Hands-on with the new Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
It has been almost a year since the Lumia flagship 930 was released and there seems to be no sign of a replacement. Instead, Microsoft continues to expand its Lumia range with the big Nokia 640 XL a low-end device with some high-end features.
Running Windows 8.1 with the Lumia Denim Update, the 640 XL has a large 5.7-inch 720p (1280 x 720) IPS display. Both 3G and a 4G LTE options are available at slightly different price points, as well as single and dual sim versions. Depending on which model you go for, it will cost €189 (around £170) or €219 (around £200) respectively.
Mid-range handsets seem to be getting larger and the Lumia 640 XL is definitely one of the biggest. Measuring 157.9 x 81.5 x 9mm, it’s physically larger than the Galaxy Note 4, but weighs 171g, 5g less. It’s available in five colour options, white gloss, white matt, cyan, orange and black – the gloss is my least favourite though and makes the phone look as cheap as it is.
Considering its size, the 640 XL is comfortable to hold and doesn’t feel chunky, and in the white matt iteration it’s quite attractive. The overall design of the phone is minimalistic with the body of the phone made from a smooth tough plastic. Gentle curves rise on the rear of the cover to house the camera unit and 3.5mm audio jack, while a small incision has been made for the rear loud speaker.
It’s worth noting that neither the Nokia nor Lumia branding appear on the 640 XL. Only Microsoft’s name and logo are visible, perhaps another reason why a Lumia 930 update is due imminently, even if only to consolidate the company’s branding.
The face of the phone is classic Nokia Lumia, all black with three familiar touch keys, search, Windows Home and Back all positioned at the base of the screen. Although the corners on this new phone are much more rounded than the older models.
Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protects the phone’s 1280 x 720 resolution IPS LCD screen from accidents, which is good to see on a low-end device. The plastic back cover is removable and inside you’ll find a large replaceable 3,000mAh capacity battery, which should give you about two days of regular use or a stated 37 days of standby. The battery can be charged wirelessly, which is a good feature to see at this level. There’s also a microSD expansion slot for up to 128GB of additional storage in case the phone’s built-in 8GB memory isn’t quite enough.
Icons are sharp on the phone and the touch screen is highly responsive. I did expect the screen to be brighter than it is though, which is my only major criticism of it. We couldn’t test it outside at MWC 2015, but I suspect it may struggle in bright sunlight. On the positive side, the visibility at different viewing angles is consistent.
Being packaged with the Lumia Denim update, the 640 XL has some tidy features out of the box including one-swipe action centre and Word Flow. Word Flow is just like the Android swipe to type keyboard function. You just trail your finger over the keyboard to spell the word. It’s a quick solution and works well on the large 640 XL screen.
Microsoft’s core Office apps; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote are pre-installed on the 640 XL, which is great for productivity. Additionally, the phone comes with a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal with one terabyte of cloud storage and 60 minutes of Skype calling per month. If that doesn’t make this phone a good deal, little else will.
We are expecting to see the Windows 10 update come to the 640 XL as well over the next few months, which should improve its feature set further.
An 8-megapixel camera with Zeiss optics on the rear and 5-megapixel wide-angle front-facing cameras take care of image and video capturing needs. Looking at the results from the sample device , I’d say the results are pretty decent for a mid-range handset.
One thing that does set this camera apart from the pack is that the Lumia Camera app has manual controls as standard, which is a great plus for people who want to get more out of their mobile photography. I’ve used it myself and have managed to get some great results thanks to shutter speed and ISO control.
Powering the Lumia 640 XL is a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 chipset, with 1GB RAM , which makes for swift switching between applications. Although gaming options in the Lumia store are somewhat limited.
I’m a fan of the updated Windows OS, it’s slick, fast and stable and I feel that the 640 XL’s large 5.7-inch screen is a great showcase for it. As a low-end device, it offers a strong feature set that will tempt people who were willing to spend a bit more on a rival device.
But when you consider its list price of €219 (Around £200) for the 4G LTE version, there are some strong alternatives, including the feature rich OnePlus One, which is only £229. The competition for large devices is incredibly stiff, but this new offering from Nokia definitely looks like it could be worth a closer look.
Now if only they’d give us a new flagship mobile phone running Windows 10…