- Comfortable grip
- HD screen
- Decent budget camera
- Stuttery performance
- Win 10 issues
- Missing Windows features
Microsoft Lumia 550 Review: The cheapest Windows 10 phone is out now in the UK and we’ve taken it for a test drive, to see if the camera, performance, battery life and user experience impress despite the Lumia 550’s £99 asking price.
Microsoft just launched its £160 Lumia 650 mobile, which delivers the Windows 10 experience in miniature form, minus a few of the cool features found on the more expensive Lumia 950 such as Windows Continuum (turn your phone into a PC) and Windows Hello (unlock your phone with your eyeballs).
However, the Lumia 650 isn’t the cheapest Windows 10 handset you can bag right now. That honour goes to the Lumia 550, a £99 smartphone that has just arrived in the UK. Here’s our full Lumia 550 review, and check out our Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650 comparison review to see what the difference is between these two phones.
Lumia 550 review: Design
The Lumia 550 isn’t particularly exciting from the all-black front, with the Microsoft branding above the screen and virtual buttons for back, home and search rather than physical buttons beneath the display. And while the Lumia 650 enjoyed a premium touch thanks to some metallic edging, the Lumia 550 sticks with a straightforward plastic body – unsurprising given the sub-£100 asking price.
And while the Lumia 550 is definitely a chunky monkey, it’s still easy enough to use one-handed when you’re on the move. The phone enjoys a decent heft at 142g too, so it definitely doesn’t feel cheap or toy-like.
The removable back panel can be prised off (if your fingernails are up to it), so you can access the battery, SIM card slot and micro SD memory card slot beneath. When you’re done, the back plate snaps back on cleanly and easily, holding firm.
Lumia 550 review: Screen and media
The Lumia 550’s 4.7-inch screen sports a 720p resolution, making this a match for the much more expensive Sony Xperia Z5 Compact when it comes to resolution. HD movies are certainly sharp, and you’ll struggle to make out individual pixels at any point.
However, the Lumia 550’s screen is very basic in other regards. Brightness levels aren’t too strong, which poses a minor problem in harsh sunlight. Viewing angles are narrow and colours are a little lifeless – although many rival entry-level phone displays suffer a similar fate. If you want a better panel for the same price, try the Vodafone Smart Prime 6 instead.
We were surprised by the power of the Lumia 550’s rear-mounted speaker, which blasts music loud enough to fill a bedroom, although quality is typically tinny. We definitely recommend earphones if you want to enjoy your tunes.
And while you only have 8GB of storage space to play with, you can quickly and easily expand thanks to the microSD memory card slot.
Lumia 550 review: User experience
The Lumia 550 offers up the same Windows 10 experience as the more expensive Lumia 650. At the moment, Windows 10 is still a little buggy in its mobile form, with the occasional funny glitch popping up to annoy you. That said, at least it doesn’t crash horrifically like some early versions of iOS and the platform should become stable once Microsoft rolls out a couple of updates just like Apple.
Windows 10 offers a consistent experience between mobile and desktop, with menus laid out in a similar fashion and full Cortana support. Your files and other bits sync up automatically between devices, which makes it easy to work on a document on your home computer and then finish it off on the move. And smartphone newbies will appreciate the simple, well-laid-out Live Tiles desktop, which provides quick access to all of your favourite apps, settings and notifications.
Sadly some of Windows’ most intriguing features such as Continuum, which turns your phone into a makeshift desktop PC when you’re on the move, are missing from the Lumia 550. We expect this is down to the basic performance of the phone, and in truth it was unlikely to be a feature used by the masses.
Thankfully the Lumia 550 supports 4G LTE, so you can enjoy nippy web browsing and media streaming with a 4G contract. There’s no support for 5GHz WiFi however.
Lumia 550 review: Performance and battery life
The Lumia 550 packs in the slightly creaky Snapdragon 210 processor, an entry-level 1.1GHz quad-core chipset. As a result, the phone occasionally struggles with even simple stuff, stuttering as you tap on apps or flick through menus. And while basic games will play just fine, more fast-paced action titles like Minion Rush chug along with dropped frames.
As for battery life, the Lumia 550’s 2100mAh cell gives you roughly a day’s worth of everyday use between charges. That’s not particularly great, falling behind some rivals such as the Motorola Moto E. On the plus side, you can expect around eight hours of video playback before the phone dies, which is better than many other phones manage in our tests.
Lumia 550 review: Cameras
Specs-wise, the Lumia 550’s 5-megapixel lens is inferior to the Lumia 650’s 8-megapixel effort, but the 550 actually holds up really well, struggling only when lighting conditions are tricky. Photos pack plenty of detail and you can shoot up to 720p video too. However, the Lumia 550’s basic 2-megapixel selfie camera is only really good enough for quick social shares, producing quite blocky images.
Check out our full Lumia 550 camera review for our in-depth thoughts and photo and video samples.
Lumia 550 review: Verdict
Windows 10 certainly has plenty of potential on mobile devices, but Microsoft still has some work on its hands to iron out all of the little bugs and make it a true competitor to iOS and Android. And the Lumia 550, while certainly affordable, is not the way to truly appreciate the good points of Windows 10 – especially as some of the more intriguing features such as Continuum are missing in action.
Sadly it’s not all that hot if you’re simply after a cheapy easy-to-use mobile either. While the bugs will almost certainly be ironed out soon, the Lumia 550 still struggles to keep up with everyday life, while battery life is only just about strong enough to make it through the day. That said, the camera is solid for the price and the phone is solidly built and easy to use one-handed.
Read next: Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650
Many thanks to Carphone Warehouse for supplying the Lumia 550 review sample. You can grab the Lumia 550 from Carphone right now, starting from £7.50 a month.
|Storage||8GB + microSD|