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Acer makes a strong play for the inexpensive smartphone market with the Liquid Jade S

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Acer hasn't exactly made a significant dent in the smartphone market, but that isn't stopping the company from trying again — CES 2015 has brought a new pair of handsets, the Liquid Z410 and the Liquid Jade S. The Jade S is the higher-end model, featuring a 5-inch, 720p screen, a 13-megapixel camera with a f/1.8 aperture, and Android 4.4 at launch (upgradable to Lollipop). It comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The Liquid Z410 steps the screen down to 4.5 inches with a 960 x 540 screen, while the camera only comes in at 5 megapixels. RAM and storage are dropped to 1GB and 16GB, respectively. Both phones include LTE and both appear to be running chips that we don't commonly encounter in most phones. The Jade S is running on a 64-bit, eight-core Mediatek processor, while the Z410 has a quad-core 64-bit model.

It speaks to the fact that it's not a joke to run a non-Qualcomm or Samsung processor in your phone at this point — both of these phones felt extremely snappy. Both phones responded quickly to anything I did, cameras and apps launched fast, and the experience was generally high quality. The Jade S may have only had a 720p screen, but it was bright and clear with excellent viewing angles. Unfortunately, the Z410's didn't fare so well — the low resolution didn't bother me as much as the rather grainy, washed out colors and subpar viewing angles.

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From a physical perspective, the Z410 again felt like a phone a few years old — it's thick and rather unremarkable, though it does have a fun trick on the back. There's a contextual button that you can assign different functions. While the phone is unlocked, you can have it always launch the app of your choice, for example, or you can long press it to bring the camera right up. The Jade S, on the other hand, felt again like a high-quality, higher end device — it's very light and thin and nestles right into your hand. The power button is unfortunately placed at the top, but you can also open it and unlock it with a screen gesture, making the button a secondary concern.

There's also a bit of voice-activated software on board — you can tell the camera to activate HDR with your voice, or you can yell "selfie" at it to switch to the front facing camera and start a 3-second countdown timer. It's all customizable, and while voice commands still haven't exactly taken the world by storm, there are definitely situations in which it could be useful.

These phones aren't exactly competition for the high-end devices we're used to buying in the US, but they do serve a market looking for a more affordable, off-contract phone that includes LTE. It's a market that Motorola started serving well with the Moto G earlier this year (though the newer Moto G and Moto E don't have LTE support). The race to build a quality, relatively inexpensive, modern phone that isn't sluggish or loaded down with bloatware out of the box is definitely a thing, and this is Acer's contribution to that market. The Jade S will launch this month for €299, while the Z410 will be available by the end of February for €129.