Nokia Lumia 635 Review - 4G plus Windows Phone 8.1 at a good price
Nokia Lumia 635 is the most affordable Windows Phone with 4G connectivity. It is designed to replace Lumia 620 and Lumia 625. It will also run Windows 10, being one of the first Lumia smartphones to receive official support for this upcoming version of Windows. We tested this smartphone for a couple of weeks and we are now ready to share our conclusions, in this review:
Hardware Specifications & Packaging
The packaging for the Nokia Lumia 635 is similar to new Lumia models. The box is smaller and more compact than it used to be when Nokia wasn't yet bought by Microsoft, and the coloring is different.
Inside the box you will find the smartphone, its battery, the charger, the warranty and the user manual. Unfortunately there are no headphones provided and no USB cable.
Nokia Lumia 635 has similar hardware specifications to the Lumia 630, with the addition of 4G connectivity. It has a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, a 4,5'' ClearBlack, LCD IPS display with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and Gorilla Glass 3. Also, the battery has a capacity of 1830 mAh. It has a modest amount of RAM memory - only 512MB, as well as 8GB of storage space. Like the Lumia 630, it has a radio chip that can be used to listen to FM Radio. The rear camera has 5 megapixels and no flash. The Lumia 635 doesn't have a frontal camera and the hardware buttons have been replaced by software ones. You can find the detailed specifications for this smartphone, here: Lumia 635 specifications.
Design & Build Quality
The Nokia Lumia 635 has a plastic body that looks and feels good in your hand. It has a height of 129.5 mm (5.10 inches), a width of 66.7 mm (2.63 inches), a thickness of 9.2 mm (0.36 inches) and it weighs only 134 grams (4.7 ounces), making it easy to hold in your hand. It has a detachable cover that's available in green, orange, yellow, white and black. We have tested the black version. All its buttons are on the right hand of the smartphone and they are both easy to press and to find. You will have no issues in using this smartphone with only one hand. We missed the hardware camera button we have grown accustomed to from previous Windows Phone devices. Unfortunately the lack of this button makes it slower to start the camera when you need to use it.
As you can see in the picture below, the cover is detachable and it is easily changed with another one. In the body of the smartphone, you have the battery slot, the slot for the SIM card and a microSD slot.
The quality of the screen is the same as on the Lumia 630. The only downside is that it doesn't have a sensor for automatically setting the level of brightness, depending on the amount of light that's available. You have to manually change the brightness when you go from indoors to outdoors and back. This is rather annoying. However, the outdoors visibility is good, as long as you manually change the brightness of the screen.
Generally, the build quality has improved in the new Lumia 635 when compared to its predecessors.
The Phone Experience on the Nokia Lumia 635
The quality of the phone conversations on the Lumia 635 is good. We appreciated the fact that the new cover and its design no longer make your conversations easy to hear by others, as it was the case with the Lumia 620. When listening to music or viewing videos, the sound quality was OK but not great. The same goes for the sound quality of our recordings. The Lumia Denim update provides the ability to change some of the audio settings, such as setting equalization for speakers and enabling virtual surround for headphones.
The rear camera on this smartphone is capable of 720p capture. The colors are a bit soft and the pictures taken in less than ideal conditions are not very clear - they lack in detail and crispness. Here's an album with some sample pictures we took using this smartphone's automatic camera settings:
The quality of our video recordings was also average - something to be expected from a smartphone in its price range. Here's a sample video we have filmed with Lumia 635:
Battery life was also average. It managed to last for about a day in our testing. When we used the phone more intensively, the battery life lowered to somewhere between 10 and 13 hours.
Windows Phone 8.1 & Bundled Apps
The Lumia 635 is sold with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Cyan update, which can be updated to Denim, which brings audio enhancements, updates to the Lumia Camera app, and system improvements.
Lumia 635 has lots of Lumia apps bundled on it: App Social, HERE Maps, HERE Drive+, LINE, Lumia Camera, Lumia Cinemagraph, Lumia Creative Studio, Lumia Help+Tips, Lumia Storyteller, MixRadio, Photobeamer, and Transfer my Data.
Also, you get access to a collection of Lumia apps and exclusives that is very well maintained and updated. Most of these apps are genuinely useful and you will want to use them. Windows Phone 8.1 brings lots of changes, improvements and new features, including an improved Start screen that can display more tiles, a new and useful notification system, Cortana and more.
We very much enjoyed the fact that the Lumia Camera has become the default app for taking pictures. This app includes a lot more controls than the default Camera app from Windows Phone 8.1 and it allows users to take better pictures if they know how to fiddle with its manual settings.
Windows Phone 8.1 includes supports for more sensors and the Lumia 635 has an accelerometer which can be used to gather more data about your motion and location. This information is useful for apps that can take advantage of it.
The Lumia 635 works well with the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system and all the apps we have used. It won't win any speed accolades but all the apps loaded reasonably fast and the smartphone never was unresponsive, not even when we had several apps opened in parallel. The only downside is that its 512MB of memory won't allow users to play more demanding games that need at least 1GB of RAM. Overall, the user experience is improved a lot by Windows Phone 8.1, despite its minor issues and bugs. The operating system alone makes the Lumia 635 a better smartphone than its predecessors.
How Fast Is The 4G On The Lumia 635
The marketing highlight of the Lumia 635 model is the fact that it includes 4G connectivity. We have tested the download speeds in Bucharest, Romania - on the Vodafone network, somewhere in the city center. We obtained an average of 40 Mbps for the download speed and 15 Mbps for the upload speed. Here is a screenshot with our best result:
As you can see, we had good results with 4G connectivity. Network speeds may vary depending on whether you have 4G coverage in your area and the quality of the network.
Performance in Benchmarks
In order to compare the performance of the Lumia 635 with that of other Windows Phones, we have ran several benchmarks. As usual, we started by running MultiBench 2. In the CPU test, the 635 was only 0.55% slower than the 630 (which is no surprise, they have identical hardware). It was 16% faster than the Lumia 625 and 42% faster than the Lumia 620. The graphics test revealed that Lumia 635 is only 4.6% slower than the Lumia 630, 24% faster than the Lumia 625, and 40% faster than the Lumia 620.
When compared to the Lumia 630, Lumia 635 performed similarly, being 5% slower in the memory test and 4% slower in the data transfer test.
The WP Bench benchmark revealed that the CPU is only a bit faster than that of the Lumia 630.
The graphics, storage and memory tests have revealed that the Lumia 630 and 635 are the performance leaders in the segment of affordable Windows Phones.
Next, we compared the web browsing performance, using the Sunspider benchmark. Unfortunately, this benchmark hasn't revealed any improvements in terms of speed. Apparently, Internet Explorer did not take advantage of the newer processor to make web browsing faster.
We also measured how long it takes for the Lumia 635 to boot and display the Start screen. It started in only 23 seconds, just like the Lumia 630. This is a great improvement over its predecessors.
Last but not least, we used the WP Bench battery test, which stresses the smartphone to the maximum and measures how fast the battery drains. The Lumia 635 lasted 3 hours and 31 minutes - about the same as the Lumia 630 and its predecessors.
Nokia Lumia 635 is a good addition to the line-up of affordable Windows Phone devices. It is an important upgrade over Lumia 620, Lumia 625 and Lumia 630, which delivers better performance and slightly better build quality. It has the same hardware as the Lumia 630, while offering 4G connectivity as a plus. Nowadays, more carriers are starting to offer 4G mobile networks and this type of connectivity is slowly becoming the new norm. Because of that, so you should be considering a smartphone that is 4G compatible. If you combine the 4G support with the fact that the Lumia 635 can already run Windows 10, then you will agree with us when we say that the Lumia 635 is a very good choice for budget users.