Microsoft Lumia 550 review

A budget option for the productivity-minded

Microsoft Lumia 550

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With an attractive price, a great screen and surprisingly good speakers, the Microsoft Lumia 550 is a surprisingly charming device. However, it's let down somewhat by poor battery life and anaemic performance.

We liked

The screen on the Lumia 550 is quite lovely, especially given the price of this handset. With faithful colour reproduction, strong contrast and excellent sharpness, it's a pleasure to use.

Although placed on the rear of the handset, the speaker boasts decent sound reproduction, offering good volume and very little distortion at the higher end.

The rear-firing camera is another capable performer, turning out eminently shareable images, which is more than can be said for many devices in this price category.

We disliked

Given its miserly battery pack it was a virtual certainty that the Lumia 550 wouldn't have much staying power. And despite optimisations the weak Snapdragon 210 processor means overall performance is poor, with apps taking forever to load and games suffering from dropped frames.

The Windows 10 Mobile operating system is also still unfinished, suffering from random crashes on multiple occasions.

Lastly, with just 3GB of built-in storage available to the user, a microSD card is an absolute necessity. With 16GB of storage becoming the minimum in most phones, even at the budget end of the market, this seems a little stingy on Microsoft's part.

Final verdict

The Lumia 520, released several years ago, is the best-selling Windows phone ever. Its party trick was to offer solid performance at a low cost, and the punters loved it.

With the Lumia 550, Microsoft is clearly attempting to pull off the same trick, clearly having put more thought into its lineup than simply releasing more variants of the divisive Lumia 530.

Windows 10 Mobile needs a saviour to bring Microsoft's mobile ambitions back from the brink. Unfortunately, the Lumia 550 is not the device to do it.

This is mainly due to the state of the market – even at the budget end it's no longer enough to be merely 'good' or even 'great'; true excellence is expected.

The competition is getting tougher all the time, and set against the likes of the Moto E, which offers better battery life, far more apps and stronger performance, the Lumia 550 is a hard sell.

That said, given such a low starting price discounts are likely to come into play fairly soon, and the Lumia 550 could potentially be a nice little bargain for undemanding users.

For Windows die-hards looking for a cheap backup device this is also an easy pick. For everyone else, better value can be found elsewhere.

First reviewed: February 2016

Sean is a Scottish technology journalist who's written for the likes of T3, Trusted Reviews, TechAdvisor and Expert Reviews.