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Motorola Moto E4 review: This is the super-cheap phone to get

The Motorola Moto E4 gives you the best features of any super-budget phone.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple, iPhone, iOS, Android, Samsung, Sony, Google, Motorola, interviews, coffee equipment, cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
3 min read

Motorola makes wonderful budget phones like the Moto G5 and the G5 Plus. Its newest addition is the Moto E4 which packs a lot of features: Android Nougat 7.1, a fingerprint sensor, a removeable battery and a selfie flash all within a body the size of a chubby iPhone 7. The E4 is ridiculously cheap: $130, £129 or AU$249 for an unlocked model. Here in the US, an Amazon Prime version with lock screen ads is $99 and one on a Verizon prepaid plan is just $70.

Moto E4

Motorola Moto E4

The Good

The Moto E4 has a near stock version of Android Nougat, a fingerprint reader, a removeable battery, a selfie flash and is splash resistant -- all while being ridiculously cheap.

The Bad

The display is hard to see in sunlight and the camera is slow to process photos.

The Bottom Line

The Moto E4 is the cheapest Motorola phone but doesn't compromise too much on its amenities.

There are times where the low cost shows. The processor is slow, the display is hard to view in sunlight and the camera is sluggish to process shots. If this is a deal breaker, you can pay a bit more for one of Motorola's other budget phones that have higher specs.

In the US and UK, Motorola also makes the E4 Plus, which has a larger screen, a bigger battery and a higher megapixel camera for $180 and £159, respectively. On paper, the UK version seems worth the £30 upgrade since it comes with 3GB of RAM instead of the 2GB found in the US version.

Take a look at the Moto E4: A super-cheap wonder

See all photos

In Australia, there's the Moto G5, which has a better metal build, a higher resolution display and a higher megapixel camera for AU$50 more.

The reason you buy the E4 is its price. And for the price, it's amazing what Motorola gives you. Its nearest rival is the Samsung Galaxy J3 which costs more, takes worse photos and lacks the overall charm of the E4. But if the E4's compromises, such as an average camera, make you sad, remind yourself how much it costs. Still sad? Get the Moto G5 Plus .

Motorola budget phones in the US

Moto E4 (16GB)Moto E4 Plus (16GB)Moto G5 Plus (32GB)Moto G5 Plus (64GB)
Unlocked price $130$180$229$299
Display 5-inch 1,280x720 pixels5.5-inch 1,280x720 pixels5.2-inch 1,980x1080 pixels5.2-inch 1,980x1080 pixels
Processor 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon (425 or 427)1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 4272.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6252.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Battery 2,800mAh (removable)5,000mAh3,000mAh3,000mAh
NFC NoNoYesYes
Camera (rear and front) 8-megapixel, 5 megapixel13-megapixel, 5-megapixel12-megapixel, 5-megapixel12-megapixel, 5-megapixel
Video 1080p HD1080p HD4K4K

It's positively Moto

The E4's slick glass display looks handsome, but in my hand the plastic back feels low-end. The phone's charm comes from details like a textured sleep/wake button, a selfie flash and a fingerprint sensor.

My favorite E4 feature, one button navigation, turns the fingerprint sensor into a mini navigation touchpad. It's also on the Moto G5 and G5 Plus.

The E4 did really well in our looped video battery drain test lasting 14 hours and 20 minutes. That's about 25 minutes longer than its closest budget competitor, the Samsung Galaxy J3.

In testing, the processor fared better than its rival the Galaxy J3. See the chart below. The E4 surprised me handling everyday use really well. The camera is where I noticed the limits of the E4's processor. The time it took to process shots felt long. Though, when I played games like Super Mario Run, OK K.O.! and even Modern Combat 5, the only indication the E4 struggled was when the back got warm.

GeekBench 4

Motorola Moto E4 648 1,810Samsung Galaxy J3 (2017) 623 1,834Motorola Moto G5 615 2,579Motorola Moto G5 Plus 830 4,138
  • Single core
  • Multi core
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Motorola Moto E4 6,134Samsung Galaxy J3 (2017) 4,618Motorola Moto G5 9,462Motorola Moto G5 Plus 13,382
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Sometimes cheap is cheap

The E4 has a modest display. It's fine indoors, but barely visible under direct sunlight.

But the rear camera is the E4's weakest point. When compared to the more expensive Moto G5 Plus, the E4's photos had less detail and dynamic range (the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a photo).

But when compared to other super-cheap phones like the Galaxy J3, the E4 produces photos with more detail and a more realistic rendering. You should have no trouble using the E4 to fill up your social media feed with photo posts.

The E4 has a dedicated selfie flash which produces mixed results. When I used it on myself, my skin looked washed out, but when I took a group selfie the fill flash made everyone look good. This is a luxury you don't see in many phones in this price range, so it's a good option to have. Take a look at some of the shots I took with the Moto E4 in the gallery below.

Can you tell these photos were taken with a $130 phone?

See all photos
Moto E4

Motorola Moto E4

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Camera 7Battery 8