Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: We compare the two cheapest Microsoft Windows 10 phones that you can buy right now, to see which is best for you.
Windows 10 phones are finally hitting stores in early 2016, with the Lumia 550 (£99) and Lumia 650 (£160) so far proving the most affordable. Here’s our full Lumia 550 versus Lumia 650 comparison review, to see how their displays, cameras, battery life, performance and other specs stack up.
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: At a glance
|Phone||Lumia 550||Lumia 650|
|Processor||Snapdragon 210||Snapdragon 212|
|Storage||8GB + microSD||16GB + microSD|
|Cameras||5MP + 2MP||8MP + 5MP|
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: Design
From the front, both the Lumia 550 and Lumia 650 look much the same. Both phones rock an all-black front, with the Microsoft branding above the screen and virtual buttons for back, home and search rather than physical buttons.
However, while the Lumia 650 is a touch taller, to accomodate the bigger screen, the Lumia 550 is much chunkier and even a wee bit heavier. It’s thankfully still easy enough to use one-handed, although you also lose that sexy metallic edging from the Lumia 650, which gives the more expensive phone a neat, premium finish.
Both phones have removable back panels, so you can access the batteries beneath. Unlike previous Lumias however, you can’t replace the back sections with a fresh new range of vibrant covers, to add a splash of colour to your handset.
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: Screen and media
In terms of simple specs, there’s very little difference between the Lumia 550 and Lumia 650 displays.
The Lumia 550’s 4.7-inch screen and the Lumia 650’s 5-inch panel both pack a 1280×720 resolution, so images are crisp and HD movies look decent.
However, the Lumia 650’s screen is superior in pretty much every way compared with the Lumia 550’s. It’s a much brighter panel for one, with stronger viewing angles and more vibrant, punchy colours. So if you’re after something for watching a lot of video, the Lumia 650 is by far your best bet.
And while the Lumia 550 has a tiny rear-mounted speaker, the Lumia 650 sports a front-facing grille, so you at least have the sound directed towards your face. That said, the Lumia 550 can put out surprisingly powerful audio – although quality isn’t great for enjoying your tunes.
If you plan on carrying around plenty of music and video, either phone will suffice. The Lumia 550 may only pack in 8GB of storage compared with the Lumia 650’s 16GB, but both handsets support microSD memory cards so you can greatly expand this space.
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: User experience
Both the Lumia 550 and Lumia 650 offer up the same Windows 10 experience, with the same features present on both phones. At the moment, Windows 10 is still a little buggy in its mobile form, with the occasional funny glitch popping up to irritate you. That said, it doesn’t crash horrifically like some early versions of iOS and we’re confident that Microsoft will zap any bugs in the next few months.
Sadly some of Windows’ most intriguing features aren’t present in the Lumia 550 or 650. So you won’t find Continuum here, to turn your phone into a makeshift desktop PC when you’re on the move. Nor will you be able to unlock either phone with your eyeballs, thanks to the absence of Hello.
Thankfully both phones support 4G LTE, so you can enjoy nippy web browsing and media streaming (providing you have a 4G contract). There’s no support for 5GHz WiFi on either phone however.
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: Performance
Performance is a bit of an issue for both Windows 10 phones, sadly.
The Lumia 550 uses the Snapdragon 210 processor, now a year and a half old, which sports four 1.1GHz cores. This is a very basic chipset and even the relatively resource-friendly Windows 10 occasionally chugs along, with pauses as you tap on apps or flick through menus. And while some relatively recent games will run just fine, we saw plenty of dropped frames on the likes of Despicable Me: Minion Rush.
If you splash out extra on the Lumia 650, you won’t get much smoother performance for your cash. The 650 uses the slightly updated Snapdragon 212 processor, which has its clock speed upped to 1.3GHz and brings support for 8-megapixel cameras, but connectivity is basically the same and we still noticed plenty of slowdown when playing around with Windows.
Considering the cost of the 650, we really hoped to see a better chipset used – especially as last year’s Lumia 640 offers better performance.
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: Battery life
There’s very little to differentiate the Lumia 550 and Lumia 650 when it comes to battery life too.
The Lumia 550 packs in a slightly larger 2100mAh battery compared with the Lumia 650’s 2000mAh cell, but you still get roughly a day’s worth of use between charges. The battery meter continues to drop even when the Lumia 550 and 650 are tucked into your pocket or bag, which is less than ideal, but you can expect around eight hours of video playback before each phone dies.
Microsoft Lumia 550 vs Lumia 650: Cameras
Specs-wise, the Lumia 650 appears to have the better rear camera, with an 8-megapixel snapper compared with the Lumia 550’s 5-megapixel lens. However, we found that photo quality was almost identical from both cameras, across a range of conditions.
The lenses struggle when there’s strong contrast, but otherwise produce crisp images that pack a surprising amount of detail. And when it comes to video, both phones max out at 720p, with no image stabilisation to cut down on shaky footage when moving around.
However, there is a clear difference between the front-facing cameras. The Lumia 650 packs a brand new 5-megapixel sensor, which captures your face with glorious clarity. In fact, if you haven’t got much sleep recently, you might want to apply some make-up or every little line and crease is going to show. The camera even performs admirably in low light. By contrast, the Lumia 550’s simple 2-megapixel selfie camera is only really good enough for quick social shares.