£100 buys you a surprising amount of smartphone nowadays and we wanted to see how three affordable choices; the Smart Prime 7, LG K4 and Moto E stacked up against one another.
At a glance
|Vodafone Smart Prime 7||LG K4||Motorola Moto E|
|SCREEN RESOLUTION||720p HD (720×1280)||WVGA (480×854)||qHD (540×960)|
|WEIGHT||128 grams||120 grams||145 grams|
|OS||Android 6.0||Android 5.1.1||Android 6.0|
|PROCESSOR||1.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 212||1GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6735M||1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410|
|MEMORY||1GB RAM||1GB RAM||1GB RAM|
|STORAGE||8GB. Expandable up to 128GB||8GB. Expandable up to 32GB||8GB. Expandable up to 32GB|
|BATTERY||2540mAh (non-removable)||1940mAh (removable)||2390mAh (non-removable)|
If it’s looks you’re after, we’d have to hand it to Vodafone. The Prime 7 is the only one of these three devices to integrate metal elements into its design, which up the premium factor and make for a sturdier smartphone in hand. The Prime 7 boasts a metal camera surround and a frame inlaid with metal hardware controls, whilst the surface glass on the front curves off at the edges. Like the K4, there’s also a removable plastic back that lets you get at the phone’s microSIM and microSD slots.
Swap out metal for all-plastic and you’ve got both the K4 and the Moto E, with the latter adopting a clean, almost cute design which allows for a bit of personalisation by way of a replaceable coloured band around the phone’s edge. The LG meanwhile looks like any number of more generic entry-level phones, with a fingerprint-prone front, set within a silver plastic surround and a textured, removable back.
Both the Moto E and the K4 pack smaller 4.5-inch displays, making them easier to handle, but less suitable for media consumption. The K4’s WVGA display is the weakest of the bunch, with poor viewing angles that result in colour distortion and low overall brightness, making it hard to make things out in bright conditions.
The Moto E’s IPS LCD is decidedly clearer, suffering far less than the K4 with regards to distortion and brightness drop-off at more extreme angles. It also features a higher resolution qHD panel, rendering text and iconography with greater fidelity.
The Prime 7 once again takes the lead with the clearest and most vibrant display: a 5-inch 720p HD LCD boasting the sharpest imagery in the lineup, attractive colours and comparably low reflectivity.
Both Vodafone and Motorola are known for making small, considered tweaks to the stock Android experience, LG meanwhile has completely redressed 5.1.1 Lollipop on the K4. If it’s customisation you’re after, LG’s take lets you tweak and tailor everything, right down to the phone’s home screen transitions.
Following an update to the Motorola, which previously ran 5.1.1 last year, both it and the Prime 7 rock the newer Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Motorola has made helpful additions to the notifications experience and added intelligent actions for things like quick-launching the camera, whilst Vodafone’s native apps replace some of Google’s offerings for phone calls and messaging, which can even be handled through a portal on your computer’s web browser if you wish.
Low-cost handsets come with conservative internals, but although none of these devices pack flagship-class fluidity, they all feel well suited to general day-to-day use. The Prime 7’s Snapdragon 212, feels like it’s under the most stress, most likely as a result of the phone’s higher resolution display, manifesting stutter and lag when swiping around the UI. The issue is less apparent with the Snapdragon 410-powered Moto E, whilst the K4, which still does lag, offers the most consistently fluid experience as a result of its Mediatek MT6735M processor.
The K4 also has the smallest battery of the bunch, a 1940mAh cell that despite its smaller size boasts excellent longevity of up to two days (as does the Prime 7, however, we’re less surprised considering its capacious 2540mAh cell). The Moto E meanwhile can last almost as long, making it to a second afternoon of usage before giving up the ghost.
Budget phones also often suffer from low internal storage and indeed all three of these handsets come with just 8GB of internal memory, much of which is occupied by the operating system and preloaded apps. Luckily, to alleviate the space issue, you can throw in a microSD to any of these phones with the K4 and Moto E topping out at 32GB, whilst the newer Prime 7 accommodates cards up to a whopping 128GB, giving it a real edge for those looking for a long-term smartphone option.
Age also plays a part in the camera setup – the Moto E, which launched back in February last year, features a VGA resolution front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear camera.
The newer K4 packs a 2-meg front snapper and a 5-megapixel sensor on the back, whilst the Prime 7 takes the cake once again, with a selfie-friendly 5-megapixel front-facer and a suitably beefy 8-megapixel primary camera on the back.
If it isn’t obvious, the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 as the newcomer to the market, is a cut above the competition, but it’s a hollow victory if you aren’t already a Vodafone customer or don’t intend on becoming one.
The K4 meanwhile, which also launched in 2016 and is the priciest handset in the lineup, falls down on too many fronts versus the Moto E, which is almost a year older and more affordable whilst also being a better phone. All three phones offer 4G on a budget and a competent user experience but Vodafone have done it again with the Prime 7.
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