Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Microsoft Lumia 640 review

Low-end Lumias dominate the Windows Phone market but aren't prestigious. To fix this, Microsoft crafted the Lumia 640 Trojan horse - a capable mid-ranger hiding behind an undeservedly low model number. It comes with pick-and-choose LTE and dual-SIM connectivity, a camera that punches above its weight and a quality screen. Slowly but steadily, Microsoft is commencing its push into the mid-range, which for now is owned by Android.

The Lumia 6-series began life as the lowest rung of the ladder. Since then Microsoft has extended the ladder with the 5 and 4 series. To live up to its new standing in life, the Lumia 640 brings an HD screen and a 1080p video camera, which were traditional weak spots for the sixes - WVGA screen and 480p video was the norm.

Those are indeed the highlights of this phone. The 5" IPS panel is nearly as sharp as an iPhone Retina display and boasts ClearBlack (a filter that reduces glare) and Gorilla Glass 3. The 8MP camera with 1080p video matches the iPhone 6 on paper, though we'll see if the tiny sensor lives up to that promise.

Key features

  • 5" 16M-color ClearBlack IPS LCD display of 720p resolution, Gorilla Glass 3
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset with quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 processor, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB of RAM
  • Windows Phone 8.1 OS with Lumia Denim; updateable to Windows 10
  • Optional dual-SIM; optional LTE
  • 8MP autofocus camera with 1080p@30fps video recording; 1MP/720p selfie camera
  • 8GB of inbuilt storage, expandable via a microSD card slot up to 128GB
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • FM Radio with RDS
  • Li-Ion 2,500mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No headset included in the retail package
  • Cheaper Lumias get the same Snapdragon 400 chipset
  • Only 3GB of internal storage left for the user
The comparisons to the iPhone are more aspirational than anything, a more realistic comparison will be with the likes of Moto E (2015) and Moto G (2014). The Microsoft Lumia 640 is in their price bracket (depending on the connectivity setup) and has the edge in screen, camera and battery challenges.
Despite its popularity, the Snapdragon 400 chipset is clearly showing its age. Windows Phone isn't as demanding as Android though, the one area that will really strain the chipset is games - Adreno 305 on a 720p screen is a bit of a stretch. We'll see what the benchmarks have to say about that.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
Microsoft Lumia 640 official images
The "Lumia 640" is really three different devices. The base device has two SIM slots and 3G connectivity, but there are LTE-enabled versions with one or two SIM slots. We have the single-SIM LTE version with us, but connectivity aside the review covers all 5" 640s.
The Microsoft Lumia 640 is shaping up as a capable, lower-cost alternative to the Lumia 730 and 830. Those boast Carl Zeiss optics and finer bodies, but the lines between Lumia lines have blurred.
The phone it comes to replace, the Lumia 630/635, looks quite plain in comparison - smaller, sub-HD screen, no 1080p video capture or selfie camera, just 512MB RAM and no option for both LTE and dual-SIM. So, if you had any impressions of Lumia's 6-series you need to put them aside, the Lumia 640 is a big step forward.
Last week you may have read our Lumia 640 XL review. If the 13MP camera with Zeiss optics and 5MP selfie camera sold you on the 5.7" affordable phablet, you should note that this smaller model is more modest in the imaging department.
Navigating the Lumia 6-series maze just leads to more corridors, but we'll guide you through all things Lumia 640 starting with what's in the box.

Unboxing the Microsoft Lumia 640

The Microsoft Lumia 640 retail package is a bit barren - the phone itself, some guides to get you started and a charger with a detachable microUSB cable. Pretty standard so far, but there's no headset.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
This was a rather short unboxing
While most in-box headsets are not high-quality and get tossed in a drawer somewhere, considering the price range of the 640 any headset would have been nice to have. Not everyone has a quality pair available, especially one with a mic.

Microsoft Lumia 640 360° spin

The Nokia Lumia 640 measures 141.3 x 72.2 x 8.8mm and weighs 145g. That's a bit tall for a 5" device (considering no hardware keys or front stereo speakers), a touch wide too. The phone is pleasingly thin though, considering its price point and 2,500mAh battery.
The higher-end Lumia 830 (better camera mostly) is 139.4 x 70.7 x 8.5mm, while the iPhone 6 is 138.1 x 67 x 6.9mm (with a smaller 4.7" screen). Note that there's a Lumia 640 XL with 5.7" screen, though that's a separate device.

Hardware overview

The Lumia family has two basic designs - one with smoothly arched back and sides and one with flat top and bottom. The Lumia 640 is of the first kind like most phones Microsoft has produced. This offers familiarity but will not excite with any novelty. Not that we expected design wonders for an affordable handset, most of its budget is spent on getting the screen and camera.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
The Lumia genes are unmistakable
The design dictates a glass front - Gorilla Glass 3 for added scratch resistance in this case - and a polycarbonate shell on the back that comes off. This shell has either a matte or glossy finish, depending on which color you pick. There's Glossy Cyan, Orange, White, Matte Black to choose from and wrap around the side to spruce up the dull black of the front.
The material is not the top quality material we've seen in the Lumia 9 series and fingerprints are fairly visible on the Matte Black version we have in the office. Still, the shell feels pretty durable and you can swap it out easily to keep the look of your phone fresh.
The Lumia 640 is a bit large for a 5" phone, with glaring bezels around the screen. It's not much taller or wider than an iPhone 6 though, so most people should manage it just fine. However, if you were looking for a compact phone you'll have to head over to the 5-series. At 145g the phone feels the right weight for its volume.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
Lumia 640 nails the weight but the bezels are bigger than perfect
Anyway, the bezels only look empty. Above the screen is a 1MP camera that shoots 720p video - the presence of a camera is an upgrade over the Lumia 630/635. It may not be that great for selfies, but enough good Skype videos.
There's also a proximity sensor, the Lumia 630/635 doesn't have one, for example.
The earpiece and mouthpiece are notched out of the front glass. There's an ambient light sensor in the upper right too.
Nokia Lumia 640
A selfie camera and proximity sensor are upgrades over the 630
The only hardware buttons on the phone are on the right side, a part of the color shell. The Volume rocker is fairly comfy to use though the Power button is a bit low, especially if you try to push it with the thumb of your right hand. There's no shutter key here and we miss the times when Microsoft mandated those.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
The Power button rides a bit too low on the right side
The wired ports on the Lumia 640 are split between the top and the bottom - the 3.5mm audio jack goes above, the microUSB 2.0 port goes below.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
3.5mm audio jack above and microUSB 2.0 port below
The 8MP camera is positioned on the mid-line on the back, but it's some distance off the top edge. This leaves you enough room to put your finger there to hold the phone steady, without covering the camera and smudging its lens. A single-LED flash is next to the camera to be used for low-light shots and torch, something previous generations of 6-series Lumias lacked. It's a very cheap addition, considering how annoying it is to not have a flash.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
The 8MP camera leaves enough room for your fingers for a stable grip while shooting
The small round grill for the loudspeaker is in the lower right corner. The camera and speaker are pretty flush with the back, which is good design-wise, but leaves the camera lens open to scratches and muffles the speaker. The back cover comes off, giving you access to the battery and card slots - one or two microSIMs and a microSD.
Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640 Nokia Lumia 640
Small grill is the loudspeaker's only outlet

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