Microsoft Lumia 640 XL review

A lot of phablet for not much at all

Microsoft 640 XL
  • Microsoft 640 XL
  • Microsoft 640 XL
  • Microsoft 640 XL
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Competitively priced
  • Great camera
  • Outstanding battery life


  • Cumbersome body
  • Windows 8 operating system trails in apps

Would you buy this?

The Lumia 640 XL stems from the same DNA pool as the Lumia 640. It has the same understated front, the same polycarbonate casing and a penchant for vibrant colours.

Think of the XL variant as the bigger brother benefitting from a little more maturity, namely with its screen, camera and battery. Otherwise, the two smartphones are identical.

Both smartphones operate on Windows Phone 8.1 and have been promised an upgrade to Windows 10 when it launches. Both smartphones are powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. And both can accommodate microSD memory cards up to 128GBs in size.

An increase in screen size inches the 640 XL towards tablet territory. The larger 5.7-inch display has the same 1280x720 resolution of the smaller 640. The result is a lesser 259 pixel-per-inch density. What the screen lacks in sharpness, however, is made up for in strong colours and the depth of its blacks.

Larger screens typically come at the expense of battery life. Underneath this Lumia’s removable case is a 3000 milliamp-hour battery. This is a larger capacity than the batteries in the Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One (M9) and Apple iPhone 6.

Bundling an economical CPU with a low resolution screen and a flagship-grade battery reaps strong battery results. A mix of heavy multimedia and Internet use, along with everyday phone calls, texts and emails, led to the battery lasting 46 hours before needing a charge. Only a handful of smartphones rival this result.

The final changes to 640 XL pertains to its cameras, which are higher in resolution than those found on the ordinary 640. The front camera takes photos at a competitive 5-megapixels and the rear will capture them at 13-megapixels. Video recording for both cameras maxes out at Full HD.

There’s more to the cameras than the high resolution. Microsoft uses the ‘Lumia Camera’ interface popularised by Nokia smartphones, which offers manual controls in an easy-to-use layout. Then there’s the quality of photos.

Most of the photos captured will look great on the screen of this smartphone, particularly if they have been taken under natural lighting. Blue skies were characterised by different hues subtly blending into one another. Clouds had body and texture as they stemmed into the background, while the subjects in the foreground retained plenty of detail. These photos look good even on the larger screen of a television.

Taking photos at night or under the dim, fluorescent lighting of a carpark caused photos to look grainy and soft on details. A photo taken during sunset of a bike locker exaggerated the dark colours in the foreground and blew out the twilight tones in the sky.

Captured with the Lumia 640 XL
Captured with the Lumia 640 XL

Captured with the Lumia 640 XL
Captured with the Lumia 640 XL

Captured with the Lumia 640 XL
Captured with the Lumia 640 XL

The photo above at its native resolution - Captured with the Lumia 640 XL
The photo above at its native resolution - Captured with the Lumia 640 XL

Few phablets can compete with the Lumia 640 XL when it comes to value for money. It bundles capable software with competent computing hardware, and then throws in solid cameras with outstanding battery life. Heavy multimedia users will naturally gravitate towards its vibrant personality, in whatever bright colours are available.

We’re not convinced Microsoft has made the phablet convenient enough to carry around everyday. The 640 XL is larger, thicker and wider than Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, with ample bezel on every side of its screen, which makes it difficult to pocket. This is a price to be paid daily for a feature rich phablet that retails for a low $399.

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Read more on these topics: Microsoft, windows phone 8, Lumia, Windows 8.1, 640, 640 XL
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