Category Archives: Phones

Microsoft Lumia 550 Review

Now that the excitement over the launch of Microsoft’s flagship devices, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL is over, it’s time to pay attention to the Lumia 550, the first low-end device launched by Microsoft running Windows 10. Microsoft has always delivered compelling budget smartphones at the entry level position and the Lumia 550 is the latest device in the lineup that aims to deliver. Let’s check out what the Lumia 550 has to offer users.

Microsoft Lumia 550 Review

Let’s start with the hardware. Typical to past Lumias, the exterior comes with a polycarbonate case that is simple and sturdy, which looks just about ideal for a device of this class. The trouble with the black matte though is that it is prone to collecting fingerprints and smudges.

The Lumia 550 has a 4.7″ screen with 1280×720p resolution and PPI of 315, making images and text crisp and clear looking. The bright colors and good viewing angles make it a good screen to have on a low end device as this one. It measures 136.1 x 67.8 x 9.9mm and weighs 142g, which is quite heavy for a 4.7 inch device.

Since the screen is small, the on-screen navigation controls may feel a little pesky, but you can swipe away the controls if you plan on playing a game or watching a movie. Plus, it is super easy to use in one hand. Windows 10 Mobile even offers a one-hand mode that you can switch to if you want to bring down content from the top of the screen without having to reach that far.

The right side of the device holds the volume up, volume down, and power buttons. At the top is a 3.5mm audio jack and at the bottom is the standard MicroUSB cable for charging. The back panel is removable and holds the slots for the expandable MicroSD card (up to 128GB) and Nano-SIM. Since the device comes with just 8GB of internal memory, you’ll have to get yourself a MicroSD card to store your photos, movies and music.

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Microsoft has optimized the Windows 10 Mobile platform very well and that is probably why you find the device working well with a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1GB of RAM. Whether you are browsing or doing light-weight tasks, things run quite smoothly. However, if you attempt to run too many apps you’ll feel the performance taking a hit. Since you won’t be doing heavy duty tasks with the Lumia 550, you can expect the 2100 mAh battery to last a while. If you use the device for normal activities, you can get through the entire day without having to search for your charger and that’s a big plus.

As with all Microsoft devices, the biggest problem that Microsoft is still having is the lack of good quality apps in the App Store. Although Microsoft is pushing hard with its Universal Apps program, top notch apps are only trickling in and that’s a serious problem that Microsoft needs to tackle with greater urgency, especially if it wants consumers around the world to take its smartphones seriously.

As far as the operating system goes, Windows 10 Mobile is great at bridging the gap between devices, but there are many software bugs that Microsoft still needs to iron out. Issues reported include the Start screen disappearing, apps not launching and tiles disappearing as well. The issues appear only temporarily but they do spoil the overall user experience – something no consumer will like to see after having spent their hard earned money on a big brand such as Microsoft.

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Otherwise, you get a great Windows 10 experience, with Live tiles, pinning and resizing options, live tile notifications, the swipe down Action Center, Cortana integration and so on. The Messaging app is integrated with Skype, so you can simply send and receive Skype messages via the Messaging Hub. Call quality is good although the speakers offer only average volume levels. Using the headphones is the best way to get the most out of your music.

Coming to the camera, the Lumia 550 is fitted with a 5-MP autofocus lens with an LED flash at the rear and a 2-MP front-facing camera. The shots from the rear camera are not amazing, but good for day time shots. Don’t expect to be taking professional photographs with this one and forget about taking shots in dark environments. The front facing camera is okay to take selfies and if you want to take videos, the quality is about 720p for the rear camera and 480p for the front camera, both at 30fps.

Unlike the high end models, you don’t get Continuum support with the Lumia 550. Continuum is a new Windows 10 feature that lets you get a Windows PC like user experience by plugging in your phone to some peripherals.

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The Lumia 550 is a great device if you are just starting out on your Windows 10 smartphone journey. Remember that this is a low end device and the features it offers are precisely the kind of features you can expect from a low end device. Despite the fact that it costs about $140, it is a device that looks good, is sturdy, and offers you a good experience for a device of its class. No great feat to be achieved with this one, but it is a perfect choice if you’re starting out or looking for a secondary device to have on you.

Microsoft Lumia 950 Review

Microsoft may be riding a high wave on the strength of its Windows operating system, Office suite, and Xbox gaming consoles, but when it comes to smartphone devices, they are not just lagging behind, but getting an astonishing amount of ridicule for their efforts thus far. Is all that about to change now that Microsoft is directly involved in the production of Windows Phones? The launch of Microsoft’s flagship device, the Lumia 950 could just hold the answer to that question and to the survival of Microsoft phones in the future as well.

Lumia-950-Review

The question is whether Microsoft has just intended the Lumia 950 to be a flagship device that users will upgrade to (since there hasn’t been a Windows Phone launch in quite a long time!) or is this one that will break through the barriers of mediocrity that has plagued the smartphone arm of the company and emerge as the go-to- phone for the future generation? Let’s find out.

We’ll start with the hardware. The first thing you’ll notice about the Lumia 950 is the polycarbonate shell and unimaginative design. The shell is only available in 2 colors, black or white and lacks the premium look that you’d expect in an expensive device such as the 950. On the bright side, you’ll probably end up having fewer scratches in the long run. Another plus is the advantage of having a firm grip on the phone if you’re using it single handed for taking photos in a crowded subway.

Under the shell lies the SIM and expandable storage slot sections and the removable battery. The right edge of the phone is lined up with the standard Volume Up and Down buttons followed by the Power and Camera button while the phone’s USB-C port sits at the bottom.

The Lumia 950 has a 5.2-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED display, which sits beneath a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The display resolution at 564 pixels per inch (ppi) matches the Galaxy S6 while bettering the iPhone 6. Although not as slim as the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Lumia is still lightweight, measuring about 8.25mm thin and weighing 150g.

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It has a 20 MP, Zeis Lens, PureView and OIS enabled rear camera that lets you capture great photos, while the 5MP front camera features a wide-angle lens, which is decent enough for taking selfies with your buddies. The camera is also capable of 4k video recordings with the ability to record up to 120 fps slow motion in 720p. Overall, there’s nothing new or groundbreaking about the phone’s camera, but it does a good enough job that an iPhone or Samsung would do.

The Lumia’s spec sheet lists the latest Qualcomm processor, the 64-bit, hexa-core Snapdragon 808; 3GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded to as much as 200GB via a microSD card, and an Iris scanner. Powering this device is a 3000 mAh battery that can last up to 9 hours and 30 minutes if your usage involves web browsing via Wi-Fi, 10 hours of 1080p video playback and 18 hours of talk over 3G. So at least on paper, the phone should take you through the day.

So while the hardware isn’t the most exciting thing about the Lumia 950, the software is what’s worth noting. Microsoft has finally managed to bridge the gap between its smartphones, tablets, and PCs with Windows 10 operating system. That said, if you’re expecting a complete UI overhaul from Windows 8, you won’t see that on the Lumia 950. However, there are plenty of desktop features you’ll enjoy using such as Microsoft’s fun virtual personal assistant Cortana, the new Edge browser, and the mobile versions of the Mail and Calendar desktop apps. These features should definitely appeal to users who want the Windows desktop experience on the phone.

Microsoft-Lumia-950

The new Windows 10 Hello feature is also available on the Lumia 950, making it super easy to log in to the phone by just looking at it; no PIN or password is required. Again, the lack of a fingerprint scanner may be disappointing to some. The most interesting feature of Windows 10 on mobile is Continuum, the feature that turns the tiny phone into a full-fledged PC. You’ll however need to pick up some additional components for this to work such as the $99 Display Dock, a mouse and keyboard and an external display, such as a TV or a monitor. Once you plug the phone to the dock and to the rest of the peripherals, your phone content will get displayed on the big screen, giving you a wholesome Windows 10 user experience. I’m not talking stretched out images to fill up the big space but appropriate resizing of tiles and content that’s on your phone.

Continuum still has some way to go though, because it supports only a handful of apps, most of it being Microsoft’s own contribution. It may not also be convenient or practical for users to carry around the different peripherals to get the Continuum experience on the go. Also, the Microsoft Store still lags behind badly when it comes to Universal apps with even big names like Twitter and Instagram still not being as good as the ones on Android or iOS.

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Overall, the Lumia 950 is a pretty decent phone. It has a nice looking screen, a great camera and feels solid. When it comes to smartphones, Microsoft is still way behind leaders like Apple and Google. What would have made a powerful impact in the space would have been a smartphone that wasn’t just visually appealing, but also highly innovative and app rich. If you expected the Microsoft Lumia 950 to offer you one such experience, you should know by now that it is not the case. If on the other hand, you are a big Windows Phone fan, (and probably hate the iOS and Android ecosystem) you might be eager to upgrade to the newest flagship device. In such a case, the $550 Microsoft Lumia 950 is probably one that might catch your eye.

Microsoft Lumia 640 Review

There’s a great deal of competition as far as high end flagship phones go, but the entry level segments are rather mundane with Android phones dominating the market with their boring black or grey versions carrying outdated software. Microsoft is certainly hoping to draw in consumers who are tired of those jaded models and are looking for a little more variety – with their Lumia 640. In this review, we take a look at how the phone stacks up against the competition.

Microsoft Lumia 640 Review

The Lumia 640 is designed in the tradition of its predecessors, with a colorful plastic body that somehow doesn’t feel cheap. In fact, the design looks very much like the Lumia 635, with the soft rectangular shape, rounded corners and glossy finish making it visually appealing. The back is removable and you can choose from a variety of colors including the glossy cyan and orange if you don’t like the usual white or matte black. Below the back panel lie the microSIM and microSD slots, the microSD slot making up for the lack of basic internal storage 8GB.

The Lumia 640 is quite a big phone, measuring 141mm long, 72mm wide and is 8.8mm thick (5.5x 2.75×0.34 inches). The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top, the sides carry the volume and power buttons, and the microUSB port sits at the bottom. There is no dedicated shutter key for the camera, which was a regular Lumia feature in the past. Plus, the absence of the camera hump at the back makes it more convenient to lay it down on the desk.

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As far as the display goes, the Lumia 640 comes with a 5 inch 720 x 1280 ClearBlack IPS-LCD display resulting in a density of 294 pixels per inch. This does not produce the greatest sharpness and detail that you expect from other higher resolution screens, but it’s perfectly acceptable for a device in this price range. It gives the Windows tiles a crisp look and even small text on the browser looks perfectly readable. The colors are vivid and there’s a decent level of contrast that makes for good movie viewing although it wouldn’t fare well in the bright outdoors.

Under the hood is a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM. While this is great for casual browsing, taking it through some intensive 3D gaming is not recommended. Other features of the device include a 2500 mAh battery, GPS with Glonass, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and also NFC. The 2500 mAh battery can last all day long, even with extensive use. One striking feature of the Lumia 640 is that it’s a dual SIM phone that supports 2 LTE SIM cards and that’s not something you see in a phone that’s as affordable as this one.

Lumia devices have always packed great cameras and one of the first things people look for in any smartphone is its camera capabilities. Despite not being a high end product, the 640 is fitted with an 8MP camera with a single LED flash in the rear and a 0.9 MP front camera. The image quality from the rear camera may not be spectacular under low light conditions, but its pretty good. The Lumia Camera 5 app brings the popular Rich Capture feature to make photos look more vibrant and alive.

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While most shots are perfect, at times the white balance does seem off and requires manual adjustments. The front facing camera is nothing great to talk about. It lets you take selfies and do video chats via the pre-installed Skype. If you enjoy taking shots in the landscape mode, you may not find the positioning of the front facing camera (at the far left) convenient. Finally, the video recording capabilities of the Lumia 640 are fairly decent. The rear camera is capable of shooting at 1080p at a continuous 30fps with auto-focus.

Overall, the hardware is predictable, but entirely dependable.

Onto the software section where you’ll find that despite the rollout of Windows 10 Preview for phones, the Lumia 640 comes with Windows 8.1 codenamed Lumia Denim. This means you can expect to see the entire collection of Lumia branded apps including the Lumia Camera 5 app on board. Fans of Cortana can enjoy interacting with the virtual assistant while Office users should know that Microsoft is giving away a years’ worth subscription of Office 365 for free so you can do basic editing and creation of documents and spreadsheets while on the go. The biggest perk with the Lumia software is that it is Windows 10 Ready so you know you’ll be using the latest software as soon as it launches.

Microsoft-Lumia-640-Camera

The Lumia 640 is not the big bang Lumia we expected to come out of the Microsoft Magic hat, heavy on the specs sheet and feature rich. Rather it’s a low cost entry level phone that is a fantastic option for anyone who is jaded by the inept low-end Androids that are hogging the market today. With a vibrant screen, colorful body, good camera and dependable hardware and software, the Lumia 640 is everything you can hope for in a phone of this class. If you are willing to compromise on the app market, don’t want an Android or are just looking for a phone to introduce you into the smartphone world, the Lumia 640 is a pretty good choice to get you started.

Nokia Lumia 520 Review

The Nokia Lumia 520 is the fifth Windows Phone 8 handset to emerge out of Finnish giants Nokia’s basket and its another low budget entry-level model that competes with the likes of Huawei Ascend W1, ZTE Blade Q Mini, and the Motorola Moto G. Nokia itself has quite a few models in the low budget range, ones that appear quite similar in appearance like the Lumia 620.

Nokia Lumia 520 Review

Despite similarity in appearances, the Lumia 520 is a variant that ranks slightly below the Lumia 620. And there’s plenty of reasons why. The Lumia 520 continues to offer consumers the choice of its bright bold colors, cyan, red, black, yellow and white, but the plastic back misses out on the glossy look of its counterpart. That could be an advantage as it grips nicely and sits comfortably in the hand.

There is a 3.5mm headphone port on the top left, a micro-USB port at the bottom, and the volume and power buttons on the right. The speaker and the camera lens sit on the back. Below the back panel lie the slots for the microSD memory card and SIM. The Lumia 520 supports up to 64GB cards, which should come in very handy, since the internal storage is basic at 8GB of memory.

The Lumia 520 is lighter than the Lumia 620, at 119.9x64mm and 124g despite having a slightly larger 4 inch display of resolution 480 x 800 with a pixel density of 233ppi. Despite the bigger screen, the display quality isn’t the best. A reddish tint shows up on the screen and the absence of a reflection layer means that using it outdoors is a complete pain. Text and images are sharp and fairly readable although you’d do well to avoid desktop sites as it would require too much zooming.

Other specs of the Lumia 520 include the 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor backed by 512MB of RAM, which you can find on the more expensive Lumia 720. The internal speakers of the Lumia 520 offer a good volume level for a budget phone, but at higher volumes, the audio sounds a little tinny and harsh. The call quality on the Lumia 520 is good and the second microphone does its job in removing ambient noise from the call signal.

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The device is fitted with a 5 MP camera at the rear with no front facing camera. So you won’t be taking comfortable selfies or doing video chats with this one. That said, when it comes to photo performance, the Lumia 520 performs well in good lighting conditions. However, the absence of a flash makes the camera pretty useless in low light conditions and photos can be quite grainy.

The presence of a physical shutter button on the Lumia 520 isn’t a value addition either. The button doesn’t give the feel of a “real” camera shutter, but rather works like a power button and taking in-focus shots can be quite tricky. As far as the Camera app is concerned there are only two built-in features; the face-detecting Smart Shoot and the barcode-scanning Bing Vision. Users looking for more features like the HDR and panorama mode will have to download them from the Windows Store and they don’t come free either. The video camera on the Nokia Lumia 520 is also quite basic, shooting at 720p at 30fps.

The Lumia 520 does not come with NFC, compass or front facing camera, but it has got a slightly bigger battery 1430 mAh, which is more than the Lumia 620’s 1300 mAh battery. This could be to compensate for the larger display, but the bigger battery definitely translates to longer usage. You will effortlessly get through the whole day doing light-weight tasks like browsing and email checking without heading for the charger.

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It is in the software department that the Lumia 520 really shines. With Windows 8 on board, you get a quick, slick and consistent experience on the device. Windows 8 offers an integrated social media experience with the People app bringing social media updates from Facebook and Twitter along with its email and SMS features. Microsoft Office and OneNote apps also offer value to users who wish to create, edit and view documents, spreadsheets and notes on the go. The Windows 8 tiles are live tiles and you can move, resize or unpin and organize them into folders on the Start screen.

However, if you are an app aficionado, this phone is not for you. The collection of apps for the Lumia 520 is extremely limited, with basic features and updates happening few and far between.

Should You Buy the Nokia Lumia 520?

If you’re reading this review, I’m presuming you are looking for a budget level, low entry device. That means you are ready to make compromises on the features you want to see in your phone. Therefore you cannot complain that the Lumia 520 has no front facing camera, no flash, or NFC. The compromise that will hurt you the most is probably the reflective screen, which makes it very tricky to use outdoors. The lack of apps is another thing you’ll have to consider, but that goes for just about any Windows Phone. If you hate seeing smudges and fingerprints on your phone screen, you’ll be disappointed with the 520 as well.

The big selling point for the Lumia 520 though is the price. For less than a hundred bucks, you get a decent screen size and a device that is great for making phone calls and for messaging. If you hate Android and want a basic phone that’s ideal as a backup option, the Nokia Lumia 520 may be a model well worth considering.