Lumia 640: Nothing budget about Microsoft’s latest handset

"The Lumia 640 never feels like a budget phone and manages to outclass a range of handsets within and above its price range."

The Lumia 640 may contain staggering hardware, an impressive design and HD display, but it feels restrained by Microsoft’s current Windows 8.1 operating system.

Despite retailing for NZ$299 the Lumia 640 never feels like a budget phone and manages to outclass a range of handsets within and above its price range.

The handset is well-built and the rear camera provides solid picture quality as a point and shoot.

This is the first re-branded Microsoft Lumia, with the company continuing Nokia’s legacy of producing handsets with a quality feel and solid build.

The phone’s shell will feel familiar to current and past Nokia users through a polymer rear casing, which has a premium feel and helps the handset sit nicely in the palm.

Unlike past Nokia handsets however, Microsoft has opted to house the power/sleep/wake button further down the right side of the phone, which may be annoying to begin with while experienced Nokia users will also notice there is no designated camera button present on the device.

Within the handset is a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 and 1GB of RAM, which enables the Lumia to operate smoothly for the majority of the time. The handset is also 8.8mm thick and while not as thin as say a flagship iPhone it still looks surprisingly slim.

Removing the rear casing reveals a Micro SD, Micro-Sim and a removable battery. The Lumia only provides a meagre 8GB of internal storage by today’s standards, but media-holics needn’t worry as the handset supports SD cards up to a whopping 128GB, providing ample storage.

The battery is also hugely impressive and the majority of users will find they easily get a couple of days use out of the 640 before looking for their charger.

The 5-inch display should also be admired as it has 294 pixels-per-inch - it’s bright, colourful and images appear crisp.

The rear camera is an 8-megapixel offering and provides good quality images in daylight and bright scenarios, but with nearly all budget handsets pictures taken at low light become noisy.

However, the Lumia still performs above most of its competitors in low light situations.

One of the major selling points for any Windows Phone is the ease with which the device connects to Microsoft’s desktop services.

Users of the Lumia will be happy to know that the phone provides access to all their office needs, by coming with Office 365 pre-installed (subscription is required) and users are given 30GB of cloud storage with Microsoft’s OneDrive - which you can add to your existing plan to increase your storage capacity.

Currently the Lumia runs Microsoft Windows 8.1 mobile OS, with the latest Denim update - the OS is fast stable and reliable, but suffers from a lack of features other phone users take for granted.

Despite ‘Live Tiles’ being fully customisable and providing more layout options than the other major OS alternatives, the app store remains the biggest stumbling block for many potential customers.

Without treading over old ground, there is still a distinct lack of first party applications in the store with many users using third party apps to gain access to apps other OS users take for granted.

The most noticeable missing apps include Google apps, SnapChat, plus many banking and store apps, such as TradeMe.

The few first party apps that are available appear to be in constant beta state including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Many third party apps provide a better experience and have become the main go-to apps for Windows Phone users and these developers should be commended for their work in the app store.

There could be light at the end of the tunnel as Microsoft has been trying to persuade developers to produce apps on its platform since the launch of Windows 10 - helped by the announcement of the ability to convert apps from iOS and Android to Windows 10.

The Lumia has also been promised an upgrade and the ability to run Windows 10 when the platform is launched later this year, so users will be safe in the knowledge that their handset will remain relevant and receive a new lease of life with Microsoft’s latest OS.

People looking for a solid and full-featured budget phone that has a premium feel, should not look past the Lumia and if you’re already a Windows Phone user with a budget Nokia handset, the Lumia will provide a great upgrade.

Those currently using a budget Android device may want to check the Lumia out. As the OneDrive storage and Office 365 integration are great selling points.

Also, the fact that many other budget handsets in the Lumia’s price range have weaker screens, shorter battery life, lack of 4G coverage and a less reliable camera make it a compelling choice.

By David Williams - Reviews Editor, PC World / Computerworld New Zealand

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