Microsoft Lumia 650 review

Another enterprising offering from Microsoft

Microsoft Lumia 650 review
Microsoft Lumia 650 review

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The Lumia 650, for its price bracket, is well specced in almost every category. It features a nice design, a decent camera layout, a nice screen and a front-firing speaker. And yet it lags behind in one rather crucial area: the processor.

While even the cheapest of the Android competition come sporting, at the very least, the likes of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, the Lumia 650 boasts the relatively anaemic Snapdragon 212. It comes from the lowest end of Qualcomm's product line, and its shortcomings are painfully obvious in day to day performance.

When you're swiping through the operating system, and opening and closing 'normal' apps (email, messaging etc), the Lumia 650 doesn't miss a beat. Aside from some extended load times and an unusually long app 'hydration' period (waking from sleep), performance is certainly tolerable.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

Launch any vaguely demanding application, however, and things change considerably for the worse. Take the Maps application; it's something of a system hog at the best of times, and here loading directions and changing areas takes an age.

Another case in point is Basemark OS II, a popular Windows Phone benchmarking app. On my Lumia 930 the app mostly flew, as it did even on my considerably less powerful Lumia 520.

On the 650, though, the app wouldn't even open, freezing on the permissions startup page, which needless to say made for an inauspicious start.

As for games… well, you can mostly forget about games. Some titles, such as Timberman, run at a reasonable pace, but anything more demanding than Crossy Road is pretty much out of the question.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

What makes this all the more surprising is that last year's model actually surpasses the Lumia 650 in this regard. Saddled with a Snapdragon 400 processor, the Lumia 640 (also currently much cheaper than the 650), runs the same application with relative aplomb.

Although that phone lacks the newer model's nicer in hand feel, that this is the case seems rather counterintuitive, against the established smartphone 'laws of nature'.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

Using the Lumia 650 will challenge the power user's notion of what a smartphone should be. For those buying their first smartphone, those looking for a solid budget option and for business users attached to the Microsoft ecosystem, it's a reasonably attractive proposition.

Although performance on many games and some apps is inadequate, the overall experience of using the handset is mostly satisfying, aided in no small part by the 1GB of included RAM (until recently a real rarity on budget Windows devices).

After myriad updates, Windows 10 Mobile is starting to take shape – and it shows, mostly in the day-to-day performance of the OS, which is far improved from even just a month ago.

Another welcome addition here is the 16GB of included storage, rather than the 8GB of recent Microsoft handsets, which is expandable by up to 200GB via microSD card card.

Although Windows Phone/10 Mobile handsets have long boasted adoptable storage, enabling users to install apps to the microSD card as well as music, video and photos, this increase in native storage still makes juggling apps without a microSD card just a little easier.

Battery life

Battery life is perhaps the biggest bugbear for the modern smartphone user, and for many it's the first spec they'll check out when researching their next purchase.

I count myself among this group – although I generally live life in close proximity to my charger, as knowing I have the juice to make it through the day means one less thing to worry about.

So when I learned that the Lumia 650 only sports a 2000mAh battery, I was a little apprehensive. As it turns out, I needn't have worried.

Aided by a power-sipping processor, a relatively low-resolution screen and the tight resource management of Windows 10 Mobile, the Lumia 650 was generally able to last me through a solid day of use.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review

Waking up at 7am, listening to some music via Bluetooth on the commute and reading some articles during lunch, all the while answering emails and sending messages along with around an hour of calls, generally saw the battery drop to around 45% by 6pm, which is perfectly acceptable.

It should be noted that this impressive performance is in part due to the fact that most owners of the Lumia 650 won't be using their handset as a 'smartphone' in the common sense of the term, simply because it lacks the power to indulge in anything resource-intensive – or, for that matter, fun.

Regardless, for the regular user there's certainly enough juice to make it through the day. Moreover, for business and power users, the ability to 'hot-swap' in a freshly charged battery when the going gets tough is a major advantage.

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