Microsoft Lumia 650 review: A smartphone that might have been great

£160
Price when reviewed

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Software

This is all a bit of a shame, because I do like what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 10 Mobile. The idea of having the same code base and app offering across laptops, tablets and phones is a sound one, and I like the unified look and feel.

There aren’t as many holes in the app catalogue as there used to be, either. Most of the major social networks are covered. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine are available, as are BBC iPlayer, iPlayer Radio, Spotify and Netflix. Even Slack gets a look in, although the app is admittedly still in beta. However, there still aren’t nearly as many smart-home devices and wearables that support Windows 10 Mobile as Android or iOS.

For more details, you can read my in-depth review of Windows 10 Mobile here. Aside from Continuum, the Lumia 650 offers all the same features, but its low power processor means it doesn’t show the new OS in its best light.

Microsoft Lumia 650: Camera and display

Usually, if the rest of a phone is disappointing, you can be pretty certain the camera will be equally rubbish. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Lumia 650. You’re not getting cutting-edge camera tech here: the camera is an 8-megapixel offering, with a single LED flash and a 5-megapixel shooter at the front and there’s no fancy phase detect autofocus or optical image stabilisation, either

However, the quality is pretty decent. Photos were crisp rather than smeary and, as long as you hold the phone steady, you can get acceptable snaps out of it. I like the Windows camera app, too, which lets you switch quickly between auto and “pro” modes at the flick of a finger, although the lack of any kind of HDR mode is a bit irritating.

Video quality is limited by the speed of the processor, topping out at 720p and 30fps, when most other phones, even below £200, are capable of capturing 1080p, but largely I was pleased with results the camera produced.

The display is another positive feature. Once again, it’s hardly cutting edge, with a resolution of 720 x 1,280, but contrast is perfect, thanks to the use of AMOLED tech, and under the scrutiny of the office X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter, it performed well, posting maximum brightness and sRGB coverage figures of 357cd/m2 and 100% respectively.

To the eye, it’s more than respectable. White and light grey tones have a slightly yellowish tinge to them, but unless you squint hard you’ll not be able to spot the pixels, and the deep black and super-saturated colours typical of AMOLED screens mean images and video look great. It’s certainly a lot nicer than the dull screen fitted to the third generation Moto G.

It’s also fitted with Microsoft’s Clear Black polarising layer, so it’s readable in bright sunlight and you also get a Gorilla Glass 3 topping so it’s less likely to cracking, scratching or shattering than phones that use no-brand toughened glass.

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Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Verdict

After first setting eyes on its slim form and understated design, I wanted to like the Microsoft Lumia 650. Its screen is great, the camera isn’t bad and there are plenty of elements of Windows 10 Mobile that I like.

But it’s completely spoiled by Microsoft’s decision to hobble the performance of the phone by shoehorning in a processor so low on power that not even Windows Phone can make it look good.

That, ultimately, is what turns the Lumia 650 smartphone from a potentially great phone into a disappointing one – and that’s a shame because Windows 10 Mobile needs every bit of help it can get.

See also: Where next for Windows phones? Probably nowhere

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