Motorola’s E series has always focused on no-frills phones with solid performance for an affordable price. The new Moto E5 Play follows suit, with a capable Snapdragon processor, enough RAM to handle most common
Pricing and Carriers
The Moto E5 Play is available on several low-cost carriers in slightly different variants. It’s most affordable on Cricket Wireless, where it’s branded as the Moto E5 Cruise, lacks a fingerprint sensor, and costs a mere $ 39.99, provided you’re signing up for a new line or upgrade. Prepaid on Verizon Wireless it will run you $ 69.99. On Boost Mobile the E5 Play also doesn’t come with a fingerprint sensor and costs $ 99.99. Finally, you have the Xfinity Mobile model (an MVNO operated by Comcast, which uses Verizon towers) for $ 119.99, at which point you’re better off buying the more capable Moto G6 Play.
We tested review units for Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless. A fully unlocked version of the E5 Play isn’t available.
Design, Display, and Features
The E5 Play follows the design language of the Moto E4, with a similar lightweight black plastic construction and a removable back cover. It feels sturdy and durable, despite not being officially ruggedized, with a water-repellent coating that can withstand accidental spills and splashes, but not full immersion in water.
In terms of size, the E5 Play measures 6.0 by 2.9 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.3 ounces. It’s about the same size and weight as the Alcatel 1X (5.8 by 2.8 by 0.4 inches, 5.3 ounces), and quite a bit lighter than the chunky G6 Play (6.1 by 2.8 by 0.4 inches, 6.2 ounces), which has a glass-and-metal body and a supersized battery. While the E5 Play won’t weigh down your pocket, it’s not the easiest to use with one hand due to a thick top and bottom bezel.
The E5 Play’s display is better than we typically see in this price range. It has a 5.2-inch 1,280-by-720 IPS panel that works out to 282 pixels per inch (
Network Performance and Connectivity
The E5 Play supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/25/26/29/30/38/41/66, allowing it to work well on several different carriers. We tested network performance primarily on Boost Mobile, which uses Sprint’s network, and saw average network performance in midtown Manhattan.
The phone also has Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Dual-band connectivity is something we typically see on more costly phones, so it’s a nice surprise here. There’s also Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless listening, but no NFC so you can’t use mobile payments.
Call quality is mixed. Earpiece volume is reasonably loud, letting you take calls outdoors, but clarity and noise cancellation aren’t the best.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The E5 Play is powered by either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 or 427 processor depending on where you buy it. The difference between the two chipsets in fairly negligible in terms of performance, but for the purposes of testing, we used the Boost Mobile version which has a Snapdragon 427 clocked at 1.4GHz and 2GB of RAM.
In the PCMark benchmark, which measures a variety of tasks including web browsing and photo and video editing, the E5 Play scored 3,477, much better than the MediaTek MT6739-powered Alcatel 1X (2,842). It can handle a reasonable amount of multitasking, but there’s definitely some sluggishness when switching between apps, and I experienced some crashes. High-end gaming is also out of the question. That said, for average daily use (calls, texts, web, social networking, etc.) the E5 Play works just fine.
Battery life could be better. The phone’s 2,800mAh cell clocked 4 hours, 8 minutes in our rundown test, in which we stream full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness. That’s a lot shorter than the 4,000mAh G6 Play, which outran our 12-hour test video with juice to spare. The similarly sized Nokia 6.1, meanwhile, clocked 5 hours, 5 minutes. The one advantage the E5 Play has is that its battery is removable, allowing you to swap it out for a fresh cell if you run out of juice. It’s also capable of fast charging with the included 5V/2A adapter.
The phone’s 8MP rear camera hasn’t significantly improved from the E4. It takes passable photos in good lighting, but images lack in fine detail. In lower lighting the drop in quality is precipitous. Outdoor test photos taken on a cloudy day were dull and muddy, while indoor shots were blurry and out of focus. Manual controls let you bump up settings like ISO, but doing this results in grainier images without significantly improving clarity, so you’re better off using the default.
The Play is capable of recording 1080p video at 30fps, but
The E5 Play comes running Android 8.0 Oreo with Motorola’s clean UI layer that makes few visual changes to the stock interface. The only extra functionality you get is Moto Display, which can show time, date, and notifications while the rest of the screen is off; keep the screen on while you’re looking at it
There’s some bloatware on the Boost Mobile model of the phone we tested, with 12 preinstalled apps including 1Weather, airG, five Amazon apps, two Boost apps, Tidal, and Uber. Fortunately, all of them can be uninstalled aside from Gadget Guardian, a mobile antivirus and malware scanner. Out of 16GB of internal storage, you have 10.2GB available for use. You can also use a microSD card.
Whether you buy it for $ 40 or $ 120, the Moto E5 Play offers solid value if you’re looking for a no-frills smartphone that can handle your basic app, browsing, and telephony needs. It has smoother performance and cleaner software than the similarly priced Alcatel 1X. That said, if you’re considering buying the E5 at the higher end of its price range, you might want to consider the Moto G6 Play instead. It’s available for as low as $ 130 at some carriers, and offers more powerful hardware and a bigger battery, earning our Editors’ Choice for budget-friendly phones.