Review: Microsoft Lumia 640 XL for AT&T
Microsoft has its own idea about what constitutes a useful lock screen. Perhaps my favorite feature of Lumias is Glance, which puts the clock on the darkened display when the phone is asleep. This way you're always able to check the time at a... glance. The clock is enormous and easy to read.
The full (awake) lock screen is flexible and can show as much or as little detail as you want. The clock and date are displayed prominently along the bottom of the screen. You can choose from a wide selection of lock screen wallpapers, such as the Bing image of the day, or a photo feed from your favorite Facebook contacts.
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As far as notifications are concerned, Windows Phone allows you to display unread notification counts from a handful of apps — such as the phone, text messaging, email, Facebook, the calendar, and Twitter — on the lock screen. These are all lined up in small circles at the bottom of the screen. Only one of these apps can be prioritized, meaning the notifications from that one app provide some actual detail rather than just the number of messages/alerts. The notification shade — which includes access to select controls — is accessible from the lock screen.
These lock screen features are available even when the phone is protected by a password, but you'll have to enter the password to interact directly with any of the notifications (i.e., read your email, or see your call history.)
The Lumia 640 XL runs Windows Phone 8.1 with the Lumia Denim update. Microsoft has said the 640 XL can be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile later this year.
Windows Phone uses one infinitely tall home screen for Live Tiles, which act like app icons and widgets at the same time. The Tiles come in small, medium, and large sizes and you can arrange them in any configuration you choose. Many of the Tiles are transparent, which lets you see the wallpaper behind them. You can also store folders — with collections of apps inside — on the home screen. You can add as much to the home screen as you want.
The second main screen in Windows Phone is the full list of installed apps. They are always arranged in an alphabetical list. The Settings tool — which I advise you pin to the home screen — has recently been revamped and is much more user-friendly.
Microsoft opted for the workhorse 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, which is paired with 1GB of RAM. The combination performed admirably, and the Lumia 640 XL felt fast while I tested it. I do, however, have to wonder why Microsoft didn't select the newer Snapdragon 410.
The 640 XL offers only the Lumia Camera app, which replaces the Windows Phone camera app and older Nokia camera app. The phone doesn't have a dedicated camera button, but Microsoft provided access to the camera in the notification center. It would be better if Microsoft offered a lock screen shortcut to the camera, but it does not.
The camera user interface is easy to digest thanks to its plain arrangement. A small strip of options lets you switch to the front camera, turn on the flash, or turn on Rich Capture Mode. You can customize what happens with a long-press of the shutter button to either fire off a burst of photos or capture video. I'm not sure why this option exists considering there's a separate video camera button.
The strip also has a little arrow. Press it, and you gain access to full manual controls. You can manage white balance, exposure, ISO, brightness, and focus all on your own. For knowledgeable users, these tools can lead to much more creative results.
As with all Windows Phone cameras, the 640 XL includes several Lenses, which are software add-ons for the camera. One of those pre-installed is Lumia Selfie. If you want to snag the best-possible self portrait, this mode gives you the tools to get it done right. It includes a timer and some quick editing tools, such as cropping and mirroring, so you can make adjustments before sharing to social networks.
Microsoft tossed in the Creative Studio app for editing, the Moments app for creating short photo/video collages, and the Storyteller app for assembling larger albums.
The Lumia 640 XL has a 13-megapixel sensor. You'll need to adjust the camera to shoot in the 4:3 aspect ratio to get the full pixel count. (The default 16:9 setting crops your photos down to 10 megapixels.)
This phone had a really good camera. The images offer excellent focus, exposure, and white balance. I was pleased with the bulk of the pictures I took. The 640 XL easily outshoots other phones with similar price points.
The 5-megapixel selfie camera performs quite well. I saw a small amount of grain from time to time, but the images were good with respect to focus and exposure.
The 1080p HD video I captured with the 640 XL was average for a device in this class. Focus, exposure, and white balance were mostly accurate and the results were usable.
The 640 XL can certainly handle daily photo and video needs, and can replace a standalone camera for many situations.
AT&T dropped a handful of useless junk into the 640 XL's app library, including Address Book, Family Map, Locker, Mark the Spot, Navigator, Keeper, Mobile TV, myAT&T, and the Yellow Pages. The 640 XL has only 8 GB of internal storage, merely 3.7 GB of which is available to owners. That's a pittance. You need a memory card with this phone, even though Windows Phone lets you delete unwanted apps.
Free access to Microsoft apps and services are one of the chief benefits of owning a Windows Phone. The 640 XL includes Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), OneNote, OneDrive, and Cortana (virtual assistant). The first few are great productivity tools, while Cortana can be genuinely helpful when it comes to managing your daily activities.
There are a few other handy apps, such as Data Sense, Storage Sense, and WiFi Sense, which help manage your cellular data usage, on-board storage, and WiFi access, respectively.
Hands-On: Microsoft Lumia 640 and 640 XL
Microsoft debuted another pair of mid-range handsets in the long buildup to Windows 10. The Lumia 640 and 640 XL are worthy update to the 635 and 1320, but they leaving us aching for a new flagship from Microsoft.
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