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Compared to the cameras on the Galaxy S9 or Pixel 2, the Moto E5 Play cameras are unexceptional. But, for the a smartphone that’s only about $99, they’re surprisingly good.
The rear camera has an 8MP sensor, and the front-facing camera is 5MP. To our surprise, both cameras are capable of recording in Full HD (1080p).
In terms of sharpness, the Moto E5 Play camera actually does a good job. Our sample images turned out crisp, without too many blurry edges or hazy details. It struggle to balance high contrast scenes, though. The HDR feature helps save details in dark or light patches, but since that’s applied after the photo is taken, it can be tricky to be sure what you’ll get. Colors are also overly muted by the camera.
The video, though Full HD, doesn’t look all that good. Part of that is because it's being displayed on a 720p screen. You’ll need to export the video (or, more likely, post it to social media) to reap the 1080p benefits. But, hold up. The HDR capabilities that help out in still photos don’t carry over to video, so the light-dark balance in your footage may be poor regardless of what screen you view it on. There’s also a slo-mo video mode, but it further reduces the video quality.
It may not be perfect, but for $99, it’s doing great work. Our biggest gripe with the camera is actually just its placement. We had way too easy a time getting our knuckle into the shot (as can be seen clearly in some of our sample photos).
Like everything else, the Moto E5 Play battery is nothing too exciting. It has a 2,800mAh capacity that’s enough to get through a full day of regular use.
We ran our usual test playing a 90-minute Full HD video (though the screen only displayed it at 720p) on the phone at maximum brightness and 100% charge, and there was still 86% battery left at the end of the video. It’s not record-setting, but it means you ought to be able to keep the Moto E5 Play running until you get home to charge it at the end of the day, even if you decide to watch a movie on your lunch break.
Motorola mentions the Moto E5 Play supporting both a 5-watt and 10-watt charger, with the latter offering rapid charging. But we only had access to the 5W charger out of the box, and that was far from fast. Starting at fully discharged, the phone took just over 3 hours to reach 100%. The first 15 minutes got it up to just 12%, and after an hour, it was only up to 39%.
For users who don’t like the idea of such slow charging, there is a plus side. The battery inside is readily removable. Anyone that doesn’t want to wait around for the phone to recharge could simply swap in a charged backup battery and go on with their day.
The Moto E5 Play has its fair share of features to nitpick, and just as many points where it surprises. And, for every nitpick, like the washed out colors in photos, we just remind ourselves this phone is only $99. While for each pleasant surprise, like the sharp camera images, we think, “and still it’s only $99!” Every shortcoming is made up for by the price.
All the hype often goes to the flagship smartphones. Or, sometimes it goes to the budget smartphones styling themselves after premium handsets, like Motorola’s own Moto G6 and even the Moto E5 Plus.
The Moto E5 Play skips the hype and posturing and just goes full utilitarian. It gives all the tools a modern smartphone user really needs at the lowest price while still performing adequately.
Our biggest complaint about the Moto E5 Play is really just that it’s available for too few carriers. But it could be worse. Among the compatible US carriers is Boost Mobile, which offers one of the best unlimited plans in the US.
Over the last several years, Mark has been tasked as a writer, an editor, and a manager, interacting with published content from all angles. He is intimately familiar with the editorial process from the inception of an article idea, through the iterative process, past publishing, and down the road into performance analysis.