Nokia 3.1 Plus vs. Moto E5 Plus: Battle of the big screen budget phones

The Nokia 3.1 Plus has just arrived in the U.S. on Cricket Wireless, ready to challenge your expectations of a budget phone. It boasts a big screen, dual rear camera, and runs the latest Android 9.0 Pie, but still manages to come in at $160. This end of the market is pretty competitive and the Moto E5 Plus is an obvious alternative. It also has a 6-inch display and unbeatable stamina with a huge battery.

Which of these plus-sized smartphones deserves your attention? Let’s find out as we pit the Nokia 3.1 Plus against the Moto E5 Plus in various categories to determine a winner.

Specs

Nokia 3.1 Plus Moto E5 Plus
Size 161.9 x 76.9 x 8.7 mm (6.37 x 3.02 x 0.34 inches) 162 x 75.3 x 9.3 mm (6.37 x 2.96 x 0.37 inches)
Weight 190g (6.7oz ) 200g (7.05oz)
Screen Size 5.99 inches 6 inches
Screen Resolution 1,440 x 720 pixels 1,440 x 720 pixels
Operating System Android 9.0 Pie Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage Space 32GB 32GB
MicroSD Card Slot Yes Yes
Tap To Pay Services Google Pay No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 Qualcomm Snapdragon 435
RAM 2GB 3GB
Camera Dual rear 13MP and 5MP, front 8MP Rear 12MP, front 8MP
Video 1,080p at 30 frames per second 1,080p at 30 frames per second
Bluetooth Version Bluetooth 4.2 Bluetooth 4.2
Ports USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack MicroUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes (back) Yes (back)
Water resistance No No
Battery 3,500mAh 5,000mAh
App Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Iron Gray, Fine Gold, Oxford Blue Black, Mineral Blue, Flash Gray, Fine Gold
Price $160 $130 to $288
Buy From Cricket Wireless Sprint
Review Score Nokia 3.1 Plus Full review (3/5 stars) Moto E5 Plus review (3/5 stars)

Performance, battery life and charging

Moto E5 Plus review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Nokia 3.1 Plus has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 439 inside, which is slightly faster than the Snapdragon 435 in the Moto E5 Plus. However, the Moto boasts 3GB of RAM to the Nokia’s 2GB, which potentially makes it a more capable multitasker. We found the Moto E5 Plus to be a decent performer when we tested it, but we don’t think you’ll notice a big difference between the two. The fact that the Nokia runs the latest version of Android, which offers important performance benefits, and doesn’t have another user interface or bloatware on top may be more telling than the hardware inside.

Battery life is a different story because the Moto E5 Plus has one of the biggest batteries around at 5,000mAh. That’s a full 1,500mAh more than the Nokia 3.1 Plus. Both claim to be able to last two days between charges, but even with better optimized software, we can’t see the Nokia 3.1 Plus keeping up with the Moto E5 Plus on the stamina front. Wireless charging still hasn’t made it down to the budget end of the market, but both these phones can charge up quite quickly when plugged in. We’re pleased to see USB-C in the Nokia, while the Moto makes do with an older MicroUSB port.

There are pros and cons in both columns here, but the Moto edges a win for the extra RAM and bigger battery.

Winner: Moto E5 Plus

Design and durability

The Moto E5 Plus emulates the design language of the rest of the Moto range with that signature round camera module on the shiny back and the fingerprint sensor with the M logo just below. It is plastic and it’s a little chunky and heavy, not least because of that big battery, but the bezels are fairly slim and it’s not bad looking for a budget phone.

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is mostly polycarbonate, with a matte finish, and a squarer look, but the camera module is a vertical pill shape and the fingerprint sensor is more subtle. The glass front has fairly small bezels and curves into a metal frame that lends a more solid feel. These phones are a very similar size, but we find the slightly slimmer and lighter Nokia 3.1 Plus more appealing.

We’d expect both of these phones to be fairly durable, but there’s no IP rating for water resistance, and cases are advisable.

Winner: Nokia 3.1 Plus

Display

The Nokia 3.1 Plus has a 5.99-inch IPS LCD screen with a 1,440 x 720-pixel resolution. The 6-inch display in the Moto E5 Plus is exactly the same type and has exactly the same resolution. Both also sport an 18:9 aspect ratio. These are not the sharpest displays around, but that’s par for the budget course. We can’t separate them, so this category has to be a tie.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Dual rear cameras have been slowly filtering down to budget phones, but the Nokia 3.1 Plus is one of the cheapest phones we’ve seen so far to sport a dual-lens setup. It combines a 13-megapixel sensor with a 5-megapixel secondary lens that senses depth and enables you to capture shots with that coveted bokeh blur. You can even adjust the background blur after taking the shot. There’s also an 8-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies and video calls.

The Moto E5 Plus has a single lens 12-megapixel rear camera and also boasts an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. In testing we found that general performance was decent in good lighting conditions, but in low light the results were pretty terrible. Both phones can capture 1080p video at 30 frames-per-second.

We’ll have more in-depth feedback on the Nokia 3.1 Plus camera after we review it, but it’s definitely more versatile and we expect it to slightly outperform the Moto E5 Plus.

Winner: Nokia 3.1 Plus

Software and updates

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Thanks to HMD Global’s commitment to stock Android, the Nokia 3.1 Plus has the latest version, Android 9.0 Pie, and lacks any superfluous additions. That should make it easy to update in a timely manner, though it’s not part of the Android One program, so there’s no guarantee. We prefer stock Android, especially on budget devices, as it tends to get the best out of the hardware and makes for a slicker feel.

Sadly, we can’t say the same for the Moto E5 Plus, which runs Android 8.0 Oreo and won’t be updated to Android 9.0 Pie. The Sprint version also comes crammed with bloatware, though your mileage may vary depending on where you buy it.

Winner: Nokia 3.1 Plus

Special features

There really isn’t much to speak of in the special features department, as is often the case with budget phones. The main standout is the inclusion of a dual-lens camera in the Nokia 3.1 Plus, but you could also argue that the enormous battery in the Moto E5 Plus qualifies as special. However, the Nokia edges the win for its inclusion of NFC. This allows for it to make contactless payments via Google Pay, which adds a whole lot more versatility to your wallet and everyday life.

Winner: Nokia 3.1 Plus

Price

The Nokia 3.1 Plus will cost you $160 and it’s available only at Cricket Wireless. You can buy the Moto E5 Plus at Sprint, Cricket, Boost, T-Mobile, and a few other places, but the pricing varies quite a bit and starts from as low as $130, but goes all the way up to $288.

Overall winner: Nokia 3.1 Plus

With the latest version of Android, a dual rear camera, and an attractive design, we think the Nokia 3.1 Plus is a better phone than the Moto E5 Plus. If battery life is your priority the Moto E5 Plus may just edge it for you. There isn’t much to divide them on performance, and those big displays are virtually identical, but as a complete package we would pick the Nokia. It’s unfortunate you can only buy it on Cricket Wireless in the U.S.

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