Moto E3 review

The Moto E3 is brilliantly cheap, but not brilliant value

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If you’re on a strict budget, the Moto E3 is a solid option. You can currently pick one up for £100 or less in the UK, while elsewhere it’s likely to come in at around $125/AU$170, which is not a lot to pay for the most widely used device you’re likely to own.

For that you get an improved 5-inch display, a competent camera, and truly excellent battery life. But there seems to be a new threshold developing in the low-end smartphone market, and it’s one that the E3 (and its low-cost rivals) is suddenly on the wrong side of.

You can now expect a certain level of agreeable performance in all areas of a smartphone by spending just a little more. Stretching your budget to $200/£150/AU$300 can ensure that the camera and other everyday apps boot up reasonably quickly, that flicking between home screens is more or less stutter free, and that the latest games play proficiently - none of which the Moto E3 can manage.

Don’t get us wrong, there’s still a need for a sub-$150/£100/AU$200 smartphone category. It just so happens that the way the smartphone component supply chain is at the moment, you can get much better value by spending a little more money.

Who's this for?

The Moto E3 is for those on the strictest of budgets, who want to spend the bare minimum on a phone - but who also want it to do all the basics in a reliable fashion.

It’s also for those who don’t tend to find themselves glued to their phone for much of the day, and who just want a reliable caller and messager as and when it’s needed. It’s the perfect first phone for young kids, too.

Should you buy it?

If $125/£100/AU$170 really is the absolute limit of your smartphone budget, then the Moto E3 is a smart choice. It’s well-built, has a nice legible screen, a pleasant interface, and its camera is capable of capturing some decent shots.

But if you can be persuaded to extend your budget by another $75/£70/AU$150, the Moto G4 represents a sizeable step up in overall experience. It’s the better value proposition by some way.

Even stretching to something like the £135 (around $170/AU$230) Vodafone Smart Ultra 7 will get you a much smoother, sharper experience. It all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend - and how much you’re willing to concede.

Whether you’re strictly on a Moto E-level budget or can stretch to something slightly pricier there are several other phones you might want to consider, and we’ve highlighted three of them below.

Vodafone Smart Ultra 7

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 7 features a larger and sharper 5.5-inch 1080p display and a more capable chip and RAM setup. Its 13MP camera isn’t any great shakes though, and it doesn’t feel or look as nice as the Moto E3 in the hand.

But if you actually intend to use your phone a lot, or are at all interested in experiencing video and gaming media on the device, it’s a better pick.

Of course, you’ll need to spend a little more for the privilege, and you’ll be tied to Vodafone, so it’s not without its compromises.

Wileyfox Spark

The Wileyfox Spark guns for the same combination of entry-level price and solid build quality as the E3, but it too runs into some familiar difficulties.

While it’s a handsome phone, and also benefits from a similar 5-inch 720p display, the Spark runs into difficulties in terms of performance in everyday tasks.

That’s not so surprising given that it runs on the same chipset and RAM configuration as the Moto E3. It’s another sign that cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good value in the world of smartphones.

Moto G4

Rather than name another entry-level phone at a similar price to the Moto E3, let’s instead highlight a worthy upgrade. If you can raise your sights (and find an extra $75/£70/AU$150 from somewhere), the Moto G4 is one of the best-value smartphones you can buy.

Everything is significantly better here than with the Moto E3, from its 5.5-inch 1080p display to its Snapdragon 617 chipset and its more capable 13MP camera. It’s a clear class above.

Yes, the Moto G4 is quite a bit more expensive, but it’s still not expensive. If you can find the cash, this is less of a step up from the E3 and more of a leap.

First reviewed: December 2016