The Good Microsoft Lumia 640 XL LTE has a bright 5.7-inch screen, runs on LTE networks, has an impressive rear camera and a long battery life.
The Bad 720p resolution provides lower pixel density than you want. The processor is a bit underrated for power consumers, and the plastic case may not match the premium feel of some phones.
The Bottom Line It’s not a flagship, but the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL LTE offers a robust, big-screen experience at a price that is hard to beat.
If you use a budget smartphone, the biggest trade-off you might have to make is a camera – just getting a cheap lens on a cheaper phone is simply not profitable. Fortunately, Microsoft has found a way to put a quality camera in its latest big-screen phone without paying a big premium.
Microsoft Devices’ Lumia 640 XL LTE is a soup version of the company’s 5-inch Lumia 640. The XL extends the screen size up to 5.7 inches and adds 4G connectivity while pushing a much larger 13MP rear camera, 5MP front panel and 3,000mAh battery inside. Better yet, he does it all while keeping the price low: just $ 240, £ 219 in the UK and $ 399 in Australia.
My colleague Andrew Hoyle was quite distinctive about the smaller Lumia 640 calling it “everything you expect from a budget phone.” But given that the XL has the same processor, storage, and RAM as the smaller model, are these accessories worth the extra cost?
Quick note: There are several different Lumia 640 XL variants available, including the dual SIM card model and the one without LTE. The model considered here is a single-slot version with a LTE 4G modem.
- 157.9 x 81.5 x 9 mm (6.22 x 3.21 x 0.35 inches)
- 171g (6.3 oz.)
In the ocean of black phones, the Lumia 640 XL stands out as some kind of exotic fish. Yes, you can still get it in black or white, but blue – wait, make that “blue” – the review of the department I had in the office was actually quite refreshing.
Even better, the case on the 640 XL is a matte finish, unlike the gloss on its smaller counterparts. I’ve never been a fan of pianos as they seem to be designed solely for fingerprint collection, so XL gets extra points for that.
The case, like most of the Lumia range, just pops up to allow access to SIM and MicroSD slots, so it can be replaced or even swapped when your mood picks you up.
Compared to all-metal designs such as the HTC One M9 or the glass backs of the Xperia Z3 and Galaxy S6, the Lumia feels a bit plastic and toy-like, but it’s actually a solid device. It’s good to use, and the matte finish adds a little texture to reduce the chance of slipping.
The 640 XL measures 157.9 x 81.5 x 9 mm (6.22 x 3.21 x 0.35 inches) and weighs 171 grams (6.3 ounces). This makes it about 5g lighter and slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which has the same screen size.
So while it doesn’t fit the first-class feel of these flagships, it doesn’t really try – nor does it meet their premium prices. For the price of one 32GB Galaxy S6 Edge, you can get almost three Lumia 640 XLs.
The XL also has something that some phones lack these days: a microSD slot. Like the 5-inch 640, you will need to use it. The XL has the same pretty basic 8GB of internal storage.
- 5.7-inch IPS screen
- 1280 x 720 pixels
- 259 pixels per square inch
The 5.7-inch IPS screen on the XL may be larger than the base 640, but it has the exact same resolution of 1280×720 pixels. This means that the XL actually has a lower pixel density than its smaller cousin – 259ppi compared to 294ppi. (For some other context, the Galaxy S6 with a resolution of 1,440×2,560 pixels has about 577 ppi.)
Depending on how good your vision is, it may be a point. As a short-sighted eyeglass wearer, I have not seen any problem with the XL. Yes, it’s not as clear as some super-tall screens, but I really enjoyed watching the streaming video from Windows Phone Netflix and had no problems browsing or viewing photos.
The colors are rich and bright, and the phone has a nice contrast, which is perhaps a little more important in the smartphone display. According to Microsoft, the 640 XL also has “improved readability of sunlight” and they certainly work. On a heavy autumn day in Sydney the XL was easy to read while walking on the street.
Software and performance
- Windows Phone with Denim Update
- 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor
- 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage
- The MicroSD slot supports up to 128 GB
The 640 XL works with the same version of Windows Phone 8.1 as the 5-inch 640, with all the same advantages and disadvantages. It also packs the same processor and memory, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 and 1GB of RAM. You can read the performance section of the program Lumia 640 review for the full run.
Essentially, the XL offers an uninterrupted experience when it comes to basic usage, and while this processor is not going to set speed records, the only time it is noticeably slow is when the phone boots. It takes about 25 seconds from pressing the power button to when you can start using Lumia.
As someone who has been browsing Windows phones for a few years now, I will say that the Windows App Store has improved a lot in times like the Wild West, looking for applications that offer wind blowing winds or an assortment of unfriendly options that didn’t look quite right. In fact, as soon as Jawbone gets the app for its fitness group Up, I could be sold if I make the full switch from Android.
On the LTE side of things, XL certainly delivers. This is a Category 4 device with a theoretical maximum download speed of 150 Mbps. Of course, you don’t get these speeds, but when testing around the central business district of Sydney and the suburbs of the Inner West, I saw a maximum speed of 56 Mbps and an average of 25 to 30 Mbps. Typically, uploads were lower, but averaged a respectable 12Mbps. Yes, Category 6 phones that offer carrier aggregation will leave the XL in the dust, but not too long ago the idea of a 4G phone at this price point would have been a dream come true.
In San Francisco on AT&T’s network, download speeds typically ranged from 8Mbps down to 17Mbps down, but spiked at 33Mbps down, as tested on the Speedtest.net diagnostic app. Uplink speeds spanned 4.5 to 10.3 Mbps. These are respectable, but not quite as fast as we’ve seen on other high-end phones. That said, LTE speeds vary dramatically by time of day and exact location, so your speed situation could be very different depending on where you live.
- 13MP rear camera
- Zeiss optics
- 5 megapixel front camera
The XL is improved by 640 in both the rear and front cameras. The front jumps from the low 0.9-megapixel level to 5, allowing you to enjoy both selfies and Skype calls.
But the 13-megapixel rear latch – complete with German-made Zeiss optics – is the most noticeable improvement. This allows you to take photos with a resolution of 4,128×3,096 (much better than the screen) and 1080p Full-HD video – also at a higher resolution than the screen.
All this is done with the Lumia Camera software, which has great autofocus features for anyone who just loves to take a happy shot every now and then, but also lets you manually adjust ISO, white balance, shutter speed, brightness and focus when shooting your mind and feel how to play.
Taking the XL for a spin, even an inexperienced photographer like myself was able to get some nice shots.
Despite the gloomy day, the Central Park News Mall – with its iconic outdoor greenery – looks good, with solid details and nice colors.
Required Eating: Although avocado was not cooked, it was not particularly avocado style. Again, the details are great if the well-cleaned surface of the table is clearly visible. (I never eat here again.)
The two shots here show the difference between normal mode and Rich Capture, which automatically scans the scene and adds HDR and flash settings as needed. The Rich Capture is a lower photo, where the ANZAC war memorial is clearly brighter and cleaner.
Again, in the mode of intense capture, the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park looks great both in terms of killing the Minotaur and in a more general picture of its Greco- phylus glory.
For indoor photos, the top image shows a photo taken with a flash – it is a little washed out and harsh. The bottom shot is a bit warmer, but still has a lot of details.
In general, XL cameras are more than enough for the average smartphone, and it can impress even an experienced photographer. This is an excessive limit at the border if all you are looking for is social media footage, but for the price, who’s complaining?
As I said earlier, XL accumulates in a 3,000 mAh battery that exceeds 2,500 mAh in the base 640. This also makes a big difference – while 2.5 hours of streaming video in the 5-inch version saw a battery drop to 56 percent, the XL was a decisive 72 percent after the same test.
For our normal battery testing, the 640 XL has a solid 11 hours 56 minutes – a smaller processor and a smaller resolution screen definitely help it last.
Considering the low power consumption of the processor and the 720p screen, I am sure that the battery will satisfy all but the most power users. Of course, during the testing period, I was very impressed with the battery life of the public, certainly in comparison to some top-end flagship phones on the market.
We tested the Lumia 640 XL in San Francisco using AT&T’s network. Volume sounded strong and the caller’s voice was close and intimate, not faraway. A persistent white noise sizzled in the background throughout the duration of calls, but it didn’t overly distract from the conversation. The same applies to a heightened sibilance that made my testing partner sound slightly distorted.
Because call quality is a combination of network performance and hardware, keep in mind that you may have a different experience in your area.
It may be a bit more expensive than its smaller cousin, but the Lumia 640 XL adds enough new features to be worth the asking price. Even though lower-end processor and (relatively) low-resolution screen may be the main elements for energy users, most users are not going to find this problem.
This gives you a great phone that has a pretty good camera and offers 4G full-day battery life – and does it for a budget.
Fortunately for you, other smartphones can claim the same and even more. For example, for about the same price OneTouch Idol Alcatel 3 has a higher resolution of HD 1080p on a slightly smaller screen (5.5 inches). It also houses a 13MP rear camera and gives you an 8MP front shooter. Android lovers will find 5.0 Lollipop on this Idol 3 as well as several other handy hardware and software bonuses.
If you use an inexpensive smartphone and like what Windows Phone has to offer, the Lumia 640 XL is a great option.