Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Price and UK availability 

Microsoft's Lumia 640 is very well-priced at £129.99 SIM-free, making it £20 cheaper than the latest Moto G with which it shares almost an identical spec.  

If you're looking to buy the Lumia 640 on a contract it's available from £13.50 per month, while you can also grab it on a PAYG tariff from £109.99.

If you get the Lumia 640 from EE you'll also get WiFi Calling (see What is WiFi Calling?). EE has the exclusive on the cyan Lumia 640, and its contract prices with a free phone start at £16.99 per month. At that price you get 500 minutes, 500MB and unlimited texts. 

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Design and build 

The design is very similar to that of the Lumia 630 and 635, a little larger and heavier yet slightly thinner, with the same matt-finish case in black, or glossy in blue, orange or white, that sits comfortably and securely in the hand. This case is removable, but wraps around to the front, resulting in a solid feel that won't creak or flex under pressure.  

It's simple and unassuming, a slab of plastic with a slightly curved rear and rounded edges. There's a gaping hole on the rear for the small speaker, and the rear camera and headphone jack protrude just enough to spoil the Lumia 640's smooth surface, but still it's a good- if basic-looking phone for the money. 

As before the screen is covered by tough Gorilla Glass 3, with cutouts top and bottom for the earpiece and microphone. It's a larger sheet of glass, though, since Microsoft has upgraded the Lumia's display not only in size but also resolution. Whereas the Lumia 630 and 635 feature a 4.5in 854x480 ClearBlack IPS panel, the 640 has a 5in HD (1280x720) screen, which results in an improved pixel density of 294ppi. (Bigger still is the 5.7in screen on the Lumia 640 XL, although the resolution is the same at 720p.) 

As such, browsing the web, watching videos and even playing the odd game is now a far more enjoyable experience on the Lumia 640. The screen is not without fault - some backlight bleed issues are still visible - but it's a vast improvement and noticeably sharper than that of the 630. 

At the top of the screen is something entirely new: a selfie camera. And it's not the only change Microsoft has made in the photography department: around the back is an LED flash and, although the difference isn't visible, an upgraded 8Mp camera. There's still no dedicated camera button, though, and around the sides you'll find only a volume rocker and power button, headphone jack and a micro-USB charging port.  

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Hardware and performance 

Microsoft hasn't particularly focused on performance in its upgrading of the Lumia 640. And that's fine, since the 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor is nothing spectacular but capable enough for day-to-day use, especially at this price. Microsoft has, however, doubled the RAM to 1GB, which brings the Lumia 640's spec into line with the latest Moto G. 

Windows Phone doesn't support Geekbench, the benchmark we use to test phone processing performance, but the new Moto G recorded 345 points in the single-core component and 1182 multi-core. The difference in software will come into play here, so you can't assume the Lumia 640 would score the same results were testing possible, but in real-world use we found the Lumia 640 quick enough. Swiping between screens and launching apps still takes a second or two, but it's not so slow as to cause you pain. And the camera, in particular, now loads significantly faster - a couple of seconds rather than the six- or seven of the Lumia 630. 

Happily, our second go-to benchmark, GFXBench, is now available in the Windows Store. Both Lumia 640 and Moto G use the Adreno 305 GPU and the aforementioned 1GB of RAM and Snapdragon 400 chip, but we found slightly slower results from the Lumia 640 in T-Rex - 7.5fps against the Moto G's 11fps. If you're looking for a fast phone for gaming, compare these results with some of the monsters in our article What's the fastest smartphone 2015. 

SunSpider performance has seen a boost with the Lumia 640. While we recorded 1486ms for the Lumia 630 and 1968ms for the Moto G, the Lumia 640 recorded an impressive 1201ms. However, it's worth noting that we typically run SunSpider in Google Chrome to ensure a fair test. Chrome isn't available for Windows Phone, so our Lumia results were taken in Internet Explorer 11. 

Battery life was a concern with the Lumia 630. Microsoft has seen fit to increase the capacity of the still-removable battery from 1830- to 2500mAh, which means this phone will capably get you through a full day's use. 

In terms of storage there's still only 8GB built in, of which less than half is available, but you do get up to 128GB of expandable storage via support for microSD. Take up Microsoft's offer of a free one-year Office 365 subscription and you get 1TB of OneDrive storage too (and 30GB if you don't). 

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Connectivity 

The connectivity specs come as no surprise at this price. There's no support for the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but Microsoft does include Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA and NFC. The GPS and GLONASS is assisted. One of our favourite upgrades over the Lumia 630, though, is the 4G LTE connectivity. (There is apparently also a 3G model, but the only version we've seen on sale in the UK is 4G - check before you buy.) Also see: What is 4G? A complete guide to 4G. 

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Cameras 

The Lumia 640 is not the best cameraphone in the world, but it's significantly better than the Lumia 630 in this regard. Microsoft has added an LED flash, which means there's an improvement in low-light photography, plus it's upgraded the sensor from 5Mp to 8Mp, which makes for sharper shots. You can see the difference between our standard St Pancras test shot captured on the Lumia 640 and the Lumia 630 below it. 

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

Microsoft Lumia 640 test photo

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

Microsoft Lumia 630 test photo

We also tried the video camera, which has been upgraded from 720p to 1080p. With no stabilisation footage is a little shakey, but it's adequate for a £129 phone. 

Microsoft Lumia 640 test video

Something completely new for the Lumia 640 is a front-facing camera. It's a meagre snapper at 0.9Mp, but the Lumia Selfie app makes it a little more bearable. Perhaps more important than selfies on this phone is the fact it's now possible to use Skype for video calling. 

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Software 

The Microsoft Lumia 640 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim, although Windows 10 will be available later this summer (in fact, you can get Windows 10 on your phone now). 

Windows Phone is heavily criticised for its lack of apps, but the situation is improving. As we mentioned earlier in this review, we were pleased to find the GFXBench benchmark is now available for Windows Phone, plus if it's the lack of Google apps that is bothering you then it is possible to view Google services online and to sync some services with Windows apps. Also see: How to sync Google services with Windows Phone 8 - keep using Gmail, YouTube, Maps and more.

Microsoft Lumia 640 review: The Moto G of the Windows world, Microsoft proves once again just how well it can do budget phones

In other respects Windows Phone is every bit as good as iOS and Android, although it has a different look and feel with a colourful tiled interface in place of the familiar icon-led home screens. In place of Siri and Google Now there's the excellent Cortana (also see funny things to ask Cortana), and with Action Centre notifications are just as easy to manage.  

Here Drive+ and Here Maps are very good, offering free turn-by-turn driving instructions, offline maps and live traffic information, while MixRadio offers free audio from your favourite artists (without ads, although you can skip the track only six times in an hour). Add to that Kids' Corner, preinstalled social apps and a double-tap to wake feature, and Windows Phone isn't looking too shabby next to its rivals. 

One of the unique selling points of the Microsoft Lumia 640 is that Microsoft includes a free one-year subscription to Office 365, which would normally cost you £60. This can be enjoyed on two additional devices and, among other things, includes a terabyte of free OneDrive cloud storage. 

Read our original hands-on review with the Microsoft Lumia 640 and Microsoft Lumia 640 XL by Chris Martin on the next page. 

Read next: Best new phones 2015. 

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.

Our original hands-on Microsoft Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL review, by Chris Martin.

Although we didn't get a new flagship Lumia 940, Microsoft did announce two new Lumia Windows Phone smartphones at MWC 2015 which are Windows 10 ready. Here's our Microsoft Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL hands-on review from Barcelona. Also see: Best Windows Phones 2015 and Best smartphones 2015.

The new Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL will launch globally this month although a specific UK release date remains to be seen. Price wise they're going to be affordable starting at 139 Euros for the smaller model and 189 Euros for the XL – those prices exclude tax, though.

There's little to report on the design front with what is now a classic style for Lumia handsets. They both feel good in the hand even though they're not particularly thin at 8.8- and 9 mm respectively. They have interchangeable covers and will be available in cyan, orange, black and white. The XL model comes with a nice matte finish apart from the white model while the regular Lumia 640 is glossy apart from the black option.

Read: Acer Liquid M220 review.

Microsoft Lumia 640 and XL review

Like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, many of the specifications are shared across the Lumia 640 and 640 XL. The main differences are the screen size, cameras and battery.

The core hardware no matter which model you buy consists of the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, a microSD card slot (up to 128 GB), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. Each will be offered in single of dual-SIM variants and with either 3G or 4G LTE support. It's unclear which ones will come to the UK but we hope the 4G models will.

Microsoft Lumia 640 and XL review

With a 5in screen and a 720p resolution, Microsoft is matching rivals such as the Motorola Moto G and newly announced Sony Xperia M2 Aqua. As with previous Lumias the screen looks decent with great contrast and colours.

We don't expect a higher resolution at this price point and it's not a big deal. The larger Lumia 640 XL is a large 5.7in though and remains at 720p meaning the pixel density drops from 294 ppi to 259 ppi and understandably looks less crisp. We prefer the smaller model which is an easier size to use and has the advantage of a better looking display.

Microsoft Lumia 640 and XL review

As mentioned, you will get a bigger battery in the XL model at 3000 mAh compared to 2500 mAh and with the same resolution screen and core specs it will surely offer better battery life. This isn't something we can test at a tradeshow, though.

Photography is the other big difference between the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL with the smaller model offering an 8 Mp main camera and 1 Mp camera. A few test shots in difficult show conditions were fairly good but the XL has more promise with a 13 Mp rear camera and 5 Mp at the front. We'll test them out fully when we get review samples.

Microsoft Lumia 640 and XL review

There's little to say on the software side with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed on both models and the inevitable promise of an upgrade to Windows 10 later this year. The experience is the same across Windows Phone handsets which is the opposite of Android where manufacturers use their own skins or overlays.

Microsoft Lumia 640: Specs

  • Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim
  • available in blue, orange, black or white
  • 5in HD (1280x720, 294ppi) ClearBlack IPS display, Gorilla Glass 3
  • quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • Adreno 305 graphics
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB storage (plus up to 128GB via microSD and 30GB free OneDrive storage)
  • 4G LTE (Micro SIM)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot
  • NFC
  • DLNA
  • A-GPS
  • A-GLONASS
  • Here Drive+, Here Maps
  • MixRadio
  • FM Radio
  • Internet Radio
  • free one-year Office 365 subscription
  • 8Mp rear camera with f/2.2 aperture, 28mm focal length and LED flash, video at full-HD 1080p
  • 0.9Mp front camera with f/2.4 aperture, HD 720p video
  • 2500mAh removable battery, claimed battery life up to 36 days (standby), 17.5 hours (3G talk time), 10.8 hours (Wi-Fi browsing)
  • 72.2x8.8x141.3mm
  • 145g
  • SunSpider: 1201ms (Internet Explorer)
  • GFXBench: 7.5fps (T-Rex)
  • Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim
  • available in blue, orange, black or white
  • 5in HD (1280x720, 294ppi) ClearBlack IPS display, Gorilla Glass 3
  • quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • Adreno 305 graphics
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB storage (plus up to 128GB via microSD and 30GB free OneDrive storage)
  • 4G LTE (Micro SIM)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot
  • NFC
  • DLNA
  • A-GPS
  • A-GLONASS
  • Here Drive+, Here Maps
  • MixRadio
  • FM Radio
  • Internet Radio
  • free one-year Office 365 subscription
  • 8Mp rear camera with f/2.2 aperture, 28mm focal length and LED flash, video at full-HD 1080p
  • 0.9Mp front camera with f/2.4 aperture, HD 720p video
  • 2500mAh removable battery, claimed battery life up to 36 days (standby), 17.5 hours (3G talk time), 10.8 hours (Wi-Fi browsing)
  • 72.2x8.8x141.3mm
  • 145g
  • SunSpider: 1201ms (Internet Explorer)
  • GFXBench: 7.5fps (T-Rex)

OUR VERDICT

The Microsoft Lumia 640 is a worthy upgrade over the Lumia 630, and this Windows Phone now presents very good value for money. This is the Moto G of the Windows world, with a near-identical spec and a £20 lower price tag. Which phone you choose will come down to your software preferences - many users will be happy with Windows Phone, but if third-party apps feature heavily on your wishlist you may find that extra £20 for the Moto G money well spent.