Saturday, 7 July 2018

Moto E4 Plus

The headline feature of this unit over anything else (mainstream) outside of the (apparently now) unsupported Lenovo P2 is the 5000mAh battery. And what a battery it is proving to be! Early doors here, but on current projections, I reckon it'll run for me, on my general usage, for 3 days between charges. Amazing! Not even the Moto Z with Incipio OffGrid Powerbank clacked in place will do this - in fact, recently, I've been switching the powerbanks at tea-time. Which is OK, as that's how it can work, but this unit is far out-powering even that. Even the Moto Z Play with the OffGrid employed!

Why? I guess it's because of the Mediatek MT6737 (which allegedly places it somewhere between the Snapdragon 410 and 435), the 720p screen and Virtual Vanilla implementation of Android 7.1.1. with April 2017 Security update along with the Nougat efficiency. So, what's the payoff? Very little, as it turns out, though maybe over the course of a couple of weeks it'll clog up and slow down. I'll let you know!

It's only got 16GB of onboard storage but is very happily here using Adoptable Storage via a MicroSD Card so the lack of storage is a non-issue. 3GB RAM keep things moving along, but, as discovered with other 400-series Snapdragon devices lately, namely, the Wileyfox Swift 2 X, if you're picky, yes - there is a little slow-down here and there. It's not lightning fast as you'd expect of a flagship device, but are these nanoseconds here and there worth an extra £600 on the purchase price?

The phone is all aluminium across the back, which is like a 'trough', removed to access the card slots. When you get the 'back' off (and get back from the Manicurist!) you're left with the screen and workings completely separate from the wraparound casing. There's a Nano SIM Card Slot sitting under the Micro SD Card slot with, on this unit acquired from Amazon UK, no second SIM option. From what I read, there are other configurations of this unit, particularly for India, which have differing components. Although the battery doesn't come out, it looks like locking it in was a bit of an afterthought as it doesn't seem like it would take much jiggery-pokery to replace it.

It's heavy and solid with a 5.5" IPS LCD screen covered in Gorilla Glass 3. Personally, I'd have preferred the device to be 5.2" and fatter, with the same 5000mAh battery, making it last even longer, driving a smaller screen. In the box you get a 10W fast-charger which it's wise to employ, as charging over a bog-standard charger seems to take 2hrs+ to fill up. Absolutely fine overnight of course, and with this amount of power you won't need a top-up in the day anyway! The bad news (for some of us) is that it's using MicroUSB still. But, again, I still have thousands of those cables so, for now, I won't let that spoil the party.

It's got a 13MP f2 rear-facing camera with LED flash and 5MP f2.2 front-facing sister with another, selfie, LED flash. As usual, I'll leave others to assess the quality of the camera, but you don't have to delve too far into YouTube to discover that it's on the lower side of mediocre in the usual budget way. But, as I always say, it's absolutely fine for 95% of people doing 95% of stuff they need to do with it. Pixel Peepers with OCD, beware!

There's a fingerprint scanner on the front, the same Oval design as the G5 with the same annoying option to use it as a swipe-navigation control, making the full use of the screen for viewing, which, as with the G5, was rapidly switched off. The fingerprint sensor is probably the slowest to respond that I have used. But, again, it's nanoseconds. Save £600 and blink when you press it?! The good news is that unlike the G5, the phone has got NFC so Android Pay works and I've confirmed it's working with a purchase last night. The fingerprint scanner also locks the phone, like the Moto Z's.

The speaker is located on the bottom of the device and it's fairly loud, but horribly tinny until you fire up the included Dolby Atmos. Not a perfect solution by any stretch of the imagination but when tinkered with, it provides a very acceptable sound and is easily good enough for personal listening on a desk/bedside. Apparently it has Dolby Atmos microphones, too, which I guess means that audio recording is better in some way. That needs testing at an Iron Maiden gig, I suppose! There's 3.5mm eaphone socket, which appears to work fine and produce a more than acceptable sound, again, with Dolby Atmos employed.

The software is incredibly Vanilla, just like the G5, with Backup and Restore working a treat, Google Assistant working out of the box, Pixel-style layout of homescreens and by default 5x5 grid, slide-up App Drawer, circle'd folders/icons, long-press App Shortcuts and split-screen. There's a few Moto additions, like display fade in/out on Notification/Movement of device (with a very attractive clock and battery-state 'circle' around it) though sadly not the sensor which the Moto Z has that allows a view by waving a hand above the screen, Auto-Night Display if you want it (though no timer), Shrink-screen with a downwards-swipe from anywhere, mostly all adjustable and selectable, and the one other feature that appeals to my OffGrid plans very much...

FM Radio! One of the things that, armed with a bluetooth speaker and MicroSD Card full of music and video which was lacking for the OffGrid life, was a way of listening to radio, sending it to a speaker (or not) but, and this is the key - not having to stream it. Of course, one can use a dinky FM Radio in a pocket, but this rounds off the device for me. No charges for streaming yet another form of media, that will fit right in. And this Moto FM Radio App unusually also will let you play/send to a speaker without an aerial/earphone cable fitted if you're in a strong signal area. And it works really well. Saving stations and Favourites all possible with a nice UI into the bargain. Great stuff!

The Moto E4 Plus is available in Iron Gray, Fine Gold or Oxford Blue and is currently £149 at AmazonUK. It's an absolute peach of a phone and we're getting very, very close to having to drop the label '...for the price...' when considering these budget/mid-range phones. Thoroughly recommended if for nothing else, the mega-battery and greater confidence than maybe with some other manufacturers, in ongoing updates and support.

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