The Lumia 640 was one of Microsoft’s announcements at MWC back in March this year and came alongside another phone, the 640 XL. The two phones shared a lot of similarities in terms of specifications, but as the name suggests, this is the non-extra large version of the latest budget-friendly smartphone from Microsoft. And it’s actually rather good.
It runs Windows Phone 8.1 with the Lumia Denim update, has a 5-inch screen and a quad-core processor. All in a phone that costs just over $100.
Like almost every Lumia, the 640 has a completely black glass front surface with a more colorful, removable plastic shell. My model is the glossy cyan version, but you can get it in orange, white or matte black if you’d rather have something that doesn’t stand out as much. The corners are every so slightly rounded to give it a more approachable aesthetic, and its rear is very glossy, but thankfully it's not slippery. That said, you might want to carry around a cloth with you if you’re particularly finicky about fingerprints.
As always, the overall appeal of the design is its minimalism. There’s the simple round hole for the speaker grille, the central placements of the camera and Microsoft logo on the back. Not to mention the lack of permanent capacitive buttons on the front and the almost invisible earpiece and microphones.
At 8.8mm thick, this is a pretty thin device, and it's easily manageable in one hand thanks to the convenient buttons placed on the right hand edge. These buttons give a nice click when pressed, although they do have a slightly spongey weak feel. Interestingly, the edges seem to have an extra layer of plastic on them that’s slightly darker and translucent than the plastic on the back. This reminds me a lot of the finish on last year’s Lumia 635. The only thing I will say is that the rear shell doesn’t feel as tight-fitting as some other models. I sometimes felt it move and heard a little creak as I grabbed it.
For a phone on the bottom end of the smartphone market, it’s impressive to see a display with a pixel density of almost 300ppi. At 294 pixels per inch, the resolution is high enough that distinguishing individual pixels is pretty difficult. It’s 720 x 1280 on a 5-inch IPS LCD panel, and it’s good.
Although it’s not going to compete with flagship screens, it’s more than adequate for its price point. The fact that it takes up almost 70 percent of the front panel adds to its qualities, as does its ClearBlack contrast. It’s a colorful display too. Saying that, blacks often appear more as really dark blues, but you really forget all its minor shortcomings when you start playing games or watching content on it.
Games are lively, although my eyes are used to looking at much sharper screens on higher-end phones, and sometimes I did find some of the graphics a little fuzzy around the edges. When I remember back to to the Lumia 635, this seems like such an improvement. It’s pretty bright too, providing you boost it all the way up to its highest brightness. To top it off, whites are generally crisp and don’t come off as overly warm or cold. The one biggest weakness of the Lumia 640 screen for me is viewing angles. Although it's bright when looking at it head on, its reflective surface means it’s difficult to see from an angle, especially if you’re in a well-lit area.
Unlike the Lumia 640 XL, the 640 doesn’t have Carl Zeiss branding on its camera. And while you can tell, it’s still a decent enough snapper. At 8MP, it’s plenty sharp enough to take good photos and it’s not too slow, either. There’s also the Lumia camera software, which lets you set different functions, like white balance to manual, and change them to suit your surroundings.
I do sometimes struggle to get it to focus quickly, but end results are generally good. They might lack a little color, contrast and depth, but they’re sharp enough. Colors are natural and end results are hard to over-criticize. Sure, I might complain a little if I got these results in a flagship phone, but they're impressive for a low-end device, it’s impressive.
Performance and Battery
General usage is mostly trouble-free and smooth. Windows Phone has a strong reputation for performing well on both high and low-end phones, and that reputation is still intact with the 640. There was the odd occasion, like when the phone was busy, that it showed signs of lag or stutter when switching between screens and apps or scrolling through lists. For the most part, though, it was quick and smooth.
And it’s no surprise. The ever impressive Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.2GHz chip is what’s powering the Lumia 640 and alongside 1GB RAM, it’s plenty. The only times I noticed it being a little slow was loading web content and games. Touch screen responsiveness is good too.
If there’s one area of this device that’s remarkably good, it’s the battery life. Obviously, this depends entirely on your usage, but with 2500mAh capacity, the removable battery might even get you past two days of moderate use on a single charge. With around nine hours of video playback, the Lumia 640 is super efficient and has as much battery juice as a Galaxy S6.
I have reservations about the quality of its loudspeaker. It can get loud enough, but quality leaves a lot to be desired. It’s often fuzzy and unbalanced.
Microsoft has done well releasing mid and low-end phones over the past couple of years. It has cemented itself as a solid option for the budget-conscious smartphone buyer. With the Lumia 640, that reputation is even stronger. This is an incredible phone for its price point. It performs admirably and it’s almost impossible to find compromises that are bad enough to persuade you not to buy it. Right now in the UK, you can buy a Lumia 640 for for £130 unlocked. In the U.S., Cricket Wireless is selling it for $130 and T-Mobile will launch it soon. If you’re looking for a low-priced handset running Windows Phone, get the Lumia 640. It’s fantastic. It’s easy to use, reliable, smooth and comes loaded with the latest version of the OS.