Hands on: Moto E5 Plus review

A monster-sized screen and battery at a reasonable price

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Our Early Verdict

The Moto E5 Plus delivers an expansive 6-inch screen with a 18:9 aspect ratio and a 5,000mAh battery that promises to deliver two-day battery life. These are high-end features derived from flagship phones married to mid-range specs and, importantly, what we expect to be a mid-range price.

For

  • Huge 5,000mAh battery
  • Large 6-inch display
  • Expected to be affordable

Against

  • Middling specs
  • Camera seems just okay

The Moto E5 Plus is the Android phone that's ready to power you through the next two days thanks to its big 6-inch LCD screen and equally huge 5,000mAh battery.

Its bezel-reduced screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio and unibody design make it a big upgrade over last year's Moto E4 Plus. The new E5 Plus is built for looks this time around in addition to packing a familiar battery built to last. Unlike the plastic-clad Moto E5 Play, it doesn't have a trap door for a removable battery.

Everything else about the Moto E5 Plus can be defined as reasonable. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 chipset, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. You can expand that space with a microSD card slot built that's for cards up to 128GB.

Some regions of the world may see lighter specs, including a Snapdragon 425 chip, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, but the US-bound handset that we tested had the better specs and performance.

The 12MP rear camera captures 1.25um big pixels and slo-motion video, and the 8MP front-facing camera has a flash to it. It's not as feature-packed as the Moto G6 camera, but it's, again, enough to power most people through their day.

And then there's the price. It too is expected to be reasonable, and offered through Verizon in addition to being available unlocked in the US. It'll be more expensive than the Moto E5, of course, but not outrageous for the value you get out of this big 6-inch smartphone package.

Design

You're going to be impressed with the Moto E5 design, even if you bought last year's E4. Its major jump in aesthetics makes the older model look very dated.

It mostly comes down to the expansive 6-inch display that reduces the unnecessary front bezel to make room for the tall 18:9 aspect ratio. It still has the name 'Motorola' tattooed along the bottom chin of the front of the phone, so it's bezel-reduced, but by no means an all-screen display like the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9.

The HD+ resolution of this LCD screen may be the one drawback to the otherwise rich-looking presentation. It can stretch pixels across a bigger plane. It's going to be fine for most multimedia, but not for gaming and it's not a VR-capable powerhouse.

With a big screen and battery comes a big phone. It measures 161.9 x 75.3 x 9.35 mm, which makes it a little thick, but at least Motorola's usually dramatic camera bump has been reduced in size. The phone also weighs a hefty 200g with its 5,000mAh battery in tow.

The Moto E5 Plus comes in two colors so far: Mineral Blue and Flash Gray. And both shine when light is reflected off of their back shells. The hallmark Moto logo is still on the back and doubles as a fingerprint sensor, like we've always wanted.

Battery life

The 5,000mAh battery is the second major selling point of the Moto E5 Plus after the equally big 6-inch screen. It can last for up to two days on a single charge, which is impressive among smartphones available today.

You're still likely going to be able burn through the battery in a day and a half if you really try, but it's not unreasonable to expect nearly two days worth of power given our testing of the 5,000mAh battery in the Moto E4 Plus proved as much.

There's no wireless charging from this phone and charging happens through a microUSB port, not USB-C. But Motorola does still tout its 15W TurboPower charger that's supposed to give you 6 hours of charge in just 15 minutes. This eye-popping number is achieved on dimly lit screen settings, but it's still notable.

Besides the more expansive 18:9 aspect ratio, the extreme battery life is the primary reason to choose the Moto E5 Plus over the more normal-looking E5 Play.

Performance

Everything else about the Moto E5 Plus defines what's popular in mid-range phones right now. Its Snapdragon 435 octa-core chipset is clocked at 1.4GHz and runs the Adreno 505 GPU. There's 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage inside.

If 32GB of internal storage seems rather light for a 6-inch smartphone with a stunning 18:9 display, you're right. You can, however, upgrade the space with a microSD card. There's a slot dedicated to expandable memory. But know in advance that it'll support a max of 128GB cards, according to Motorola, so any 256GB you have microSD cards won't help very much. 

We're going to continue to test the performance of the Moto E5 Plus. It's not as high end as the Moto G6, but to edge out the Moto G6 Play. In this respect, it balances an impressive design, screen size and battery with reasonable enough specs, making us wonder how well it can tackle multitasking and the latest 3D games. We can tell you now that it runs Android 8.0 Oreo, giving you the latest from Google software that's very close to stock Android.

Early verdict

The Moto E5 Plus is poised to become one of the best cheap phones you can buy in 2018 thanks to its 6-inch display, modern 18:9 aspect ratio, and hulking battery life. It marries these higher-end attributes to reasonable specs and what we expect to be an agreeable price at or just above $200 (last year's E4 cost $179.99 / £159).

We have to do more testing to do to see if its performance lives up to the hype that has us so impressed with the screen size and battery capacity. And, of course, we have to get confirmation on the price to determine if it's actually a good deal. That will come over the next few weeks, according to Motorola.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.