Microsoft Lumia 550 review - The affordable Windows 10 Mobile smartphone

Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Microsoft Lumia 550 is the first affordable smartphone with Windows 10 Mobile, released in December 2015, and it was rumored to bring a good user experience even to those who can’t afford a premium device like the Microsoft Lumia 950. Does Windows 10 Mobile work smoothly on a low-budget smartphone as it does on more expensive devices? Is Microsoft Lumia 550 better than its predecessor - Microsoft Lumia 535? We’ve been us ing the Lumia 550 on a daily basis for the past week and we would like to share our opinion about this smartphone, in this detailed review:

Hardware Specifications & Packaging

Microsoft Lumia 550 is packaged in a small cardboard box similar to those used for all Microsoft Lumia devices. On the front you will notice a picture of the device in the only two available colors: black and white.

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On the back of the box there is some brief information regarding the phone specifications. You will learn that it offers 4G LTE connectivity, it has a 4.7” HD display, a 5 MP camera and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

When you open the box, you will see the smartphone.

Beneath all the paperboards, you will find the battery, the charger and the user guide. There are no bundled headphones or a USB cable in the packing, but at this price, it can’t come as a surprise.

In terms of hardware, Microsoft Lumia 550 is powered by quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, running at 1.1 GHz. It includes 1GB of RAM and 8GB storage space which can be expanded with a microSD card up to 200 GB.

Microsoft Lumia 550 has a 4.7’’ HD LCD display with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels and a pixel density of 315 ppi. The display also includes Glance Screen, enhanced outdoor readability, Lumia Color profile, RGB Stripe, wide viewing angle and automatic brightness control. The touchscreen uses a capacitive multipoint-touch technology.

The battery is replaceable, it has a capacity of 2100 mAh and it is designed to last up to 10 hours of web browsing time.

The smartphone has a 5 megapixels rear camera, with autofocus and LED flash, capable of recording video at 720p with 30 frames per second. The front-facing camera has a 2 MP resolution, a downgrade compared to the 5MP front camera found on the Microsoft Lumia 535. In terms of connectivity, the device comes with Bluetooth 4.1, USB 2.0, GPS and support for the 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking standards. As a result, this smartphone can connect only to wireless networks using the 2.4 GHz frequency.

Lumia 550 is smaller than Lumia 535 but it’s thicker, having a size of 136.1 x 67.8 x 9.9 mm (5.3’’ x 2.6’’ x 0.38’’) and a weight of 141.9 grams (5 ounces).

You can find all the hardware and software specifications of this smartphone, here: Microsoft Lumia 550 specifications.

Design & build quality

Microsoft Lumia 550 offers a clean, simplistic design using good quality materials similar to that of other Lumia models. It’s not premium quality, but at this price is the best you can get. The smartphone has a glossy, exchangeable polycarbonate cover available only black or white. Microsoft decided to quit using colorful covers like Nokia did, which is a mistake in our view, because smartphone users will always prefer more customization, not less. In the picture below, you can see what the white version that we tested looks like. On the back you will find the camera, the flash and the speaker.

The smartphone doesn’t have a unibody construction and if you remove the cover you’ll have access to the battery, the slot for the SIM card and the slot for the microSD memory card.

Like any other Lumia smartphone, on the right side you’ll find the power/lock button and the volume rocker. Unfortunately Microsoft Lumia 550 doesn't have a hardware camera button which would have been very useful. Also, it has software buttons for Back , Windows and Search , instead of hardware ones. On the upper rim you’ll find the 3.5 mm audio jack and on the bottom the USB connector.

The LCD HD display on the Microsoft Lumia 550 is without the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection present on the Lumia 535 version , it’s not scratch resistant glass and the panel is a plain LCD instead of an IPS LCD. The brightness is assisted automatically by the ambient light sensor so the outdoors visibility is relatively good. Using Lumia Color profile you can adjust the type of colors of your display which will range from natural to vivid, or the color temperature.

When comparing the display of Lumia 550 with that of the Lumia 535, we have found that Lumia 550 has better detail reproduction dues to its higher pixel density but the colors are not as vivid and bright as those displayed by Lumia 535, even if you set the color saturation on Lumia Color profile to “Vivid”. However, Microsoft Lumia 550 has a deeper black and a better contrast. In terms of viewing angles, there are no significant differences between Lumia 550 and Lumia 535, though none of these two smartphones excels in this field.

The design and the build quality are good for the price of this device. You won't feel that you are getting less than what you have paid for and you will be pleased with the way it looks and feels, even if it uses a generic design. Lumia 550 is not very large and it can be used easily by people with small hands although some may find it too thick.

The smartphone experience on the Microsoft Lumia 550

The smartphone experience with Microsoft Lumia 550 is generally good and so was the quality of our phone conversations. Voices are heard clearly in phone conversations or conference calls. Calls can also be recorded with the press of a button. The recordings are stored as audio files on your smartphone’s storage, which you can play later, at any time .

Even though the packaging of this smartphone doesn’t include any headphones, we tested the audio quality with some aftermarket ones. When listening to music or watching videos, the audio quality was good. The back speaker on the smartphone is of medium quality. For some sound improvements, you can use the equalizer provided by the audio settings in Windows 10 Mobile.

If you play many games from the Windows Store and you take a lot of pictures, then the 8GB of storage space will fill very quickly. In order to solve this problem you’ll need to purchase a microSD card to increase the space available. For the device to work proper ly, we recommend that you buy a quality one (e.g. microSD class 10).

Microsoft Lumia 550 has a 2100 mAh battery, which is good enough for the entire day in conditions of normal use. If you’ll play many games, listen to music or use GPS navigation, the battery will drain relatively fast.

What we noticed is the fact that Microsoft Lumia 550 is rather slow. The transition from one frame to another is visible and the response to commands is slow . If you are used to fast devices, you may find this issue very annoying. The low speed responsiveness might be caused by the unpolished operating system and its insufficient optimization. In the end Windows 10 Mobile is not yet finalized. Microsoft is still getting it ready for mass-market, even though it started selling smartphones with this operating system installed. We hope that, as the system is perfected, this issue will be resolved.

Using this smartphone for a week and testing every aspect of it, we found it to be reliable and user friendly. Microsoft Lumia 550 packs average hardware which, combined with the Windows 10 Mobile platform, offers a decent user experience, even if sometimes the device can be slow.

The camera experience on the Microsoft Lumia 550

As we mentioned earlier, the smartphone has a decent 5 MP main camera and a 2 MP front camera. With the main camera you’ll be able to take good photos and capture HD videos at a resolution of 720p and 30fps. In addition, the rear camera has autofocus technology and LED flash. Also, you can change the white balance, the sensitivity (ISO), the shutter speed and the brightness. If you don’t know what these features are, we recommend that you set them all to Auto. The 2 MP front camera is not excellent and we find this really annoying considering that the Lumia 535 model had a 5MP front camera. Overall the camera doesn’t shine in any way, it does the job and it offers decent quality photos. Good enough for Facebook and other popular social networking service s. Below you can find a gallery with some pictures, including selfies which were taken with the front 2 MP camera.

When it comes to video recordings, again, the camera is quite good but don’t expect anything professional. With its 720p video resolution, the recorded video clips have decent quality. It’s definitely an improvement compared to Lumia 535 but it’s still blurry and lacking in details. Obviously, we cannot talk about video stabilization at this price point. Below, you can watch a video sample in which the target is moving.

Next, we recorded a demo in which we captured more static surroundings. As you can see, the quality is better than the previous movie, but again it doesn’t shine in any way.

The camera experience is good for a smartphone this affordable. You will have a hard time finding something better at the same price point.

Read the next page in this review to learn how well Windows 10 Mobile works on this smartphone and how well it fares in benchmarks.