I’ll confess, I’m a Windows Phone user. I have a three-year-old Nokia Lumia 920 that I rather like. For some Windows Phone is the poor relation to iOS and Android, but for those who aren’t concerned about its lack of apps and want a smartphone that doesn’t cost the earth, it is a viable option.

The first thing I noticed when picking up this new Microsoft-branded Lumia 640 LTE phone is how light it is. It has a 5-inch screen, but weighs little more than an iPhone 5S with a 4-inch screen. Perhaps some of this is down to its plastic-based construction, which feels a bit cheap. The rear cover is a bit too easy to remove and leaves the screen sitting slightly proud. The cover can be replaced though. This one has a matte black finish, which hides scratches and fingerprints. The rounded sides with defined edges sit nicely in the hand, and the plastic feels warm to the touch and offers some grip.

The phone’s button set-up is basic, just one for on/off and a rocker for volume. There’s no physical camera button, and the home and navigation buttons are virtual – part of the screen.

The Lumia 640’s 1280 x 720 resolution screen is big, bright and clear. However, I’m torn about the usability of a screen this size. While it’s easy to read and the keyboard “buttons” are big enough for my fingers to operate, it’s a bit too large for comfortable one-handed operation. I feel like I’ll drop it while stretching my thumb across the keyboard. If I did drop it, the Gorilla Glass 3 would probably help, not that I’ve tested that. It does shrug off fingerprints well though.

General performance is good. The 640 LTE has a quad-core 1.2GHz processor running Windows Phone 8.1 – upgradable to Windows 10 when it gets released. Apps open quickly and it functions without any noticeable lag, even when running graphics-intense games like Asphalt 8: Airborne. The Lumia 640’s 2500mAh battery lasted really well. After 2-and-a-half days of general use (such as taking photos, browsing the internet, watching movie trailers, using apps and playing games), it still had 40% battery remaining.

The camera was OK, but nothing special. The Lumia camera app works well but doesn’t offer manual controls. I did have the phone crash and reboot once while taking a photo. The Lumia 640 LTE has 8GB of built-in storage, and accepts a MicroSD card up to 128GB, so plenty of space to save your photos and videos.

I was surprised with the phone’s RRP of $299, which includes a year of personal Office 365 access and 30GB of OneDrive cloud storage. That price puts it firmly in the budget smartphone category, but its performance certainly wasn’t low-end.

The Windows Lumia 640 LTE has with a great display, long-lasting battery and does everything pretty well with no particular weak areas. It offers big value. If you are happy with a Windows Phone, this one might be worth a look.

Essential specs

  • Price: $299
  • Size: 8GB, with up to 30GB free OneDrive storage
  • Screen: 5-inch, 1280 x 720 resolution
  • Processor and memory: Quad-core processor up to 1.2GHz, 1GB RAM
  • Cameras: Front 0.9MP; Rear 8MP
  • Operating system: Windows 8.1

First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons. The Lumia 640 LTE was loaned to us for this trial by Microsoft.

By Paul Smith.