After taking over Nokia, the Windows Phone maker Microsoft hasn’t changed much, and that is on a positive side. Users rarely felt the Nokia phones to be bad on build quality, but whatever the good experience they expect, is not what Windows Phone OS has been able to deliver. The latest launches from the WP maker, are the Lumia 640 and the Lumia 640 XL. I’ve been using the larger variant for quite some time, and there are many reasons to hate it more than like it for a regular use as a primary smartphone. Unless, of course, if someone is already a Windows Phone user and see no reason to move to Android ecosystem.
The large Lumia 1320 and 1520 with 6-inch screens were not really comfortable to hold and use, and they indeed were phablets with a different purpose. On the same lines, the Lumia 640 XL has a slightly smaller 5.7-inch screen, which again is not something you can criticize about, as Microsoft has the Lumia 640 as a choice for those asking for a smaller size. An HD display under the 5.7-inch screen doesn’t seem really good due to the low pixel density, and under that, is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor along with 1GB of RAM. That should be good enough, knowing how less is the resource usage on Windows Phone platform, but whether it all matches up well for the price, let’s find out.
Design, Form Factor
The slight curve on the back cover towards the edges, makes it easy to hold although the hefty size. The design hasn’t changed in any way when compared to the other recent Nokia and Microsoft devices, and the Lumia 640 XL has a classy branding on the back, alongside the mention about Zeiss (optics used in rear camera). On the back of the device, the speaker grill is seen and there is little I found wrongly done with the Lumia 640 XL’s build.
The white unit is non glossy on the back, thus far from fingerprints and smudges. Sensors are located just beside the earpiece and front-facing camera above the display. Reaching the corners of the screen with one hand is not possible, and the Windows Phone OS doesn’t help much, with little done for one-handed usage.
Samsung and Nokia were always known to give the users an access to the battery in the smartphones. Microsoft maintained that, and thus you can pull out the back cover and battery, to get the access to SIM card slots and the MicroSD card slot. There are no capacitive navigation buttons below the screen, and they are a part of the display now. Although the phablet isn’t slim enough, the 13-megapixel camera pops out a little on the back of the device.
Overall, the build quality and design of the Lumia 640 XL doesn’t fail to impress. You aren’t looking at a premium build with some other material than polycarbonate, but this isn’t something you will complain about.
The 5.7-inch display hasn’t good on resolution, with a pixel density of 259 PPI. The bezels are wide, and thus it is harder to use the large screen with the same hand we are holding it with. Pixels are noticeable as this isn’t a sharp display, but the content output is still good. ClearBlack display helps in all the times, night or brightly lit day. Viewing videos with vibrant colors, it no where shows over saturation.
The touch response is neat, and unlike the Lumia 535, there are no unnecessary touches or lack of timely touch response. Viewing angles are good, but the screen is pretty much reflective, and makes it hard to read content under sunlight. It has nothing to do with the brightness, which is still good to keep the content brightly lit, but reflectiveness is a point of concern.
OS, User Interface
Windows Phone 8.1 OS with the Denim update is still a lot behind Android and iOS, especially with the way applications are designed. The interface is going to see some overhaul later this year, when Windows 10 is released, but till then, there are several things that make the Windows Phone OS not good for a heavy smartphone user.
The Lumia 640 and 640 XL are the first ones to have the Update 2 on WP 8.1, and that is why, we see the Settings arranged under different categories. Another cool feature is, letting the users pin a particular setting on the home screen. Having settings under different sub-headings is seriously a great change, but it still isn’t the best. The big list of pre-installed apps is seen, and some are with the Lumia branding – Camera, Selfie, Storyteller, Beamer, Cinemagraph, Creative Studio and Moments.
At a point of time, it was about how less number of apps are available in the Windows Phone platform, and it was wise to choose an Android device. Now, the number has got much better and you see, a huge app store. Blame is more on the app developers in the end, for not coming up with serious and good interfaces, while the same app on Android or iOS give a smoother and better design and experience.
Having live folders management, easy change in size and position of live tiles on home screen, and a camera shortcut from the notification section is something what Windows Phone users might appreciate as recent changes, but there is a long way to go. WhatsApp saw delayed notifications, even after a reinstall, and that was not always but something you don’t expect when you have it set to run in the background.
Nokia’s Here Maps and Here Drive+ are there as always, and we got Cortana to work with some tweak of settings, thus that comes handy as well. Cortana can surely be called one neat voice assistant, with varied functions it is capable of. To end it here, we’d still suggest someone to not choose a Windows Phone device, even if the hardware is good, as there is a lot you might miss from Android OS.
Known for low resource usage, the Windows Phone OS is always, almost always good at performance. No exception on the Lumia 640 XL, the Windows Phone 8.1 is well responsive and does well to keep up with multitasking, and it doesn’t lag or stutter on regular usage. Interestingly, although we were able to download a few high high-end games, they didn’t open at all. That limits us to play some basic games, which obviously did well.
Animations seem to be on the lower side, and even when the back button is pressed, we notice the tiles to move away with a little drag, though that could be more to do with the way animations are handled in Windows Phone, because the apps running the background never slowed down or took much time to open.
The cameras in Lumia smartphones are the ones getting the most attention all the time. It was a 41-megapixel camera in Lumia 1020, which took some of the best shots, and the software support has always been good for the cameras in Lumia phones. The latest one we tried to hang around with, is the Lumia 640 XL with a 13-megapixel shooter. It doesn’t just have a decent rear camera sensor, but comes with a good 5-megapixel shooter on the front as well, for the selfies and video calls.
This being a “Lumia” branded phone, you’ll see two different apps for cameras – Lumia Selfie and Lumia Camera, and you already know what they are for, based on the names. The apps Lumia Creative Studio, Lumia Cinemagraph, Lumia Moments and Storyteller uses the captures to present them in a better way, helping you edit and organize them.
The camera app is simple, with two major options being Rich Capture or the Manual mode. Rich capture handles everything by itself and automatically selects the best settings according to the conditions, while in the manual mode, the user can change the ISO, white balance, temperature and exposure value.
Natural Light Captures – Rear camera
Exposure control – Focus on different areas
Color reproduction – Nature
Low light – ISO sensitivity to 3200
Low Light – Use of Flash
Now, the capture quality. Brilliant for a 13-megapixel sensor, the software does a great job in post processing the image, and a totally dark image is brightened up (of-course grainy but appreciably good) enough to be clearly seen with the 3200 ISO and high shutter time. The Lumia Selfie as well helps the user do quite a lot after taking the picture, and the quality as well, is much better than many others with the same 5MP camera. Here, it is more about the software playing a big role in whatever the output is.
It isn’t just the camera that is a good thing about the Lumia 640 XL. The 3000 mAh battery in the device is what lasts for over a day on average. This isn’t when the device is idle, but it is almost active for the entire day on connectivity, approximately over three hours of screen-on time every day and some data connectivity, while mostly on Wi-Fi.
It was worth noticing that Windows Phone interface uses up battery more when the phone app was running in the background. A 100% running stat showed the battery to drain by about double than normal. Because the phone wasn’t getting heated up a lot while playing whatever games were opening, the battery wasn’t draining abnormally in that case. Overall, it is a device you should look forward to, if you want a good battery life.
For the connectivity, the software is real bad in this case. You have to scroll down to the settings, then each one into there for even a single toggle. Data reception is good, and Wi-Fi even better, as we tried to use three phones, the Lumia 640 XL, Moto X 2014 and the Samsung Galaxy A7 at the same place far from a Wi-Fi router. It was Lumia 640 XL getting the highest speed and signals. But, the software makes all the experience bad, and even worse when you have to first turn ON Bluetooth from the settings and then try to send a picture from the Photos gallery. Too many failed connections on Bluetooth, added to the woes.
Having said how much we liked the cameras and the battery on the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL, it still won’t be something worth recommending, because, 1. the Windows Phone OS still is far from good when compared to the competition, 2. the display looks pixelated easily, thanks to the low pixel density, and 3. most importantly, there are no shortcuts to connectivity, as said above. For someone looking at a decent smartphone at the price range of Rs. 15,000, this won’t be the first one I’d recommend because of the software. Microsoft isn’t even sure about sending a Windows 10 update to this, because of the rendering and size issue as we learn from the official website.
There are several smartphones in the Android smartphone market, priced lesser than this and having similar specs. Only if you are looking at Windows Phone for your own reasons, the Lumia 640 XL will be well recommended over the Lumia 640 (for the little time we’ve tried that phone), for both the reasons we liked it – Camera and battery.