Microsoft Lumia 640 Review: The Mid-Range Done Right

Microsoft Lumia 640 Review: The Mid-Range Done Right

By Rich W Woods

Let’s face it. The numbering scheme for Lumias is downright confusing. Historically, it has been 5xx for the low end, 6xx through 8xx for the low end of the mid-range to the high end of the mid-range, and 9xx for the flagships.

The Nokia Lumia 520 is the best selling Lumia of all time. The successor to the Nokia Lumia 520, the Nokia Lumia 530, really seemed like a downgrade, with a fixed focus camera, the inability to record HD video, and half of the onboard storage. It seemed like the Nokia Lumia 635 was the real successor to the Nokia Lumia 520 as the 6xx series was dropping into the low end and the 5xx series was dropping into the emerging markets level low end.

The low end to mid-range Lumias have historically left something to be desired. They always seem to be lacking a front camera (in the case of the Lumia 635) or they are heavily overpriced (in the case of the Lumia 830).

No more. The Microsoft Lumia 640 is a device that stands on its own as a mid-range device. For the first time in a long time, we’re seeing Lumias that are trying to compete with more than just the price tag.

Microsoft Lumia 640: Specs

Processor 1.2 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 400
GPU Adreno 306
Display 5″, 720p, 294 ppi, IPS LCD
Body 141.3×72.2×8.8 mm, 145 g
Camera 8 MP, 3264×2448, 1 MP Front
Video 1080p – 30 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps
Aperture f/2.2
Sensor Size 1/4″
Focal Length 28 mm
Storage 8 GB, Expandable to 128 GB
RAM 1 GB
Battery 2500 mAh
Price ???

The Microsoft Lumia 640 is a massive upgrade from the Nokia Lumia 635. As I said earlier, with the Microsoft Lumia 640, they took the 6xx line of Lumias from the mid-range line that bordered on the low end to a clearly defined mid-range device.

When I say it’s a massive upgrade, that’s exactly what I mean. The display went from 480p to 720p, which is an astounding difference in display quality. RAM was doubled from 512 MB to 1 GB, allowing the user access to quite a bit more apps in the Store. The battery went from 1830 mAh to 2500 mAh! I still say that the Microsoft Lumia 640 has the best battery life of any Windows Phone I have ever used.

The camera is a massive improvement as well. It’s not just because of the boosted resolution, moving to 8 MP from 5 MP. It’s the aperture, moving to f/2.2 from f/2.4. This allows for much better low light performance. It also has a solid front camera, which was completely lacking on the Lumia 635, so you can now Skype with friends.

Of course, I’m not here to compare the Nokia Lumia 635 and the Microsoft Lumia 640. I’ve done that already. If you want a detailed comparison, click here. You can also navigate through the menu to see other comparisons I’ve done with the Microsoft Lumia 640 by going to Comparisons -> Microsoft -> Lumia 640.

Microsoft Lumia 640: The Camera

Lumias have always had stunning cameras. Even that old $29 Nokia Lumia 520 had a camera that took beautiful shots, as long as you were in decent lighting.

The Microsoft Lumia 640 kicks it up a notch. With its larger aperture, it has much better low light performance than its peers. I could show you right now, but that’s not even the thing I’m most excited about with the Microsoft Lumia 640.

The Microsoft Lumia 640 ships with Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim, which means two things. For one, it ships with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2, which brings a new Settings menu and some other features we’ll go over later. The other is Lumia Camera 5.

Lumia Camera 5 is one of the most coveted features among Lumia users today. This is a feature that was previously only available in flagships and the newest mid-ranges, such as the Lumia 830 and some Lumia 730/735 models.

Lumia Camera 5 has a ton of improvements over earlier versions of Lumia Camera. For one, it’s better designed. The user can easily toggle between the front and rear cameras or easily access settings, rather than trying to bring up the little three dots from the bottom and accidentally hitting the wrong option, opening up the timer feature instead of the front camera.

Probably the biggest and best feature of Lumia Camera 5 is Rich Capture. Rich Capture allows the user to adjust exposure of an image after he has taken it.

Think of it this way. At night, you might take a picture of something with a flash. The subject will be very bright and overexposed and the background will be very dark. Without the flash, the entire field of view will be darker, but it will be more even. With Rich Capture, the user has the option of using that photo with the flash, without the flash, or using a simple slider to choose anywhere in between. Rich Capture is a simply brilliant feature, which is why they named it after me.

Please note that in order to enlarge the images, simply click or tap them. To view the full size image, there is a link in the carousel.

As I said, beautiful images.

The front camera of the Microsoft Lumia 640 isn’t too shabby either. The front camera is 1 MP, which is just north of 720p. Check it out.

Again, beautiful images.

One other thing that I want to talk about here is video. Unlike its predecessor, the Microsoft Lumia 640 has the ability to record 1080p video, which, to be honest, is a huge deal. If you look at the Microsoft Lumia 535, that can only record 480p. The Nokia Lumia 635 could do 720p.

Microsoft Lumia 640: Display and Body

With the exception of being a larger phone, the body of the Microsoft Lumia 640 is the same design as the Nokia Lumia 635. They even sent me the orange model, which happens to be the color of the Lumia 635 that I own, so it was like mine was a mini-me of the Lumia 640.

The display is gorgeous. I couldn’t be happier that they used 720p in the Lumia 640. If you pick up a Lumia 635, the first thing you’ll notice is the low resolution. I would always point out that the low resolution allows for better performance, as the Snapdragon 400 has a better GPU than the Snapdragon 200; however, it really is nice to have an HD display.

The Nokia Lumia 635 and the Microsoft Lumia 535 used 480p and 540×960 displays, respectively. It is good to see that Microsoft is really delivering value to the low and mid-ranges, especially now that the Microsoft Lumia 540 Dual SIM is coming with a 720p display as well.

The Microsoft Lumia 640 also has Glance, one of the other most coveted features of Windows Phone. This is a feature that we don’t even see in some of the latest flagships, such as the Lumia Icon or Lumia 930. Glance allows the user to look at his phone while it is asleep and see the time, as well as some notifications.

The Microsoft Lumia 640 has a ClearBlack display. Now, let me back off a little and explain. Higher end Lumias use AMOLED displays. AMOLEDs tend to have more vibrant colors and they have truer black colors, which is because black pixels can actually be turned off, whereas with an LCD, all pixels are backlit, so if you have something like a Glance screen, you can see the time while the phone is asleep; however, you can see that the whole display is backlit.

ClearBlack is a technology that Nokia created, and is now owned by Microsoft, that gives an LCD a similar effect to what an AMOLED user would get from a Glance screen. This is the same technology used in the Nokia Lumia 830.

Microsoft Lumia 640: GDR2

GDR2 is also known as Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2. Those of us that follow the updates and download them through the Preview for Developer program tend to call them GDR1 and GDR2, where the public release will be called Update 1 and Update 2.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 is an update that is most likely not coming to existing Windows Phones, even flagships. This is bad news since it packs a lot of cool features. Don’t worry. If you’re buying a Microsoft Lumia 640, you still get it.

My favorite feature of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 is the new Settings menu. Previously, Settings were in no particular order. In fact, if an update to the Glance screen came in through the Store (or any other setting, for that matter), it would drop right to the bottom of the Settings menu.

Well, no more. Settings are now categorized, much as they are in Windows 10, although it still has a similar appearance to the Windows Phone 8.1 Settings menu.

While my favorite feature of GDR2 is the new Settings menu, probably the most important is the ability to pair a keyboard with the phone through Bluetooth. This is a feature that Windows Phone has lacked for too long.

Microsoft Lumia 640: Benchmarks and Conclusion

I am not a fan of benchmarks, and I say this in every comparison or review that I include benchmarks in. The reason is that they so rarely reflect real world usage. Unfortunately, they’re the best tool we have for putting the performance of a device on paper.

For the battery test, I used WP Bench, since Geekbench 3 is not available for Windows Phone. Also, for the AnTuTu test, I wouldn’t assume so far as to think it’s testing the same thing as the Android variant of AnTuTu, so I really wouldn’t say it’s fair to use tiehr of these scores to compare the Lumia 640 to an Android device.

Lumia 640

 

Conclusion

We don’t know a definitive price for the Microsoft Lumia 640 in the United States just yet. I reached out to them for an answer to this and was told that they couldn’t tell me anything until the device is released to the public or there is an official announcement; however, Daniel Rubino said once on Twitter that it should cost $99 for the T-Mobile locked model, and I don’t know if that’s the LTE model.

Needless to say, there is a lot of value here. The Microsoft Lumia 640 is a handset that I can easily recommend to a user who doesn’t want to sign a two year contract with a carrier.

All of that being said, I find it very refreshing to see Microsoft taking the mid-range space more seriously. When I reviewed the Yezz Billy 4.7, I titled it It Fills a Hole Left by Lumia. The reason was, I felt that there was a hole left by Lumia.

When you look at the current state of Lumias in the United States, you have the Lumia 830, which is now the closest thing to a flagship, which uses a Snapdragon 400 processor, the same processor that powers the low end of the mid-range, 1 GB RAM, a 720p display, and pretty much similar specs to the Lumia 640, with the exception of the rear camera. The Lumia 830 sells for $499 unlocked or $449 locked to AT&T, which is wildly overpriced for such a device.

On the other hand, we have the Lumia 635, which can be purchased for $49 on AT&T, $79 on T-Mobile, $129 unlocked, and $179 on Sprint. The Lumia 635 uses a Snapdragon 400, 512 MB RAM, a 480p display, and has no front camera or a flash on the rear.

We had low end phones at great prices, we had solid mid-ranges at super high prices, but there was just this gaping hole in-between.The Lumia 735 is a fantastic device, although not sold in the United States. In fact, I would take a Lumia 735 over the Lumia 830, disregarding the price points.

Now, enter the Lumia 640. The Lumia 640 adds balance to that market. I can honestly say that I am very excited to see the Lumia 640 hit American shelves.

Related

All Microsoft Lumia 640 Comparisons

All Photos Used for Microsoft Lumia 640 Comparisons

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • Stefan

    Lumia 635 had 480 x 854 display.