Moto E5 Plus vs. E5 Play: Which budget phone is the better value?

moto e5 plus hands on review 6
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There’s no doubt about it: Lenovo-owned Motorola makes an excellent budget phone. This year, the smartphone manufacturer released four new budget phones: The Moto G6 Plus, G6 Play, E5 Plus, and E5 Play. While Moto’s G-series tends to get the lion’s share of coverage, the E5 Plus and E5 Play are impressive phones in their own right.

Although the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play share many of the same specs, there are a few key differences between the two. Do these differences make the Moto E5 Plus worth the extra money? We put the two head-to-head to find out.

Specs

Moto E5 Plus Moto E5 Play
Size 161.9 x 75.3 x 9.35 mm (6.37 x 2.96 x 0.37 inches) 151 x 74 x 8.85 mm (5.95 x 2.91 x 0.35 inches)
Weight  200 grams  (7.05 ounces) 150 grams (5.29 ounces)
Screen size  6.0-inch IPS LCD 5.2-inch LCD
Screen resolution  1,440 x 720 pixels 1,280 x 720 pixels
Operating system  Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage space  32GB 16GB
MicroSD card slot Yes (up to 128GB) Yes (up to 128GB)
Tap-to-pay services No No
Processor Snapdragon 435, with Adreno 505 Snapdragon 425 or 427, with Adreno 308
RAM 3GB 2GB
Camera 12MP rear, 8MP front 8MP rear, 5MP front
Video  1080P (30 fps), 720P (30 fps), 480P   (30 fps) 1080P (30 fps), 720P (30 fps), 480P   (30 fps)
Bluetooth Version  Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Ports Micro-USB, 3.5mm headphone jack Micro-USB, 3.5mm headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor  Yes Yes
Water resistance No – Water repellent (p2i) No – Water repellent (p2i)
Battery 5,000mAh

TurboPower

2,800mAh (interchangeable)

Fast-charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Mineral Blue, Flash Gray, Fine Gold Black, Dark Lake, Flash Gray
Price TBD TBD
Buy from Motorola Motorola
Review score Hands On Hands On

Performance, battery life and charging

moto e5 play hands on review 5
Moto E5 Play Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

At first glance, the differences between the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play seem minimal. Look closer, however, and you’ll find those small differences start to add up in the favor of the Moto E5 Plus.

First and foremost are the differences in storage and RAM. On the Moto E5 Play, you’ll find a paltry 16GB of onboard storage and 2GB of RAM. The Moto E5 Plus, on the other hand, ships with 32GB of storage and a less anemic 3GB of RAM.

Since Android 8.0 Oreo uses upwards of 10GB of storage, the Moto E5 Play has very little room left to spare. And with just 2GB of RAM, we’d expect to see some lag when multitasking on the Play model. On the other hand, the additional RAM on the Moto E5 Plus should keep things running a little more smoothly.

In terms of battery capacity, the Moto E5 Plus wins by a long shot. With a 5,000mAh battery, we expect the Moto E5 Plus to have no problem getting the most demanding users through an entire day. If the phone is anything like the Moto E4 Plus, most people will have no problem making it through two days.

Although the battery on the Moto E5 Play is significantly smaller at 2,800mAh, we still think it should see the average person through the day. The E5 Play also has an additional perk you won’t find on the Plus: An interchangeable battery. Power users will love having the option to hot swap batteries if necessary.

You’ll also find a difference in charging speed between the two phones. While both the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play have a fast-charging option, the Plus model features Lenovo’s proprietary TurboCharge technology.

In terms of performance and battery, the Moto E5 Plus takes the category by a wide margin. While you should be able to get by on the Moto E5 Play, the upgraded hardware on the E5 Plus will make the experience much less frustrating.

Winner: Moto E5 Plus

Design and durability

moto e5 plus hands on review 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Although the Moto E5 Play and E5 Plus share a lot of the same specs, design is one key area where the two diverge. While the Moto E5 Play has the polycarbonate body we’ve come to expect from a budget phone, the design of the E5 Plus is much more refined.

The Moto E5 Plus features a 6-inch IPS display with reduced bezels. Flip the phone over and you’ll find a gorgeous glass body with a centered camera lens above the Moto logo. While the glass body on the Moto E5 Plus is stunning, there’s one big caveat: The body is constructed out of polymer glass as opposed to Gorilla Glass or other hardened glass. Although we assume the decision to use polymer glass was in order to keep the price down, the decision comes at the expense of durability.

On the Moto E5 Play, you’ll find a design that’s much more reminiscent of a budget phone. The Play features a 5.2 inch LCD screen with some pretty chunky bezels. When you flip the phone over, you’ll find a pretty utilitarian polycarbonate shell covering the interchangeable battery. While it’s definitely not as sleek as the Moto E5 Plus, the E5 Play is much more likely to weather an accidental drop.

Although both phones have some hits and misses in terms of design overall the Moto E5 Plus is a much more attractive phone. In terms of durability, however, we’re concerned the polymer glass body on the E5 Plus. You’ll want to snag a case if you opt for the E5 Plus.

Winner: Moto E5 Plus

Display

moto e5 plus hands on review 2
Moto E5 Plus Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

When you compare the front of the Moto E5 Plus to the E5 Play, the first thing you’ll notice is the size difference. The E5 Plus features a massive 6-inch display, while the E5 Play sports a smaller 5.2-inch display. While you’d expect that difference in size to translate into a larger overall footprint for the E5 Plus, its reduced bezels mean the size difference actually isn’t that significant.

Size isn’t the only difference, though. The Moto E5 Plus features an IPS display, while the E5 Play ships with a TFT LCD screen. The IPS display boasts more vibrant colors and better viewing angles. There isn’t much difference in resolution. The E5 Plus has a 1,440 x 720 pixel resolution, which gives it a pixel-per-inch density of 268. The E5 Play sports a 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution, which means it has a slightly sharper pixel density of 282, but that’s only because the screen is smaller. Make no mistake, the display in the E5 Plus is superior.

Calling this round is easy: The larger IPS display on the Moto E5 Plus makes it the clear winner.

Winner: Moto E5 Plus

Camera

moto e5 plus hands on review 1
Moto E5 Plus Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You’ll find a 12-megapixel rear camera with LED flash on the E5 Plus, while the E5 Play makes do with an 8-megapixel shooter. They both have an f/2.0 aperture, so don’t expect the phones to do great in low-light situations, but they should be fine in outdoor settings.

On the front, you’ll find an 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture on the E5 Plus, while the E5 Play sports a basic 5-megapixel selfie camera.

Both phones feature pretty standard camera software. You’ll be able to shoot slow-motion videos, take burst shots, and use the built-in QR code scanner. One thing that is missing are beauty filters, but the feature is so hit-or-miss on most phones that we don’t see it as an important omission.

The E5 Plus is clearly superior in the camera department.

Winner: Moto E5 Plus

Software and updates

moto e5 play hands on review 2
Moto E5 Play Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

In terms of software, there’s no difference between the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play. Both phones will ship with Android 8.0 Oreo. Although Android P is scheduled to be released in a few months, don’t expect to see it on the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play: A representative for Lenovo told Digital Trends that neither phone is scheduled to be updated to Android P.

Although you may see a smoother overall experience on the Moto E5 Plus due to its extra gigabyte of RAM, the software on both phones is exactly the same. Since we’re only judging software in this category, we’ll call this category a tie.

Winner: Tie

Special Features

moto e5 plus hands on review 9
Moto E5 Plus Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Since Moto phones tend to ship with a near stock version of Android, there aren’t a ton of special features to explore. Two features of note are Moto Actions and Moto Voice.

Moto Actions allows you to configure a pretty robust set of gestures on the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play. For example, if you want to turn on Do Not Disturb mode, you simply need to flip the phone over. As for Moto Voice, the feature allows you to use voice commands to initiate tasks like finding your phone or opening an app.

both phones offer the same special features, so this round is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price

moto e5 play hands on review 1
Moto E5 Play Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Moto E5 Plus and E5 Play are budget phones that should be reasonably priced. While we don’t have exact pricing on either model yet, Lenovo typically uses the Play moniker on its least-expensive phones.

Even though we’re anticipating the Moto E5 Plus to be the more expensive of the two phones, we believe the small premium will definitely pay off in the long run.

Winner: Moto E5 Plus

Overall winner: Moto E5 Plus

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Moto E5 Play and E5 Plus look to be good budget phones for 2018. But we’re going with the Moto E5 Plus. While it’s likely to be a little more expensive than the E5 Play, the extra features add a lot of value that we believe outweighs the difference in price.

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