Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Great design, terrible chipset

Christopher Minasians Katharine Byrne
26 Jan 2017
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT (SIM-free)

Superb build quality and a fantastic OLED display are catastrophically hamstrung by the Lumia 650's terrible processor



Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 8 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (14.5GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 141x71x6.9mm, Weight: 122g, Operating system: Windows 10 Mobile

In recent years, Lumia phones have been a lot like buses, you wait a year and then a few come at once. In December 2015, the flagship Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL arrived with their incredible Windows 10 Continuum capabilities - allowing you to transform a phone into a portable PC. 

In February 2016, the Lumia 650 came to the market - a more wallet-friendly smartphone that aimed to replace the fantastic Lumia 640 and 640 XL. Originally reviewed at £160, it can now be found for under £125 on Amazon.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Design and build quality

Unlike the Lumia 640 that had a plastic chassis, the Lumia 650 has a gorgeous metal frame and a matte plastic rear. Measuring just 6.9mm thick, the diamond cut edges can sometimes feel a little rough on your palm, but they provide plenty of grip (unlike say the Galaxy S6's slippery sides) and it feels very well made for a £160 smartphone. The aluminium sides twinkle in the light, too, making sure the metal frame, which is pretty rare on a phone this cheap, is always visible. Lift off the plastic back and you'll find a replaceable 2,000mAh battery, as well as a microSD card slot and a nano SIM card slot.

It's a very handsome smartphone, although I'm sad to see that Microsoft's decided to drop the eye-searing fluorescent orange and blue colour options that made its predecessor so striking, as the Lumia 650 is only available in either white or black. Microsoft told me this is partly because it's hoping to make it a viable phone for businesses as well as consumers, but it's a shame nonetheless, as the bright colours were always part of what made Windows phones so appealing, as there simply wasn't anything else like them at this end of the market.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Display

Still, I'm willing to put this aside, as the Lumia 650's most important upgrade is its gorgeous OLED display. The 5in screen still has a 1,280x720 resolution, which provides plenty of clarity on a screen this size, but the OLED panel makes the phone an altogether more attractive proposition, delivering bright, punchy colours and dark, inky blacks. My colour calibration tests confirmed as much, as it covered a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and delivered pitch-perfect 0.00cd/m2 black levels. Likewise, with a contrast ratio of infinity:1, there was plenty of detail to be see in photos and images.

Whites were perhaps a little yellow at times, but a peak brightness of 356.61cd/m2 makes the screen perfectly legible outdoors. Likewise, if you leave the brightness on auto, it will shoot up to around 400cd/m2 in bright light, giving you an extra brightness boost if you get caught in direct sunlight.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Camera

The 8-megapixel camera hasn't changed much either, but I still managed to take some very reasonable shots both inside and outdoors. Considering the relatively low-pixel sensor – most budget phones are starting to come with 13-megapixel sensors these days – there was a decent amount of detail present, and colours looked neutral and accurate.

^ Images could be a little brighter, but colours still look decent and there's a good level of detail present

It did struggle to focus on landmarks further away, though, and none of my photos were particularly bright, especially when viewed on the phone's screen. There are white balance, ISO, shutter speed and brightness settings which you can tweak, but I didn't find any of these made much of a different.

Indoor shots could also be a little smeary at times, particularly in low lighting conditions, but there was a surprising lack of obvious noise and our still life arrangement once again had plenty of detail. For best results, though, you'll want to shoot with as much light as possible, as colours looked far richer once I'd turned on our external lamp.

^ Indoors, the camera sometimes struggled to focus correctly, but colours were nice and rich when there was plenty of light

^ Noise started to creep in when I switched off our external lamp, but this is still a pretty respectable shot for an 8-megapixel camera on a £150 phone

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