Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

Introduction


In the world of smartphones, the true rock stars are often the top-tier heavy-hitters — your Samsung Galaxy S-es, your iPhones and Premium Xperias. These are devices that are filled to the brim with the latest and greatest in commercially available hardware and carry a justifiably high price tag for that. But there are also a few that become popular for going in the opposite direction — handsets that make the most out of the low-end hardware they're built around and provide the budget conscious with a surprisingly solid user experience.

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola's Moto G series is loved for just that reason — they are known as some of the best bang-for-the-buck phones you can go for, with a snappy interface and good camera performance. But there's also the Moto E family of handsets. On one hand, they have always been even more affordable than the Moto Gs, but on the other, they have had the reputation of phones that don't shine in any one department beyond pricing.

With the introduction of this year's Moto E4, Motorola added a Plus variant, with a higher-resolution camera sensor and a massive, 5,000 mAh battery. It seems that, for the first time in the line's existence, it may have its own heavy-hitter all while not breaking the bank. Let's take a closer look at it and see what it's about.

In the box:

  • Moto E4 Plus
  • Charger with fast charge support
  • Micro USB data cable
  • Quick guide booklet

Design

The E series gets its fingerprint badge

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

Without meaning to sound mean, we'd describe the Moto E4 Plus as an adorable little brick. Yes, it's back cover is made of metal and its matte finish feels nice to the touch. However, in today's smartphone world, we would say that its design looks just “plain” and it's a bit too chunky, though that's understandable given the 5,000 mAh cell that it holds inside. Do not get us wrong, we are by no means calling it “ugly”, but rest assured that it won't be turning any heads when laid down on a table.

In an unforeseen turn of events, the camera module at the back is not a protruding hump, but a caved-in dimple. Our minds are at ease that laying the _phone_ down on a hard surface would not result in any damage to the camera lens, which we appreciate, but we fear that the circular pocket's rough edges may eventually get filled with dust and grime, which would be hard to get out. We wish the dimple had more of a slant to its walls, making it easier to for dust to just slide out.

The power button and volume rocker are clicky, with a nice amount of travel to them, but we did find their positioning to be slightly awkward for the way the _phone_ handles. The fingerprint scanner is a new addition to the Moto E family and can double as a full replacement for the phone's virtual navigational buttons. It's placed in a nicely beveled ellipse under the screen and finding it by touch feels satisfying every time.

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Front view | Side view
Motorola Moto E4 Plus
Motorola Moto E4 Plus
6.1 x 3.05 x 0.38 inches
155 x 77.5 x 9.55 mm
6.38 oz (181 g)

Motorola Moto E4 Plus

HTC Desire 650
HTC Desire 650
5.78 x 2.79 x 0.33 inches
146.9 x 70.9 x 8.4 mm
4.94 oz (140 g)

HTC Desire 650

Motorola Moto G5 Plus
Motorola Moto G5 Plus
5.91 x 2.91 x 0.38 inches
150.2 x 74 x 9.7 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

ZTE Blade V8 Pro
ZTE Blade V8 Pro
6.14 x 3.03 x 0.36 inches
156 x 77 x 9.1 mm
6.53 oz (185 g)

ZTE Blade V8 Pro




Display

A phablet screen that doesn't get a phablet's resolution

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

So, as hinted by the name, the Moto E4 Plus is the bigger phone in the new Moto E pair. It carries a 5.5-inch screen, effectively making it the phablet of the duo. However, since it didn't get an appropriate boost in resolution, it still has 720 x 1280 pixels stretched across its screen making for a PPI density of 267. Seeing as today's handsets often have a super-sharp image, we dare say that this is noticeable to the point of being slightly irking.

That aside, the display's colors are also consistently off target. Thankfully, nothing is oversaturated, but you definitely shouldn't be doing any shopping for clothes on this device. The screen's temperature is also slightly cold and there's an ever-present tealish tint to it. It's not a constant annoyance and may go unnoticed by the untrained eye, so we'd say we are within the acceptable margins of budget display drawbacks.

As for brightness, the Moto E4 Plus' display performs great — with a maximum of 395 nits and a minimum 6 nits, neither daytime viewing nor nighttime reading will feel uncomfortable.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 395
(Average)
6
(Good)
1:823
(Average)
7288
(Good)
2.01
3.95
(Good)
5.04
(Average)
HTC Desire 650 361
(Average)
13
(Poor)
1:1559
(Excellent)
6953
(Excellent)
2.3
4.01
(Average)
2.81
(Good)
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 581
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1274
(Excellent)
7989
(Average)
2.21
6.07
(Average)
6.79
(Average)
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 502
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1340
(Excellent)
8050
(Poor)
2.36
4.98
(Average)
8.08
(Poor)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

Introduction


In the world of smartphones, the true rock stars are often the top-tier heavy-hitters — your Samsung Galaxy S-es, your iPhones and Premium Xperias. These are devices that are filled to the brim with the latest and greatest in commercially available hardware and carry a justifiably high price tag for that. But there are also a few that become popular for going in the opposite direction — handsets that make the most out of the low-end hardware they're built around and provide the budget conscious with a surprisingly solid user experience.

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola's Moto G series is loved for just that reason — they are known as some of the best bang-for-the-buck phones you can go for, with a snappy interface and good camera performance. But there's also the Moto E family of handsets. On one hand, they have always been even more affordable than the Moto Gs, but on the other, they have had the reputation of phones that don't shine in any one department beyond pricing.

With the introduction of this year's Moto E4, Motorola added a Plus variant, with a higher-resolution camera sensor and a massive, 5,000 mAh battery. It seems that, for the first time in the line's existence, it may have its own heavy-hitter all while not breaking the bank. Let's take a closer look at it and see what it's about.

In the box:

  • Moto E4 Plus
  • Charger with fast charge support
  • Micro USB data cable
  • Quick guide booklet

Design

The E series gets its fingerprint badge

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

Without meaning to sound mean, we'd describe the Moto E4 Plus as an adorable little brick. Yes, it's back cover is made of metal and its matte finish feels nice to the touch. However, in today's smartphone world, we would say that its design looks just “plain” and it's a bit too chunky, though that's understandable given the 5,000 mAh cell that it holds inside. Do not get us wrong, we are by no means calling it “ugly”, but rest assured that it won't be turning any heads when laid down on a table.

In an unforeseen turn of events, the camera module at the back is not a protruding hump, but a caved-in dimple. Our minds are at ease that laying the phone down on a hard surface would not result in any damage to the camera lens, which we appreciate, but we fear that the circular pocket's rough edges may eventually get filled with dust and grime, which would be hard to get out. We wish the dimple had more of a slant to its walls, making it easier to for dust to just slide out.

The power button and volume rocker are clicky, with a nice amount of travel to them, but we did find their positioning to be slightly awkward for the way the phone handles. The fingerprint scanner is a new addition to the Moto E family and can double as a full replacement for the phone's virtual navigational buttons. It's placed in a nicely beveled ellipse under the screen and finding it by touch feels satisfying every time.

Front view | Side view
Motorola Moto E4 Plus
Motorola Moto E4 Plus
6.1 x 3.05 x 0.38 inches
155 x 77.5 x 9.55 mm
6.38 oz (181 g)

Motorola Moto E4 Plus

HTC Desire 650
HTC Desire 650
5.78 x 2.79 x 0.33 inches
146.9 x 70.9 x 8.4 mm
4.94 oz (140 g)

HTC Desire 650

Motorola Moto G5 Plus
Motorola Moto G5 Plus
5.91 x 2.91 x 0.38 inches
150.2 x 74 x 9.7 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

Motorola Moto G5 Plus

ZTE Blade V8 Pro
ZTE Blade V8 Pro
6.14 x 3.03 x 0.36 inches
156 x 77 x 9.1 mm
6.53 oz (185 g)

ZTE Blade V8 Pro




Display

A phablet screen that doesn't get a phablet's resolution

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

So, as hinted by the name, the Moto E4 Plus is the bigger phone in the new Moto E pair. It carries a 5.5-inch screen, effectively making it the phablet of the duo. However, since it didn't get an appropriate boost in resolution, it still has 720 x 1280 pixels stretched across its screen making for a PPI density of 267. Seeing as today's handsets often have a super-sharp image, we dare say that this is noticeable to the point of being slightly irking.

That aside, the display's colors are also consistently off target. Thankfully, nothing is oversaturated, but you definitely shouldn't be doing any shopping for clothes on this device. The screen's temperature is also slightly cold and there's an ever-present tealish tint to it. It's not a constant annoyance and may go unnoticed by the untrained eye, so we'd say we are within the acceptable margins of budget display drawbacks.

As for brightness, the Moto E4 Plus' display performs great — with a maximum of 395 nits and a minimum 6 nits, neither daytime viewing nor nighttime reading will feel uncomfortable.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 395
(Average)
6
(Good)
1:823
(Average)
7288
(Good)
2.01
3.95
(Good)
5.04
(Average)
HTC Desire 650 361
(Average)
13
(Poor)
1:1559
(Excellent)
6953
(Excellent)
2.3
4.01
(Average)
2.81
(Good)
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 581
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1274
(Excellent)
7989
(Average)
2.21
6.07
(Average)
6.79
(Average)
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 502
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:1340
(Excellent)
8050
(Poor)
2.36
4.98
(Average)
8.08
(Poor)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and functionality

Moto being Moto

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

If there is one thing Moto's phones are synonymous for, it's having a clean interface. The only non-Google apps you will find out of the box are the Dolby Atmos sound profiler, which you can use to play with your speaker's EQ, and the Moto app, which enables one-handed mode, a terrible blue light filter (Night Mode) that leaves your display looking like a yellow mess, discreet notifications a-la Ambient Display, and fingerprint scanner gestures that replace the on-screen navbar. Whether you like the latter is subjective for sure. We have to say we grew tired of having to swipe left on the fingerprint scanner in order to do a “back”, so we just went back to the good old virtual buttons.

Other than that, the Moto E interface remains largely unscathed — save for a few of the system app icons and the wallpapers, you've got pretty much the same Android UI here as you'd get on a Nexus or Pixel device.

So, how does it run? Well the performance is mostly stable. It's not the fastest to launch or switch apps, and there are definitely stutters and framedrops to be seen when checking out your daily feed of social media posts and emails, especially if you are juggling a Facebook Chat Head or two. But unless you try to play a demanding game or try to apply a 3D filter like a Snapchat Lens on your mug, the device runs... OK. Which brings us to our next point...

Processor and memory

Hey, it's a budget phone — don't push it

It goes without saying that if you are looking to play games like Vainglory or Injustice 2 on your phone, you probably aren't looking for a device in the sub-$200 range. While the Moto E4 Plus does its best to try and run such games, stutters, lags, and terrible framerates will be present and you won't really have the best of times. In fact, even trying to watch a YouTube video on the 720p / 60 FPS setting gave us some frame drops, presumably while the phone was busy caching the clip forward. General smartphone usage and light, simple apps are fine for this guy, but don't go overloading it.

We've got a couple of storage options to pick from — 16 GB and 32 GB. Keep in mind that the phone's software takes up about 7 GB when making your choice. Whichever you go for, you can still expand it via a microSD card of up to 128 GB.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 31046
HTC Desire 650 31206
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 63191
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 62710
JetStream
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 17.113
HTC Desire 650 13.177
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 29.879
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 31.775
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 11
HTC Desire 650 11
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 23
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 22
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 3.4
HTC Desire 650 4.5
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 6.9
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 6.1
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 544.33
HTC Desire 650 533
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 375
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 1123
Geekbench 4 single-core
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 557.5
HTC Desire 650 442
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 783
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 822
Geekbench 4 multi-core
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 1565.5
HTC Desire 650 1118
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 3586
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 3017
View all

Connectivity

Open for everybody

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
The Moto E4 Plus is currently a freelancer — sold as an unlocked device, attached to no carrier plans or deals. The good news? It supports a wide range of bands and is essentially compatible with all 4 major mobile providers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

The cell modem supports LTE Cat 4, which means up to 18.7 MB down and 6.2 MB upload. The Wi-Fi modem doesn't support the speedy 802.11 ac standard, but has 802.11 a/b/g/n, and “n” should still be fast enough for the needs of this device.

Camera

A fuzzy mess

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Camera interface - Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Camera interface - Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Camera interface - Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review
Camera interface - Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

Camera interface


We were optimistic about the Moto E4 Plus' 13 MP camera, but it was quick to let us down. Even in perfect lighting, the snapper produces noisy photos with washed up details. Its dynamic range is pretty bad, too, meaning lit up areas are easy to burn out and shadows often turn into depressing darkness. Its color reproduction is close to reality, but the photos end up looking so dark, dull, and uninspiring that it's hard to capture anything enjoyable.

The phone does have an HDR feature, but using it is tricky. While it does widen the camera's dynamic range to a somewhat acceptable level, it takes so long for the HDR shot to be taken that chances are high you will shake the phone and the resulting photo will have a bit of ghosting in it.


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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 2.7
4.5
804
658
HTC Desire 650 3.3
6.2
367
330
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 1.8
2.6
1118
669
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 1.7
2
775
615
View all

What about the selfie camera? Oh my does it carry over the terrible imaging. Details are fuzzy and getting an accidental shaky shot is super-easy, even in well-lit conditions. The presence of an LED flash next to the front camera implies that it takes good selfies, but in reality it does not.

What about video recording? Mostly a shaky and fuzzy mess that has a terrible time with exposure and looks like it's just out of focus most of the time.

So yeah, the camera is bad. Sure, it can be used for some social media shenanigans, but don't expect quality memorabilia out of it.



Multimedia

It's not all about the large screen

Sure, the Moto E4 Plus has a 5.5-inch display and one would think that's great for watching video. However, its low pixel-per-inch density of 267 leaves a lot to be desired in terms of image sharpness. As previously mentioned, you can't really enjoy a YouTube clip in 60 FPS, as the handset will inevitably start stuttering while loading the rest of the video. So it's not really a video-consumer's device.

The single speaker is nice and loud. The Dolby Atmos app on board will allow you to tweak EQ settings to kind of offset the “tinny speaker” effect that so many smartphones are plagued by. While you won't be able to enjoy your phat beats for sure, you can definitely get an acceptable sound to come out from the Moto E4 Plus — good for your podcasts or entertaining clips.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 0.45
HTC Desire 650 0.22
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 1.015
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 0.58
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 78
HTC Desire 650 69
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 77.6
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 64.9
View all


Call quality


The sound quality on both ends with the Moto E4 Plus is not one we would call perfect, but one can certainly work with it. It's a bit muffled, sure, but vowels don't get lost and you can understand what your callers are saying. The same can be said for your words on the other side.

Battery life

This thing is its own powerbank

Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

The Moto E4 Plus has a 5,000 mAh battery to keep its lights on for… what seems like forever. The handset survived for more than 13 hours in our battery benchmark test, making it our current 2017 champion, followed closely by the Samsung Galaxy A7. This was reflected in our daily usage as the phone just refused to die. Two-day battery life? That's definitely achievable. Of course, it's worth noting that we used it as what it is — a budget phone that's best suited for barebones smartphone tasks.

Filling up that massive cell will take quite a bit of time as well — using the included charger, we still had to wait for 3 hours for the phone to get juiced from 0% to 100%.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 13h 20 min (Excellent)
HTC Desire 650 5h 40 min (Average)
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 10h 26 min (Excellent)
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 11h 31 min (Excellent)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Motorola Moto E4 Plus 194
Motorola Moto G5 Plus 106
ZTE Blade V8 Pro 90
View all

Conclusion


Motorola Moto E4 Plus Review

It's a tough job to criticize a $180 handset. The Moto E4 Plus' display is certainly not perfect, its camera leaves a lot to be desired, its performance is only good for basic smartphone tasks. But one can justifiably argue that for this price, the Moto E4 does a good job as a basic smartphone.

We'd like to endearingly call the Moto E4 Plus a great low-cost “dadphone”. It's not about running all of those fancy-schmancy apps. It's about being cheap and easy to replace, it's about lasting an eternity on a single charge, and it's about getting your emails and chats on time. And this is where the crux of our criticism lies — unlike us, Motorola does not want the Moto E4 Plus to be perceived as a “dadphone”. On the contrary, with all that colorful marketing, LED flash for the selfie camera, and promises of crisp photos even in low light conditions (while they are fuzzy even in well-lit ones!), the company wants to appeal to youngsters on a tight budget.

Well, sorry kids, but this device isn't for you. In fact, it's not really good for anyone who's looking to run a demanding app on it or to take that stunning sunset selfie. On the other hand, if you are looking for a cheap backup, or need a device that will keep you connected for long, long times on a single charge, no bells and whistles, no song and dance, the Moto E4 Plus is definitely a good option.

What about alternatives? Well, if you don't want to be adventurous and order unknown Chinese-brand phones from questionable online vendors, you should check out the LG K20, Samsung Galaxy J3 or J7, all of which are in the ballpark of the Moto E4 Plus.

Moto E4 Plus review unit kindly provided by our friends at Clove.co.uk