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By 17 December 2015 | Categories: feature articles

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Buying an entry-level smartphone is no longer a case of settling for the bare minimum, but rather the realm where savvy and discerning users know where to get the most value for money. Here are the five that rank highest in our books.   

5. MTN Steppa 2

The Steppa 2, if the name wasn't a dead giveaway, is the second edition of MTN's ultra cheap entry-level smartphone. Compared to other entry-level offerings, the Steppa 2 rings in at R1 000. That might double the R500 mark of its predecessor (review), but few phones serve up what the Steppa 2 does at that price. The phone was built with the help of Qualcomm and features a dual-core Snapdragon 200 chipset internally. Added to this is a 512 MB of RAM, with a 5 MP shooter on par with most entry-level devices. While there are indeed smartphones that benchmark higher, the Steppa 2 does not feel underpowered at all.  

The one downside of the Steppa 2 though, on the specs front, is a 4" (480x800) WVGA screen. Compared to the others on this list, it is not as detailed as one would like, but gets the job done. As such, the Steppa 2 is built around providing a meat and potatoes smartphone experience without exceeding your budget. 

Read our full review here

4. Blackview BV2000

Never heard of Blackview? If you're a discerning smartphone user, you're going to want to get acquainted. The company's entry-level offering is the Android-powered BV2000, which takes care of all the smartphone essentials for R1 900. Up front we get a 5" (1280x720) IPS LCD HD  display to play on, with a quad-core Mediatek chipset under the hood. 

Even though the chipset is only clocked at 1.0 GHz, the BV2000 has a few more bells and whistles to keep your attention. Most significant of all is 4G/LTE compatibility, which means it can make the step up in terms of download speeds when available. It also runs Android Lollipop (5.1) as its native OS, making it more up to date than quite a few entry-level devices out there. While the BV2000 is heavy on the plastic, as are all the phones listed here, it certainly feels harder wearing than most. If having a brand name device is not your priority, the Blackview BV2000 is worth checking out. 

3. Microsoft Lumia 535

2015 was a fairly quiet year for Microsoft on the smartphone front. One of the first devices it brought into the country bearing the new Microsoft Lumia logo, the Lumia 535 serves up the familiar feeling of Nokia both inside and out. It retails at an estimated R1 700, and for that price you can expect plenty of plastic. That may be the only true criticism of the Lumia 535, but to be fair, you'll be hard pressed to find an entry-level device without a ton of plastic.

At its local launch, Microsoft explained the Lumia 535 gets its name because of its 5" (540x960) screen and 5 MP rear and front facing cameras. As such, it has all the features an entry-level smartphone user could need. The one consideration however, is the Windows Phone 8.1 OS it touts, which despite undergoing a much needed upgrade, still feels off the pace of Android and iOS. If Windows Phone is not a big hindrance for you, then the Lumia 535's sub-par R2k price tag makes it worth considering.  

Read the full review here.

2. Sony Xperia E4

There was only one thing holding back the Sony Xperia E4 from claiming top spot as the best entry-level smartphone of 2015 - no 4G/LTE compatibility. It might not seem like an issue now, but when SA's carriers finally make LTE available nationwide, it will make a world of difference to your speed and level of connectivity. 

Back to the smartphone, and Sony has put together a solid little 5" device. Up front is a 5" (540x960) screen that registers a low 220 ppi pixel density, but still looks as sharp as needed. On the rear we find a 5 MP shooter which performs as expected. What does however set the Xperia E4 apart is the performance of its processor. Utilising a Mediatek chipset internally, clocked at 1.3 GHz and 1 GB of RAM, the Xperia E4 surprised us with an AnTuTu benchmark score (19 026) close to the mid-range Samsung Galaxy A5 (review). As such, the Xperia E4 can stand toe to toe with the best of them. 

Read the full review here

1. Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)

Topping our entry-level list in 2015 is the Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen). Motorola might be a forgotten brand here in SA, but the second iteration of its Moto E smartphone leaves a lasting impression. The design draws inspiration from the Moto X (2nd Gen) (review), replacing the slightly curved aluminium frame with a plastic one. Although inexpensive material is used throughout the Moto E, it doesn't feel cheap. Instead it sits well in hand and is solidly put together, with its 4.5" (540x960) display front and centre.    

Powering the smartphone, is a surprisingly good mix of internal components, with a quad-core Snapdragon 410 1.2 GHz chipset doing the heavy lifting. Added to this is 8 GB of onboard storage, with a microSD slot good for an extra 32 GB. What sets the Moto E apart however, is its 4G/LTE compatibility, which means it will take full advantage of the improved bandwidth that LTE affords. As such, at just over R2 000 from Orange, the Moto E (2nd Gen) is hard to beat.

Read our full review here.

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