Beautiful, yet slightly disappointing
What do you get when you build a phone that looks and feels a lot like an iPhone, but for a fraction of the cost? You get the Lumia 650, a low-end premium looking handset for the low-low price of £160. For the price, you get a phone that looks sexy and is outrageously thin and light, but with disappointing specs which just throw the appeal of this phone off completely.
As someone who uses a Lumia 950 as their main phone, “downgrading” to the Lumia 650 was tough, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I used the Lumia 650 as my primary phone for 1 week, meaning I replaced my Lumia 950 with it, carrying over my SD card and SIM card for use in the 650. I’ve had plenty of time to get to know the device, so I’m now able to share my verdict with you. Here’s my review of the Microsoft Lumia 650.
Let’s kick off with what’s arguably this phones best feature, its design. The Lumia 650 is the first Windows 10 Mobile handset from Microsoft to sport a premium design, featuring a brushed metal band around the edge of the handset accompanied by a matte plastic shell on the back. The handset comes in two colours, those of which being white or black. The black model looks like a typical Lumia handset, sporting a black back and front with dark metal sides, but the white model features not only a white back and silver metal, but a white front too, something of a rarity on Lumia handsets.
“THE FIRST WINDOWS 10 MOBILE HANDSET FROM MICROSOFT TO SPORT A PREMIUM DESIGN”
There is simply nothing I can say to bash the design of the Lumia 650. In short, it looks like an iPhone 5. I showed the device to a couple friends who aren’t well versed in technology, and they all immediately drew similarities to iPhone’s design, especially with the white model and its white front. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as the iPhone 5 features one of few designs on the market that actually gets a lot right.
Not only that, but the Lumia 650 is also outrageously thin. In fact, it’s thinner than the iPhone 6s, which is an impressive feat on its own. But when you factor in how light this device is, oh boy. This handset is quite possibly the lightest handset I’ve ever used to feature metal design on a Windows Phone. Seriously, when I used the 650 for the first time I wasn’t even sure the battery was installed yet, it was just so damn light (122g).
There’s actually a weird drawback to the handset being so light, it takes away from the “premium” feel of the device a little bit. I’m someone who likes premium looking handsets to have a bit of weight to them, and the Lumia 650 is just not one of those devices. If you’re someone who prefers lightweight handsets however, this is definitely not a drawback. For me though, it took away from the experience just a tad. I appreciate the weight however, it’s still astonishingly impressive how light this handset actually is.
Now, this is where the Lumia 650 begins to struggle. This is a low-end handset, which is such a shame considering this is possibly the best looking Lumia ever released. The 650 is rocking a Quad-core Snapdragon 212 1.3 GHz Processor, 1GB RAM and a mediocre 5MP rear and front facing camera. This is why the handset is so cheap, because it cuts back quite a bit under-the-hood.
Not all is bad with the specs however, the 650 does feature an AMOLED 5-inch 720p screen, which I must say is gorgeous on this device. Although not the sharpest display in the world, the screen looks great and colours simply pop thanks to that AMOLED technology. I did notice a yellow-hue with the screen out of box however, something that was easily fixed by manually adjusting the display colour profile in the Settings app. The screen also sports Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which is a bonus.
We’re also packing 16GB of internal storage, which is an improvement over the 8GB these low-end Windows Phones usually have. There’s also a MicroSD card slot, allowing for storage expansion of up to 200GB for movies, pictures, music, documents and apps. I threw in my 64GB SanDisk MicroSD that already had music and photos on it, and the Lumia 650 picked it all up just fine. Great if you’re moving over from another Lumia handset.
So overall, specifications are a mixed bag. Of course, none of this matters unless it impacts performance, something we’ll be talking about next.
Performance and Use
The Lumia 650 is a low-end handset, so right off the bat I wasn’t expecting blazing fast performance. It isn’t as bad as you’d might expect however, Windows 10 Mobile does an excellent job at managing background tasks, and performs relatively okay on hardware this low-end. Of course, it isn’t as fast as other higher-end devices, but it wasn’t painstakingly slow either.
Opening apps and switching between them was fine most of the time, every now and then I’d come across a “Loading…” screen which would be gone after a few minutes. The operating system felt pretty smooth to use and swipe through, however I would encounter the odd stutter here and there, which is to be expected.
The device handles most apps with little problem, unless you’re planning to game on this device. Gaming obviously isn’t a strong point here, with a lot of 3D games suffering from poor FPS or simply not launching at all. Some 2D games worked fine however, it all depends on the kind of game you’re looking to play. For example, Flappy Bird will work fine.
One question I get all the time regarding the Lumia 650 is how it compares to the Lumia 640 and Lumia 550. Is the Lumia 650 a true successor to the Lumia 640? Yes and no. Design wise, absolutely. But under-the-hood? The 640 feels a tad faster, but at the same time the 640 doesn’t rock an AMOLED screen or premium design. The trade-off here is a slightly lower spec’d CPU and battery for a better screen and better design.
Compared to the 550 however, the 650 and 550 are pretty much the same internally. The 550 sports a Snapdragon 210, whereas the 650 is rocking a Snapdragon 212. In benchmark tests, the 650 comes out on top but only slightly. In day-to-day use this is not a noticeable difference, and both devices perform the same when opening apps and multitasking. Battery life is also pretty similar.
On the subject of battery, the Lumia 650 sports excellent battery life. I can easily get through a work day with medium to heavy use. The device sports a 2000 mAh battery, which isn’t huge but when you consider the fact we’re rocking a low-resolution AMOLED screen along with a low-spec’d CPU, it isn’t too surprising that this handset doesn’t pull a lot of juice to function.
Even trying to put it under load was difficult, the battery simply wouldn’t die. I would always end the day with around 20% battery remaining at around 9PM, excellent for business users who plan on using the Lumia 650 as a business-oriented device. In short, this handset will get you through a work day and then some with ease, comfortably.
The Camera on the Lumia 650 relatively average for this price range. It’s a decent shooter in daylight but night time shots suffer from a lot of noise and compression issues. I also noticed the camera on the Lumia 650 appears to struggle autofocusing. During multilpe different sessions with the camera, I just could not get the autofocus to work properly and had to manually adjust the focus via the built-in option in the Camera app.
This didn’t happen all the time, but it didn’t appear to matter whether the photo was being taken in a well lit environment or not. It would just randomly do it, and the only fix I found was to reboot. Even then, it wouldn’t always work. I’ve never experienced a bug like that with the camera on any phone before, so I assume this is an issue that can be amended via a firmware update.
There is no dedicated camera button, so accessing the camera is done by opening the app within Windows 10 Mobile. I’ve taken a few sample shots for your viewing pleasure, so make do with them as you will.
The Lumia 650 ships with an older build of Windows 10 Mobile at this point, meaning out-of-box you will need to install a number of updates before your device is tolerable. The device ships with Windows 10 Mobile build 10586.11, which was super buggy and slow. Not only that, the device comes pre-installed with apps that are also out of date, so you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time updating them via the Windows Store too. There are around 40 app updates to do plus a software update, but once they’re done, things start to look a little better.
Once I installed the latest software update, the phone became usable. The latest patch for Windows 10 Mobile actually makes the operating system bearable. If you’re a newcomer to Windows 10 Mobile, you’ve probably heard about the many bugs and performance issues Windows 10 Mobile suffers from, most of which are fixed in the latest update. On the Lumia 650, this is true too.
I thoroughly enjoyed using Windows 10 Mobile on the Lumia 650 even with its low-end CPU. Other than the weird camera focusing issue, I’ve not ran into many issues at all. Every now and then an app will crash, but that’s the case with most operating systems in this day and age, nothing out of the ordinary. I have noticed slight UI lag when swiping down the notification center however, but apart from that everything operates smooth.
The Lumia 650 is a mix of excellence and disappointment. Design is just great, but specifications are lacklustre and during use it does become noticeable every now and then. In other words, you get what you pay for in a sense. £160 is very cheap for a device with a design this good, so you are getting something back that’s worthy of your money. I just wish Microsoft packed in a Snapdragon 410 instead of a 212, even if that mean bumping the price up an extra £40 to £200. If Microsoft had released the Lumia 650 with slightly better specs, I’d be able to 100% recommend this device if you’re a newcomer to Windows Phone or looking to upgrade certain Lumia’s.
Instead, I’m torn. If you’re someone who favours design over specs, then this is the device for you. If however you’re more into spec’s, I simply cannot recommend the Lumia 650 unless you’re upgrading from a Snapdragon 200 device. Even the older Snapdragon 400 handsets seem to perform a tad better than the Snapdragon 212, which isn’t all too surprising.
Can I recommend the 650 as an upgrade over the 640? No. But can I recommend it over anything lower? Absolutely. All in all, this isn’t a device aimed at consumers, it’s a business phone at heart. Microsoft designed this handset with businesses in mind, and the Snapdragon 212 should be able to handle most business tasks with ease. Office, email, web browsing, all perform great on the Lumia 650. Just when it comes down to it, it will be slightly out-performed by the 640 and other handsets.