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Hands On with the Microsoft Lumia 650

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Feb 22, 2016, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Microsoft announced the Lumia 650 ahead of Mobile World Congress and we had a chance to take a look at it on-site here in Barcelona. This mid-range Windows 10 handset is far more impressive than the entry-level Lumia 550, and almost outshines the high-end Lumias 950 and 950 XL. Here's why.

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The Lumia 650 fills the middle of Microsoft's current Windows 10 Mobile roster, landing between the 550 and the 950 / 950 XL. There's no doubt in my mind that it skews a bit toward the former, but it bests the latter in at least one key facet.

The 650 adopts what is Microsoft's new design language. Gone are the frilly colors of the Nokia Lumia era and in their place are blacks, whites, and silvers. Microsoft's design team is decidedly more conservative than Nokia's and believes smartphone shoppers must be more interested in conservative handsets. The 650 is available in black or white. The front is made of glass, the rear is made of polycarbonate, and the frame that wraps around the middle is made of metal. It is this metal frame that both the 550 and 950/XL lack, thus allowing the 650 to stand on its own a bit. It instantly elevates the appearance above of the 650 and makes it feel more legit.

The phone has a 5-inch screen so is what some may call an average size. I didn't have any trouble holding or using it. I could imagine stuffing it into my pocket easily and not being concerned with the feel of it as I walk around. The phone is a decent weight and thickness, and seems to be well put together. The glass from meets the metal frame in a tight seem, but the plastic rear cover was a bit uneven where it meets the frame.

Lumia650  

I like that the metal frame has a speckled finish on it. Both sides of the frame are chamfered to a polish to give it a classy gleam. The Lumia 650 does something that I don't think I've seen before, however: the frame is split in two. The headphone jack on top and the USB port on the bottom both interrupt the metal band as it travels around the exterior edge. This impacts the frame's rigidity, making it less strong. The screen lock button and volume toggle are embedded in the right edge. The buttons are easy to find and use and have good travel and feedback.

In keeping with most modern Windows 10 designs, there are no buttons on the front surface at all. Instead, all the controls for navigating through the user interface are integrated into the display. That means the front face of the phone is relatively clean, other than there Microsoft logo above the screen.

The screen itself measures 5 inches across the diagonal with 720p HD resolution. It's a fine screen and should serve most people well. The Windows 10 platform — with its square and rectangular shapes — helps the screen a lot thanks to its use of straight lines. Brightness and clarity of the screen are excellent, and the ClearBlack technology truly helps with contrast.

The phone runs Windows 10, which is still a fledgling operating system. The platform hooks into the greater Windows 10 ecosystem, but the Lumia 650 lacks W10's best feature, Continuum. The software ran well on the units in Barcelona. I didn't see any lagging, crashing, or fussiness.

The Lumia 650 from Microsoft is a fine phone. I like that the metal frame sets it apart, but part of me can't help but feel a little sad for the Lumia line's loss of playfulness.

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