Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Review

Overview

Another budget smartphone from Microsoft that gets many things right and few wrong, the Lumia 640 XL is great value for money.

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Decent screen

Cons

  • Camera is slightly disappointing
  • Hardware buttons are an issue

Introduction

It has been awhile since a new large screen Lumia, more than a year after the 6 inch Lumia 1320. To satisfy the cravings of phablet fans, Microsoft now offers yet another large screen, budget Lumia, the 640 XL. Along with its little brother, the Lumia 640, it brings higher-end specs to a lower price point, such as high quality camera optics.

Design and build quality

The Lumia 640 XL design is pretty standard in terms of a Lumia. The 5MP front facing camera and the Microsoft logo north of the 5.7 inch HD IPS LCD display. Where the trademark Windows Phone hardware capacitive buttons used to be, is now a vast void of bezel. There’s the headphone jack at the top, the micro USB port at the bottom, the usual volume rocker and power key at the right, and the left is completely bare. Turn to the back and you’ll find the 13MP camera, accompanied by a LED flash and the speaker grille.

One thing about the buttons on the side, is that the volume rocker is extremely mushy. There is literally zero tactile feedback when I press on it, but the power key clicks just fine. Hopefully it is just an isolated issue.

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Dig deeper by removing the removable back and you’ll have access to the also removable 3000mAh battery, the SIM card slot, and the microSD card slot.

The review unit came in a bright orange finish, which has quickly become a staple in newer Lumias. Other colours include cyan, black, and white. All are of a matte finish, but the white 640 XL has the option of a glossy finish. The back is responsible for all the colour added to the device, so there’s always the option of swapping the back for another colour if you get bored of one.

The build quality of the 640 XL decent. The polycarbonate back does a good job of keeping dust and fingerprints at bay, but it can get quite slippery at times, so you might want to adjust your grip from time to time.

It’s a relief to know that Corning Gorilla Glass 3 is protecting the screen, so you won’t have to worry about putting your phone in the same pocket as your keys. It does a pretty good job at repelling fingerprints as well. Overall, the phone is rather sturdy, a characteristic of Nokia that has carried over to Microsoft.

Display

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The XL comes with a 5.7 inch HD IPS LCD display. 720p stretched out across a 5.7 inch display works out to round 259ppi, and you might think that the screen looks really pixellated, especially when there are phones of over 500ppi. Surprisingly, the display looks just fine. At half an arm’s length away, that is approximately how far you’ll be holding this phone away from your face most of the time, your eyes are simply not sharp enough to be able to discern the individual pixels apart from each other. Even spotting them is a chore when you bring the screen right up to your nose. Don’t let the 720p put you off.

Viewing angles are good, colours are decent, and there just isn’t a whole bunch of things wrong with the display, especially at this price point. There’s Glance screen as well, which provides you with information like the time and your notification without you having to turn the screen on.

Handling

The Lumia 640 XL is rather large, being pretty tall and wide (157.9 x 81.5 x 9 mm). It is literally taller than the 15cm plastic ruler we all have, tucked in some corner of our desks. The large size does help distribute the weight pretty evenly though, so the 171g phone doesn’t feel all that heavy.

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If you’re using it one-handed, the corners of the phone can really dig into your palm when you try to reach your thumb to the other side of the screen. Fortunately, the rounded corners rectifies this, so it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

Other than that, standard phablet rules apply here. One-handed operation is not impossible, but you’ll have to shift the phone around in your palm quite a bit. The safest way is still two-handed, especially since the grip on the matte material isn’t all that well.

The camera hump is an interesting consideration here. You’ll find your index finger gravitating towards the lens, since it fits uncannily well in the protruding, recessed lens. It feels quite natural and comfortable, but then it also conveniently smudges the lens. Only you can solve this dilemma.

All in all, you’ll get used to handling it in a couple of days.

Performance

The Lumia 640 XL is equipped with the Snapdragon 400 quad core processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, and 1 GB of RAM. The thing about Windows Phone is that it somehow manages to not feel slow, regardless of the processor. There may be the occasional stuttering when returning to the home screen, or the pesky little ‘Resuming…’ that appears when you have too many apps open, but overall it feels very fluid. Performance is practically a non-issue here.

Battery life

The huge 5.7 inch phone comes with an equally monstrous 3000 mAh battery. Already quite large as compared to many other phones, it powers the battery-sipping 720p IPS LCD screen and the frugal Windows Phone. It’s certainly a relief when batteries of smaller capacities are powering high-end flagships with much better specs. And you’ll be glad to know that the battery life does live up to its capacity.

With medium to heavy usage, you can expect to end the day with around 30-40% left. And that is with LTE on for majority of the day. With light usage, lasting 2 days should be a breeze. Oh, and the battery is removable too, so feel free to power through the battery if you have a spare at hand.

Camera

The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the camera is the distinct hump. With excellent flagship shooters like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 both having their own camera hump, you may be expecting great shots from the inexpensive 640 XL.

When I first picked the phone up, it was a surprise to see the ZEISS logo reminding you of the ZEISS optics inside the $429 phone. Regrettably, this is no PureView technology, as it is reserved only for flagships.

The 13MP camera performs decently in well-lit conditions. Images are crisp, and there is a fair amount of detail, though they tend to be a little overexposed. In low-light conditions, it’s just a lens flare and noise galore.

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While the camera is okay, if not slightly disappointing, do keep in mind that this is ultimately a $429 phone. Plenty of manufacturers skimp on the camera component to keep the cost down, and many phones in the same price category as the XL produce horrible images. It is a nice touch by Microsoft to invest a little more on the camera, sparing the budget-conscious from the overall bad image quality you’d come to expect.

Conclusion

Perhaps the camera of the Lumia 640 XL had too much to live up to, but other components of the phone, like the excellent battery life, do more than enough to make up for the camera. It is certainly a good smartphone, and people looking out for budget smartphones should definitely keep the $429 Lumia 640 XL in their radars. The great experience is ultimately hindered by the operating system itself. Apps are still an issue for Windows Phone, but hopefully the Windows 10 update will address it.

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