some great-value Android phones, but we’ve also seen plenty of efforts like the new Nokia 3 – a fancy-looking but ultimately disappointing handset. Clearly it’s not easy to put together a desirable smartphone at a low price.

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But in swans Motorola’s Moto E4, a very cheap handset that does almost everything you could ask for. It’s the firm’s best budget smartphone yet; it might even be one of the best budget Android phones ever. Here’s why.

Moto E4 review: What you need to know

The first thing you’ll notice about the Moto E4 is its very low asking price. But don’t let that fool you: it comes equipped with a perfectly capable 1.3GHz Mediatek MT6737 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD. The screen is a 5in 720p IPS panel, and there’s an 8-megapixel camera on the back, with a 5-megapixel selfie-snapper on the front.

Moto E4 review: Price and competition

This’ll be the third time I’ve mentioned this, but just to reiterate, Motorola’s Moto E4 is dirt cheap. In fact, it’s so cheap you could buy four and a half handsets for the price of a Samsung Galaxy S8.

However, it’s certainly not the only phone to hit that super-affordable price point, There’s plenty of competition, including the £130 Nokia 3, the Finnish firm’s latest budget handset following its three-year sabbatical. Vodafone’s similarly-specced Smart N8 drags the price down to just £85, representing even more bang for your buck.

Moto E4 review: Design

The Moto E4 is recognisably Motorola-like in its design. If you’ve been keeping up with the firm’s recent releases you might notice that it looks almost identical to the Moto G5S. That’s a hell of a good look for a sub-£200 phone.

In fact, this might be the best-looking budget handset that’s graced my palms. It picks up plenty of design cues from flagship smartphones, such as the slightly curved, textured rear and rounded edges. Its slightly raised glass front joins its all-metal body perfectly, with not a lip in sight. My only real complaint is the conspicuous Moto logo not-so subtly placed above the display.

Connectors and controls are minimal: all you get is a MicroUSB port on the bottom, a volume rocker and power button on the right edge and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.

Moto E4 review: Display

From the specs, you might imagine the Moto E4’s 5in IPS display would be a bit middling. While a 720p resolution isn’t uncommon for budget phones, it would have been nice to see Motorola plonk a Full HD display on the front, like it did with the Moto G5.

But in the areas that really matter it’s a decent budget display. A contrast ratio of 962:1 ensures images are punchy, while a maximum brightness of 386cd/m2 ensures the Moto E4 is perfectly readable in the sunny outdoors.

The only letdown is colour performance, with an average delta E of 3.86 (lower than 2 would be preferable). As with the Nokia 3, colours look a little off to the well-trained eye, with particularly muddy reds.

Moto E4 review: Performance and battery life

The Moto E4’s innards are hardly industry-leading. A quad-core Mediatek MT6737 processor clocked at 1.3GHz leads the fray, paired with 2GB of RAM. This isn’t a terrible lineup, but as you’d expect, the E4’s Geekbench 4 performance hardly sets the world ablaze.

As you can see, the Moto E4 stacks up well against its direct competitors, although it still isn’t a patch on the Lenovo P2, which isn’t much more expensive. We didn’t experience any serious performance issues while testing, but you might see the odd slowdown when navigating Google Maps or when juggling multiple applications.

Gaming performance isn’t bad either, though again you shouldn’t expect Galaxy S8 framerates. In GFXbench Manhattan 3 the E4 reached an average frame rate of just 5fps – but take that with a grain of salt. In practice, the Moto E4 will run 90% of Android games without a hitch, the exceptions being the most 3D-heavy titles.

As for battery life, the E4 reached 10hrs and 20mins in our video playback test. That’s hardly exemplary and, obviously, doesn’t come close to the Lenovo P2’s monstrous longevity. But it’s enough to survive a good day’s moderate use on a single charge.

Moto E4 review: Camera

When it comes to keeping costs down, the rear camera is often one of the major areas that suffers. And predictably, the Moto E4’s rear snapper is pretty basic: you get an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 lens, but nothing in the way of snazzy technologies. There’s not a whiff of laser or phase-detection autofocus, nor image stabilisation, and video can only be shot at 720p at 30fps.

The resulting pictures are, as you’d imagine, uninspiring, but not too shabby considering the price bracket we’re in. In good light you’re generally treated to a nice vibrant shot, with well-balanced tones. Brickwork – a notoriously tricky test for a budget smartphone camera – is well defined too.

In low light, the Moto E4 doesn’t fare so well. We found it struggled to capture enough light, resulting in grainy shots and ill-defined images. The built-in flash helps cut through the darkness, though of course this affects the overall tone.

Moto E4 review: Verdict

For the price, Motorola’s Moto E4 is a very impressive smartphone. Its performance might be middling, and the camera has its limitations, but overall it’s an attractive and capable handset with no really serious shortcomings.

The only problem is its plentiful competitors. With so many high-quality budget smartphones to choose from these days, it’s getting increasingly tricky to recommend any particular device. My current favourite is still the Lenovo P2, if you can find it for its original £200 asking price. And with the excellent Moto G4 still doing the rounds at £140, the E4 might struggle to carve out a niche of its own. Even so, it’s a great-value handset that’s well worth your consideration.



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