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Xiaomi Redmi 2 (left) and Motorola Moto E (2015)
Xiaomi Redmi 2 (left) and Motorola Moto E (2015)

Technology: The battle lines are drawn

We compare affordable and big-screen phones as well as tablets that don't cost an arm and a leg

Affordable Android phones

Motorola Moto E (2015), 6,999, versus Xiaomi Redmi 2, 6,999

Both phones make subtle statements without going overboard with the design. The Moto E accommodates a larger screen, but the curved back and chunky design mean it fits in the hand with ease. To access the SIM card and memory card slots, you need to pull out a part of the frame, which is a tad unconventional. The Redmi 2 has a flatter design with a more coarse finish on the white-coloured back panel; the phone is easy to grip and feels good to hold.

Motorola has addressed the original Moto E’s limitation of internal memory (4 GB), increasing it to 8 GB (5.03 GB is available to the user). Redmi 2 has an 8 GB internal memory (5.08 GB is available to the user). Both phones have memory card slots.

The Moto E is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core processor, with 1 GB of RAM. Owing to the clean interface, the performance is smooth. You can switch quickly between apps, and keep four-five apps open without it slowing down. The phone runs Android 5.0.2 out of the box, which makes it the most up-to-date affordable Android phone. The Redmi 2 runs on a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor, along with 1 GB RAM. The MIUI interface uses up a lot of RAM—with no apps open, only 473 MB RAM is available for use, compared to the Moto E, which has 568 MB.

The Moto E’s 4.5-inch (960x540-pixel) screen is less reflective than the Redmi 2’s 4.7-inch (1,280x720-pixel) display. The latter definitely reproduces brighter colours, but the Moto E remains the better choice for reading text.

Motorola has improved usability by including Assist, Actions and Display apps. Assist, for example, uses your calendar to identify when you’ll be in a meeting and switches the phone to silent mode. With Actions, you can open the camera app with just two quick flicks of the hand while holding the phone. The Display app lights up a part of the screen to show notifications. Because the Moto E being sold in India isn’t 4G capable, the Redmi 2 has a distinct advantage in terms of future-proofing.

The Moto E’s 5-megapixel (MP) camera still requires considerable effort to wring out some good photographs. The Redmi 2’s 8-MP camera can capture detailed shots in good and low light.

It is too close to call. If you want a slicker interface and a crisper screen, the Moto E (2015) is a better choice. However, if you would like to play around with a funky interface and need a better camera, then our recommendation would be the Redmi 2.

Big-screen phones

Huawei Honor 6 Plus (left) and HTC Desire 820s
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Huawei Honor 6 Plus (left) and HTC Desire 820s

HTC Desire 820s, 24,890, versus Huawei Honor 6 Plus, 26,499

The Desire 820s is available in Santorini white and Milky-way grey in India. Both cases have a blue strip around the side spines. The plastic is of good quality, but the slippery back can be a bit of a problem. The Honor 6 Plus is a visual delight—a pattern on the back panel is visible when light falls on it at certain angles. The glass layer is inspired by Sony’s Xperia Z series, and the metal frame lends the phone a rather solid feel when you’re holding it.

The 820s is powered by a MediaTek MT6752 octa-core 1.7 GHz processor. The Sense 6 interface is smooth and switching between apps is a breeze. There are absolutely no heating issues when playing games or using the camera or GPS. The Honor uses a powerful Kirin 925 octa-core processor. It is developed by HiSilicon, a company owned by Huawei, and follows the successful example of Samsung’s own Exynos chips. The performance is blazing fast, but the back heats up slightly under stress.

Both phones have 5.5-inch screens—the Desire 820s has a 720p resolution, the Honor 6 Plus is full HD. Despite fewer pixels, the 820s’ screen reproduces well-distinguished colours and readable text. The Honor 6 Plus’ in-plane switching (IPS) screen is better when used outdoors in sunlight, or for watching movies.

The Desire 820s comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4.4, and will get the Android Lollipop update soon. Huawei’s EMUI is a customized version of Android 4.4.2, which seems inspired by what Xiaomi, Lenovo and Gionee have done with their Android customizations. Huawei needs to push out the Android Lollipop update quickly, because 4.4.2 is way behind the curve at the moment.

The 820s captures impressive colours and crisp photographs with the 13-MP camera. Low-light pictures impressed too—the detailing is good, with minimal loss of clarity around the frame’s edges. The Honor 6 Plus has two primary cameras, allowing for better depth measurement, and high dynamic range (HDR) photographs are captured quickly.

Both phones offer very good performance. The 820s has a slicker interface, but the Honor 6 Plus has a better camera and a more expensive look.

Budget tablets

Xiaomi Mi Pad (left) and Dell Venue 8 3000
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Xiaomi Mi Pad (left) and Dell Venue 8 3000

Xiaomi Mi Pad, 12,999, versus Dell Venue 8 3000, 15,999

The Mi Pad, with its sharp looks and clean lines, looks beautiful and has a good build quality overall—the 108 drilled speaker holes scream precision. The glossy finish catches fingerprints easily though. The Venue 8 3000, on the other hand, prefers subtle texture on the matte black back panel and curved edges. The clutter-free design is understated.

The Mi Pad is one of the first tablets to use the Nvidia Tegra K1 quad-core 2.2 GHz processor, and has 2 GB RAM. While there are four primary cores, there is an additional, fifth, battery-saver core that is used when only a few are running. Its performance is similar to what the processors of high-end phones offer.

Even after playing ‘Real Racing 3’ on the Mi Pad for an hour, there was no hint of overheating on the back panel. The GPU’s raw processing power allows for smooth frames and reproduces a high level of detailing without any performance degradation.

The Venue 8 is powered by an Intel Atom Z3480 dual-core processor clocking at 2.1 GHz, and paired with 1 GB RAM—not a surprise considering Dell works closely with Intel for its massive range of laptops and hybrids. This processor is no slouch, and is equally comfortable with any usage scenario you throw at it—games, movies and productivity tasks.

The Mi Pad’s 7.9-inch IPS screen has a 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution. In a nutshell, this canvas reproduces rich colours, whites that are purer than most tablet screens, and fast-motion movie scenes are smooth. The screen is quite bright—if you like to read a lot of e-books or Web pages (anything with a white background), you might want to override the auto-brightness setting and push the slider down further.

The Venue’s 8-inch (1,920x1,200-pixel) screen is more subtle in comparison—the colours aren’t as vivid and the white colour is easier on the eye at the same brightness levels. But the text isn’t very sharp if you zoom in. The Mi Pad has a 6,700 mAh battery, while the Venue 8 has a 4,550 mAh battery.

Both tablets run Android, but with different customizations. The Mi Pad’s MIUI looks similar to Apple’s iOS, given the way the app icons are spread across the home screens. The MIUI interface is easy to use on the big screen. Something needs to be done, however, about the excessive RAM usage. The Venue uses a much simpler interface, with minimal tweaks to icons, animations and the overall look.

If you want a 3G SIM card slot for connectivity on the move, the Venue 8 is your only choice. But if you need a Wi-Fi tablet for home or office, the Mi Pad is a much better deal.

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