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Our Verdict

With a great display, a nice design, good-enough battery life and a capable camera, the Lumia 650 makes a strong first impression. But a poor processor, lack of apps and buggy OS cause it to fall short of greatness.

For

  • Great screen
  • Good camera
  • Low price

Against

  • Missing Continuum
  • Slow processor
  • Lack of apps

Update: Just like the Lumia 950, the big Windows 10 Anniversary Update has arrived on the Microsoft Lumia 650. But unlike desktops and laptops, the new software doesn't bring a whole lot of new goodies to Windows 10 Mobile.

In fact, if you go in cold and look for noticeable changes, you probably won't find any. However, there are some useful additions that will make using the Lumia 950 a little better.

Microsoft has added panorama mode to its stock Camera app – a fairly self-explanatory feature. It has also made the lock screen more informative by allowing for more at-a-glance notifications.

Lastly, Action Center has been updated to allow users to set the priority level of specific notifications so that you'll never miss what matters to you.

Unfortunately, the update doesn't patch in the Continuum ability. This phone is still too underpowered to handle that phone-to-PC feature.

Original review follows below.

'Premium' is a word that's bandied about a lot in the smartphone world these days, especially by PRs and marketing types. And manufacturers, eager to justify the increasing prices of their most highly-specced models, are now in something of an arms race to present each new product as the most 'premium'.

Microsoft hasn't always been on the ball when it comes to build quality, however, with the Lumia 950 and XL in particular being derided as feeling 'cheap' in the hand.

The Lumia 650 is the company's attempt to address its shortcomings in this area. The words, 'polished', 'diamond' and 'aluminum' all feature prominently in the ad copy for the handset, promising much.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

At £149.99 (US$199, around AU$260) SIM-free it costs roughly twice the price of the Lumia 550, despite having a similar set of specifications – so you're certainly paying a premium for that upgraded finish.

But with firms such as Xiaomi, OnePlus and Huawei turning out all-metal and glass designs at ever-lower price points, is the Lumia 650 'premium' enough to keep up?

Design

Design is the raison d'etre of the Lumia 650. Microsoft claims the device is its slimmest Lumia ever, and with a soft-touch matte plastic rear, 5-inch Gorilla Glass-strengthened screen and aluminium frame, it certainly feels lovely in the hand – to the extent that you can feel it at all.

It weighs a mere 122g, and after months using the brick-like Lumia 930, when I first handled the review unit I was given it felt as though my hand was empty; that sensation soon passed, but the abiding feel in the hand is quite pleasant.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

While not quite up to the standards set by higher-end phones with near-perfect fits and finishes (there are a few sharp edges here and there), the Lumia 650 is certainly the nicest Windows Phone I've ever held.

On the top of the device is the 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone, while the right side of the device is home to the volume rocker and power key. On the bottom of the device is the micro USB port, for charging and connecting the device to a PC.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

The back of the device houses the rear-facing 8MP camera, flanked by a single LED flash and a subtle Windows logo.

On the front of the device the 5MP wide-angle front-facing camera is positioned above the 5-inch, 720p screen, with the front-firing speaker (which is really rather decent) at the bottom edge.

Display

The screen really is a looker. In day to day use – reading emails, browsing the web, watching a few YouTube videos – it certainly hits the mark resolution-wise. Although it has a PPI count of 'only' 297, it packs enough pixels to please all but the most ardent of peepers.

More important than the resolution, however, is the rest of the tech powering the screen – for a display is about more than just sharpness, regardless of how beautiful the panels on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge may look.

The Lumia 650 has an OLED screen, which differentiates it from competing phones that still largely employ LCD technology – and the difference is something that can be appreciated even by those without a trained eye.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

OLED panels deliver much better contrast and infinite blacks, and have a great deal more 'punch' than all but the best LCD efforts. Moreover, the Lumia 650 also supports the 'Glance' always-on display feature. Lumias have been offering this for years, and the result is as pleasant and useful as ever.

The panel on the 650 also has excellent colour accuracy and nice viewing angles, really helping to bring the live tiles of Windows 10 Mobile to life. This is one area in which Microsoft has clearly taken some care and time to get things right, and it shows.