Moto E 4G (2nd gen) review

After a sudden crash of my phone, a beloved and well looked after LG G-Flex 2 that took a toll on it’s sim-card reader I was in dire need of a temporary replacement phone. No it wasn’t dropped, it just killed it’s own sim-reader somehow.

 

After some wondering around the internets looking for a budget buy, I came across the Moto E 4G (2nd gen) . I got it for about £80 and you can find it for less if you really look hard enough. What does £80 get you these days? A 4G phone with a 4.5″ display with 540×960 pixels and a Snapdragon 410 chipset, 8 GB of internal memory, expandable storage, a solid build and a clean Android 6.0 (after updates).

 

As a disclaimer, I own this phone and all the stated opinions are my own. Nobody has either paid me or provided me with the phone for reviewing. The review will be brief and lacking in pictures, and I highly recommend the professional review over at GSMArena.

 

I’m starting off with the key aspect everybody is always chasing, battery life!

On a typical day it lasts from 7.00 to 22.00 without reaching the bottom 15% of the battery level. You might say it’s not really that great, but you’d be wrong, as I also use it at home as a wifi hotspot (broadband installing issues) and the hotspot is on from 07.00 to 09.00 (circa) and from 18.00 to 22.00, so a total of 6 hours of hotspot and 4G torture. During this time I also use it to browse, listen to music and hang around social networks. It’s by far the best battery life I’ve ever seen in a phone! During work hours I also browse a bit, but rarely, it mostly sits comfortably sleeping on my desk.

The phone runs a mostly Vanilla Android, updated recently to 6.0 (Marshmallow), and the interface is light enough for the processor to be buttery smooth in most situations. Under heavy stress (a lot of apps or tabs open) it tends to struggle a bit, but nothing unreasonable and unmanageable.

The E features some neat Motorola specific gimmicks, such as turning on the screen for a couple of seconds while it’s sleeping if you move it about (as though it knows you just wanna see the time and notifications), and the double-wrist-twist to open the camera.

The 1 GB of RAM is rarely depleted by chrome (unless you forget to close all those tabs) and the 8 GB of internal storage is within reason for several apps and updates. The E also features a microSD card so memory expansion is cheap.

The hardware buttons are all neat and sturdy, the battery is non-removable and to get to the sim and microSD slot you have to take off the side bumper. It’s a unique solution and makes it feel more sturdy, as the back panel does not come off.

The 4G connectivity is good, I’ve never had dropped calls or signal outages, even with only 1 bar of signal! The fastest speed I got (using the Three network in UK) is 44 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload (according to the speedtest app). As mentioned earlier I’ve been using it as a general wifi-hotspot at home, and it seems to cope well with multiple devices at the same time (2 laptops, one tablet and one phone streaming music). The chipset runs cool (even under pressure it barely gets a bit warm) and the in hand feel of the device is nice and sturdy (albeit it may seem a bit chubby for some).

The display resolution is not on par with the best devices, but you can rarely notice pixels or lack of clarity. The display is nice and bright enough to work under full summer sunlight.

The rear camera shoots with it’s minimalistic interface photos at 5 MP and in broad daylight provides accurate colors and nicely balanced shades. Take it inside and the lack of a LED flash takes it’s toll. Most of the indoor photos lack focus, detail and clarity and are utterly rubbish. Knowing it’s limitations might help. The front cam is 0.3 MP and is only good for occasional Skype or other videocalling. The quality goes well with low bandwidth so don’t try taking selfies with it, as it may damage your self-esteem.

 

All in all the phone is a pretty compelling and complete package, and at a good price. I was actually considering getting a second-hand phone before reading about this bit of kit and I’m glad I made this choice. It’s a good phone, but know it’s limitations and you’ll be able to live with it happily.

Finding the best deal on a new computer

It’s 2016 and if you’re on the market for a new computer, now there’s plenty to choose from, both function and price.

Choosing the right computer tailored to your needs eventually boils down to two simple questions:

  • How much do you want to spend?
  • What will you use it for?

If you can answer these questions readily you can then look further into specifications on other details and plan your next buy.

Finding out the best specs you can buy for a budget will rarely give anything away in terms of experience. Tempted by the highest processor speeds or the largest storage in terms of price you may tend to overlook things like operating system, display quality and keyboard/ergonomics.

Sure, it’s easy to just recommend the most expensive laptop or desktop in a store (especially if you work there), but sometimes people pay more and get less.

 

Budget

Your budget is the most important detail of your buy. Knowing exactly how much you can spend without breaking the bank is crucial. Make sure you make a list of at least 3 different options before deciding what to buy. Make sure your budget is sustainable and that it leaves room for other accessories you may need (cables, cases, mice or headphones and anything in between).

Make sure you don’t miss out an important detail (such as a lack of certain port you need for an older printer or monitor) and don’t rush into buying. Impulse buying something expensive can leave you feeling buyer’s remorse or disappointed with your buy.

 

Usage

The best starting point for determining your usage pattern is considering the key differences between several types of computers.

Home computers can be used for either casual tasks like online shopping or writing emails or gaming.

Work computers, called workstations, are highly similar to casual computers but are tough enough to endure the physical punishment of a full time job and are equipped with the hardware and software tailored to a professional environment.

Operating system

Ubuntu (Linux) and Chromium OS (also known as Chrome OS) offer superb value for money for casual computing, handling browsing and basic Office tasks readily out of the box.

Ubuntu is a very popular Unix implementation, very resource friendly and safe from viruses, but require a bit more technical expertise, as some options are harder to find without basic Linux commands.

Chromebooks, compact and light-weight, can be bought for less than 200$. They pack mostly Google powered applications and rely heavily on cloud-based services and storage. A major drawback is the lack of drivers for printers and other accessories, so you’re pretty much stuck with what comes in the box.

Mac OS, the operating system powering Macbooks and other Apple machines is user-friendly, light enough to run efficiently both power and resource wise and people generally love it. The major downside is the price premium, as it only comes on Apple made computers.

Windows is probably the most popular operating system, compatible with a large array of software and familiar features. The latest version, Windows 10, is more user-friendly and faster, but less compatible with older devices (such as printers) or software. If gaming is important to you, Windows is your best bet.

Specifications

When buying a new computer, the processor (or central processing unit – CPU) is your first target. Intel’s offerings range from entry level Celerons to high-end Xeon, while AMD starts the battle with E-series APU and FX-series.

Best place to search for a basic tool for CPU performance can be found here:

CPU List (the bigger the Passmark CPU Mark the better)

The next stop is the graphic processor (or graphic processing unit – GPU, also known informally as a video card), and a basic tool for GPU performance can be found here:

GPU List (the bigger the Passmark G3D Mark the better)

The GPU is the main driving factor behind advanced graphics, either in games or video-rendering applications, so choosing a good graphics card could be critical.

Memory, as in system volatile memory – RAM, as the old saying goes – the more, the merrier. In recent years memory cost has gone down, so a minimum of 4 GB is recommended for all systems, and higher than that is mostly up to usage. Heavy gaming or workloads will benefit from copious amounts of RAM, while for casual browsing or text editing will make little difference.

For storage, always go for a SSD drive (solid state) if it’s possible. It makes booting times lightning fast and boosts productivity but it does come at higher cost than conventional hard drives.

From a display point of view, a resolution higher than 1080p (full-HD, FHD, 1920×1080) makes little difference to the eye and for displays smaller than 15.6” it’s a bit of an overkill. Reaching out to a monitor bigger than 24” and you’ll find the FHD resolution to be a little choppy. Display types vary, and IPS (in plane switching) tend to provide the most accurate colors at a reasonable price.

 

Other things to consider are portability, a laptop is always a nice option, but if you want real performance (workstation, gaming) a desktop will always provide a better bang for the buck (laptop processors and graphics cards are tuned down to allow better cooling and power efficiency while sacrificing performance). If you’re often on the road, an ultrabook (lighter and smaller than regular laptops) or a Chromebook will provide more battery than a conventional laptop. A Macbook will offer a plethora of style and performance, but you won’t be able to use it for gaming and if the software you need at the office doesn’t run on a Mac it will never be able to power your business.

 

Consider every aspect, draw a budget, and when you’re mostly decided on a model, google reviews and read if it sounds like the right option for you.