Microsoft Lumia 640 review: glorious screen, smart camera tech and impressively awesome value for money make this a great phone for all.
Unmistakably a Lumia phone from the second you pull it from the box, the Lumia 640 is another slab of colourful plastic that sells itself with a bright, bold design. You can pick it up in a variety of colours and either a matt or glossy finish and while the glossy model looks a little cheaper than the matt effort, it thankfully isn’t a magnet for fluff and fingerprints.
At 8.8mm the Lumia 640 is definitely a little chunky, while the spacious 5-inch screen means one-handed use is a struggle, although just about doable if you keep your grip loose. Suffer from puny biceps? No worries as the Lumia 640 isn’t too hefty, with a 145g weight that matches most other full-sized phones.
We can vouch for the Lumia 640’s durability, as you can treat the handset with as little respect as you like and it’ll shrug off most of the punishment you dish up. The screen’s protected by Gorilla Glass 3, so you’ll have to try pretty damn hard to scratch or scuff it. And if you prise off the back of the phone you can remove the battery, as well as slot in your micro SIM and micro SD cards.
Screen and media
Since the Moto G came along, we’ve been seriously spoilt for visuals. Now we expect no less than a 720p HD screen on smartphones £100 and up and luckily the Lumia 640 complies, giving us one of the better displays we’ve seen on an affordable phone.
The 720p resolution makes for pleasingly sharp images, whether you’re checking out your mates’ social snaps of whatever they had for dinner, or watching a movie on the commute. Colours leap off at your eyeballs, bringing your photos and videos to life, while viewing angles are pleasingly wide too.
You get a meagre 8GB of storage built into the Lumia 640, but the phone can be expanded with a further 128GB of space for your media, thanks to the handy micro SD memory card slot. That’s more than enough space to carry around dozens of Full HD movies and a huge music collection.
Windows Phone 8.1 is of course the chosen OS, set to upgrade to full Windows 10 later this year. I won’t spend any more time bigging up Microsoft’s mobile OS – I’ve already covered the main features, advantages and disadvantages in our ‘What is Windows Phone’ guide – beyond saying that it’s a great introduction to smartphone technology, with one of the best voice assistants (the lovely Cortana) found on a mobile.
The Lumia 640 doesn’t try to add anything new to the general Windows Phone experience, although our review sample did come with a couple of random apps already installed, such as Barclays Pingit and the Gameloft gaming hub. Thankfully you can uninstall them easily enough if you don’t want them (just press and hold on them in the apps menu for the delete option).
The Lumia 640 comes with 4G support (optional), which is great news if you’re a web fiend. Bag yourself a 4G contract and you’ll be able to browse the internet at a blistering pace, or stream music and video with none of that awkward buffering. Assuming you live somewhere that actually has 4G, of course. If you inhabit a cottage in the Cotswolds, that LTE is gonna go unused (and we’re surprised you’re even reading this).
Performance and battery life
A quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor is stashed inside the Lumia 640, backed up by 1GB of RAM. And while that’s pretty much a bog-standard set-up for every cheapy phone from the past year or so, the Lumia 640 runs perfectly smoothly thanks to Windows Phone’s super efficiency.
I also had no problem playing the latest games, which ran with a smooth frame rate throughout. In fact, the worst I suffered was the occasional short pause while I waited for an app to load.
Battery life is another highlight as the Lumia 640 will last a full two days between charges, providing you aren’t punishing it with lots of gaming or media streaming. During each 48 hours of life, I messed around on the web, checked emails, sent texts, made a couple of calls, took some photos and played around with some apps, so for everyday use this phone lasts even longer than most premium handsets.
And if you do need it to survive a lengthy journey while playing video, you won’t be disappointed. The Lumia 640 streamed YouTube footage for over six hours in our tests, an above-average result that should see you entertained through all but full-on trans-Atlantic trips.
An 8-megapixel rear snapper rounds off a strong set of specs and I’m seriously impressed by the quality of the Lumia 640’s optics.
On auto mode, the phone captures sharp and natural shots that easily rival other affordable phone snaps, including those taken on the Moto G. Up-close shots are particularly impressive, with the lens picking up every last shred of detail.
And if you find that your photos are occasionally a little too bright or dark, the excellent Rich Capture mode is an ideal solution. It’s essentially a snazzy new HDR mode which lets you tweak a photo’s exposure after it’s been taken, so you can brighten up dark areas of a photo or fix any dodgy contrast. Rich Capture works impressively well, rescuing photos which otherwise would be a bit of an eyesore.
Once again you can pull out the shutter button to open up full manual controls, and standard Lumia features such as Living Image (each photo is preceded by a brief one-second video clip to bring them to life) are present and correct.
The 0.9-megapixel selfie cam is a bit more bog-standard, but still does a decent job of capturing your sexy mug, even when you’re lounging in the sun.
Microsoft’s Lumia 640 offers seriously great value for money, packing HD visuals, excellent optics and a satisfying user experience for around £150 (or £100 if you opt for the non-4G model), making it a solid rival to the Moto G. If you’re after an affordable but still highly competent handset, this could be your best portable pal.