While talk of Windows 10 dominated Microsoft circles in the weeks leading up to Mobile World Congress, it was two new Windows Phone 8.1 devices that received the brunt of the Redmond clan’s attention at the show itself. The 5-inch Lumia 640 and 5.7-inch Lumia 640 XL are a pair of midrange handsets equipped with 720p displays and the usual Lumia style. We were able to get our hands on the two devices, which will both be upgraded to Windows 10 after it launches, in Barcelona this week.
Like last year’s Lumia 630 and Lumia 635, neither of these devices are going to wow you on the spec sheet, but both are very reasonably priced given their hardware. The smaller Lumia 640 will cost €140 (about $155) for its 3G model when it launches sometime next month, while the LTE version will cost €160 (about $180). The Lumia 640 XL, meanwhile, will set you back €190 (about $210) if you go 3G-only, or €220 (about $240) for LTE. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have said they will carry the two Windows Phones in the US.
The Lumia line has become near synonymous with great cameras over the years, and in that spirit the Lumia 640 XL comes with a 13-megapixel Zeiss f/2.0 lens in the back and a 5-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens in the front, both of which are pretty powerful for a phone in this class. The Lumia 640 skimps a bit by comparison, with its 8-megapixel, Zeiss-free main shooter and a 1-megapixel front camera that’s meager by any standard. Both devices are also equipped with an LED flash, which allows for a “Rich Capture“ shooting mode that takes two images – one with flash and the other without – simultaneously.
Based on our brief testing, the 5.7-inch phablet does indeed take much sharper photos than its 5-inch sibling. The images we took at Microsoft’s poorly-lit exhibition area with the Lumia 640 XL were impressive in just about all areas, seemingly well beyond what you’d get from other devices in this price range. On the other hand, photos taken with the selfie camera were just average.
Things took a turn for the worse when we switched to the Lumia 640’s shooter – although it’s a general improvement over the 5-megapixel unit on the Lumia 635, it’s a marked step behind the 640 XL in terms of exposure and detail. It looks to be average for its price, but we’ll have to test both devices further to confirm these impressions. We’re less confident in the 640’s front camera; images there were grainy and inaccurate, as you’d expect from such a low-powered shooter.
When it comes to build quality, the 640 XL offers a familiar Lumia feel when held in hand. Its polycarbonate body is solid and cleanly put together and it isn’t terribly thick either at 9mm, but it’s heavier than it should be at 171 grams. Still, for a midrange phablet with a 5.7-inch screen, this is a plus design. It’s worth noting that this larger model comes with a smoother matte finish, while the diminutive Lumia 640 features a glossier plastic build that’s a little bit more of a fingerprint magnet.
As mentioned above, that 5.7-inch screen comes with a 720p resolution, good for a pixel density of 259 ppi. That’s not world-beating material by any means, but it’s sufficient for the Windows Phone UI. Menus and pages onscreen still looked sharp during our demo, and the IPS panel allowed for excellent contrast ratios with deep blacks. Viewing angles were wide, and general colors were fine. Photos and videos are never going to look as crisp here as they do on more expensive phablets, but the 640 XL’s screen seems good for what it is.
The Lumia 640 has the same 720p resolution on a smaller screen, and thus can boast a greater pixel density of 294 ppi. The boost didn’t make the 640’s screen look significantly different than that of the 640 XL during our time with it, though. It too is decent for the price.
Internally, we’re looking largely similar sets of core specs: Both phones run on a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, along with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage, the latter of which can be upgraded up to 128 GB through a microSD card. The Lumia 640 XL should offer the better battery life, however – it runs on a 3,000mAh pack, whereas the the Lumia 640 features a 2,500mAh battery.
Both the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL should pick up where last year’s midrange Lumias left off, offering stylish, mostly inoffensive designs and decent power at affordable prices. They’ll be easy ways into Windows 10 and its many upgrades as well. The stronger cameras of the 640 XL appear to make that phone the superior of the two, but either way, Microsoft looks to be offering decent value here.