Microsoft Lumia 650 review - Great design meets poor hardware!

Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Microsoft Lumia 650 is the latest budget smartphone from Microsoft that comes with Windows 10 Mobile preinstalled. Even before we opened this smartphone’s packaging, it wa s very clear that we had a device that’s full of contrasts. First of all, it is a great looking device that, when it comes to looks, outclasses high-end models from Microsoft like Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. While the design is above what you see on smartphones in its price-range, the specs are lower than that of its competitors and, in some regards, are worse than those on the Lumia 640 which was released last year. We were curious to learn how this device fares in daily use and what kind of user experience it is capable of offering. We have tested it on a daily basis for more than a week and we are now ready to share our conclusions, in this review.

Hardware specifications and packaging

The packaging used for the Microsoft Lumia 650 is very simple: the smartphone comes in a small white box that’s 100% recyclable. On the front you can see a picture of the device. There’s very little printed in terms of information about this smartphone and its specifications.

When you open the box, you will find the following items: the smartphone, the battery, the power adapter, the warranty and several leaflets with information about the device.

As you can see in the picture above, there are no headphones included. You will have to purchase them separately.

Where To Buy

When it comes to hardware specifications, the Microsoft Lumia 650 is a mixed bag: first of all, its processor and graphics chip are weaker than those of the Lumia 640 which was released last year. Lumia 650 includes a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor running at 1.3 GHz while the Lumia 640 includes a much better Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor running at 1.2 GHz. Also, the graphics chip on the Lumia 650 is an Adreno 304 which is inferior to the Adreno 305 found on the Lumia 640. Luckily, the amount of RAM memory has remained the same: 1 GB. Microsoft’s decision to bundle lower processing power on the Lumia 650 than on the Lumia 640 is baffling.

Another negative is the fact that the replaceable battery has a lower capacity: 2000mAh on the Lumia 650 compared to the 2500mAh on the Lumia 640. These are the kind of specifications that you expect on ultra-budget smartphones like the Microsoft Lumia 550.

The negatives end here though. In almost every other regard, Lumia 650 is superior to the Lumia 640. For example, the storage space has doubled to 16 GB instead of 8 GB. While the screen has the same size (5 inches) and the same resolution (1280x720 pixels), it has a higher pixel density (297 ppi instead of 294 ppi) and it is an OLED capacitive touch screen that includes the ClearBlack display technology. The glass protecting the screen is Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

Another difference is that the Microsoft Lumia 650 uses a Nano-SIM. Also, it offers a microSD slot which you can use to increase the storage space available up to 200 GB.

The rear camera on the Microsoft Lumia 650 is an 8 MP camera with autofocus, 2x digital zoom and LED flash. It is able to record videos at a maximum resolution of 720p and 30 frames per second. The front camera has a decent 5 Megapixels wide angle sensor which can record videos at 720p and 30fps.

In terms of size, the Microsoft Lumia 650 has a height of 5.59 inches (142mm) and a width of 2.79 inches (70.9 mm). This smartphone is also very thin, at 0.27 inches (6.9mm) and very light, weighing only 4.30 ounces (122 grams).

In terms of connectivity, Microsoft Lumia 650 offers a Bluetooth v4.1 chip, a wireless network card with support for the 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking standards, a microUSB 2.0 slot, an NFC chip and FM radio.

If you would like to learn all the official specifications of this smartphone, go to this page: Microsoft Lumia 650 Specifications.

Design and build quality

Microsoft Lumia 650 stands out through its looks: the screen is of very good quality for a device that’s priced so affordably and the metal rim on the side makes it a better-looking device than either the Microsoft Lumia 950 or the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL.

The back is made from thin, matte-black plastic, which can be removed to give access to the removable battery and the microSD card slot beneath. Unfortunately, the back cover is not as stable as it should be. If you press your finger on the back cover, you can feel the cover moving a bit. It’s not a big problem but it can be annoying at times, as it gives you the feeling that this smartphone is fragile. Luckily there are some great-looking cover cases from Mozo which can be used as a replacement for the original back cover.

The OLED display on the Lumia 650 is better than on the Lumia 640 and we didn’t complain about that one either. The ClearBlack technology helps you enjoy good black and white levels and Windows 10 Mobile looks great on this smartphone. The display has good contrast and color reproduction, it offers good outdoors visibility and decent viewing angles.

Microsoft Lumia 650 is a pleasure to hold in your hands due to its thinness and lightness. Women and people with smaller hands will definitely enjoy using this smartphone.

The build quality offered by Microsoft Lumia 650 is higher than what you are used to from devices in its price range.

The smartphone experience on the Microsoft Lumia 650

The calling experience on the Microsoft Lumia 650 is good. Voices are heard clearly in phone conversations and conference calls. Calls can also be recorded with the press of the Record button that’s available as a new feature in Windows 10 Mobile.

We tested the quality of the audio offered by this smartphone using a set of Sennheiser CX275s headphones. We enjoyed good quality audio when listening to music and watching videos, even though there’s little available in terms of audio enhancements. What we didn’t like though is the fact that playing HD videos on the Lumia 650 is quite a sluggish experience, because of the very low-end processor and graphics chip. You just can’t play HD videos without interruptions and missed frames.

The speaker is of decent quality. However, on loud volume settings, it tends to distort the sound quite a bit. This is to be expected, especially on a smartphone with an affordable price.

When testing the Lumia 650 we did not have any issues with the signal strength and the quality of the cellular connection.

A welcome improvement is the 16GB of storage space. This means that a microSD card is no longer mandatory if you want to install many apps and also take pictures and record videos. Many users will appreciate this upgrade over its predecessor - the Lumia 640.

In terms of battery life, this smartphone can last you for about 10 to 12 hours of normal use. If you want more, you need to disable some features in Windows 10 Mobile that tend to lower the battery life, like the Glance screen.

The Windows 10 Mobile experience has received some improvements in recent updates. However, there are still a few bugs here and there and the performance of this smartphone can suffer when you do multitasking and gaming. But more on that later in this review.

Lumia 650 offers a good smartphone experience except when you perform resource intensive tasks.

Read the next page of this review to learn more about the camera experience on the Lumia 650 and how well Windows 10 Mobile runs on this smartphone.