Review: Microsoft Lumia 650Friday 18 March 2016 15.29
By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent
The glowing reviews that followed the launch last year of the Micrsoft Lumia 640 set the bar high for its successor, the Lumia 650 which has just gone on sale here.
It’s a mid range smartphone, sandwiched between the flagship Lumia 950 and 950 XL launched last year and the budget priced Lumia 550.
On the outside, Microsoft has done a little remodelling. The look now is less plasticy, in an effort to extend the appeal of the handset beyond the consumer market and into the business segment.
There’s an aluminium band around the outside, and the phone’s removable plastic back cover is only available in black and white – more in keeping with premium styling.
(Accessories are already available though from third party suppliers to enable you to pimp your phone to more exciting psychedelic colours, if that’s your thing!)
The smartphone sits fine in the hand, though its sharp corners make it a little uncomfortable to hold.
It does, however, feel incredibly light – weighing in at just 122g, less than the Lumia 640.
The display is a 5inch HD (1280x720) OLED unit with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 – that’s a slight improvement in size from its predecessor.
It performs pretty well for a mid-tier phone – colours are bright, contrast is sharp and it’s clarity is good from a variety of viewing angles.
Because there are no physical buttons on the front, the bezel is quite hefty in order to accommodate the touch navigation icons (which can be hidden though to make the screen bigger).
Some will find this makes reaching the top of the screen something of a stretch, although a quick swipe downwards on the Windows button and the phone enters one handed mode – bringing the icons down to the bottom half of the display.
The Lumia 650, as you’d expect, runs Windows 10 which is a perfectly good option for those who like the Windows ecosystem.
Unfortunately some of the Windows 10 premium features available on the Lumia 950, like Continuum which business users would appreciate and Windows Hello for unlocking the phone with your eyes, are not available on the Lumia 650.
But Microsoft says enterprise level security is – something IT managers and purchasers will be happy to hear.
It has an 8MP rear facing camera, with a limited number of features. It takes reasonable quality snaps outdoors, though struggles a bit indoors and in low light.
There’s also a 5MP front facing camera too, which is a big improvement for selfie fans when compared to the 0.9MP selfie machine on the Lumia 640.
The whole shebang runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 Quad core 1.3Ghz processor and a meagre 1Gb of RAM.
And that’s where things come a little unstuck, as the phone struggles at times to keep up.
Loading certain apps, taking and reviewing photos can all cause the phone to stutter.
It’s certainly not a phone for committed gamers.
It comes with 16GB of built in memory, but there is a MicroSD slot under the back cover, which can handle up to 200GB more.
The battery can also be replaced in there too, which might be handy for heavy users.
It comes with a 2,000mAh power pack, which isn’t massive – though Microsoft says Windows 10 has delivered power savings which means it’s perfectly adequate.
With moderate use it seems to be enough to last the day, though heavy users will certainly put that under pressure.
Adaptive antenna technology means call quality is reliable no matter what way you hold it.
The front facing speakers won’t power a disco, but they are fine for sharing music or videos down the back of the bus.
All told, this is a good looking well-priced mid-range handset considering the features it boasts, which will be more than adequate for many consumers and some business users.
It’s let down though by its sluggish performance, which will leave others frustrated, and play into the hands of better powered rivals like the Moto G.
The Lumia 650 is available now from €199 on prepay and for free on contract through Vodafone, 3, Meteor and Eir.
Comments welcome via Twitter to @willgoodbody