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Motorola’s E lineup targets people who want a dependable smartphone for a low price. While this year’s new edition, the Moto E4, had some appeal as a budget phone, I couldn’t get past its poor battery life.
The Moto E4 Plus, another low-priced sibling to the E4, fixes that flaw in a big way. For less than $200, the Moto E4 Plus packs in the biggest battery around, lasting longer than just about every other smartphone on the market.
Battery life: Beyond Words
The 5,000 mAh battery in the E4 Plus is the star of the show, so let’s start there. With a battery that size, we’d expect this Moto to clock in some serious overtime, and, boy, does it ever.
The E4 Plus lands close to the top of our list of longest-lasting smartphones, powering through 14 hours and 48 minutes on the Tom’s Guide Battery Test of continuous web surfing over AT&T’s LTE network. That’s bananas: Only the ZenFone 3 Zoom has lasted longer on a charge, at 16:46. (And Asus’ phone costs $150 more than the E4 Plus.) The average smartphone conks out at 9:40, so the Moto E4 Plus gives you an extra 5 hours of battery life. For a phone at this price, there’s just no competition.
The only problem is that Motorola chose to go micro USB for charging instead of the new standard, USB-C, which limits the chargers you can use with the device and doesn’t future-proof it for tech developments down the line.
Moto E4 Plus Specs
|Screen Size (Resolution)
|5.5 inches (1280 x 720)
|6.10 x 3.05 x 0.38 inches
|Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)
Design: Heavy Metal
The Moto E4 Plus looks like every budget Moto device: thick black bezels, Moto logo at the top, fingerprint sensor on the bottom, Motorola logo emblazoned on the back and a circular black cutout for the rear camera lens. Motorola has established its design language, which is fine, even if it’s not particularly thrilling.
Other budget phones, such as ZTE’s Blade Z Max and LG’s K20 Plus, cut costs by using plastic. The E4 Plus has a metal back that makes the phone feel more like a premium device, though it also adds some heft. The K20 Plus feels lightweight at less than 5 ounces, while the E4 Plus packs another ounce and a half in its large frame.
Performance: Not the Fastest Phone in Town
I didn’t expect much out of the E4 Plus’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 427 processor, which scored a middling 1,891 on the GeekBench 4 test of overall system performance. But the device handled the graphics-intensive race car game Real Racing 3 with ease; there wasn’t even a hint of lag as I controlled the steering wheel by tilting the phone left and right. After 20 minutes of gameplay I threw the E4 Plus down in anger — not because of the phone’s performance, but because I placed 8th in a key race.
The Plus model’s performance is particularly impressive because that’s where the Moto E4 faltered. When I played games on that phone, which has a comparable GeekBench score (1,711) to its larger sibling, it ran hot — uncomfortably so. The E4 Plus doesn’t have that problem.
The E4 Plus isn’t particularly fast when it comes to loading web pages in Chrome, but switching between tabs is quick enough, and running multiple apps at once doesn’t have a noticeable effect on the phone’s speed.
The E4 Plus handled the graphics-intensive race car game Real Racing 3 with ease.
Streaming YouTube videos, including Stranger Things clips and the Blade Runner: 2049 trailer, was a breeze.
Camera: Decent Budget Shooter
The E4 Plus sports a 13-megapixel rear camera that takes some pretty good shots. I photographed some flowers at a nearby farmers market, and though I couldn’t really frame the shots because the sunlight was so bright, the resulting images weren’t terrible.
The E4 Plus has a built-in professional mode if you want to take control over settings such as the ISO and white balance, but most people will probably rely on the phone’s auto mode. To that end, the E4 Plus does a serviceable job without any manual settings enabled. I zoomed in on a butterfly that landed on the ground a few feet from me, and the camera perfectly captured the contrast of orange wings against the stone ground without adding any fuzziness or pixelation.
The phone’s 5-megapixel front-facing camera is better than the Moto E4’s, which packs in the same lens. Motorola seems to have improved its image-processing software — while the E4 added a strange splotchiness to my forehead that I swear isn’t there in real life, the E4 Plus captured my skin as it actually is (freckled, FYI, not splotchy).
Display: Perfectly Fine
The E4 Plus’ 5.5-inch HD display covers 119 percent of the sRGB gamut, which is better than the G5 Plus, K20 Plus and many other phones at this price and higher. It also beat those devices in color accuracy with a Delta-E rating of 0.27. (Numbers closer to 0 are better).
There’s little difference in these test results between the E4 Plus and the 5-inch E4, which is all right since the display was one the E4’s better features. The E4 showed off 125 percent of the sRGB color gamut while tallying a Delta-E score of 0.26.
Using a light meter, we found the E4 Plus reaches a peak brightness of 408 nits, just below the smartphone average of 433 nits, but perfectly usable.
The E4 Plus’ stats translate to the real world with videos and games that come in clear, bright and saturated with color. It’s not the greatest screen we’ve ever seen, but for an LCD panel, it’s pretty good.
Price, Carriers and Storage: Just Say No to Ads
You can buy the Moto E4 Plus unlocked to use on any U.S. carrier. It comes in two storage options: 16GB for $179 and 32GB for $199.
In an era when we’re storing more on our phones, the 16GB base capacity on the Moto E4 Plus just isn’t enough.
I tested another version, an Amazon Prime Exclusive edition of the Moto E4 Plus, which comes with home screen ads for products on Amazon’s site and literally every app Amazon makes — nine apps total. Some are fine, like Prime Video and Kindle, but others, such as Prime Photo and Amazon Music, are a waste of space. Don’t even get me started on those annoying ads, though they do bring the price of the phone down to $139 (a $40 discount).
In an era when we’re storing more on our phones, 16GB of capacity just isn’t enough. My Amazon Prime version of the E4 Plus had less than 10GB of usable space after Amazon and Google’s apps had taken it over. The storage is expandable, thanks to a microSD slot, but manufacturers shouldn’t be eating up all the room you pay for.
The Moto E4 Plus ships with Android 7.1. And you had better like Nougat, because this phone isn’t included on the list of Moto devices in line to get Oreo this year. That’s a trade-off you’ll have to accept in exchange for an inexpensive phone that goes forever on a charge.
If you need a phone that rarely sleeps, the Moto E4 Plus’s incredible battery life is hard to pass up, especially for less than $200. The device’s display, camera and performance aren’t the best you can get, not even in a budget phone, but they’re good enough if a lower price tag is more important to you than cutting edge-features.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide
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Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.