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Moto G5 Plus vs. E4: Battle of the best budget phones

Looking to save money on a budget phone, but not sure which is for you? I look at two of our favs: the Moto G5 Plus and the Moto E4.

Patrick Holland/CNET
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Australian millionaire Tim Gurner caused a social media storm earlier this year when he criticized millennials for buying avocado toast and four-dollar coffee instead of saving money. But if you like such edible amenities, giving them up to save money is difficult. 

Fortunately, you don't have to fork over a lot to buy a great phone like the Moto G5 Plus -- or the even cheaper Moto E4. Instead of paying say, $650 for a top-tier phone, you could pay $300 for the G5 or $130 for the E4. With the dough saved, you could buy a lot of avocado toast.


Looking to save money, but don't want to give up avocado toast? Take a look at Motorola's budget phones: the Moto G5 Plus and the Moto E4.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Both of these phones are cheap, but each has its own appeal and benefits. Read on to see how they stack up against one another.

Moto G5 Plus pricing

Moto G5 Plus (US) Moto G5 Plus (UK) Moto G5 Plus (Australia)
Unlocked price $229, $299 £249 AU$399, AU$449
Storage 32GB, 64GB 32GB 16GB, 32GB
NFC No Yes Yes

The G5 Plus can also be bought in the US on Amazon Prime with lockscreen ads for $185 (32GB storage, 2GB RAM) or $240 (64GB storage, 4GB RAM).

The Moto E4 costs $130, £129 or AU$249 for a model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Here in the US, an Amazon Prime version with lock screen ads is $99 and one on a Verizon prepaid plan is just $70.

The oh so good OS

The G5 Plus and E4 both run a near stock version of Android (7.0 on the G5 Plus and 7.1 on the E4), with a few welcome software additions from Motorola. With Android Nougat, that means both phones have Google Assistant at the ready, which worked quickly and consistently.

One surprising inclusion is the fingerprint reader, since there are more expensive phones that lack one. It's located on the front and was responsive, fast and is even capable of performing some nifty navigation shortcuts, which Motorola calls One Button Nav. Swipe left to go back, right to show recents, tap to go home and long press to bring up Google Assistant.

There are a few features both phones lack that I wouldn't mind having, such as optical image stabilization, and depending on the region, NFC -- which means no Android Pay. See the chart at the end of the article for a comparison of specs.

Metal or plastic

The Moto G5 Plus has a metal body while the Moto E4 is plastic, details I immediately noticed when I held each one. The G5 Plus felt more premium and solid, while E4's removable back and battery gave it a light, hollow feel. The latter isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just different than the metal and glass most phones are made of and that I personally prefer.


The Moto E4 is made of plastic and the Moto G5 Plus is made of metal.

Patrick Holland/CNET

All in all, the G5 has the slick looks of a midtier handset. The E4 looks like a cheap plastic chubby iPhone 7.

Steady speeds

The G5 Plus has a beefier processor packing either 2, 3 or 4GB of RAM (depending on region). The processor was enough to make everything quick and breezy in use: animations, games, launching apps like the camera.

The E4, despite having a smaller processor and limited only to 2GB of RAM, still performed well. Playing games like Super Mario Run and Modern Combat 5 was fine. The only sign that it struggled was the back warming up.

When I opened the E4's camera app, however, I noticed a slight lag. The same thing happened when I took an HDR photo. Compared to the G5 Plus, it took longer for the E4 to process a photo before letting me take the next shot.

Cameras show the difference

Comparing cameras showed the sharpest contrast between the two phones. The Moto G5 Plus has a 12-megapixel rear camera and can shoot 4K video. Images were nice and focusing was accurate.

The Moto E4 has an 8-megapixel camera and shoots 1080p video. Images were OK, but had less dynamic range and less resolution than the G5 Plus. On the upside, the E4 has an LED flash for the selfie camera, which helps light up portraits, but I got mixed results. For example, it was great for covering groups, and worked well as a fill flash outdoors, but indoors the flash often overexposed images. Still, it's nice to have if the situation calls for it.

In the same vein, the 4K video on the G5 Plus was impressive, and had lots of color range and detail.

Video on the E4, on the other hand, was pretty bad. This was the area where the phone let me down the most. Recordings looked blotchy and suffered from moire and rolling shutter (also known as the jello effect).

As I mentioned before, neither phone has optical image stabilization, but most midrange phones don't either, so it's not a huge knock. Still, it'd be useful to have.

Which one should you buy?

If money is your absolute concern, you can't do better than the Moto E4. In the US, you can buy it for as low as $70 prepaid on Verizon. It performs well in everyday situations and is impressive for a phone that costs so little.

But if you want a budget phone that has more of a premium feel and features, the G5 Plus is the one to buy. If you're in the US or Australia, I'd recommend getting the top-of-the-line option that gives you more storage and more RAM. To learn more about these phones take a look at my Moto G5 Plus review and Moto E4 review.

Moto E4 and Moto G5 Plus models and specs

Moto E4 (US, UK, Australia) Moto E4 (US) Moto G5 Plus (US, Australia) Moto G5 Plus (UK)
Unlocked price $130, £129, AU$249 $130 $229, $299; AU$399, AU$449 £249
Storage 16GB 16GB 16GB (Australia only), 32GB, 64GB (US only) 32GB
RAM 2GB 2GB 2GB (Australia only), 3GB, 4GB (US only) 3GB
Display 5-inch 1,280x720 pixels 5-inch 1,280x720 pixels 5.2-inch 1,9080x1080 pixels 5.2-inch 1,9080x1080 pixels
Processor 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek 6737 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon (425 or 427) 2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Battery 2,800mAh (removeable) 2,800mAh (removeable) 3,000mAh 3,000mAh
NFC Yes (UK), No (Australia) No Yes (Australia), No (US) Yes
Camera (rear and front) 8-megapixel, 5 megapixel 8-megapixel, 5 megapixel 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel
Video 720p HD 1080p HD 4K 4K
Country Australia, UK US Australia, US UK