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Mid-range smartphone round-up: Samsung Galaxy S Advance, Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, HTC Windows Phone 8S, Nokia Lumia 620

The high-end smartphones from the big manufacturers are the most ground-breaking and exciting products, so-called flagship or halo models.

However, not everyone has the budget for buying them separately, and getting tied to a two or three-year subscription isn't always the most appealing option.

Smartphones have evolved to a point where the mid-range segment is getting more and more impressive hardware, and they're priced much more appealingly. We tested and compared 10 mid-range smartphones costing no more than 300 euros and featuring a screen resolution of at least 800 x 480.

We wanted to include one phone from each manufacturer that is active in this segment. That doesn't mean that it's the only mid-range phone a certain brand has, but in order for this group test to not get too crowded, we limited it to one per company. The one exception we made is for Samsung, as it has two mid-range phones that are interesting for different reasons.

Many of these we covered in separate reviews already, but we felt it was useful to create a round-up that focuses on their differences and commonalities so you can get a clear idea of what's what in the mid-range smartphone market. You will find links to the original reviews as well.

The Liquid series is the entry-level and mid-range product line from Acer, and the E1 is the latest addition. Acer frequently manages to combine fairly powerful hardware with an affordable price. Examples of this are the Acer Liquid Glow E330 from last year, and the more recent Liquid Z110 and CloudMobile S500. Especially the latter is an interesting phone, with performance that's comparable to the HTC One S and the Sony Xperia T and V.

The E1 continues this trend. For an average of 205 euros (230 euros for the Dual-SIM model) you get a very good-looking phone. It runs on Android 4.1.1. and the MediaTek MT6577 SoC. It's a dual-core 1GHz CPU with a PowerVR SGX531T GPU, and is one of the few phones in this round-up with 1 GB of RAM. The CPU performs well, but the GPU is pretty weak. It's fine as long as playing games isn't your main smartphone activity.

Something that stands out the most is the 4.5-inch display, and for its class it has good color rendering and viewing angles. The resolution is qHD, or 960 x 540 pixels, unique in this test. The double speakers are also unique, and they provide pretty decent sound for a smartphone. If you want to spend about 200 euros, the Acer Liquid E1 is definitely a smartphone worth considering. The battery life isn't great, however, as the relatively powerful MT6577 SoC uses a lot of power from the modestly-sized battery.

Read the rest of this group review on