A New Era for Budget Smartphones

On performance alone, it’s hard to justify buying the Galaxy S6 when the second-gen Moto E performs so well. Many of the real-world tasks I tested were executed by the Moto E in less than a second, making the handset feel fast in everyday use which is great news for those looking to buy a new smartphone on a tight budget.

The Galaxy S6 executed nearly all of the same tasks a bit faster, but the difference isn’t nearly as large as you might expect.

While the Galaxy S6 crushes the Moto E in synthetic benchmarks, the difference in performance also doesn’t come close to matching the difference in price. The Galaxy S6 is 2.4x faster in CPU-limited benchmarks, and 2.5x faster in on-screen graphics benchmarks, but the flagship handset costs a whopping 5.5x more. The only aspect of the Galaxy S6’s performance that matches its high price is in NAND speeds, where the S6’s storage is 4.8x faster than the Moto E’s.

No matter how you look at it, the Moto E presents excellent value for money. My subjective experience with the device has been great, thanks to a lack of lag and generally smooth usage, the data backs this up by demonstrating the phone still performs tasks relatively quickly compared to a flagship device.

There are many other aspects to the Moto E that are perfectly fine and make it a well-rounded device. The 540p display is decent enough for a $100 smartphone, as is the 5-megapixel rear camera. The design is rugged and dependable without setting any worlds on fire. Features like LTE and a front facing camera make the second-gen version of this handset much more compelling than the first.

But the reason why the Galaxy S6 is a better device, and why it costs much more, is that it doesn’t just come with a “perfectly fine” display and camera. It comes with the latest and greatest technology that improve the experience in other ways than just speed. The 1440p display on the Galaxy S6 is extremely crisp and enhances the photo viewing experience. The 16-megapixel camera is superb and can replace a standalone point-and-shoot camera, where the Moto E’s camera can’t.

The Galaxy S6 also features a nicer design, thanks to its use of metal around the edges and glass on both the front and back. It feels better when you hold it, it's slimmer and ligher than the Moto E, and it simply looks better than Motorola's budget handset. Is any of this surprising considering the price difference? No.

If you want the best features and design on a smartphone, including things like Wi-Fi ac and Category 6 LTE that will become more useful in the near future, then you should get a high-end smartphone like the Galaxy S6. You will be paying a hefty premium for all the extras the Galaxy S6 brings to the table, but for many people (and especially power users and tech gurus) these extras will be worth it.

On the flipside, if you’re just after a smartphone that works well and includes basic functionality, the Moto E is a great choice. Although it doesn’t have the same great hardware as the Galaxy S6, you can’t really ask for anything more from a $100 device.