Microsoft Lumia 650 vs Moto G (3rd gen) comparison: Setting the bar

The Lumia 6xx and Moto G line of phones consistently raise the bar year after year for what a lower mid tier device should be. Now that Microsoft has released the Lumia 650, it's time to compare the two handsets.

Let's dive right in.

Specs

Lumia 650 Moto G
CPU 1.3 GHz quad core Snapdragon 212 1.4 GHz quad core Snapdragon 410
GPU Adreno 304 Adreno 306
Display 5", 720p, 294 ppi, AMOLED 5", 720p, 294 ppi, IPS LCD
Body 142 x 70.9 x 6.9 mm, 122 g 142.1 x 72.4 x 11.6 mm, 155 g
Camera 8 MP, Front 5 MP 13 MP, Front 5 MP
Video 720p - 30 fps, Front 720p - 30 fps 1080p - 30 fps, Front 1080p - 30 fps
Aperture f/2.2, Front f/2.2 f/2, Front f/2.2
Sensor size 1/4" 1/3.06"
Flash LED Dual LED
Storage 16 GB, expandable to 200 GB 8/16 GB, expandable to 32 GB
RAM 1 GB 1/2 GB
Battery 2000 mAh 2470 mAh
Price $199 $179/$219

Snapdragon 212 vs Snapdragon 410

In the previous generation of Qualcomm's chipsets, Snapdragon 200 and 400 were very similar, both offering four cores of ARM Cortex-A7, usually both clocked at 1.2 GHz. The difference was that Snapdragon 400 offered a better GPU, LTE support, 1080p capture and playback, and more.

Times have changed. Snapdragon 212 has taken over for Snapdragon 400. Still at four cores of ARM Cortex-A7, it brings a better GPU, LTE support, and 1080p playback (but not capture) to the 2xx series.

Snapdragon 410 has seen a significant upgrade. Instead of ARM Cortex-A7, this chipset is four cores of ARM Cortex-A53, making it less similar to Snapdragon 2xx and more similar to Snapdragon 6xx.

We're now seeing Snapdragon 410 in many lower end handsets, such as the LG Lancet and the LTE Moto E. After all, it's still Qualcomm's lower mid tier offering, so it's still a cheap part to put in a phone, but it provides significantly more value than the Snapdragon 400 did.

Snapdragon 410 also has a better GPU than Snapdragon 212 does with Adreno 306. The difference between Adreno 306 and Adreno 304 is 450 and 400 MHz, respectively.

Display and body

Both lines of devices continue to raise the bar for what a budget device should be and a big chunk of that is aesthetics. After all, a premium device must appear to be premium and it must be pleasant to use. If it's not, then what's the point?

As far as the two devices' bodies go, this one is all up to user preference. Motorola implemented their acclaimed Moto Maker program for this generation of the Moto G, so the consumer has dozens of designs to choose from.

The device also simply has a premium look and feel about it. The textured back makes it feel solid and the metallic camera strip lends some elegance to the handset.

The Lumia 650 focuses on a premium body as well. It borrows the metal frame from its higher end ancestors - the Lumia 830 and 930 - along with a matte black or white polycarbonate rear cover.

While the Lumia 650 is more of a flat design than the Moto G - thus being a bit less comfortable in the hand - it sports an insanely thin and light body at only 6.9 mm thick and 122 g. While it might not be as comfortable to hold, it certainly makes up for that in being more comfortable to carry.

Both firms focused on a premium display this year as well. You'll notice that in many budget models, the display looks a bit more dull than a flagship would, even when it's asleep. Neither the Lumia 650 nor Moto G have that dull look.

While both devices have 5" HD displays that are absolutely beautiful, the Lumia 650's display is a bit more beautiful, as it's AMOLED, while the Moto G is LCD.

AMOLED vs LCD

I'll try to keep this short, as I've gone into this in earlier comparisons.

AMOLED LCD
Some pixels can be turned off Entirely backlit
More vibrant colors More longevity
Susceptible to burn-in Not susceptible to burn-in

In short, while AMOLED tends to look better, LCD tends to last longer. Also, since pixels can be turned off with AMOLED - allowing for true black - it works better for features such as Glance.

Speaking of Glance, Moto G actually wins in that department as well. Don't get me wrong. As a Windows phone user, I love my Glance, but the idea of an always-on display that shows the time and notifications has shown up on a lot of other devices at this point.

The Moto G is one of them and to be honest, it implements it better. With the Moto G, the user can see notifications and when one is touched, it can be dragged to an unlock icon and go directly to where that notification came from.

Rear camera

Anyone who has been reading my comparisons for a long time knows that this is my favorite part. After all, who isn't fascinated by smart phone photography? The fact that the lower mid tier is reaching a point that the flagship market was at only about a year ago is amazing.

That flagship market that I'm talking about is the Nexus 6 (also made by Motorola) and the OnePlus One. Believe it or not, the third generation Moto G uses the same Sony IMX214 Exmor RS that those two devices used.

While the Lumia 650 has some decent camera chops, Microsoft has showed the device no such love. The Lumia 650 has the same sensor that we've seen in earlier budget devices, such as the Lumia 540 and 640.

Just about every camera spec in the Moto G trumps the Lumia 650, so let's head on to some samples.

Lumia 650 Moto G

There are two things that I've never cared for in Motorola's cameras. First, they never really seem to be very good in low lighting situations. As far as specs go, the Moto G outshines the Lumia 650 in every way, but in terms of real world performance, not so much.

Its one redeeming quality is its dual LED flash, which is why the last photo looks better from the Moto G.

The second thing that I've never cared for is the Moto Camera app. Unlike just about every other camera app, it doesn't have a tap to focus function. It's really tough to get used to if you don't use Motorola phones all of the time.

Motorola's Camera app has more of a drag to focus functionality. There's a circle in the middle of the screen and the user can drag it to the spot that they want to focus on. If the user taps the screen, the device takes the picture. It makes it hard to use because the user can't really see if the camera was focusing properly until after the picture is taken.

Front camera

Both devices use a 5 MP sensor in the front camera with an f/2.2 aperture. There's two major differences, both of which make the Moto G's specs come out on top.

The first is that Motorola uses a software flash. As far as I can tell, the idea of lighting up the screen to serve as a flash was started by LG, and it's a great idea, an idea that I really wish Microsoft (and everyone else) would adopt.

The second is that the Moto G records 1080p video while the Lumia 650 only records 720p.

Lumia 650 Moto G

I said it once and I'll say it again. Motorola just doesn't have the same kind of low light performance that other devices have. We've seen it from some very high end hardware that they use, leading me to believe that it's in the firmware.

Windows 10 Mobile vs Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Yikes. I don't even want to touch this one; however, it is critical to the matter that we are discussing.

Let's face the facts here. While we have our preferences, an operating system is nothing more than a gateway between the hardware and the apps that we love to use. Personally, I prefer Windows 10 Mobile, but if that's the case, then Android is clearly the winner.

Windows 10 Mobile brings the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which is getting better by the day. The UWP strategy is a plan that, along with various "bridges", should use the desktop market share of Windows to leverage the firm's mobile platform.

There are many things that I prefer in Windows 10 Mobile, the obvious being Live Tiles. I also enjoy little things such as the ability to pin separate email accounts and the fact that they show me new emails, rather than unread emails.

Windows 10 Mobile does bring a couple other new features - Continuum and Windows Hello - and despite the Lumia 650 being branded as a business phone, they're completely irrelevant here.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow refined the redesign that we saw from Android 5.0 Lollipop. The big new feature is Google Now on Tap, which shows the user information relative to whatever is being viewed and in the app that's open.

Cortana vs Google Now

Yikes again. I dug a hole for myself and I just keep digging.

The fact is that Google Now is more fully featured than Cortana. No one can really argue that. After all, we just talked about Now on Tap, a feature that Cortana can't match just yet. Google Now can do other things as well, such as remember where you parked your car.

On the other hand, Cortana launched in beta form with Windows Phone 8.1. If you have one of those devices that it launched on, it's still in beta almost two years later.

With Windows 10, Cortana officially comes out of beta. Not only this, but Microsoft has made Cortana available on iOS, Android, and Windows 10 for PCs.

Many were skeptical of Microsoft's decision to bring Cortana to other platforms, but I've found it to be incredibly useful. For example, while I was doing these very camera tests, I used Cortana on my Lumia 650 to set a reminder for the next day and when the next day came, my iPad Air 2 reminded me.

You see, Cortana isn't just a cheap way to get you to use Microsoft services on your Android device (it's not only that). It's a bridge between all of your devices.

Google Now tries to be cross-platform but it fails. It works as well as it can on iOS and on Windows desktop, it barely stands on its own, not being able to get the kind of integration that Cortana enjoys. Let's not forget that Google Now, as well as many other Google services, is not available on Windows phones.

Conclusion

Sometimes, a device comes along and you're just amazed by it the second that you begin using it. I got that feeling from both of these devices.

After all, they're both phenomenal devices that provide a tremendous value for the money that they ask. The question is what you want from a device.

The Lumia 650 has a better camera, better display, it's thin and light, it has a metal frame, and it runs Windows 10 Mobile. The Moto G gives you the customization that comes with Moto Maker, the power of Snapdragon 410 (and 2 GB RAM, if you choose to shell out the extra $40), and the apps and customization that comes with Android.

Ultimately, it comes down to the kind of experience that you would prefer in a smart phone.

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