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Buying guide for cheapskates: Nokia Lumia 520 vs. Motorola Moto G

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“It doesn’t have an HD screen? How pixelated is that screen then? How many cores again? Only two? Only four?”

Consumers, arguably and with the possible exception of iPhone fanboys, have all become obsessed with specifications. With the advent of mind-boggling features such as eight-cores, 2K resolution screens and gigabyte upon gigabyte of RAM, consumers are increasingly specs-conscious. Users will undoubtedly ask when this trend will end and when manufacturers will start focusing on more important matters such as battery life and picture quality rather than upping screen sizes and resolutions. And also…the prices of such high-end devices tend to be higher with each passing year.

Enter the Lumia 520 and the Moto G, exceptional and undeserving of the aggressive price tags.

Here’s how they both stacked up.

Nokia’s Hope

For starters, based on looks alone, it is not hard to see why the Lumia 520 is a low-end device. The smartphone packs a design that is well, reminiscent of a brick with its sharp edges. The soft plastic feel is a bit better than Samsung’s hyperglazed covers, yet miles behind the polycarbonate of Nokia’s more expensive offerings.

The specs, too, are nothing to shout about. They are as low-end as they can get with Windows Phone. A Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz with 512MB of RAM forms the beating heart of this 4-inch WVGA screen smartphone. The internal memory of 8GB is standard though a microSD can be thrown in for expansion. The screen also looks a bit washed out and pixelated due to the low-res screen and some games are unplayable because of the 512MB RAM.

The camera, while packing the Lumia brand, is sub-par. There is no flash and the images captured could use a lot more color and depth. In adequate lighting conditions, though, the Lumia can capture passable enough shots.

The Lumia 520 begins to shine when it comes to performance. The user interface is buttery smooth and the smartphone performs very well when it comes to multitasking. Also, the Lumia 520 is almost dirt-cheap. Seventy-nine bucks for an unlocked phone is quite a steal if you ask me.

Google’s Answer

Rescued by Google from the brink of ruin in 2011, Motorola is having one hell of a comeback. Motorola restarted the RAZR line up with a slew of razor-thin Android smartphones like the RAZR M and RAZR Maxx. This year, though, Motorola focused on smartphones with mid-range specs but low-end prices.

While a lot of users initially scoffed at the idea of being offered less than what other manufacturers are launching, Motorola (and thus, Google) gambled with the launch of the customizable Moto X. Despite only having an outdated dual-core processor, the smartphone was an instant hit because of its ease of usage, smooth user interface akin to stock Android and the relatively low price at $549 at launch.

Motorola then followed it up with an even more ambitious offering: the $179 Moto G...wait for it…unlocked. For that amount of money, you’ll get a 4.5-inch screen of 720p resolution, 5MP camera, 1GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor clocked at 1.2 GHz.

Also, the Moto G looks a tad better than the Lumia 520. It is a simplified version of the more expensive Moto X but does not feel like a low-end device at all. The curved and “pebble” look is great and pleasing to hold. The performance of the smartphone is also top-notch and you wouldn’t notice, unless you run benchmarks, that the Moto G is not using the same top-of-the-line processors that can be found in flagships such as the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The only weak points of this smartphone are the camera just like the Lumia 520, and the non-expandable storage. While 5MP seems okay enough for an entry-level, the pictures taken with the Moto G’s camera appear washed-out and are somewhat noisy. The Lumia’s shots, although far from top-of-the-line even for 5MP snappers, are better.

Also, the internal storage is limited to either 8GB or 16GB and there’s no option for additional storage since there is no card slot. The price, $179 for the 8GB version and $199 for the 16GB version, peanuts compared to the high-end flagships though twice the amount for the Lumia 520, might make you sell your old electronics for cash on Amazon, eBay or eCycle Best.

So, Which One Is It?

At the end of the day, though, it boils down to user preference and which features the user would consider as deal-breakers.

Any screen below 720p is an abomination for you? Then pick the Moto G with its 720p screen. The Lumia 520’s WVGA will be disappointing if you’re used to screens with a high pixels-per-inch density. You don’t mind the apps but boy you do find the additional $100 for the Moto G to be cringe-worthy? Fine then; at $79, the Lumia 520 is indeed a steal and Windows Phone is whole lot smoother than Android. Also, if you’re a Gmail user, the more natural choice is of course, the Moto G while Outlook users need not look elsewhere and can just get the Lumia 520 that also packs a full Office suite.

There is really no “better” device because both are the best in their respective price ranges. And I’m pretty sure that whichever you eventually choose, you’ll definitely get more than what you’ll pay for with these inexpensive yet amazing smartphones.

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