The group that was once Nokia's mobile division has gone through a great number of changes in the past few years. After declining sales of Symbian devices, the company decided to go all in with Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. In a very short time, Nokia became the number one vendor of Windows Phone smartphones in the world. Despite this, the move to Windows Phone failed to revitalize the company. In August of last year, Microsoft purchased Nokia's mobile devices business in a 7.2 billion dollar acquisition. Less than a month later, Microsoft launched the Nokia Lumia 830, and the Nokia Lumia 735. These were the last two Lumia smartphones that would be branded as Nokia devices. With Nokia's phone division absorbed into Microsoft, future Lumia devices would fall under the Microsoft brand.

Today's review focuses on the Microsoft Lumia 640. This phone was announced alongside the Lumia 640 XL at MWC in February, and it's one of the first new Lumia devices released under the Microsoft brand. At $129, the Lumia 640 occupies a fairly low price point as far as smartphones are concerned, and it serves as an entry model to the Lumia smartphone line. To give a quick idea of what that $129 gets you in terms of hardware, I've organized the Lumia 640's specifications in the chart below.

Microsoft Lumia 640
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
(MSM8926)
4x ARM Cortex A7 at 1.2 GHz
Adreno 305 at 450 MHz
Memory and Storage 1GB LPDDR3 RAM, 8GB NAND + MicroSDXC
Display 5.0" 1280x720 IPS LCD
Cellular Connectivity 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 141.3 x 72.2 x 8.8 mm, 145g
Cameras 8MP Rear Facing w/ 1.12 µm pixels, 1/4" CMOS size, F/2.2, 28mm (35mm effective)

0.9MP Front Facing, F/2.4, 30mm (35mm effective)
Battery 2500 mAh (9.5Wh)
Other Connectivity 802.11b/g/n + BT 4.0, GNSS, DLNA
Operating System Windows Phone 8.1 + Lumia Denim
SIM MicroSIM
Price $129 on Cricket Wireless

The Lumia 640's hardware is certainly above average in some areas. The first thing I noticed is that it ships with a 5" 1280x720 IPS display. This puts it significantly ahead of devices at the same price point which typically ship with qHD panels. 1280x720 devices show up closer to the $200 price bracket, and so the Lumia 640 is definitely ahead in this regard. The 1/4" 8MP camera is another spec that you wouldn't expect to see on a smartphone priced at around $100. While the camera sensor is hardly the only factor when it comes to final image quality, Lumia devices have traditionally had very good image processing, and so the Lumia 640's camera capabilities may end up far beyond those of the competition.

All the other specifications are fairly typical for a phone of this price. 8GB of NAND, 1GB of RAM, and 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi are all you get at this price. There is one thing that disappoints me, and that's the SoC. Snapdragon 400 is fairly old by this point, and has been replaced by Snapdragon 410 for some time now. While the Moto E review showed that Snapdragon 410 isn't an enormous leap over Snapdragon 400, it certainly helps, and I wish Microsoft had used the Lumia 640 as an opportunity to start shipping ARMv8 devices.

Design

When the Lumia brand was originally introduced there were only two devices available. The first was the Lumia 710, and the second was the Lumia 800. I had always felt that the Lumia 710 was a fairly standard looking smartphone, but Lumia 800 had a unique type of industrial design. That design has since expanded with the introduction of models at different price points, and some of the physical characteristics that can be seen in the Lumia 640 are not the same as those in other Lumia devices like the Lumia 735.

In a change from the order I typically follow when discussing the design of phones, the first part of the Lumia 640 I want to examine is actually the back cover. It’s a very solid feeling blue glossy plastic shell, although I would much prefer a matte finish, as the glossy plastic on this cover is already covered in scratches and smudges. The back cover has the Microsoft logo in the middle and in the case of this review unit a Cricket Wireless logo on the bottom. Next to the Cricket logo is a small hole to allow sound to pass through from the speaker underneath. Above the Microsoft logo is the 8MP rear-facing camera, and to the left of that is the LED flash.

What I find notable about this back cover is that although it’s removable, it feels incredibly solid and holds onto the phone very tightly. To put things in perspective, I actually questioned whether or not the back cover was removable when I first received the phone. Because there was no visible SIM slot I had to go online and confirm to myself that Cricket Wireless is not a Verizon or Sprint sub-brand running on EvDO and that there had to be a SIM slot somewhere. Only after I did this was I confident enough to pry off the back cover from the top of the phone.

The left side of the Lumia 640 is completely bare, while the right side has both the power button and the volume rocker. I was actually surprised at how good the buttons felt. The last two phones I reviewed were the Moto E and the ZenFone 2, and they also had removable frames or shells with some of their buttons attached to them. Compared to them, the buttons on the Lumia 640 have a much nicer tactile response, and a longer travel distance.

One key difference between the Lumia 640 and some of Microsoft’s other Lumia devices is that it has flat sides and rounded corners. This contrasts with the traditional appearance of Lumia devices, which are flat on the top and bottom, but rounded on the left and right sides. The shape of those edges also meant that there was no way to have rounded corners even though the corners of the black face plate were rounded, which I felt created a unique appearance that made Lumia devices more distinct. The more standard flat edges and rounded corners of the Lumia 640 just aren’t as unique, and I wish it was more like a traditional Lumia phone.

The top of the Lumia 640 has the 3.5mm audio jack, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. Something I noticed about my unit is that the actual port didn't line up perfectly with the hole that was cut in the plastic back shell of the phone. The hole was shifted slightly to the right, and the offset was just far enough to ensure that I could never get my charging cable to go in without jiggling the connector around until it found its way into the port. I assume that this is just a production mishap that is specific to my unit, but it's enough to cause a moment of frustration when trying to charge the phone or transfer files to it from a computer.

There’s not a whole lot to see on the front of the Lumia 640. It’s dominated by the 5” display, with only a handful of things positioned on the bezels around it. You may notice that you can see the touch array when light shines on the phone in a certain way. This is common on many phones, but it's a bit more noticable on the Lumia 640 than other devices. The bezel at the bottom of the display has a microphone to be used during calls, while the top has the front-facing camera and the earpiece speaker. Microsoft has seen fit to also put their logo on the top bezel, just in case you missed the logo right in the middle of the back cover.

My overall impression of the Lumia 640’s build quality and design is positive. While I’m not a fan of the glossy finish, the overall construction feels much more solid than any other phone at this price point that I’ve used.

System Performance
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  • tuxRoller - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    Does anyone know why wp is so, relatively, inefficient?
    I'd been told that wp was going to offer so much better battery life than android b/c it didn't require a vm:)
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    In the test the glance screen with the LCD being always on probably killed idle battery life. The load results seem fine, but could certainly use a boost from a faster browser. Reply
  • Margalus - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    I just switched to Window Phone, with a better phone and same size battery as my Android. The Windows phone batter lasts 5-8 times longer than the Android phone... Reply
  • Voldenuit - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    "Windows Phone isn’t going anywhere"

    Ironic double entendre is ironic.
    Reply
  • Margalus - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    I just made the switch to a Windows phone 8.1 about a month ago. I bought the HTC One M8. Here is a tidbit of my opinion.

    One issue I have with this review is the scrolling speed on Windows. It must be specific to the this phone that is being reviewed here, not specific to Windows as the reviewer says. On my HTC One M8 Windows 8.1 I can scroll slow or fast. A gentle push and the screen scrolls slowly, a fast flick of the fingertip and the phone will scroll almost instantly to the bottom, too fast to see anything, just like my Android.

    Going with the HTC One M8 and Windows was the best move I've ever made. The phone experience on Windows is so much better than Android (coming from an Galaxy S4) it's ridiculous. Everything is so much faster and smoother it's unbelievable. And I no longer have that stupid Android bug that would eat up the phones battery in 4 hours on occasion. On The best day with the S4 I could go about 24 hours before charging, on a high usage day, it would be dead by the afternoon and on a portable battery. When the bug hit, 4 hours or so and it was dead. This HTC One M8 with Windows will easily last 4 days with even heavier usage. I've just gotten into the habit of charging it on Mondays and Fridays, with no fear at all of running out of power, and that is with the battery saver feature disabled.. It's crazy how much better it is.

    The phone app connects instantly, no delays like on my Android where I would hit a contact and sometimes wait 5 seconds for the phone to connect and dial.

    It is missing a few apps I used on Android, and that is very disappointing. But the overall phone experience is so much better it's worth giving up a couple of those apps.
    Reply
  • BabelHuber - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    Sorry, but what you are stating here is quite fishy:

    I have a Samsung Galaxy S4, under heavy use I get about 4h of screen on time. For light use, it can easily last 3 or even 4 days - the battery drains about 0.9% per hour if in deep sleep (albeit with an AOSP ROM, not the bloated Samsung original)

    When a phone drains battery like there is no tomorrow, usually some app prevents the deep sleep of the phone. There are tools like GSAM Battery Monitor and Better Battery Stats in the Play Store to analyze this.

    But lots of users prefer blaming Android instead of having a look at all the crap they have installed on their device, it is so much easier.

    Also, your claim that the phone held only 4h on standbye really looks strange: To suck up the battery so fast, the load on the SoC would need to be incredibly high - such a phone would be _VERY_ warm - in fact so warm that you having a phone call would be displeasing!

    As a matter of fact, the SGS4 holds quite long under some load if the screen is off - when I use WIFI tehering with the screen off, the battery consumption is about 10% per hour.

    So if I assume that you posted true numbers (and not just some MS-propaganda), you either have bloated your phone with tons of crap software or your battery was broken.
    Reply
  • Zizy - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    Bugs happen. That same bug he describes happened several times to my wife on Android and to me on WP.
    If you have phone in your pocked you usually notice this because the phone gets warm. If the phone lies on the table, you don't notice it until you pick the phone and see 0 battery left.
    Reply
  • BabelHuber - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    You are correct, this also has happened to me once, albeit not so severe (the phone had ~5% per hour battery usage on standby or so)

    But instead of throwing a tantrum and blaming Android, I installed GSAM Battery Monitor Plus, found the App which caused the wakelocks and deinstalled it.

    Alternatively, it is also possible to install a wakelock blocker. Then you don't have to deinstall the app, you just block its wakelocks.
    Reply
  • Margalus - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    I didn't throw a tantrum, the tantrums are being thrown by people who apparently don't want anybody to criticize android. I'm sorry to say, android is not perfect. Reply
  • Margalus - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    You are the first person I have ever heard say that they could more than 24 hours with a galaxy s4, or any galaxy. That's why had the replaceable battery... Reply

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