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Moto E5 Plus review

To get days of battery life on a budget, the Moto E5 Plus has you covered

moto e5 plus review hands on 9
Moto E5 Plus
“Good performance and two-day battery life make the Moto E5 Plus a budget phone to put on your radar.”
  • Two-day battery life
  • Modern design
  • Large 6-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Great performance
  • Lots of bloatware
  • Camera performance in low light is terrible
  • Will not get Android P update

Motorola’s Moto E-series are usually its least expensive handsets, with low-end specifications but a solid smartphone experience. The new Moto E5 Plus carries many of the same features as last year’s Moto E4 Plus — including a massive battery capacity and similar design — but it’s currently only available from Sprint and Cricket Wireless, and at varying price tags.

At $180 from Cricket (known as the Moto E5 Supra), the phone is absolutely worth purchasing; but Sprint’s higher price tag brings it into more competitive territory, making the Moto E5 Plus tougher to recommend. It may have a big battery, but poor camera performance in low light sets the E5 Plus back, and Motorola confirmed it will not even receive the upcoming Android version update. Let’s take a closer look.

Refined design

The Moto E5 Plus follows design cues from recent Motorola phones such as the Moto G6 and the Moto X4, refining slightly over last year’s model. There’s a bigger 6-inch screen to start, a glossy polymer rear that imitates glass-back phones, and a fingerprint sensor on the back. The battery is no longer removable, which is sure to disappoint a few people.

We’re thankful the rear uses a polymer and plastic material instead of Gorilla Glass like the Moto G6 — it won’t shatter in the event of a drop, making the phone more durable. That doesn’t mean it won’t endure scratches, so you’ll still want to grab a case for it or use the transparent one in the box.

There’s a round camera module on the back that packs the single 12-megapixel lens and flash; it protrudes just slightly, but the phone can still rest on a desk without wobbling. Below is the fingerprint sensor, discreetly hidden in the Motorola logo. It’s perfectly placed and quick to respond.

Performance surprised us on this phone.

Flip the E5 Plus over, and you’ll see an attempt was made to shrink down the bezels surrounding the display. It’s the trend in smartphone design, and it has slowly been trickling down into budget phones. The bottom bezel is thicker than the top, and the Motorola name sits here as well. The phone looks contemporary, but the bezels aren’t as skimpy as cheap phones like the Honor 7X.

The top houses an 8-megapixel selfie camera with flash, along with the a speaker — the only speaker on the phone. It produces easy-to-hear sound in quiet, indoor environments, but you won’t want to blast music through this speaker, especially outside.

Moto E5 Plus review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The IPS LCD display has a 1,440 x 720 resolution with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant, but text and images aren’t too sharp. The screen is also a bit dim, and cranking the brightness to the max outside doesn’t always help. Despite the low resolution, the 6-inch screen is adequate for watching YouTube videos and movies on apps like Netflix.

The top right side is where you’ll find the volume rocker and power buttons, and there’s thankfully a 3.5mm headphone jack at the very top of the phone. A MicroUSB charging port sits on the bottom, which is a little disappointing since many phones have transitioned to more universal USB Type-C charging port. Motorola did confirm that all of its budget phones next year will have the Type-C port.

The Moto E5 Plus is comfortable to hold thanks to its curved edges, and its size isn’t too unwieldy. Our review model is the Flash Gray version of the Moto E5 Plus. There’s also a Mineral Blue and Black edition available. We love the glossy design, and we were happily surprised by its resistance to fingerprints and smudges. Since it lacks an IP rating, the E5 Plus won’t fare well with a dunk in the pool. It does, however, have a water-resistant coating that should protect the phone from rain droplets and other minor water exposure.

Surprising performance

The Moto E5 Plus is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 435 processor with 3GB of RAM. There’s 32GB of internal storage, though a MicroSD card slot allows you to add extra space up to 128GB.

Performance surprised us on this phone. Apps opened almost instantly, and we run into no problems with multitasking. The E5 Plus is perfectly capable of handling most tasks like surfing the web, streaming video, and posting on social media. When running more graphics-intensive apps, we were elated to see them load quickly. Both Sims: Mobile and Super Mario Run loaded fast and ran without any issues.

Here are a few benchmark results:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 58,588
  • Geekbench CPU: single-core 641; multi-core 2,320
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 312

The E5 Plus comes in slightly behind the Moto G6 and Honor 7X in every benchmark test. The Honor 7X has an AnTuTu score of 63,311, and the Moto G6 scored 70,827. Benchmarks may be helpful for comparisons, but they do not reflect a phone’s overall ability. We think you’ll be satisfied with performance here.

Poor low-light camera

The Moto E5 Plus packs a 12-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and a f/2.0 aperture. On the front is an 8-megapixel sensor with a f/2.2 aperture. The camera is nothing remarkable — it performs well in daylight, but as with most budget phones, it struggles in low light. Struggles may not be harsh enough of a word, though, because we’ve found the E5 Plus’ low-light photos to mostly be unusable.

In addition to a loss of detail and noise — things to be expected with low-end camera sensors — there’s a ton of lens flare in every photo. The results are disappointing to say the least, especially when the less expensive Moto G6 (comparing with Sprint pricing) and Moto G6 Play performed better in similar situations.

There’s a ton of lens flare in every photo.

In daylight or bright light, the camera performed admirably, though some images did appear to be a little flat or lacking depth.

The camera software is simple to use, and there are a few extras like panorama, slow motion, a QR code reader, and burst shot modes.

Annoying bloatware

The Motorola E5 Plus ships with Android 8.0 Oreo. While you can expect to see security updates for the phone over the next few years, don’t expect to get the next version of Android that’s going to release in the next few months. Motorola confirmed to Digital Trends the Moto E5 Plus will not receive Android P, which is incredibly disappointing.

The software experience is very close to stock Android, but on the Sprint model of the phone (which costs $288), we’re sad to report there’s plenty of pre-installed bloatware. While some of the apps may be ones you’d normally download, more than half were games that take up already limited storage space. Luckily, you’re able to uninstall many of these apps, but it’s frustrating that they’re there in the first place.

The only flourishes Motorola has added is Moto Suggestions, which provides tips on improving the phone’s performance as well as traffic updates. The Moto app lets you toggle on the always-on Moto Display, and Moto Actions allows you to use gestures to compete common tasks like picking up the phone to stop ringing or twisting your wrist twice to open the camera app.

We like the simple to use software here, but we do wish it came without bloatware. This is likely Sprint’s doing, though, and it unclear if the Cricket Wireless version of the phone will come with the same amount of pre-installed apps.

Chunky 5,000mAh battery

The Moto E5 Plus has an enormous 5,000mAh battery, and Motorola claims the battery should last for 36 hours with regular use. The claim is mostly accurate.

The Moto E5 Plus packs an enormous 5,000mAh battery.

We were able to use the phone throughout a 12 hour work day without a problem. The battery only depleted by about 35 percent during normal usage, which includes texting, web browsing, email, and music streaming through Spotify. That’s 65 percent remaining at the end of a work day, which means this phone easily will carry you over two days.

There were a few occasions, however, where the battery seemed to deplete a little more quickly.  When watching YouTube videos over LTE, the battery dipped by about 7 percent in less than half and hour. Similar battery drain occurs when gaming on the phone, but it’s not abnormal.

The included TurboPower charger should add 6 hours of use in just 15 minutes of charging. We only received 15 percent back when charging for 23 minutes, but it certainly does charge faster than your average MicroUSB cable.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The Moto E5 Plus is only available through Cricket Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile at the moment, though it will likely come to more carriers later this year. On Cricket, it costs $180; if you’re on Sprint it will set you back $288; at T-Mobile, it’s available for $225.

Motorola offers a standard one-year warranty that protects against manufacturer defects. You’re on your own for any accidental drops, spills, or “Acts of God.”

Our Take

The Moto E5 Plus is a good-looking budget phone with solid performance, simple software, and two-day battery life. Its camera is poor compared to the competition, and you shouldn’t pay more than $200 for it.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you’re comparing it with the Sprint price, the Moto G6 and Honor 7X are less expensive options that offer better processors and higher-resolution displays. You’ll lose out on great battery life though.

The Nokia 6.1 is also worth a look, as it has a much better processor and camera, but it will only stay alive for a day. Check out our best cheap phones guide for more.

How long will it last?

The Moto E5 Plus should last you around two years. Performance may start to slow down, but hopefully the big battery won’t depreciate as quickly as other phones. The Gorilla Glass screen may endure cracks, which is why a case is recommended, and keep the phone away from water.

The E5 Plus won’t get the Android P update, which means this phone will be really dated by that two year mark.

Should you buy it?

It depends on your carrier. At $180 on Cricket Wireless, the Moto E5 Plus is solid value, and two-day battery life is a plus. We can’t recommend it on Sprint as it’s far too pricey.

Updated July 30: Added pricing information for the Moto E5 Plus at T-Mobile

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