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IRL: A closer look at the Moto G

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

I love low-cost smartphones that punch above their weight, like the Lumia 620. They're proof you don't need high-end hardware to get a full smartphone experience. As you might imagine, then, I was eager to try the Moto G. A modern quad-core processor, a 720p screen and an up-to-date version of Android for under $200 off-contract? In theory, that's an astounding bargain. With that in mind, I've been testing a Moto G on Telus' network here in Canada to see whether I could live with it instead of the flagship phones I'm used to.

For the most part, I'm impressed. After several weeks of use, it still feels like a mid-range device in budget phone's clothing. The Moto G is well built, lasts for more than a full day on a charge and is very quick handling most day-to-day tasks. There are a few clues this isn't a speed demon, most notably the modest 3D gaming performance, but it's otherwise responsive. I don't even mind the absence of LTE. Here in Ottawa, Telus' 3G service gave me download speeds around 6 Mbps. That's plenty of bandwidth for Instagram and Twitter.

I also appreciate Motorola's commitment to software updates. The Moto G was one of the first devices to get Android 4.4 KitKat, and there have since been significant upgrades to Assist, Gallery and other key apps. Few of the entry-level handsets I've tried have received more than a handful of noteworthy updates during their lifetimes. Hopefully Motorola will keep up the pace -- it's great to have a cheap phone that's constantly evolving.

It's just a shame about the camera. Even after the KitKat refresh and a separate camera update, the Moto G's photo quality is merely okay for the price. The sensor occasionally focuses on the wrong subject right as I'm taking the shot, and low light pictures often turn out blurry. The quality isn't bad enough to keep me from recommending the device to friends, but I would suggest ponying up for the Nexus 5 if you care about imaging in a frugal, off-contract smartphone.

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