Microsoft Lumia 640 XL review
|Review: September 2015|
In a nutshell: The Microsoft Lumia 640 XL gives you a smartphone with an enormous screen at a low price. Running Windows Phone 8.1, you'll find plenty of pre-installed functionality, although the third-party app market is limited compared with Android or iOS. Still, the benefits of the big screen are attractive, and the phone performs well, delivering a lot of power for the price.
Microsoft Lumia 640 XL LTE
Design & looks
As its name suggests, the Lumia 640 XL is a super-sized version of the Lumia 640. The design is the same, except that it's bigger.
It's not intended to be a premium phone, so everything here is plastic, but that's not a bad thing, unless you're a phone snob. The build is solid, with the plastic casing giving a little flexibility to withstand knocks, and the screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The matte finish means that fingerprints aren't an issue, and the fact that you can change covers means that you can snap on a different colour back or change the battery with ease. It's a supremely practical design, and we like it.
Having said that, there's no getting away from the fact that this is a large phone. It's way into phablet territory, being as big and heavy as Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, and that means that it won't be suitable for everyone. But if you want a really big screen, this phone gives you more screen size for your money than any other phone.
The screen is a good one too. Microsoft's ClearBlack IPS displays are notable for their brightness and visibility in sunlight, and the 640 XL has a particularly good screen with wide viewing angles. Having said that, it shares the same HD resolution as its smaller sibling, and that means a reduced pixel density of 259ppi. It's not as sharp as a flagship handset, but it's not bad for a mid-range phone.
Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana
At S21, we're fans of the Windows Phone operating system. The Lumia 640 XL ships with WP8.1 with Lumia Denim, which is the latest update, incorporating a three-column home screen layout that really makes the most of the available screen space.
Windows Phone is less resource-intensive than Android, and that means that the interface runs very smoothly, with none of the jerkiness or lag characteristic of low-end Android phones.
The usual reason people don't like Windows Phone is apps. It's true that third-party apps are much less widely available than for Android or iOS, so if you download a lot of apps, this won't be a good choice for you. However, it's worth looking at what is available for WP8.1. The phone comes with Office 365, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and Internet Explorer 11, as well as the excellent HERE Maps and HERE Drive navigation system, with offline maps available. You also get Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant, which can listen to voice commands or text, and respond in kind. So there's a lot of smart functionality built into the phone, and many of the big app developers do support Windows.
Best of all, we find this to be the easiest operating system to learn, so it's perfect for new smartphone users and casual users, just as much as business users who appreciate the productivity and office apps available.
As with the Lumia 640, the XL uses the mid-range Snapdragon 400 processor. This is a quad core processor with a clock speed of 1.2GHz. This is by no means a high-powered processor, but as noted, it's perfect for the job of running the user interface and standard apps. YouTube videos display smoothly on this phone, and unless you're into heavy gaming, we don't envisage a problem.
The memory is just 8GB, but Windows Phone allows you to store apps, photos and videos on a memory card, so adding a card is a cheap and easy way to expand the memory all the way up to an enormous 128GB.
Microsoft also gives you 30GB of free cloud storage via OneDrive, which syncs with other Windows devices.
One significant improvement in the 640XL compared with the standard 640 is the cameras. Both the rear-facing and front cameras have been substantially upgraded.
The main camera is one of the best you can buy at this price. It uses Zeiss optics and a 13 megapixel BSI sensor in combination with an unusually large f/2.0 aperture to produce excellent pictures in both normal lighting and low light. A dynamic LED flash assists with night-time shots.
The front camera has a 5 megapixel sensor and a wide angle lens, making it ideal for selfies.
Both cameras can record video at 1080p HD resolution, although the lack of optical image stabilisation can make video capture a little shaky.
Like the Lumia 640, the 640XL supports 4G as well as 3G and 2G networks. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, micro-USB 2.0, NFC and a 3.5mm audio jack. DLNA and screen mirroring are also available. A-GPS, A-GLONASS and BeiDou positioning services are all supported.
The battery has been beefed up to handle the extra large display, and is a heavy-duty 3,000mAH. This is one of the largest batteries available - even bigger than flagship phones from the likes of Samsung or HTC.
Microsoft quotes a time of 14 hours of continuous use, and for most users, this will translate into 2 days between charges. It's an excellent phone for long battery life.
Conclusion - a super-sized budget phone
The Lumia 640 XL is more mid-range in price than the entry-level Lumia 640. It shares most of the features that make the Lumia 640 a great budget choice, with the benefit of the super-size screen, a better camera, and exceptional battery life. The disadvantage is obviously the additional bulk and weight of the XL.
As with all buying decisions, it's a trade-off. If the extra-large screen has a strong appeal to you, then you'll find this an excellent choice of smartphone, provided that you can live with the limited choice of third-party apps available for Windows Phone.
Microsoft Lumia 640 XL features include:
- Operating system: Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim
- 13 megapixel BSI rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, dynamic LED flash and autofocus, plus 1080p HD video recording
- 5 megapixel front camera with 1080p HD video recording
- Display: 5.7 inches, IPS ClearBlack touchscreen, 720 x 1280 pixels
- Music player (Xbox Music, MixRadio)
- FM radio
- A-GPS, A-GLONASS and BeiDou positioning with HERE Maps, HERE Drive+, HERE Transit
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, chat, email
- Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Magnetometer, SensorCore
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, Quad-core 1.2GHz, with 1GB RAM
- Memory: 8GB, memory card (up to 128GB), 30GB OneDrive cloud storage
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB 2.0, DLNA, 3.5 mm headphone jack, NFC
- 4G LTE (Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20), 3G WCDMA (850/900/2100 MHz) plus quadband GSM and EGPRS
- Size: 158 x 82 x 9 mm
- Weight: 171g
- Battery: 3000 mAh
- Maximum Wi-Fi network browsing time: 14.2 hours
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Microsoft Lumia 640 XL user reviews
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Average rating from 2 reviews:
Reviewed by Mark
on 28th Apr 2016
I bought this phone to replace my Galaxy S4, thought I would give Windows a run out, having done iOS and obviously Android. I wanted a big screen and I have to say, for my purposes it's great. Having had the S4 the display clearly isn't as sharp, but it is good enough for what I need. Only had the phone 2 days, so far so good. Call quality is excellent, and I love being able to use one drive to share my music and pictures from my PC. All the apps I need are available for Windows, RBS, Facebook, YouTube, Messenger, EBay, Shazam. But if you love your apps, this could be small issue for you.
So far so good.
Reply by Mark
on 20th Jun 2016
Just an update on this phone, really struggling with the 1GB of RAM, taking ages to load apps compared to my Samsung Galaxy S4, and that was an old phone. Sadly may have to change to either an Iphone or back to the S7 or Note 4, shame as the lack of RAM is all that lets the phone down..
Reviewed by Tris
on 26th Oct 2015
I bought the 640xl to replace the 535 I gave to my youngest. It's not a bad device and is great for productivity. It has good battery life and the camera is quiet good for the price point. I'm not going to go into 8.1 as it's pointless with mobile 10 round the corner. The real problem I have with windows phone is the stop start nature of the software. We went from 7 to 7.5 then to 8 and 8.1 and now 10. 7 and 7.5 was a deal breaker on hardware for many at the time updating to W8. Now we have the same again with 8.1 to 10. How many universal apps are we going to get and are we going backwards on app count for a time. What if universal apps don't take off. At this point it make all newer windows phones very hard to rate. The hardware counts for nothing as it's all dependant on its eco system. All I can applaud the 640xl at the moment for is its price, speed, battery, screen size and being very good for business use. As much as I like windows phone, I'm unsure of its commitment to its users and it's app development on w10.