Bill Thomas is a writer for Lifewire who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. Bill has also held editorial positions at Future and TechRadar.com.
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Lifewire / Jordan Provost
Long battery life
Surprisingly good cameras
Very poor performance
Single-lens rear camera
Sub-par audio quality
The Motorola Moto E5 Plus is an extremely affordable smartphone, but it makes too many compromises to performance and display quality to be worth the price of entry. There are better options out there for the same price.
We purchased the Motorola Moto E5 Plus so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
If you’ve been watching smartphones trends as closely as we have, you may have noticed a move towards bigger, brighter displays, glass backs, and smaller bezels. And with devices like the Motorola Moto E5 Plus, it looks like that trend has continued into the budget market.
One of the primary benefits of having a big-screen phone, or “phablet,” is that multimedia consumption and gaming is greatly enhanced. But if you have to compromise on power, is it worth getting a larger device? Can it keep up with gaming and media? We recently got the Motorola Moto E5 Plus in for testing to answer that very question. Read on to learn exactly what this large budget phone is capable of.
When we pulled the Motorola Moto E5 Plus from its packaging, the glass chassis, fingerprint sensor on the back and large camera made this device appear a lot more premium than the price would suggest. Motorola has done a fantastic job creating a cheap device that doesn’t look or feel like a cheap device. However, that illusion does not hold up under closer inspection.
First, there aren’t any discrete speakers here—you only get the earpiece. On the bottom of the phone is a Micro USB port for charging and a headphone jack up on top. On the side, you’ll find the lock button and volume rocker. That’s pretty standard for a budget device, but with USB-C showing up on pretty much everything these days, we were a bit disappointed to find it lacking here.
About that glass chassis: the main reason manufacturers go with easily-breakable glass builds is that they allow for wireless charging. The convenience of being able to forego wires and just set your phone down on a wireless charger is worth the tradeoff in durability that a glass back inherently brings. But the Motorola Moto E5 doesn’t support wireless charging. So, while it does look and feel nice, you’re definitely going to have to put a case on this phone—it’ll likely shatter the first time you drop it.
Fortunately, the Moto E5 is a substantial-enough device at seven ounces, so it shouldn’t slip out of your hands too easily.
The cost of building this phone is pretty heavily subsidized by third party software, which we’ll dive into a little later. This made the setup a bit of a nightmare. After we initially signed in to Google to get the standard Android installation out of the way, we were wondering why it took so long to boot into the launcher. The culprit: a boatload of bloatware, including a full suite of Amazon apps, some featured apps like Uber Eats, and even Tidal and TikTok.
And then there were the updates. We make a point of downloading any and all updates as soon as we get the phone set up, but these kept coming throughout the entire day, some taking up to 30 minutes to install. Be prepared to spend an afternoon waiting for your device to get fully up to date.
Motorola has done a fantastic job creating a cheap device that doesn’t look or feel like a cheap device. However, that illusion does not hold up under closer inspection.
The Motorola Moto E5 Plus features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 SOC and 3GB of RAM, and these specs place it squarely on the low end of the performance spectrum. We were not expecting much in the way of speed, and we definitely didn’t get it.
Our benchmark tests weren’t kind to the Moto E5 Plus. In the PCMark Android benchmark, we saw a score of 3,637 which is exceptionally low. GFXBench didn’t fare much better, either, with the Moto E5 scoring 5.6fps and 28fps in the Car Chase and T-Rex tests, respectively.
So, while you can get away with playing low-power games, titles like “Asphalt 9” will be an unplayable mess. We did get some good Super Mario Run time in there, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Gaming aside, the most egregious problem with the Moto E5 Plus is its performance during everyday usage. This phone is slow. The home page lagged as we tried to swipe through the deluge of preinstalled apps. Even launching apps is painful: it took a whopping five seconds to load Facebook.
This is definitely not the type of phone for someone who wants high-end performance. You can get a much better experience at the same price if you go for a smaller device. Motorola cut costs in the hardware, and it shows in the device’s performance.
Take a peek at some of the other best smartphones you can buy.
While the Motorola Moto E5 does support an LTE connection, it’s obviously not as fast as more expensive devices. That being said, we didn’t really run into any issues with stability, either. We were able to watch YouTube videos and stream music on the go with no problems. Phone calls were also nice and clear.
However, it falters a bit once you start actually measuring it. We ran multiple speed tests, and it averaged around 35 Mbps, which is way under what we usually get on other devices on our Sprint plan. It should still be more than enough for most users, however.
The Motorola Moto E5 Plus has a large 6-inch IPS display. The only problem is that it has 720p resolution. While this wouldn’t be a problem for a smaller device, the oversized display means that the pixel density is particularly low: just 268 PPI. Again, this is a budget device, so we weren’t expecting an Apple Retina display, but Full HD would have been a nice touch (though it may have been limited by the Snapdragon 435 SOC).
Fortunately, the display is colorful enough that it doesn’t look terrible. YouTube videos look fine, as do photos and apps. It also isn’t the brightest screen in the world, but it’s enough to be visible in all but direct sunlight.
It probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, especially given that the only speaker is in the earpiece, but the Motorola Moto E5 has pretty disappointing sound quality. The speaker is awful for playing anything with a bassline, but you should be able to get a decent experience from phone calls or the odd YouTube video.
This phone is best experienced with headphones—just be aware that it doesn’t include any in the box.
We were surprised by just how good the camera on the Moto E5 Plus is, especially the rear camera.
The Motorola Moto E5 Plus features a single-lens 12MP rear camera and an 8MP front-facing selfie camera. They’re both great, even if they’re not dual-lens like many other smartphone cameras these days. We were still able to snap some pretty decent indoor photos through both cameras.
Well, the photos were decent until we started messing around with the optional modes. The front-facing camera has a Face Beauty mode that is supposed to smooth out your face, but it goes a little overboard—it made our faces look more “plastic” than “beautified.”
When it comes to video, the Moto E5 Plus records in 1080p, and the quality is decent. It’s good enough for capturing some footage on a whim, but you’re not going to be able to produce professional-looking video. And the slow-motion functionality barely works.
The speaker is awful for playing anything with a bassline, but you should be able to get a decent experience from phone calls or the odd YouTube video.
The battery is definitely the best part of the Motorola Moto E5 Plus. We tested the device over the course of about three days and only had to charge it up once thanks to the gigantic 5,000 mAh battery. Coupled with the low-resolution display and low-powered hardware, you can easily expect a full day of battery life, or two days if you’re not actively poking at it all the time.
Motorola had to subsidize the cost of the Moto E5 Plus to get the price tag so low, and it did so by pre-installing a copious amount of software. From TikTok, to Tidal, to FaceBook, to every single Amazon App, there were so many apps installed on the Moto E5 Plus that we had to double-check that we weren’t using a pre-owned device.
However, you should be able to clear off most of this software without any problems, and it seems pretty close to stock Android beyond that. There is one Moto app that we would consider “essential” for this device as it allows you to customize gesture controls and shortcuts.
The Motorola Moto E5 Plus is a true budget smartphone, and it has an extremely appealing price tag at $179. Compared to other phablet-sized phones, that’s a bargain. But you’re making some steep compromises to save money—both the processor and screen resolution take massive hits, making this feel slower than similarly-priced phones in Motorola’s own lineup. The Motorola Moto G6, for instance, is only a bit more expensive at $249 and it feels significantly faster, even if it’s not quite as good in games.
While the Motorola Moto E5 Plus is an extremely affordable device, it’s not as good a value as it seems. When stacked up against the similarly priced Honor 7X, it falters.
The Honor 7X costs $199, which is only $20 more than the Moto E5 Plus, and it has a faster processor, a higher resolution display, and dual rear cameras. The Honor 7X also has an all-metal chassis that will prevent the device from shattering from an inopportune fall.
The Moto E5 Plus beats the Honor 7X for battery life, but that’s really the only place it comes out on top. We think that sacrifice is worth the increased quality of life you get with the 7X.
It’s a cheap phone, but it cuts too many corners.
We would have liked to at least see a full-HD display, especially in a smartphone that markets itself on media consumption. But more importantly, the phone’s performance is not as good as it could be, and there are way too many pre-installed apps. There are plenty of phones in this price range that have better performance, better displays, and even better build quality.
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