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Moto E (second-generation) review


Moto E (second-generation) reviewLast year, Motorola brought about a paradigm shift in India's low-end smartphone market with its first-generation Moto E, a handset that offered a decent screen, long-lasting battery and sufficiently powerful processor to a segment that only had poor quality Android phones. This smartphone was a gamechanger, so much so that other brands like Micromax etc had to step up their game just to remain relevant.

But a year is a long time in the smartphone industry and the likes of Xiaomi and Lenovo came with their own handsets that offered similar features at the price point and bettered Moto E when it came to its biggest weakness: the camera.

Now Motorola is back with the second-generation Moto E smartphone, offering much of the same features at Rs 6,999 as its predecessor, but adding a slightly bigger screen, a front camera, quad-core processor and more powerful battery to the mix. But is the new Moto E good enough to weather the storms that are Lenovo A6000 and the new Xiaomi Redmi 2? Or are the upgrades too minor to notice? We find out in our Moto E (Gen 2) review...

Design
While the second-generation Moto X and G smartphones sport designs that easily differentiate them from their predecessors, the second-generation Moto E sticks to the old look and feel. So, you get a slightly bigger screen in a package that is just as thick (12.3mm at its thickest point) and heavy (145gram) as the first-gen model.



In the front, you will notice that the speaker has been moved from the bottom of the screen (in the first-generation model) to above the display, with the front camera on its right. There are still no hardware buttons, so the front panel looks pretty bare minimum when the screen is turned off.



The back is still curved, which makes holding the second-generation Moto E very easy even for people with small hands. Towards the top of the rear panel are the camera encircled with a metal ring and the dimpled Motorola logo. The volume rocker and power keys are located on the right side and sport a brushed metal look, which make them easier to locate without even looking.

One big change you will notice the introduction of removable bands, which Motorola has used as a means of providing little customization option to buyers. Though the bands feel a little flimsy in terms of build quality by themselves, they are easy to secure on the handset and complement the overall build quality of the smartphone. These bands also help users grip the smartphone, as they sport the same finish we saw in the new Moto E's volume rocker and power button.



Overall, we agree with Motorola's strategy of not changing the design much: don't fix something if it isn't broken. The second-generation Moto E is certainly ahead of competitors like Xiaomi Redmi 2 and Lenovo A6000 in design and build, even though it is a tad heavy.

Display



Motorola has stuck to the 540x960p screen resolution in a time when rivals offer HD (720x1280p) displays even at Rs 6,000. Though it may seem like a deal breaker, we don't put too much stock in these numbers and feel that most users will be sufficiently pleased with the display quality of the new Moto E.

The increase in screen size (from 4.3-inch in the first-gen model to 4.5-inch in the new one) means that pixel density has decreased. However, we did not find any pixilation, partly due to the colour reproduction of the panel, which masks the pixels that may be seen by the naked eye.

Moto E (Gen 2)'s display performs well under direct sunlight and does not lose colours when used outdoors. However, the viewing angles still show room for improvement, even though they are better than the ones we have seen on the first-generation Moto E. The new smartphone does well in colour reproduction too, giving rich and vibrant colours that don't seem oversaturated.

Hardware
Inside, the Moto E (Gen 2) model available in India runs on the same 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor as its predecessor, but has four cores this time. The RAM is still 1GB, but you get twice the internal storage (8GB). In the camera department, you finally get a selfie snapper but only of VGA resolution, while the rear shooter sticks to the 5MP resolution. Battery capacity has increased (from 2,080mAh to 2,390mAh), while the connectivity suite remains the same (2G, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB 2.0).

Motorola has unveiled a 4G-enabled Moto E as well, but it is yet to hit the Indian market. To be priced slightly higher than the 3G model, this smartphone runs on the new 64-bit 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor, while the rest of the features remain the same. We tried out this model at the recently-concluded Mobile World Congress; to read our first impressions of Moto E 4G, click here.

Software
As with its previous smartphones, Motorola has used stock Android in the second-generation Moto E too, this time giving us a taste of 5.0 Lollipop. The company uses almost a stock version of Google's latest mobile operating system, adding a few of its own apps and features over the default skin. However, you have seen all these features in previous Motorola smartphones.

The most noticeable the Glance Screen-like active notifications that show you missed calls and messages, app alerts etc even when the new Moto E is in sleep mode. It is a pretty useful feature as you don't need to wake up the smartphone each time to see the time and some alerts you may have missed.



You also get the bare-bones Motorola Camera, Moto Assist and Migrate apps preloaded on the smartphone. The Moto Assist is pretty smart,
keeping the smartphone in different modes (namely sleep and meeting) depending on your schedule.

There's not much left to talk about when it comes to the software on the smartphone unless you haven't used stock Android Lollipop. Primarily, you will notice lots of Material Design animations and will be able to set up multiple profiles.

Performance
The first Moto E was a decent performer and the new edition improves on that foundation a little, but not too much. The stock Android Lollipop build ensures that most of the processes are easily managed by this low-cost smartphone, with slick animations giving a feel of speed even though the processor is miles away from the fastest in the market.

Though it is certainly not a beast, the new Moto E will be sufficient for most tasks you do on your smartphone. The apps are quick to start, though heavy games tend to take time to open. Running games like Asphalt 8 smoothly is a problem, but light ones like Subway Surfer are good to go.

The default browser is Chrome, so you will see all tabs in the multitasking view unless you turn this feature off in the app's settings. The cascade view multitasking menu for the smartphone gave us no trouble at all, thus switching between tasks pretty easy.

As a multimedia device, Moto E is decent. The front-facing speakers still only offer mono output, but the audio quality has improved
noticeably over the previous iteration of Moto E. Even at full volume, the sound does not crack; you can easily use this smartphone as your bedside speaker. Playing videos is fine if you cap it at HD videos, since the Full HD videos show a lot of frame drops.

Battery life remains the highlight of the Moto E series. The 2,390mAh battery is great, offering running time of one and a half days on a single charge with moderate usage and one day even with heavy usage.

Camera



The 5MP camera of Moto E (Gen 2) is passable at best, delivering photos that lack details. Though the colours appear natural and white balance is nearly okay, the camera take shots that are hazy and appear a little overexposed. Though the camera has HDR, the shots captured in this mode don't turn out too well either.



The front camera has VGA resolution, but is not useful for taking selfies. The images turn out grainy even under the best of lighting. It makes little sense for Motorola to strap on a front camera with such low resolution in this age of selfies.

Overall, the camera remains one of the low points of the new Moto E, and we would advise you to stay away if taking photos is one of your primary objectives with a smartphone.

Moto E (Gen 2) vs Xiaomi Redmi 2
This is a question that many buyers probably have. In our experience with the two smartphones, you should pick Redmi 2 only if a camera is very important to you, since this is where the Xiaomi smartphone truly excels over the Motorola handset. On all other parameters, the two smartphones are almost equals, with Moto E edging past Redmi 2 when it comes to apps opening faster, as Xiaomi's MIUI skin slows down the relatively faster processor.

Verdict
Though a small update, Moto E (Gen 2) is an excellent smartphone at Rs 6,999 and offers a lot for the price. Though the camera is a downer, the smartphone overall is pretty good to use despite not too many changes. We recommend buying the new Moto E, but if you can wait a few more weeks, stick around for the 4G model, which has a faster processor and offers more long-term operability.
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