SoC and Internals

Snapdragon SoC

The SoC powering the 2015 Moto E represents a significant upgrade over last year’s model, which had shipped with a dual-core Snapdragon 200. Motorola, like most phone makers not named Samsung or Apple, uses Qualcomm SoCs across their entire lineup and this new Moto E has been updated with the quad-core Snapdragon 410. This SoC combines four 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 cores with Adreno 306 graphics, adding significantly to the performance of this new device and bringing the Moto E up to speed with the 2014 Moto G, Motorola’s other sub-$200 smartphone which is powered by a Snapdragon 400.

Let's take a look at the specs for the 2015 Moto E compared to not only last year's model, but the two bigger siblings in the Moto family against which it will be compared in the performance benchmarks section:

  Moto E (2014) Moto E (2015) Moto X (2014) Nexus 6
SoC Snapdragon 200 Snapdragon 410 Snapdragon 801 Snapdragon 805
CPU Cores Dual-core Cortex A7 1.2 GHz Quad-core Cortex A53 1.2 GHz Quad-core Krait 400 2.4 GHz Quad-core Krait 450 2.7 GHz
GPU Cores Adreno 302 Adreno 306 Adreno 330 Adreno 420
Screen 540x960 LCD 4.3-in (256 ppi) 540x960 LCD 4.5-in (245 ppi) 1080x1920 AMOLED 5.2-in (424 ppi) 1440x2560 AMOLED 5.96-in (493 ppi)
Storage 4 GB eMMC
MicroSD Slot
MicroSD Slot
16/32/64 GB eMMC 32/64 GB eMMC
Camera 5MP Rear
Front (none)
5MP Rear
VGA Front
13MP Rear
2MP Front
13MP Front
2MP Front
Battery 7.5 Whr
1980 mAh
9.1 Whr
8.7 Whr
2300 mAh
12.2 Whr
3220 mAh
Network Qualcomm MSM8210 Integrated HSDPA Qualcomm MSM8916 Integrated Category 4 LTE Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 6 LTE
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.0
USB 2.0
802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.0
USB 2.0
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.1
USB 2.0
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.1
USB 2.0
OS Android 4.4.2 Android 5.0.2 Android 5.0 Android 5.0.1

An important difference between the Snapdragon 410 and the SoCs found in the larger two Moto phones isn't compute power, but communications. The modem in the Snapdragon 410 is integrated as it was with the first Moto E's Snapdragon 200, and this updated block provides LTE capability up to CAT4 speeds with up to 150 Mbps possible with a 3rd generation LTE connection. In comparison the Snapdragon 810 in the Nexus 6 does not have an integrated modem, instead using Qualcomm's MDM9x25 block with CAT6 LTE speeds of up to 300 Mbps on 4th gen networks. Going forward I would expect many more LTE devices in the low-cost segment using SoCs like the Snapdragon 410, as the baked-in baseband can facilitate faster LTE adoption across product lines.

So what about performance? To put this aspect of the 2015 Moto E in context I ran some standard mobile benchmarks on this Moto E and the other Moto devices I have on hand, including the current Moto X (Snapdragon 801) and the Nexus 6 (Snapdragon 805 SoC). The results of these benchmarks are available on the next page.

Memory and Storage

One of the most obvious aspects of a budget device (beyond screen resolution) is limited RAM and low onboard storage, and the Moto E won’t wow anyone with just 1GB and 8GB respectively in those areas. Looking at RAM first one might assume that with many phones now offering 2GB or even 3GB of memory, having just 1GB seems like a significant drop. In actual use most applications will operate just fine with the lower number with the biggest impact being to multitasking, as having too many applications and processes running will adversely impact responsiveness with a limited amount of available RAM. In my time with the device I found this limitation to be noticeable, but not frustrating. The lower screen resolution probably helps here, as there is less on the screen the SoC to render, but running Lollipop with less than 2GB isn’t going to feel “snappy”. I can’t overstress that this wasn’t a bad experience, just slower across the board compared to Lollipop on the current Moto X and Nexus 6 that I compared it against.

Out of the box the Moto E is limited to 8GB of onboard eMMC storage, but there is a microSD slot which supports cards up to 32GB. The first-generation Moto E was equipped with just 4GB of onboard storage so this is clearly and improvement, but such a low number really isn't practical for many people. I used a 16GB card throughout testing to bring the phone up to a more reasonable amount of storage, and this didn’t pose any issues. Such a configuration actually provides a very good value proposition as even the fast Samsung EVO memory card I purchased sells for only $10 on Amazon, a very cost-effective way to triple the phone’s capacity.

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