The time when a large smartphone was invariably expensive is now behind us. Microsoft already released the 5″ Lumia 535 for 109 euros and now it takes it a step further with the Lumia 640 XL, a 5.7″ smartphone that costs 189 euros in the cheapest version. The Lumia 640 XL is one of the first devices with a brand new version of Windows Phone, version 8.1 Update 2. We visited Microsoft to put this model through its paces.
From what we’ve seen there are two major changes in this new version and both are very welcome. The first is that Microsoft has brought order to the chaos that the Settings menu had become. In Windows Phone 7 in 2010 it was a clear list of about 15 items, but with recent Lumias that list has grown to about 50 items. Then finding something you’re looking for suddenly turns out to be quite difficult. Now that is much easier. Not only has Microsoft grouped the settings into clear categories, such as Backup and Reset and Extras, but the company has also created a search function. It works quickly and pleasantly and saves a lot of time when looking for the right settings.
The second change is the addition of a permission manager. From 8.1 Update 2 it is possible to set per permission which apps have access. For example, there are options for location, microphone and contacts. Both improvements are very welcome. However, Update 2 is just a stopgap. Later this year, Microsoft will release Windows 10, and it will also update the 640 XL.
Design and screen
The Lumia 640 XL measures 15.8 x 8.1 cm and is therefore not a small one. Almost 70 percent of the surface on the front is screen. That’s reasonable for a phone of this size, as budget models tend to have larger bezels.
The phone is made of a matte type of plastic and looks sleek for its price range. The material feels good, but it is clear that it is a cheaper model. The housing has little to no play, which gives the impression of being firmly put together. The 640 XL is easy to hold for a device of its size. With a 5.7″ screen you can forget about one-handed use, but it’s easy to hold this device for a longer period of time.
The LCD has a resolution of 1280×720 pixels. The Clearblack display supports Microsoft’s Glimpse feature which displays the time, weather and notifications on the screen without the user having to press any buttons. The screen should also be easy to read in direct sunlight. Because Microsoft had a fairly dark booth at the fair, it is difficult to check, but the screen looked fine.
When scrolling, we noticed a strange effect. It seems that the 640 XL’s screen can’t keep up with the frame rate of the interface, and the effect is an annoying one that doesn’t look smooth. The smaller regular Lumia 640 doesn’t have this problem. Perhaps it’s a problem with this demonstrator specifically, but if this issue also occurs with copies in the store, it will be reason for some people to return it.
The other hardware of the device is not very special. Like so many other recently presented Lumias, the 640 XL has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-soc. In addition to the 3g and 4g versions, there is also a dual sim version of those versions. The phone has a memory of 1GB and 8GB storage.
It’s clear which way Microsoft wants to go with the Lumia line. Last year the Lumia 930 was the only high-end model, while there were plenty of cheaper models with the 435, 530, 532, 535, 630, 730, 830 and now the 640 and 640 XL.
The Lumia 640 XL is a successor to the Lumia 1320 from just over a year ago. If you want a large Windows Phone, this Lumia 640 XL appears to be an excellent choice. For those who don’t care about the operating system, there is more choice in this price range, but the number of large, cheap phones is still quite limited. That makes this 640 XL an attractive device for some people.