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Spec Sheet: Sony, Lenovo, and Archos' budget smartphone battle

Spec Sheet: Sony, Lenovo, and Archos' budget smartphone battle

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A lot of products come out each week — we don't highlight all of them, but all of them make it into The Verge Database. In Spec Sheet, a weekly series, we survey the latest product entries to keep track of the state of the art.

Sony may have put out an exciting new Xperia smartphone just last week, but it seems that wasn't enough for it. This week it came back with a new pair of devices, the Xperia E1 and the Xperia T2 Ultra, two stylish smartphones aimed at emerging markets. But Sony isn't the only manufacturer that's been releasing lower-cost phones recently. Lenovo and Archos both unveiled a series of devices headed to various locations across the globe, all offering quite a bit at bargain prices. We're taking a look across this group of recent phones to see which manufacturer has the best offering at each size.

Click above for full available specs on all six phones

LTE has become a defining factor among lower-cost phones

Both Sony and Lenovo are releasing large phones with 6-inch displays — Sony the Xperia T2 Ultra, and Lenovo the S930. The devices are fairly comparable on paper, with 1GB of RAM, 720p displays, and quad-core processors running at 1.4 and 1.3GHz respectively. Those processors set them a bit further apart than numbers suggest though. Sony is using a Snapdragon 400 series processor — an older line, but one known for fine performance — while Lenovo is using a processor from MediaTek, which are generally only found in lower-end phones.

There's another big difference between the two phones thanks to those processors: the Xperia T2 Ultra supports LTE, while the S930 does just 3G. Above all else, that gives Sony's phone a distinct edge here — though since Sony hasn't released exact pricing, it's hard to say how clear cut any decision between the two would be. There's a good chance that Sony's phone will be more expensive though. Sony suggests that the T2 Ultra will be priced for the mid-range, rather than than low end, and at $319, Lenovo's S930 lands on the more affordable side of the fence.

While Sony skipped the 5-inch size in its announcement this week, Lenovo and Archos both addressed it recently. Unfortunately for Lenovo, it falls into the same trap here. Archos' 50 Helium is using the same Qualcomm processor that Sony's Xperia T2 Ultra uses, so it's able to support LTE even while costing just $249.99. That puts Lenovo's 5-inch A859 in the very same spot that its larger phone is against Sony: having fairly comparable specs, bearing a slightly lower price, but falling far short due to its lack of LTE.

The final pair of devices puts Archos' 4.5-inch 45 Helium against Sony's 4-inch Xperia E1. Unfortunately, Sony isn't giving this small phone quite as much power as the other device it announced this week, leaving the Xperia E1 with a still-unspecified 1.2GHz processor and without LTE. It has half as much RAM as the 45 Helium too, though their near-identical screen resolutions gives Sony's phone a slight edge when it comes to pixel density. Otherwise, the 45 Helium likely has a lot more going for it. It includes LTE, and is selling for $199.99, while Sony is again planning to price its phone for the mid-range.

Even if these phones aren't at the pinnacle of their field, they're far from being made up of years-old scraps. It's clear that low-cost phones are becoming more and more attractive as LTE works its way down in cost — and this year, that's likely to make its way into a whole lot more phones.

Manufacturers seem to have taken a break from announcing new products after CES, but we still added a few products — new and old — to the database this week:

If you want to learn more about any of the products mentioned above, all of our information on them can be found through the database box located beneath the article. For more on cellphones, e-readers, and just about every product around, you can check out the full Verge Database right here.