Nokia Lumia 635 Review – Powerful for the Price

Over the course of the last week I’ve had a chance to use and put through its paces the Lumia 635, the budget friendly entry Windows Phone from Nokia.  I have to admit that when I first got it, I wasn’t sure what to expect given the low price point of £119.99 but as I indicated in my first impressions, I have nothing but good things to say about this Windows Phone.  It snappy and the display is excellent and if there is only one knock on it it would be the low end 5MP camera.  But it isn’t terrible – I’ve seen far worse.  If you are looking for a solid phone at a great price, look no further than the Lumia 635.

Specifications

It’s always good to start a phone review with the specs so you get a feel for what the Lumia 635 is out of the box.

Dimensions:

  • Height: 129.5 mm

    Lumia 635 and Lumia 520
    Lumia 635 and Lumia 520
  • Width: 66.7 mm
  • Thickness2: 9.2 mm
  • Weight: 134 g

For the sake of comparison, here is a shot of the Lumia 635 next to my trusty Lumia 520.  Obviously the 635 is slightly taller given the 1/2 inch larger display and it is slightly wider as well.  But it feels far better in your hand thanks to it being a flat back instead of the slightly curved 520.

It is powered by a Quad-Core 12.GHz Snapdragon 400 process and has 8GB of memory on board.  The display is 4.5″ with a 854×480 FWVGA resolution that is made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3.  The display is 24-bit and can display 16m colours and has an aspect ration of 16:9.  The display technology is ClearBlack IPS LCD.  More on the screen performance a bit later.

The Lumia 635 supports GSM, LTE and WCDMA networks, has Bluetooth and an accelerometer built in.

As you can see, it’s not the upper end of the spectrum when it comes to specifications but by the same token, it’s not horribly lacking.

Bright Orange Back of the Lumia 635
Bright Orange Back of the Lumia 635

The Lumia 635 is available with several different colour backs:  Black, Orange and Green.  I received the orange version and it is properly orange.  Like high visibility orange.  Personally, I kinda like it but I can see where some would be put off by how bright it is.  One thing for sure:  If the Lumia 635 is in a pile of other phones, you’ll be able to spot it at a glance.

Form Factor

Size wise the 635 is great.  It feels comfortable in your hand and it is easy to navigate with one hand and your thumb.  The back is a grippy feeling plastic so it doesn’t feel like it is going to slip out of your hands either.  I found it easy to slide the phone into my front pocket or back pocket of my jeans with no issue.  It didn’t feel overly bulky.

Performance

My Phone Results of the Lumia 635
My Phone Results of the Lumia 635

I admit that I expected to be disappointed with the performance of the Lumia 635 but I was very pleasantly surprised as I put it through its paces.  I found the phone to be very responsive to my touch and switching between applications with really no lag to speak of doing so.  Equally, I admit that I was coming from a Lumia 520 so… yeah, I probably was a big jaded.  The 520 is great but it is slow, really slow sometimes.

The Quad-Core processor really makes a difference when it comes to making the phone usable.  I had no problems with any apps I tried to run from Star Wars: Assault Force to Facebook to Office.  All ran very well and were responsive.

I ran the application My Phone on the Lumia 635 to get a benchmark for how it performance against other Windows Phones out there.  If you are not familiar with this free app it puts your phone through a series of benchmark tests to see how it stacks up against other phones on the market.  The results were impressive:  It out performed the Lumia 925 and 1020 and absolutely buried the Lumia 520.  That could be why it felt so fast to me!

Overall from a performance perspective you are going to be hard pressed to fault the Lumia 635.  It does a great job and certainly is up to the task of keeping up with your switching between apps and using heavy CPU tasks.

Screen

Nokia Lumia 635
Nokia Lumia 635

There are two things that immediately struck me about the screen on the Lumia 635.  First was the size.  It is 4.5″ which in this phablet world isn’t huge but I came from an iPhone 5s.  I like the iPhone 5s, I really do, but after using the 635 for a week I didn’t realise just how cramped a 4″ screen feels. I felt the same why when I picked up my 520.  They just feel small.

That extra 1/2 inch of display makes a world of difference.  It wasn’t so big that it made the phone feel big in my hand but it was big enough to make typing that little bit more comfortable and certainly less error prone.

The second thing I noticed as the clarity of the display.  Again, we live in an HD/Retina display world so I was expecting a less-than-awesome experience.  Was it Retina quality?  No.  But it’s pretty darn close.  The ClearBlack technology that Nokia uses in the Lumia lineup is really gives the display an nice eye candy factor and I would suggest that unless you are really picky, you would find the Lumia 635’s display just fine.  Part of this is due to Windows Phone itself doing a great job of scaling text and graphics.  Add those two together and you get a nice, eye appealing result.

In my testing I found the touch screen technology to also be up to the task.  Swipes up and down the screen were smooth and constant as were side swipes to access the Apps menu.  I also found the multi-touch to be really good for pinching and pulling to view text or pictures.  It is not the super sensitive touch screen that you find on the Lumia 1320 or 1520 so using it with gloves isn’t all that great (yes, I tried it) but that puts the 635 on par with the vast majority of phones on the market – Windows Phone or otherwise.

Memory & RAM

My first real mark against the Lumia 635 is the 8GB of onboard memory and 512MB of RAM.  These are pretty low end at this point in history and I’m sure that the phone would have benefited from just that little bit more of RAM.  That said, as I’ve indicated above, I didn’t find that the Lumia 635 overly suffered from a lack of memory but I could see where if you wanted to install a big game that needed a lot of RAM to make it happy, you could run into some challenges.

Likewise the 8GB of storage is pretty low spec at this point but you can easily get around it with a MicroSD card.  The 635 will accept up to a 128GB storage card so simple maths tell us we have 136GB of total storage potential.  That’s a lot of movies, music and podcasts. And you can easily pick up a 32GB MicroSD for £10 these days on Amazon so not a huge amount of cost for a lot more memory.

For the price point that Nokia has put the 635 I get it.  They had to save money somewhere to keep the price point down.  And truthfully, given you can expand the storage, it isn’t a huge black mark that should hold you back from buying one.  I would just suggest that when you pick it up, pick up a MicroSD card at the same time and call it even.

Camera

Right, it is what it is.  The Lumia 635 has a 5MP rear facing camera.  It is autofocus which is good and the aperture is f/2.4 which

Indoor Photo from The Lumia 635
Indoor Photo from The Lumia 635
Outdoor Photo from the Lumia 635
Outdoor Photo from the Lumia 635

isn’t horrible.  It also sports a 4x digital zoom but no optical zoom.  Truthfully, the photo quality isn’t horrible.  I found it did pretty good on indoor and outdoor photos although the colour tends to be a little washed out.  That something you can adjust with photo apps of course but again, not as bad as I was expecting.

One thing I do love about the 635’s camera is its position on the back of the device.  It is more towards the top of the back as opposed to the near centre of the camera on the 520.  I was forever catching a finger in a photo or smearing a finger print across the lens with the 520.  I found myself doing that far less with the 635.

I do wish that the Lumia 635 had a front facing camera.  I didn’t realise how much I used that on my iPhone until I didn’t have it for this week.  That will be a downer for those who like their selfie taking.

Battery Performance

The battery performance of the Lumia 635 is superb.  It comes with a 1830mAh battery and Nokia claims that you can get 14 hours of 3G talk time and 56 hours of music playback on it.  I believe it.  I went three full days with the Lumia 365 making my average of 2-3 hours of calls per day, internet surfing, web site checking and playing the odd game here or there.  At the end of that I still had 9% battery left.  Now you try to do that with your iPhone.

Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan

The Lumia 635 was the first phone to ship with Windows Phone 8.1 and Lumia Cyan pre-installed.  That means you get all the benefits of things like Cortana (if you live in the US) out of the box.  This makes it easy as you don’t have to go through the phone update process as soon as you power it up.

I’m a big, big fan of Windows Phone 8.1 and by now I’m sure most readers have already got it on their phone either through the natural progression of updates globally or through the Preview for Developers program.  It is pretty easy to see that the 635 and 8.1 were meant to work together.  There is no weirdness to be found.

Conclusion

Overall I have to say that I’m very impressed with the Lumia 635.  For what it offers for the price, it is hard to go wrong.  Sure it could use with a little better camera and maybe a little bit more memory but really, at £99 or $99, it’s kinda hard to beat it for the price.  For sure it is a worthy successor to the 520/530 and if you are upgrading from one of those you are going to be very please I have a feeling.  Even if you are moving from another platform to Windows Phone, this isn’t a bad choice.

The Nokia Lumia 635 is available at a wide range of retailers and online for around £99 (in your local currency).  For more information check out the Lumia 635 page on the Nokia site.