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Moto E4 versus Galaxy J3: Battle of the supercheap phones

Can Samsung unseat the ultra-budget champ?

James Martin/CNET

Samsung may win kudos on the high end with the Galaxy S8, but it's Motorola that's become the champion of the midrange and budget phones, with the Moto Z2 Play, Moto G5 Plus and now, the Moto E4. 

(To muddle matters, there's also a Moto G5 and a Moto E4 Plus. See what I mean? Moto is everywhere.)

I wanted to know: Can Samsung's Galaxy J3 hold its own against the Moto E4, which comes in at about the same price?

Now playing: Watch this: Cheap Samsung phone gives us deja vu

I reviewed the Galaxy J3, and my colleague Patrick Holland reviewed the Moto E4. Then we compared notes, performance speeds and image quality (using the same photos). Both phones share the same screen size and resolution, Android software version and storage capacity. The processors are about on par. However, the differences are clear.

In one corner, the Galaxy J3 has the far better build quality and support for a higher capacity external storage card -- that means you can store more photos, games and music files on the J3 than on the Moto E4.

But the Moto E4 wins everywhere else. Image quality is far superior, the E4 is much faster and battery life runs a little longer. It's also cheaper than the Galaxy J3 in the US, UK and Australia. 

It's a shame, though. I wish the competition were closer. I really liked last year's Galaxy J3, but this year's disappointed me with hardware specs too similar to last year's model to make a huge performance difference, and actually less RAM than the 2016 version. In other words, while the Moto E4 for 2017 jumped ahead, the Galaxy J3 largely stayed in place.

Hopefully, Samsung puts more competitive effort into the Galaxy J3 for 2018. Buyers deserve a fair fight.

Samsung Galaxy J3 versus Moto E4, Moto G5 Plus, 2016 J3

Samsung Galaxy J3 (2017) Motorola Moto E4 Motorola Moto G5 Plus Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
Display size, resolution 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels 5.2-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5-inch; 1,280x720 pixels
Pixel density 293ppi 293ppi 424ppi 294ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.6 x 2.8 x 0.34 in 5.7x2.8x0.37 in 5.9x2.9x0.3 in 5.6x2.8x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 141x71.1x8.6mm 144.5x72x9.3 mm 150.2x74x7.7 mm 142x71x7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.2 oz; 147g 5.3 oz; 150g 5.5 oz, 155g 4.87 oz; 138 g
Mobile software Android Nougat 7.0 Android Nougat 7.1 Android 7.0 Nougat Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Camera 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 12-megapixel 5-megapixel
Front-facing camera 2-megapixel 5-megapixel with flash 5-megapixel 2-megapixel
Video capture 1080p 1080p 1080p 720p
Processor 1.4GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos 7 Quad-core processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon in North America; MediaTek globally) 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Storage 16GB 16GB 32GB (UK & US), 64GB (US only) 16GB
RAM 1.5GB 2GB 2GB on 32 GB (US model), 3GB on 32GB (UK model) or 4GB on 64GB (US model) 2GB
Expandable storage Up to 256GB Up to 128GB 128GB Up to 128GB
Battery 2,600mAh (removable) 2,800mAh (removable) 3,000mAh 2,600mAh (removable)
Fingerprint sensor None Beneath screen (varies by region) Below screen None
Connector Micro-USB Micro-USB Micro-USB Micro-USB
Special features Outdoor mode Dual-SIM (varies by region), splash-resistant (varies by region) Dual-SIM, splash-proof N/A
Price off-contract (USD) $180 $70-$130 $229 (32GB); $299 (64GB) $110-$180 (varies by carrier)
Price (GBP) Converts to £138 £129 £249 (32GB) £140 (8GB version)
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$227 Converts to AU$172 Converts to AU$300 (32GB) and AU$390 (64GB) AU$329