Motorola E4 Review: Inexpensive but good value

Alex Kidman 11 October 2017 NEWS

Motorola's E4 is inexpensive and not without its compromises, but provides a fair value smartphone experience for the price.

Quick Verdict
You're not going to fool anyone into thinking you've bought a premium phone with the Motorola E4, but for the asking price it delivers perfectly fine value.

The Good

  • Clean Android interface
  • Fingerprint sensor

The Bad

  • Slow camera
  • Ordinary app performance

Motorola has its plays in the premium space, mostly around its Moto Mod compatible Z series phones, but its bread and butter offerings are in the budget to mid-range space. The Motorola E4 is solidly in the budget space, and that very much defines the kind of smartphone you're likely to get.

However, as we've seen an increasing number of mid-range devices creep towards premium status in terms of features and style, the budget space has also improved, meaning that you're often putting up with fewer compromises in devices. There's lots of budget competition out there, so how does the Motorola E4 compare?

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Design

Motorola clearly has its own design style for its budget and mid-range handsets, and the E4 follows this recipe very closely, making it a near partner to phones such as the Motorola G5 or Motorola G5S.

The Motorola E4 measures in at 144.7 x 72.3 x 9.3 mm with a carrying weight of 151 grams, so it's light and small in the hand, thanks to the inclusion of a 5-inch display. Predictably for a budget handset, you're not looking at a full HD display, with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels to play with.

The E4 uses its display for standard virtual Android buttons at the base, above the fingerprint sensor which is fast and accurate, and a nice touch for a phone at this price point. The power and volume keys are found on the right-hand side. The power button is slightly ridged making it easier to locate without looking at it.

The E4 features a removable back cover to access the SIM and microSD card slots, as well as the removable battery.

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Camera

The camera is an important part of any smartphone, even in the budget space. Motorola has typically delivered cameras in the budget to mid-range space that aren't exceptional in absolute smartphone terms, but worthy in that they tend to deliver performance a little better than you might expect given their price points.

Using the Motorola E4's camera is a very mixed affair. It's actually feasible to get some decent snaps out of its rather simple 8MP f/2.2 sensor, but you need to have plenty of patience. The Motorola E4's camera is slow to load, slow to focus and slow to manage its exposure, which means it's a poor choice for action photography.

With a little patience you can eke out some decent photos, but we have seen better out of Motorola on this score. Here are some sample shots taken with the Motorola E4:

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Performance

The Motorola E4 runs on the Mediatek MT6737 SoC, which we've previously seen in phones such as the similarly budget-centric Nokia 3. It's a budget processor for low-cost phones, so my expectations for performance with the Motorola E4 were tempered accordingly.

The Motorola E4 isn't a fast phone by any stretch of the imagination, and this is borne out in both anecdotal testing and benchmarks. Here's how the Motorola E4 compares against a range of low-cost handsets in Geekbench 4's CPU test:

Handset Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
Moto G5 630 2605
LG Q6 536 2005
Huawei Y5 679 1909
Motorola E4 552 1528
Nokia 3 552 1527
LG X Power 554 1482
Motorola Moto G Play 522 1334

Rather predictably, the E4 and Nokia 3 are virtual partners regarding performance that can only be called mediocre. The same story plays out in 3D performance, where the E4 is also a poor performer:

Handset 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
Moto G5 9532
LG Q6 7779
Huawei Y5 5921
LG X Power 4953
Motorola Moto G Play 4475
Motorola E4 3686
Nokia 3 3676

The E4 is a slow handset, and you'd expect that at this price point, but there are some upsides. Like Nokia, Motorola's approach to Android is a mostly hands-off one.

That means that you're presented with a fairly clean Android experience when you use the Motorola E4. There's not much clutter, and you're free to use another launcher if you like, although the supplied environment is fine for simple smartphone tasks.

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Battery

The Motorola E4 features a 2800mAh removable battery, which is a nice touch of flexibility if you're concerned about long-term battery life. Again, given its price point, it's a solid quantity of battery life that, anecdotally should be fine for all-day battery life, although multi-day isn't entirely on the table.

It's in battery life that the Motorola E4 does jump out over the mostly-similar Nokia 3. It has comparatively more power to draw from, and this is borne out in its battery test figures. Using Geekbench 3's older battery test, here's how the budget handsets compare for battery life:

Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score
LG X Power 14:50:30 5714
Motorola Moto G Play 9:36:00 3840
Motorola E4 9:26:10 3752
LG Q6 8:44:40 3498
Huawei Y5 8:00:10 4659
Nokia 3 7:34:10 3028
Motorola Moto G5 6:32:50 3833

LG's X Power still rules that particular field, but that's a much harder handset to source these days, and as the name implies, it's pretty much a battery where the smartphone is incidental. Within its comparative field of available handsets, the Motorola E4 compares well.

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Verdict

The Motorola E4 isn't the pinnacle of smartphones, but what do you expect for $249? Like any other budget handset, it's a question of acceptable compromises, and what you're happy to put up with for a lower overall asking price. The inclusion of a fingerprint unlock, the removable battery and overall decent battery life and the workable, if not exactly fast camera are upsides, while the general application performance, and arguably the style are definite issues to consider when comparing the Motorola E4. Still, it's entirely fair for the asking price, even if it's not notably exciting.

Within the budget phone space, you have plenty of competition. The previously mentioned Nokia 3 may be worth considering if you want something with a slightly more refined visual style. If you wanted to stay in the Motorola family, the newer Motorola G5S is around $100 more but should deliver better performance, and the LG Q6 is also worth considering if you're after something with more camera muscle.

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Motorola E4: What the other reviewers say

Site Comment Score
TechRadar "Who knew the low-end could be so good?" 4.5/5
CNET "This is the super-cheap phone to get" 7.0 out of 10
Tom's Guide "Decent Budget Phone Has One Huge Flaw" 6.0 out of 10

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Pricing and availability

The Motorola E4 is available in Australia now at an outright price of $249.

Specifications

Product Name
Motorola E4
Display
5.0in
Resolution
1280 x 720 pixels
ppi
294ppi
Software
Android 7.1.1
Storage
16GB
RAM
2GB
Battery
2800mAh
Front camera
5MP
Rear camera
8MP
Processor
Mediatek MT6737
Size
144.7 x 72.3 x 9.3 mm
mm
Weight
151g

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