Review

Lumia 650

A race in the right direction with speed bumps along the way

Microsoft’s Mobile business has been struggling for the past few years. Every once in a while, we see a new Lumia which brings some new hopes and some that break our hopes. Unlike the past few years, Microsoft Mobile does not have any plans to introduces a tonne of devices this year – and that is, of course, a good thing. The Redmond-based software giant is allowing its OEMs and partners to bring new mobile devices running Windows 10 to the market instead.

Microsoft isn’t completely giving up making phones, though. Theoretically, the company is trying to do what Google did with its Nexus brand – releasing a few phones each year, and trying to stay in the smartphone world. Google and Microsoft do not want to make a lot of revenue from their smartphone business – their main focus (at least for Microsoft) is to try and get their services on as many devices as possible and then make money from it.

That’s exactly what Microsoft is trying to do with the Lumia 650. A new low-end device aimed at businesses with some interesting specs and a beautiful design. The Lumia 650 is expected to be Microsoft’s last Lumia of the year – which (again) shows Microsoft’s future plans for its Mobile business.

For those unfamiliar, the Lumia 650 packs a 5-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The device sports a Quad Core Snapdragon 212, clocked at 1.3 GHz, 16GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM, and a 2000 mAh battery. As for the cameras, Microsoft is including an 8MP sensor in the back of the device and a 5MP front camera for the selfies.


Video Review


Design

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The Lumia 650’s design is refreshing, and that’s probably one of the most important selling points for Microsoft. The device includes a metal frame, which makes the device look a lot premium than it really is. It’s nice to see Microsoft finally ditching plastic for metal on Lumia devices.

As for the Lumia 650, the metal frame makes the device feel great in hands. The device is only 6.99mm thick and weighs in at 122 grams, which makes the device feel really light in hands. The 650 is actually lighter than my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and other Lumias like the Lumia 950, Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 535.

Button placements on the Lumia 650 are pretty much like the old Lumias – you get the volume rockers and the power/unlock button on the right-hand side, and that’s about it. The buttons aren’t very clicky and the feedback that you get from the buttons aren’t really great.

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In my opinion, the Lumia 650’s size is just perfect. The device isn’t too big, or too small for me – it’s just at the sweet spot. I had no issues while using the phone with one hand, especially while trying to access the hamburger menus in Windows 10 Mobile. In terms of the build quality of the Lumia 650, Microsoft did a solid job. Unlike the company’s flagship Windows 10 Moble device, the Lumia 950 XL, the Lumia 650 doesn’t have any creaking issues and the device’s build quality feels really great.

Lumia 650 is a beautiful device that feels great

Overall, though, the Lumia 650 feels and looks really great, and that’s probably why many of you will buy this device. After so many months, we finally get a Lumia that isn’t just another plastic Lumia, and something that’s a bit different which we have been getting in the past few years. It’s always nice to see some difference and something unique (at least for Lumias), and I really hope Microsoft will continue to focus on the design of its upcoming products – because frankly, that’s really what most people care about in 2016.

To put it simply, Microsoft almost nailed the design with the Lumia 650.


Display

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The Lumia 650 sports a 5-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display. The display of the device is good enough for the price. The Lumia 650’s ClearBlack display produces inky blacks, as you may expect. The display is pretty bright and the colors are saturated and vibrant, which is definitely a plus in an affordable device like this. Viewing angles are also pretty good on the Lumia 650’s display. Unfortunately, sunlight readability can be a major issue on the Lumia 650’s display. Even when you set the display’s brightness to high, you will struggle to properly see the text in the Lumia 650’s display.

Lumia 650 packs a display that provides vibrant colors, but may be disappointing under sunlight

It is worth noting that when I got my Lumia 650, the first thing I noticed was the display’s brightness. For some reason, even with the highest brightness, it felt like that the display’s brightness is set to low or medium (even though it was set to the highest brightness). So I used Windows Device Recovery Tool to reset the device and I was able the fix the display brightness issue. Obviously, this is certainly an issue as some “normal” users won’t be able to tell there’s an issue with the display and they would assume that it’s the normal display brightness.

For those wondering, multi-touch seems to work fine on the Lumia 650, and I didn’t have any issues on that part.

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One of the best features on the Lumia 650 is the support for Glance Screen. The Lumia 650 is quite an interesting device in terms of features as we hardly ever get Glance Screen support on affordable Lumias. Again, it’s nice to see Microsoft providing the little things that can make a pretty huge different on the Lumia 650. Unfortunately, though, the device lacks the double tap to wake feature, which would be very nice to have on the Lumia 650.

The Lumia 650’s display should not disappoint you if you don’t care about things like sunlight readability. The Lumia 650’s display produces vibrant colours, and glance screen support is definitely a plus for an affordable device – which is on of the main reasons why I really like the Lumia 650’s display.


Camera

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In most Lumia devices, the first thing you might look into is the device’s camera. The Lumia 650 doesn’t pack anything impressive for the camera, however. The device sports a general 8MP camera for the back, and a 5MP on the front for the selfies.

In terms of the picture quality, the Lumia 650’s camera does a pretty good job. The pictures taken with the Lumia 650 are fairly detailed and the sharpness of the colors are just fine. Of course, as you may already expect, the low-light pictures are not very good – they are just OK for the price, and you probably should not expect amazing low-light quality pictures which you might expect from the Lumia 950/XL.

The camera app on the Lumia 650 is quite fast, it’s not very fast but it should not disappoint you. Autofocus is quite fast too, but it may take its time in some conditions. The Lumia 650 takes pictures very quickly with manual focus, but if you use auto-focus, the camera could be a bit slow sometimes.

Lumia 650’s camera takes fairly detailed pictures

As per usual, you also get some nice manual control over the camera controls on the Lumia 650. You can adjust things like the ISO, and the shutter speed using the Windows Camera app, which is very nice to see as we hardly ever get to see manual camera controls on low-end devices – or even high-end devices. In case you are wondering, the Lumia 650’s rear camera also comes with an LED flash – however, I personally avoid using flash on smartphone cameras.

In case you take a lot of selfies, the front camera should not be very disappointing. I have noticed that the pictures taken with the Lumia 650 feel very “real”, which is always a good thing when it comes to selfies. Similar to the rear camera, the Lumia 650’s front camera is also quite fast when it comes to taking pictures. However, the pictures taken with the Lumia 650’s front camera aren’t very detailed, which might be disappointing for some.

Here are some camera samples:

These images are not full resolution, but you can find the higher quality images here.

Overall, the Lumia 650’s camera is pretty good. The rear camera takes some pretty nice, detailed photos, but the auto-focus feature may take the time to work sometimes which could be a bit disappointing for some users. The front camera doesn’t disappoint either, but the pictures taken with the front camera aren’t very detailed which probably won’t disappoint users as you can’t really expect to take amazing pictures with a £160 phone. Of course, the Lumia 650 is missing some features such as a dedicated camera button, which we usually see in most Lumias. Unfortunately, you won’t find a dedicated camera button on the Lumia 650 which is probably fine considering that the device is mainly aimed at business customers.


Performance

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When I got the Lumia 650, I was quite interested to see how the device performs. After using it for almost a week and playing a tonne of games, I am glad to say that the performance of the Lumia 650 isn’t bad at all. Sure, it comes with a Snapdragon 212 and 1GB of RAM. But that doesn’t necessarily mean device’s performance is bad.

In fact, the Lumia 650 is actually quite fast. Multitasking and switching between apps on the Lumia 650 is smooth most of the time. However, you may experience a bit of lag once in a little while. In my personal experience, I got a few “Resuming…” screens, which is expected as the device sports a Snapdragon 212. In terms of regular usage, you will hardly notice a lot of lag while doing simple tasks such as writing an email or browsing the web. However, once you start doing some RAM-hungry tasks like editing a video or a PowerPoint presentation, you will start noticing that the Lumia 650 starts struggling with the tasks.

Don’t expect a smooth gaming experience on the Lumia 650

When it comes to gaming, the Lumia 650 does not seem to disappoint either. Of course, you can’t expect a smooth gaming experience from an affordable like the Lumia 650 and the 3D graphics could be laggy at times. To be honest, the Lumia 650 isn’t built for gaming. If you want a really good, you should probably look at something with a better GPU and, well, a faster processor.

The Lumia 650’s performance isn’t very impressive. To put it simply, it’s decent. The device performs better than what some people expected by looking at the specs – however, the performance is definitely pretty good in real-life. You will get “Resuming…” screens every now and then, and gaming on the Lumia 650 isn’t something you should look forward to. Microsoft probably could have delivered a faster processor with the Lumia 650, maybe a Snapdragon 410 or if they really wanted to step up the game, a Snapdragon 617 would be an amazing processor (and allow the device to support Continuum) for this beautiful device.

In case you are wondering (and you probably are), the benchmarks of the Lumia 650 is quite good. The Lumia 650 got a score of 29970 on the AnTuTu benchmark test, slightly higher than the Lumia 830 which scored 27526 — which is quite surprising, to say the least. The Lumia 650 got a score of 11679 for the CPU, 3746 for the RAM, 13204 for the UX and 1341 for 3D — which, again, shows that the Lumia 650 isn’t ideal for gaming.

The Lumia 650’s performance may not be something which you will buy the device for. If you are happy with the decent-enough performance and do a lot of gaming, the Lumia 650 should be a pretty good device for you. However, if you do a lot of gaming and want really fast multi-tasking, you should probably look for some other options.


Software

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Windows 10 Mobile is what powers the Lumia 650. Windows 10 Mobile is the latest and probably the greatest version of Windows Phone, but it has some quirks over and there. One of the best features of Windows 10 Mobile is the updated Start Screen. The new and improved Start Screen on Windows 10 Mobile looks a lot prettier and cleaner than the previous Start Screen on Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft, unfortunately, didn’t add any new features to the Start Screen with Windows 10 Mobile, but the new UI and UX improvements are certainly nice.

Windows 10 Mobile also introduces a new Store, a new browser, Groove, updated OneDrive, powerful Office apps, and a lot more. Every single app that comes with Windows 10 Mobile has a new user interface which looks a lot better and offers a better user experience, too.

Windows 10 Mobile is full of productivity features for businesses

Windows 10 Mobile actually has some powerful productivity apps that will be really useful for business users. Microsoft pre-installs its Office suite on the Lumia 650 (and any other Windows 10 Mobile device) which are built for productivity. Essentially, you get most of the features with Office Mobile which are offered in Office for Desktop — from features like formatting to auto-saving files, most of the productivity features are there.

Unfortunately, though, the Lumia 650 does not support Windows 10 Mobile’s best productivity feature: Continuum for phones. Despite being aimed at businesses, Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 Mobile does not support the company’s OS’ best feature and the hardware is probably the one to be blamed here. As you may already know, the Lumia 650 has a Snapdragon 212 which means you are not getting Continuum because, well, it’s not powerful enough.

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The Windows Store is also a pretty major part of the operating system. The Store is still lacking a lot of apps and the search algorithm still needs a lot of work. In terms of app availability, you might be disappointed. Sure, there are some great third-party apps like Tweetium, 6tag, 6tin, Aeries, Newsflow – but, the apps most people care about aren’t available in the Store — and even if they are, they are not updated frequently. For example, Twitter released its new app for Windows 10 PCs a little while ago and the app is yet to come to Windows 10 Mobile — leaving Windows Phone users with the old Windows Phone 8.1 app. And if you use Snapchat, you won’t be able to use the service on the Lumia 650.

To be honest, if you are going to buy a Windows Phone, you should probably be aware that the app support on the Store isn’t the best. Don’t get me wrong, the Windows Store has a lot of good apps which are a lot better than something you might get in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. For example, Readit (a third-party Reddit client) offers a brilliant experience on Windows 10 Mobile and if you are looking for a good Reddit client with a nice UI on iOS: good luck (spoiler alert: you will have a hard time finding one).

For those wondering, our Lumia 650 review unit came with Windows 10 Mobile Build 10586.11 out of the box. Of course, that’s not the latest version of Windows 10 Mobile, and you should definitely upgrade to the latest version of the OS as soon as you get the device to get the best experience. It’s worth noting that I experienced only one random reboot on the device with build 10586.11 – but, once I got the latest version of the OS (which is build 10586.107 at the time of writing this review), I didn’t experience any random reboot or app crashes.

Windows 10 Mobile is quite awesome – but, it needs quite a lot of polishing, as well as a few improvements and Microsoft will be delivering those in the coming weeks. Thanks to its Windows As A Service plan, Microsoft will be able to bypass (most) carriers and deliver updates to Windows 10 Mobile devices, including the Lumia 650 very quickly which is definitely a plus and something you won’t get on an affordable Android device.


Battery

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The Lumia 650’s battery isn’t anything mind-blowing, but it’s quite excellent. In my personal use, the Lumia 650’s battery actually performed pretty well. I was able to get almost a full day of battery life from the Lumia 650 with medium usage. During the day, I used Twitter a lot, read some articles using Newsflow, took a few pictures and browsed Readit for a little while — and surprisingly, the Lumia 650’s battery was able to handle all these tasks. I have been using the Lumia 650 for almost a week now, and the device needed to be charged only once a day – which, frankly, is perfect for most users.

Of course, you might use your phone a lot each day and in that case, the Lumia 650’s battery probably won’t be able to last a whole day. However, for the price, the Lumia 650’s 2000mAh battery performs pretty well, and I personally don’t have any complaints about it.

As for business customers, they should not have a lot of issues with the Lumia 650’s battery either. The device’s battery should be able to handle basic tasks such as reading emails, Skype calls, browsing the web and last a whole day – so if you are planning to buy the Lumia 650 for business usage, you should not worry much about the Lumia 650’s battery.


Others

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In a smartphone, there are a tonne of things to talk about, including things like sound quality and call quality. First up, let’s talk about the sound quality on the Lumia 650. When I got the Lumia 650, I noticed that the device includes a front-facing speaker which we hardly get to see in affordable devices or even high-end devices. The sound produced by the Lumia 650’s front facing speakers are quite nice, especially the bass. However, you may notice that the sound produced by the speaker is a bit creaky — but it’s not easily noticeable. Of course, as this is a front facing speaker, you can easily listen to music while leaving the device on your desk and still continue to get the same sound quality – thanks to the front facing speakers.

USB Type-C is missing on the Lumia 650

In terms of call quality, I have no complaints either. To say the least, you won’t be disappointed by the sound quality as the call quality is pretty clear. The Lumia 650 is definitely missing some features which I would like to see in Microsoft’s future affordable Lumias — if they make any, that is. The Lumia 650 is missing USB Type-C. Sure, you might not be looking for USB Type-C on an affordable device, but to be honest, USB Type-C should be an industry standard in 2016. Of course, most of the other affordable devices do not include USB Type-C, but it would be very nice to have USB Type-C on the Lumia 650.

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If you are worried about the storage on the Lumia 650, don’t fret. Microsoft included 16GB of internal storage with the Lumia 650, which is quite unusual on affordable Lumia devices. 16GB of internal storage should be more than enough for business customers are they will mostly be storing their files in the cloud. However, if you need more than 16GB of storage, the Lumia 650 has got you covered with the microSD card slot. With a microSD card, you can expand the storage up to 200GB, which should be a lot more than enough.

Another interesting element of the Lumia 650 is the Nano SIM port, which is, again, unusual for an affordable device like the Lumia 650. With that being said, I have to say, Microsoft made some really interesting decisions with the Lumia 650’s hardware.


The Bottom Line

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The Lumia 650 is probably the best Lumia phone I have ever owned. The device includes a beautiful design which is very light and feels excellent in hands. The metal frame gives this £160 a premium look, which we rarely get to see on Lumia devices. The device’s display is also pretty good, it’s a 5″ panel which produces vivid colors, but sunlight readability could be a problem for some. In terms of performance, the Lumia 650 does an OK job — gaming isn’t something you will be able to do smoothly on the device, and multi-tasking may struggle a bit at times — but mostly, the Lumia 650 should offer decent performance.

Lumia 650 also offers some good imaging features, and the software is perfect for business customers thanks to Windows 10 Mobile’s productivity features such as the built-in Office Suite, OneDrive for Business, and apps like Power BI, Salesforce, as well as the other apps for enterprises.

To put it simply, the Lumia 650 is a device which many of us have been waiting for. The Lumia 650 is in a race in the right direction which includes a few speed bumps along the way because of the processor and productivity features such as Continuum for phones.

The Breakdown
Pros
  • Beautiful design
  • Good Display
  • Good Camera
  • Front Speakers
  • Glance Screen
Cons
  • No Continuum
  • Performance is OK
  • No USB-C port
  • No double tap to wake
  • No dedicated camera button

8.1

Display
8.1
Design
9.2
Camera
8
Performance
7.1
Software
8.1
Battery Life
8.3

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