If you're currently in the market for the best smartphone going around, the Samsung Galaxy S6 should be close to, if not at the top of your shopping list. Unfortunately it's not exactly the most budget friendly device; at ~$550 unlocked and off-contract, it's the sort of product that's restricted to people with a fair chunk of disposable income.

On the other end of the spectrum sits the 2015 Moto E, an entry-level handset from Motorola that can readily be found for under $100. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S6, but it costs a fraction of the price and promises to be a capable performer for day to day tasks. And, when you look at the smartphone market as a whole, it's devices in this price category that make up the majority of sales worldwide.

So what does a $100 smartphone get you in comparison to an expensive flagship? Is the 2015 Moto E just as usable in day to day activities as the Galaxy S6, or is the extra cost of Samsung's leading smartphone more than justified? In this article, we're going to find out.

Let's start with the hardware. The 2015 Moto E comes with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, a 5-megapixel camera, and a 4.5-inch 960p display. In stark contrast, the much more expensive Galaxy S6 comes with an octa-core Exynos 7420 SoC, 3 GB of RAM, at least 32 GB of storage, a 16-megapixel camera, and a 5.1-inch 1440p display. A full outline of the differences can be seen in the table below.

Specs Samsung Galaxy S6 Motorola Moto E (2015)
SoC Exynos 7 Octa 7420 Snapdragon 410
CPU 4x ARM Cortex-A57 @ 2.1 GHz + 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.5 GHz 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.4 GHz
GPU Mali-T760 MP8 Adreno 405
Memory 3 GB dual-channel
LPDDR4 @ 24.9 GB/s
1 GB single-channel
LPDDR3 @ 4.2 GB/s
Storage 32/64/128 GB internal 8 GB internal + microSD
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.1 4.0
LTE Category 6 Category 4
Display 5.1" 1440p Super AMOLED 4.5" 960p IPS LCD
Battery 9.8 Wh (2,550 mAh)
9.1 Wh (2,390 mAh)
Camera 16 MP 1/2.6" sensor with f/1.9 lens and OIS 5 MP 1/5" sensor with f/2.2 lens

You actually get a remarkable number of features with the Moto E for just $100, including things not seen on the previous generation such as an autofocusing rear camera, LTE connectivity, a front-facing camera, and a quad-core CPU. But as you might expect, there are still some notable omissions when the Moto E goes head to head with the Galaxy S6.

  • No NFC. This means the Moto E cannot be used for mobile payments.
  • No dual-band Wi-Fi (or 802.11ac), which could impact Wi-Fi performance in crowded areas
  • No fingerprint reader for enhanced security
  • No heart rate monitor or fitness features in general
  • LTE connectivity is capped at 150 Mbps down, whereas the Galaxy S6 can theoretically download over LTE at 300 Mbps
  • No wireless or quick charging
  • No support for 4K or HEVC encoding or decoding

Looking down the list, there isn't any feature from the Moto E that could be classified as a critical omission. Every extra feature included with the Galaxy S6 is essentially a luxury feature, and isn't necessary for basic or even typical smartphone usage. Some of the features only a small fraction of users would use anyway, such as making mobile payments, watching 4K videos, monitoring your heart rate, or wireless charging. Other things the Galaxy S6 supports aren't even in widespread use today, like Category 6 LTE connections and HEVC videos.

On the other hand, the Moto E actually sports some functionality the Galaxy S6 lacks, most notably a microSD card slot for cheaply expanding upon the internal storage. It also comes with stock Android, which could be appealing for people who don't like Samsung's (actually acceptable) TouchWiz skin.

While the Moto E does pack all the basic hardware someone would want in a smartphone, there are some clear cases where the Galaxy S6 provides a vastly superior experience.

The display, while perfectly usable on the Moto E - in fact it's pretty good for a $100 device - is outclassed by the Galaxy S6. Not only is the S6's display larger, but it is higher resolution, has better color reproduction and outdoor visibility, and has a more responsive touchscreen.

Storage capacity particularly stood out. Yes, the Moto E has expandable storage, but 8 GB of internal NAND is a bit slim for storing apps, particularly large games that you might want to download from the Play Store. You can move some apps to the microSD card, but it's not an elegant solution. Meanwhile, I never had an issue with the Galaxy S6's 32 GB of internal storage, even though the device doesn't support microSD cards.

Evidently, the design of the Galaxy S6 is also a lot nicer than the 2015 Moto E. I was impressed with the Moto E's durability and rugged design, but of course I preferred the slim, sleek, metal body of the Galaxy S6. That's okay though, because design is one of the reasons you'd choose to fork out an extra $450 for the Galaxy S6 over the budget-friendly Moto E. It's nice to have a good design, a good display, and lots of internal storage, but these features arguably aren't critical to everyday smartphone operation.

The camera is another feature where the more you pay, the better the quality gets. The Galaxy S6 absolutely smokes the Moto E 2015 by offering a significantly higher resolution sensor with optical stabilization, a wider lens aperture that leads to better low light performance, and 4K video recording. However, the second-gen Moto E's camera is significantly better than its predecessor and most other phones in this price range, and generally I believe it will do 'just fine' for taking the occasional photo.

None of the above results will really surprise anyone who's looked at the massive price and specification difference between the Moto E and the Galaxy S6. But what may surprise is the difference in performance, which we'll explore on the following page.