Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world
Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Price and UK availability
Microsoft's Lumia 640 is very well-priced at £129.99 SIM-free, making it £20 cheaper than the latest Moto G with which it shares almost an identical spec.
If you're looking to buy the Lumia 640 on a contract it's available from £13.50 per month, while you can also grab it on a PAYG tariff from £109.99.
If you get the Lumia 640 from EE you'll also get WiFi Calling (see What is WiFi Calling?). EE has the exclusive on the cyan Lumia 640, and its contract prices with a free phone start at £16.99 per month. At that price you get 500 minutes, 500MB and unlimited texts.
Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Design and build
The design is very similar to that of the Lumia 630 and 635, a little larger and heavier yet slightly thinner, with the same matt-finish case in black, or glossy in blue, orange or white, that sits comfortably and securely in the hand. This case is removable, but wraps around to the front, resulting in a solid feel that won't creak or flex under pressure.
It's simple and unassuming, a slab of plastic with a slightly curved rear and rounded edges. There's a gaping hole on the rear for the small speaker, and the rear camera and headphone jack protrude just enough to spoil the Lumia 640's smooth surface, but still it's a good- if basic-looking phone for the money.
As before the screen is covered by tough Gorilla Glass 3, with cutouts top and bottom for the earpiece and microphone. It's a larger sheet of glass, though, since Microsoft has upgraded the Lumia's display not only in size but also resolution. Whereas the Lumia 630 and 635 feature a 4.5in 854x480 ClearBlack IPS panel, the 640 has a 5in HD (1280x720) screen, which results in an improved pixel density of 294ppi. (Bigger still is the 5.7in screen on the Lumia 640 XL, although the resolution is the same at 720p.)
As such, browsing the web, watching videos and even playing the odd game is now a far more enjoyable experience on the Lumia 640. The screen is not without fault - some backlight bleed issues are still visible - but it's a vast improvement and noticeably sharper than that of the 630.
At the top of the screen is something entirely new: a selfie camera. And it's not the only change Microsoft has made in the photography department: around the back is an LED flash and, although the difference isn't visible, an upgraded 8Mp camera. There's still no dedicated camera button, though, and around the sides you'll find only a volume rocker and power button, headphone jack and a micro-USB charging port.
Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Hardware and performance
Microsoft hasn't particularly focused on performance in its upgrading of the Lumia 640. And that's fine, since the 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor is nothing spectacular but capable enough for day-to-day use, especially at this price. Microsoft has, however, doubled the RAM to 1GB, which brings the Lumia 640's spec into line with the latest Moto G.
Windows Phone doesn't support Geekbench, the benchmark we use to test phone processing performance, but the new Moto G recorded 345 points in the single-core component and 1182 multi-core. The difference in software will come into play here, so you can't assume the Lumia 640 would score the same results were testing possible, but in real-world use we found the Lumia 640 quick enough. Swiping between screens and launching apps still takes a second or two, but it's not so slow as to cause you pain. And the camera, in particular, now loads significantly faster - a couple of seconds rather than the six- or seven of the Lumia 630.
Happily, our second go-to benchmark, GFXBench, is now available in the Windows Store. Both Lumia 640 and Moto G use the Adreno 305 GPU and the aforementioned 1GB of RAM and Snapdragon 400 chip, but we found slightly slower results from the Lumia 640 in T-Rex - 7.5fps against the Moto G's 11fps. If you're looking for a fast phone for gaming, compare these results with some of the monsters in our article What's the fastest smartphone 2015.
SunSpider performance has seen a boost with the Lumia 640. While we recorded 1486ms for the Lumia 630 and 1968ms for the Moto G, the Lumia 640 recorded an impressive 1201ms. However, it's worth noting that we typically run SunSpider in Google Chrome to ensure a fair test. Chrome isn't available for Windows Phone, so our Lumia results were taken in Internet Explorer 11.
Battery life was a concern with the Lumia 630. Microsoft has seen fit to increase the capacity of the still-removable battery from 1830- to 2500mAh, which means this phone will capably get you through a full day's use.
In terms of storage there's still only 8GB built in, of which less than half is available, but you do get up to 128GB of expandable storage via support for microSD. Take up Microsoft's offer of a free one-year Office 365 subscription and you get 1TB of OneDrive storage too (and 30GB if you don't).
Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Connectivity
The connectivity specs come as no surprise at this price. There's no support for the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but Microsoft does include Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA and NFC. The GPS and GLONASS is assisted. One of our favourite upgrades over the Lumia 630, though, is the 4G LTE connectivity. (There is apparently also a 3G model, but the only version we've seen on sale in the UK is 4G - check before you buy.) Also see: What is 4G? A complete guide to 4G.
Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Cameras
The Lumia 640 is not the best cameraphone in the world, but it's significantly better than the Lumia 630 in this regard. Microsoft has added an LED flash, which means there's an improvement in low-light photography, plus it's upgraded the sensor from 5Mp to 8Mp, which makes for sharper shots. You can see the difference between our standard St Pancras test shot captured on the Lumia 640 and the Lumia 630 below it.
Microsoft Lumia 640 test photo
Microsoft Lumia 630 test photo
We also tried the video camera, which has been upgraded from 720p to 1080p. With no stabilisation footage is a little shakey, but it's adequate for a £129 phone.
Microsoft Lumia 640 test video
Something completely new for the Lumia 640 is a front-facing camera. It's a meagre snapper at 0.9Mp, but the Lumia Selfie app makes it a little more bearable. Perhaps more important than selfies on this phone is the fact it's now possible to use Skype for video calling.
Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Software
Windows Phone is heavily criticised for its lack of apps, but the situation is improving. As we mentioned earlier in this review, we were pleased to find the GFXBench benchmark is now available for Windows Phone, plus if it's the lack of Google apps that is bothering you then it is possible to view Google services online and to sync some services with Windows apps. Also see: How to sync Google services with Windows Phone 8 - keep using Gmail, YouTube, Maps and more.
In other respects Windows Phone is every bit as good as iOS and Android, although it has a different look and feel with a colourful tiled interface in place of the familiar icon-led home screens. In place of Siri and Google Now there's the excellent Cortana (also see funny things to ask Cortana), and with Action Centre notifications are just as easy to manage.
Here Drive+ and Here Maps are very good, offering free turn-by-turn driving instructions, offline maps and live traffic information, while MixRadio offers free audio from your favourite artists (without ads, although you can skip the track only six times in an hour). Add to that Kids' Corner, preinstalled social apps and a double-tap to wake feature, and Windows Phone isn't looking too shabby next to its rivals.
One of the unique selling points of the Microsoft Lumia 640 is that Microsoft includes a free one-year subscription to Office 365, which would normally cost you £60. This can be enjoyed on two additional devices and, among other things, includes a terabyte of free OneDrive cloud storage.
Read our original hands-on review with the Microsoft Lumia 640 and Microsoft Lumia 640 XL by Chris Martin on the next page.
Read next: Best new phones 2015.
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