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Review: Motorola Moto E5 Play

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  

Jun 15, 2018, 12:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Motorola is selling its able-bodied, entry-level Moto E5 Play from Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Verizon Prepaid. If you're in the market for a solid, low-cost phone, the Moto E5 Play plays well thanks to its simple hardware, easy software, and capable performance. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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Is It Your Type?

The Moto E5 Play is an entry-level phone from Motorola. It provides phone buyers who may be on a budget with the latest software and a basic toolset at a price anyone can afford. If you're in the market for a low-cost phone that doesn't feel too outdated, the Moto E5 Play is a fine option.

Body

The E5 Play is the fifth-generation E series from Motorola. It sees the series taking a bit of a sideways step. The hardware is nearly identical to last year's E4.

There's no questioning the phone's Motorola heritage. The company's devices have all borne a similar shape over the last few years and the E5 Play carries the same basic footprint into 2018. This phone has a flat glass face, that is fitted into a plastic shell that forms the entire rear surface and side edges. The four corners of the E5 are gently rounded, and the rear panel curves as it reaches the side edges of the phone. It's a black phone with a matte finish along the sides and a patterned finish on the rear. No other colors are available.

Body  

This phone is much bigger than it should be. It has a 5.2-inch screen, but is somehow just as large as phones in the market with 6-inch screens. It's just shy of 6 inches tall and 3 inches wide. At least Motorola kept the thickness in check and the weight reasonable. It feels solid, without feeling heavy. Small hands could handle the weight, but not necessarily the size. People with average-sized hands should be able to use the phone without issue. It fits into pockets and travels well enough.

I don't have any concerns about the polycarbonate shell and other materials that make up the Moto E5 Play. For a sub-$100 phone, all the bits and pieces feel strong and well-assembled. I appreciate the build quality and apparent sturdiness.

Like many Motorola phones, the E5 Play has a nano-coating on the inside to protect the electronics from minor splashes and rain. The phone cannot handle a plunge into water, so keep it away from the pool.

The E5 Play has a 16:9 screen shape (rather than 2:1) and huge bezels all the way around. The phone has a huge forehead, a huge chin, and chubby side bezels.

Face

Face

Only two buttons adorn the E5 Play and you'll find them both on the right edge. A textured screen lock key is the first your thumb encounters as it slides up the side. It has a fine profile and good travel and feedback. The volume toggle is closer to the top and has a smooth texture to it. Feedback could be better; it's a bit mushy.

The microUSB port is located on the bottom edge, while the 3.5mm headphone jack is on top.

I like the textured pattern that covers the rear panel. It sounds like a zipper when you drag your thumbnail across it. The camera module, about the size and shape of a quarter, is close to the top edge. The style of the module matches Motorola's other phones, such as the G6.

Camera

Camera

Sadly, the Boost and Cricket versions of this phone do not have a fingerprint reader. (The version for Verizon does.)

Unlike the majority of today's phones, the E5 Play features a removable rear shell. The entire back panel comes off if you work your thumb into the right corner. The SIM card and memory cards have their own distinct slots in the chassis underneath. You can pull the battery, and in fact you'll have to, in order to remove or replace the SIM card. I can't remember the last time I encountered a removable battery. Yeehaw!

Hand Fit  

I wish the Moto E5 Play for Boost were smaller and had a fingerprint reader. Otherwise, it's a respectable $100 bit of hardware.

Screen

The E5 Play's LCD measures 5.2 inches corner to corner and sticks to the older 16:9 aspect ratio. It has HD resolution (1,280 by 720 pixels), which is about what I expect from an entry-level phone. The resolution works well enough for this screen size and shape. On-screen elements looked clean and sharp. I couldn't spot any individual pixels. The display throws off plenty of light. I used the phone inside and outside without losing sight of the screen, even under direct sunlight. Colors looked good and viewing angles were excellent.

If you want to tweak the display, the E5 Play offers a few options. For example, you can select from a few preset color profiles in addition to managing brightness, and other typical behaviors.

Display  

Signal

The Moto E5 Play is sold from Boost, Cricket, and Verizon Prepaid. We tested the Boost-branded version on Sprint's network around New York City. (Boost is a Sprint brand.)

The phone did a very good job of finding and connecting to Sprint. It remained on 4G LTE everywhere I took it over the course of several days and never dropped the network entirely. The E5 Play connected calls consistently, even under poor conditions, and never dropped a call. That's all good news.

With Cat. 6 LTE aboard, you can expect decent data performance for a phone of this class. (Many entry-level phones still only go up to Cat. 4.) The E5 Play was quick enough on Sprint's network for browsing the web, perusing Facebook, and enjoying Instagram. Streaming music from Spotify and video from YouTube required lower quality settings to get a stutter-free experience.

Sound

Call quality was a bit uneven. Some calls were clear and some were not. It varied more than I've seen on most phones of late, but this kind of result can be the fault of the network. Volume was consistent. I never had any trouble hearing calls as long as the volume was set all the way up. I could discern voices when in coffee shops, malls, on city streets, and at home in the office. No worries there. I just wish there were less occasional distortion in the earpiece.

The earpiece doubles as the speakerphone. Speakerphone calls were crackly and messy at the loudest volumes. Dialing back the noise evened out the clarity by at least a little, but then made calls harder to hear.

The ringers are well and truly loud enough to get your attention when needed. The vibrate alert is just okay.

Battery

The E5 Play has a 2,800 mAh battery inside and it does a great job. The screen and processor doesn't demand as much juice as those on higher-end phones. That means you win when it comes to battery life. The phone rarely ended a day with less than 40% during my tests. It easily pushed into a second day on a single charge.

The E5 Play supports rapid charging. It doesn't take too long to power up when plugged into the included charger.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

Bluetooth worked fine with headphones and speakers, but wouldn't talk to my car at all. Calls sent to speakers sounded pretty good, but not the best. Music was just okay when streamed to a pair of good headphones.

The GPS did much better. The E5 Play located me quickly enough and to within about 25 feet. It handled real-time navigation without too much fuss.

There is no NFC radio on the E5 Play.

The WiFi radio helped a lot and worked fine when downloading apps at home.

If you're an FM fan, the E5 Play lets you listen to local stations as long as you have a pair of wired headphones available.

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