Microsoft Lumia 640 XL vs Nokia Lumia Icon Comparison: (Spoiler: The 640 XL Wins)

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL vs Nokia Lumia Icon Comparison: (Spoiler: The 640 XL Wins)

By Rich W Woods

This is my last week with the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL. One thing that has become clear is that this is a flagship camera. In fact, there are only a few differences between the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL and a flagship device. It’s really just awesome.

This time, I want to compare the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL to the Nokia Lumia Icon, which is the flagshipiest flagship Lumia out there. While it’s clear that the Lumia Icon is a better phone with twice as much RAM and a Snapdragon 800 processor, I’m not sure which will have the better camera. We’ll get into that a bit later. First, specs.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Nokia Lumia Icon
Processor 1.2 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 400 2.2 Ghz Snapdragon 800
GPU Adreno 305 Adreno 330
Display 5.7″, 720p, 259 ppi, IPS LCD 5″, 1080p, 441 ppi, AMOLED
Body 157.9×81.5×9 mm, 171 g 137x71x9.8 mm, 167 g
Camera 13 MP, 4128×3096, 5 MP Front 20 MP, 4992х3744, 1.2 MP Front
Video 1080p – 30 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps 4K – 30 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps
Aperture f/2 f/2.4
Sensor Size 1/3″ 1/2.5″
Focal Length 28 mm 26 mm
Storage 8 GB, Expandable to 128 GB 32 GB
Battery 3000 mAh 2420 mAh

We can see that there are pros and cons to each of these devices. After all, Microsoft has put off the creation of a new flagship for so long that there are mid-range devices, even low end devices, that have features that the flagships don’t have, such as a 5 MP front camera.

After all, look at the specs side by side. A flagship is supposed to have all of the features of the mid-range and low end lines and more, right? The Lumia 640 XL has a larger battery and a better front camera. In fact, the Lumia 640 XL gets the best battery life of any Windows Phone I’ve ever seen.

Oh, did I mention that the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL has a glance screen as well? The Lumia Icon does not.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL vs Nokia Lumia Icon: Rear Camera

Let’s start with what most people look at in a smart phone camera, the resolution. The Microsoft Lumia 640 XL has a 13 MP rear camera and the Nokia Lumia Icon has a 20 MP rear camera. Keep in mind that a 4K display is 8.3 MP, so all of those photos have to be scaled down anyway, so none of those number matter.

The difference would be that the Nokia Lumia Icon is Pureview. With the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL, you’re actually getting a 13 MP image from the 13 MP sensor. With the Nokia Lumia Icon, it’s taking a 20 MP photo (well, a 19 MP photo. Don’t ask me) and oversampling the photo down to a 5 MP image.

With Pureview phones such as the Nokia Lumia 930, Icon, 1520, and 1020, all the user sees and shares is that 5 MP photo. Keep in mind that the 8.3 MP in a 4K UHD display is 16:9. At 4:3, it’s really between 5 and 6 MP. Then, there is also a 19 MP image saved which is used so the user can zoom in on the photo after it’s taken. This provides lossless zoom.

Now, there is another setting on the Nokia Lumia Icon. You can either save a 5 MP JPEG, a 5 MP JPEG and a 19 MP JPEG, or a 5 MP JPEG and a 19 MP DNG file. DNG is the open sourced RAW format. You can think of a RAW photo as the digital equivalent of a film negative. If you know how to process it in third party software such as Light Room, it’s the best tool you can have. If you don’t, it’s actually hindering you, as you don’t have the backup high resolution JPEG for lossless zoom.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Rich, if 20 MP and 41 MP Pureview cameras oversample down to 5 MP, what’s the deal with the 8 and 10 MP Pureview cameras in the Lumia 920, 925, 928, and 830?” Well, I’m glad you asked. All that really means is that the camera has optical image stabilization (OIS). These days, it also means the camera has a physical camera button.

So let’s take a moment to look at the Nokia Lumia 830. It has a smaller sensor, smaller aperture, and a lower resolution than the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL’s camera. The only reason we don’t call the Lumia 640 XL Pureview is that it doesn’t have OIS, so if you can keep it still, it’s a better camera. The Lumia 640 XL also has the better front camera, larger battery, same processor, same screen resolution, same RAM, and, did I miss something? Oh yea, the Lumia 640 XL is half the price of the Lumia 830.

But back to the Lumia Icon and the Lumia 640 XL. Both are very high resolutions, high enough to not show a difference unless you’re doing A LOT of cropping. The Lumia Icon has a larger sensor; however, the Lumia 640 XL has a larger aperture. Of course, being Pureview, the Lumia Icon has OIS and the Lumia 640 XL does not; however, I find OIS to be very overrated. It’s useful, but just keep your camera still.

One thing that’s great is that both the Lumia 640 XL and the Lumia Icon use Lumia Camera 5. Lumia Camera 5 has some great new features, such as Rich Capture. This allows users to adjust exposure of an image after it’s taken. If a flash is used, you can choose an image with the flash, without, or anywhere in between.

Let’s look at some samples. Please note that in order to enlarge the images, simply click or tap them. To view the full size images, there is a link in the carousel.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Nokia Lumia Icon

I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL has a superior camera to the Nokia Lumia Icon. Note that the Nokia Lumia Icon is the exact same phone as the Nokia Lumia 930 and has the same camera as the Nokia Lumia 1520, so this conclusion goes for them as well.

There are pros and cons here. As you scroll through the images, you’ll notice that in some situations, mostly on pinks and purples, the Lumia 640 XL looks a bit oversaturated and the Lumia Icon has more balanced colors.

On the other hand, the Lumia 640 XL does better in bright lighting. There seems to be a bit of a glare in the photos taken with the Nokia Lumia Icon.

Then there’s the nighttime photos. I was surprised to see that the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL outperforms the Nokia Lumia Icon at night. The photos taken with the Lumia Icon were so grainy. The Lumia 640 XL did not produce those results. I’ll look forward to comparing the Lumia 640 XL to the Lumia 1020.

Also, note that I’m not comparing the front camera. We know that the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL has the superior front camera. It has the new 5 MP front camera and the Lumia Icon has the old 1.2 MP front camera. I compared the rear cameras to 4K UHD displays earlier. A 1.2 MP photo can’t even fill a 1080p display. 1080p is 2.1 MP and 720p is less than 1 MP.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL vs Nokia Lumia Icon: Benchmarks

I don’t put a lot of stock into benchmarks. They so rarely reflect the real world usage of a device. Unfortunately, they are the best tool we have to write down the performance of a device.

Of course, we pretty much know what to expect from benchmarks here. The Lumia Icon will win in performance tests; however, I think the Lumia 640 XL will win in battery tests, as it has the larger battery, lower powered processor, and lower screen resolution.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Nokia Lumia Icon

Lumia 640 XL Icon Battery Lumia 640 XL IconThe results are not surprising at all. I don’t think there’s anything else to say. Perhaps that the Nokia Lumia Icon gets such a low battery score. I even did a factory reset before I ran that test, since it had been running Windows 10, which drains the battery fast.

There is another interesting point. A black display is supposed to preserve battery life on an AMOLED, which is the type of display the Lumia Icon uses. It did not.

Microsoft Lumia 640 XL vs Nokia Lumia Icon: Conclusion

I was very surprised by the results here. The Microsoft Lumia 640 XL has a better camera than the Nokia Lumia Icon has, on the front and the rear. It makes me very excited for the future of Lumia phones. If all of this can be packed into a mid-range device, what does Microsoft have in store for the next flagship?

The Nokia Lumia 930 is my favorite phone on the market. Unfortunately, I use an iPhone 6 because they don’t sell the Lumia 930 in the United States. I suppose the Lumia Icon is the next best thing, although I have to deal with the fucking Verizon logo on the back, a company that I hate more than any other company in the world, but I digress…

When Microsoft announced the Nokia Lumia 830, they billed it as an affordable flagship. It was obviously a mid-range in premium packaging. Like other mid-ranges, it still left you saying “well, they had to cut costs somewhere”. This is a phrase we always say with mid-range and low end phones, whether we’re speaking of the battery or the screen resolution or the rear camera or the front camera or the processor. There’s always the corner that they had to cut to meet the price point.

For the Nokia Lumia 830, that affordable flagship came in at $499 for the unlocked model, making that corner that they cut the 0.9 MP front camera or the Snapdragon 400 processor or the 1 GB of RAM or the 720p LCD.

Let’s assume that the Lumia 640 XL comes in at $250. Suddenly, with a 13 MP camera with a 1/3″ sensor and an f/2 aperture, a 5 MP front camera, the same 720p LCD, the same Snapdragon 400 processor, and a whopping 3000 mAh battery, the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL is the real affordable flagship, because for the first time, I can think of a number of reasons to take this phone over the real flagship, the Nokia Lumia Icon.


All Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Comparisons

All Photos Used for Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Comparisons

All Microsoft Reviews

All Nokia Lumia Icon Comparisons

All Nokia Lumia 930 Comparisons

All Photos Used for Nokia Lumia Icon Comparisons

All Photos Used for Nokia Lumia 930 Comparisons

All Nokia Reviews

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.

  • Thiago Tavares

    I’m very confused… In some cases, the 830 has a better camera than the 640 XL, but in this comparasion, for example, the 640 XL is better than 930/Icon.

    830 vs 640 XL

    Here, The 640 XL is better than 930 too.

    • I think the 830 has an amazing camera, probably better than the 930 and Icon. I would never buy it thought because it’s ridiculously overpriced

      • Thiago Tavares

        Agreed. The 640 XL is really the best Lumia in the market. I’ll choose it.

        • Not the best anymore. The 950 and 950 XL are certainly the best.

          • Thiago Tavares

            The 950 and 950 XL just needs a cut price, because the benefit cost ratio of them is bad for now. The verge review emphasizes it.

            640 XL stills the best Lumia in this point and it’s why I’m love with it.