We haven’t seen a flagship Lumia for what seems like an age, and at MWC this year, I was hoping that might change. Sadly, it didn’t. But we do have two new mid-range smartphones that, after a brief hands-on, seem incredibly promising.
This year, Microsoft followed up its Lumia 635 with not one, but two new devices: the 640 and 640 XL. As its name suggests, the XL is essentially a larger version of the 640, although it does come with some added bonuses.
Like all Lumias, the design contrasts plastic and black glass. In this case, it was a bright, glossy blue 640 and a nice soft-touch matte white XL. I have to say, they both feel slim and solidly made, but the matte finish on the bigger phone was a lot more pleasant to hold than the smaller, shinier version. Less likely to attract as many fingerprints or scratches, too. Although their backs are flat, they gently taper towards their edges to make them more ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing.
Both feature large 720x1280 resolution ClearBlack IPS displays, 1GB of RAM and quad-core Snapdragon 400 series processors clocked at 1.2GHz. Both also come fully loaded with Windows Phone 8.1, including the awesome dynamic flash feature for the first time on a mid-range Windows Phone. And once Windows 10 for phones is launched later this year, they’ll be upgraded.
There are some slight spec differences between the two models, though. The larger phone has made use of that extra space by hosting a 3,000mAh battery, a full 500mAh more than its smaller sibling, and it's packed in a 5.7-inch screen vs. the 5.0-inch display on the regular 640. It also has better onboard cameras: The 640 XL equipped with a 13-megapixel ZEISS lens on the back and a 5-megapixel wide-angle lens on the front, while the 640 has an 8-megapixel sensor on the back and a 1-megapixel sensor on the front.
Apart from those key differences, there’s very little difference between the phones. Their volume rockers and power/sleep keys are placed on their right edges and their microUSB ports are on their bottom edges. And apart from the 3.5mm headphone jacks on their top edges, there’s nothing breaking the clean surfaces on the edges. As with most Lumias, the cameras take up a central space on the back, just above the prominent Microsoft logos.
As I say with virtually every Lumia phone, I’m left impressed by the physical design. They're incredibly attractive phones that are both minimal and striking. I just wish Microsoft would move away from glossy finishes and go full-on matte and soft-touch instead.
On first try, the performance of the phones are smooth and responsive. I wasn’t left waiting long for anything to load, but I’d not expect any less from a Snapdragon 400-equipped Windows Phone.
U.S. pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but with European pricing targeted between €139 and €219, I’d guess at a similar pricing in dollars. For that money, these are fantastic phones.
If you want to find out more about how Windows 10 looks on phones, check out Marco’s video from last week.