Microsoft Lumia 640 XL review: Budget phone, big screen
A Lumia phone still holds the record for the highest-resolution camera in a smartphone, but this is no Lumia 1020. Instead, the 640 XL comes with a 13-megapixel rear snapper and a 5-megapixel camera at the front.
Both are capable of shooting 1080p video, and images look deceptively good on the Lumia’s excellent display. A closer look, however, reveals that both photos and video have a tendency to look a little washed out and suffer some noise.
Despite being capable of recording at 30 frames per second, video appears juddery, and the auto-exposure adjusts in steps when you pan the camera from bright to dark areas. By far the video camera’s most irritating feature, however, is that it loses focus when panning, with the Lumia lens struggling to lock onto a subject when the camera is pointed somewhere new.
For the money, however, the quality still isn’t all that bad, and many other phones in this price range can’t match the 640 XL’s resolution anyway.
Microsoft has done a good job of squeezing in just enough power to make the 640 XL usable, while keeping the price reasonable. It comes with the same quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 and Adreno 305 GPU found in the Motorola Moto G2 4G. Microsoft’s phone comes with 1GB of RAM.
On the whole, for browsing the web, launching and using apps and navigating around Windows Phone’s front-end, this combination delivers smooth, lag-free performance. It’s only with more intensive tasks – such as playing advanced games, for instance – that the lack of power becomes evident.
Another worry is the Lumia’s ability to drain battery. With moderate use, the 640 XL is no different to most smartphones: you’ll need to charge it daily. However, for more demanding tasks – such as watching videos, playing games or streaming some audio – expect your battery life to plummet.
In testing, when watching a 720p video in flight mode, I saw battery life drop at 13.5% per hour, for a projected total runtime of only seven hours. Streaming audio over 3G hit it even harder, tearing through the battery at a rate of 17% per hour. Compared with the Nexus 6’s depletion rates of just 2.3% and 6.8% per hour respectively, this is disappointing.
In terms of connectivity, the 640 XL is more impressive: it has Bluetooth 4, 802.11bgn Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC and even an FM Radio. It also comes with 4G in the UK; note that the European version is 3G only, so if you see it on sale at a low price, this may be the reason.
Finally, the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL also comes with a year’s subscription to Office 365 services, which would cost around £70 if you bought it on its own.
Despite its shortcomings, the Lumia 640 XL presents decent value for money at only £183. Its design is striking, and while its screen may not be particularly sharp, Microsoft’s ClearBlack technology mostly makes up for that, delivering a pleasingly punchy image.
The limitations of Windows phone, below average battery life, and the widespread availability of high-quality, low-cost Android phones means it probably won’t persuade many to switch. But with that subscription to Microsoft Office 365 thrown in, it’s an enticing proposition for owners of older budget Windows Phones looking to upgrade.