Flagship smartphones may capture the attention of most people looking for something fancy, but it's often the entry-level devices that end up selling just as well, even if they may not have a particularly impressive feature set. In the Windows Phone 8 realm I've already taken a look at the Windows Phone 8S by HTC, which while a solid device, didn't seem like it had quite as good feature set as the device I'm looking at today.
The Nokia Lumia 620 is the cheapest Nokia-made Windows Phone 8 device available on the market today, below the Nokia Lumia 820 (and variants) and the Nokia Lumia 920, and it's essentially a direct successor to the WP7 Nokia Lumia 610. However Nokia hasn't skimped on features with the 620, packing 8 GB of storage, NFC, a front-facing camera, a removable battery and more into their entry-level device.
Thanks to the guys over at MobiCity again, who have provided the Nokia Lumia 620 for me to review today. If you feel like it, you can head over to their website and purchase the device right now, and they have a range of colors available including the prominent lime green model that I have with me today.
Nothing too high powered can be expected from the Nokia Lumia 620, but you do get a 1.0 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 3.8-inch TFT LCD display. While it doesn't have LTE inside, the Lumia 620 also has a decent amount of connectivity options including HSPA+, dual-band Wi-Fi and NFC.
For full specifications, check out the table below.
|Nokia Lumia 620|
HSPA+: 42 Mbps ↓ 11 Mbps ↑
3.8-inch TN TFT LCD at 800 x 480
246 ppi pixel density
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8227
1.0 GHz dual-core Krait CPU
8 GB internal storage
microSD card slot
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (dual-band)
A-GPS and GLONASS
5.0 MP rear camera with f/2.4 28mm lens and LED flash
VGA front camera
720p video recording
3.5mm audio jack
|Battery||Li-ion 1,300 mAh removable|
|Launch OS||Windows Phone 8, with Portico|
|Launch Date||January 2013|
|Size & Weight||
115.4 x 61.1 x 11 mm
|Price||Unlocked & Outright: AU$289 (Buy now!) | £239 inc. VAT|
So far, with Nokia's Windows Phone 8 range the Finnish company has gone with two separate design models: the unibody design utilizing tough polycarbonate, as seen in the Lumia 920; and the shell design with removable back covers, as with the Lumia 820. The Lumia 620 draws on the designs of the latter, utilizing a tough, removable outer shell that comes in a range of vibrant colors – with me today I have the lime green model.
The Lumia 620's design is functional, but not all that visually amazing, which can be expected and (somewhat) forgiven when it comes to this class of phones. The plastic Nokia has used for the shell of the 620 feels significantly cheaper than the "polycarbonate" used on the 920, however the thickness employed gives a sense of toughness and reliability that we've come to love from Nokia.
Perhaps the best way to describe how the Lumia 620 looks and feels in the hand is to liken it to a dinghy, as the side-on profile reveals significant curvature into the center of the device, while the main portion – featuring the display – is completely flat to each edge. The rounded nature may not hide the thickness of the device, which isn't too flash at 11mm thick, but it does allow for comfortable use in your hands, and while the weight could be better for the size, it's not inhibiting.
My lime green review unit is remarkably striking, thanks to an incredibly vibrant paint job at the Nokia factory, but it has received mix reception from those I've shown the phone to. Some think the color is eye-catching and visually appealing, while others think the strength is overwhelming and would tend towards a black model instead. Of course green (and black) aren't the only colors available, you can also choose from yellow, white, pink and cyan.
There's also, as Nokia puts it, a "double shot of color", meaning the inside of the shell is actually a different color to the outside, and this shows via a rim around the front of the device. For the green model, the second color shot is yellow, and the colors do blend together well without creating a nasty clash.
The design does have some downsides to it, which are mostly annoyances that got under my skin while using it. The model I received was coated with an extremely glossy finish, making the rear very slippery; even more slippery than my times with Samsung phones such as the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II. I wouldn't advise using the phone straight after eating, because any sort of grease can cause the phone to be difficult to handle.
I also found the camera button to be a general pain to use, mostly because of the contact between the button membrane (which is on the removable case) and the actual button (which is on the phone). It is a two-stage button, but the second stage felt like I was just pushing on the button harder without proper feedback, making it hard to tell when you've actually taken a photo and often causing unnecessary amounts of camera shake just prior to the shot being taken.
At the end of my experience with the Lumia 620 I'm left with the feeling that the design is nothing but average; it works and looks okay to an extent, but there are some annoyances to be dealt with, and I've definitely used phones – even in this class – with nicer looks. The vibrant colors work in its favor, but I don't feel like it's enough to say the phone is styled well.
There's nothing particularly amazing about the panel used in the Nokia Lumia 620, but at the same time I generally had no complaints about it, especially at the price point the 620 is coming in at. It's a 3.8-inch TN TFT LCD panel at 800 x 480 for 246 ppi, and while Nokia is marketing the display as "ClearBlack", it bares little technical resemblance to the ClearBlack AMOLED panels you'll find in higher-end devices like the Lumia 820.
Unlike all of the Lumia 620's Windows Phone 8 brothers, including the recently announced Lumia 520 and Lumia 720, the capacitive digitizer embedded into the 620's display unit does not feature Super Sensitive Touch, which allows you to use the display with gloves on. That said, the default (and unchangeable) sensitivity of the touchscreen is quite high, so it is actually possible to use the screen through several layers of cloth; something you can't do on other devices, including the Lumia 920 with Super Sensitive Touch disabled.
As far as TN LCD panels go, this is one of the higher quality ones I have used, no doubt complemented by the polarization filter and other "ClearBlack" technologies. It's still not in the same class as IPS LCD screens though, as the viewing angles suffer especially when it comes to color distortion. There's also a decent gap between glass and crystals, which in some circumstances can cause unwanted glare especially in direct sunlight.
Speaking of direct sunlight the Lumia 620 features a "sunlight readability" mode that automatically boosts the brightness of the display when it detects the phone is out in the sun. Generally speaking I found the display readable enough outdoors without the extra boost, which has some strange added side-effects such as making the keyboard harder to see. I'd actually recommend disabling the mode in the display+touch area of the settings unless absolutely necessary.
Color reproduction seems decent from the 620's display, although it's definitely not as vibrant as I've seen on higher-end panels. There are no obvious tints to the color of the display aside from being very slightly warm, so when you're reading text on webpages you should notice the whites are decently white (not slightly blue or green, like on some AMOLEDs). Black levels are not particularly great, but it's not nearly as bad as I've seen on some budget LCDs.
Lastly, the 3.8-inch WVGA display falls short of the magical 300 ppi invisible pixel barrier at just 246 ppi, and the consequences are noticeable to a trained eye such as mine. Occasionally you'll spot jagged lines and un-crisp text when browsing across the interface, and viewing photos doesn't have the same immediate "wow"-effect like I've experienced on some 1080p displays. However, for a budget phone you can't really expect premium features, and what the Lumia 620 delivers display-wise you should be very happy with.
If you've read Neowin in the past, you'll have noticed that we've done a lot of coverage of Windows Phone 8 in the past, so there's really not much extra to say in regards to the software on the Lumia 620. We already have a comprehensive Windows Phone 8 review available, that I suggest you read to get the lowdown on all the features you'll find in Microsoft's latest Windows Phone OS.
I also suggest you read my three-month opinions of Windows Phone 8, which details a few more of the things I like and don't like about Windows Phone after a decent amount of time using it.
The Lumia 620 comes with the most recent release of Windows Phone 8 straight out of the box (at the time of writing), which is the Portico update that addresses a few minor issues found with the first release of the software. There's also a huge range of Nokia exclusive apps available for the Lumia 620, ranging from (the recently rebranded) HERE Maps, HERE Drive, a bunch of Lenses, games and more. For a slightly deeper look into some of these, check my Lumia 920 review.
The Nokia Lumia 620 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 chipset, packing a 1.0 GHz dual-core Krait CPU and an Adreno 305 GPU, and this isn't the first time I've had hands-on experience with this processor: the Windows Phone 8S I was previously using contained it as well. Like the MSM8960 is the de-facto standard for high-end Windows Phones, the MSM8227 is the second chip that fills out the lower end, and it's still quite capable.
Aside from the CPU and GPU, the Lumia 620 packs 512 MB of RAM, 8 GB of on-board storage, dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC. As far as cellular radios go the Lumia 620 only packs quad-band HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100), forgoing LTE not only to cut down on costs, but also because this device is targeted at markets that haven't widely adopted LTE yet. Even without LTE I managed to get 12+ Mbps downstream on the 620 in Australia, so HSPA should be fine if the service quality is good in your location.
For a device that costs around $250 outright, the performance is simply wonderful, making it easily the biggest feature and selling point of the Lumia 620, and really of all low-end Windows Phones. Around the OS, the 1 GHz dual-core takes on the challenge of rendering the interface and all its animations, and comes out the victor every single time; you simply won't find operating system lag on the Lumia 620, and that's a fantastic thing.
Sure, opening apps isn't quite as fast as on the Lumia 920, Samsung ATIV S or HTC 8X – all with 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 chipsets and 1 GB of RAM – however the delay is hardly of a concern, and never long enough to be frustrating. Occasionally the 512 MB RAM constrictions were an issue, such as when multi-tasking between apps and returning to the web browser to find it needs to re-load the entire webpage, but this is only a minor complaint.
I was perhaps the most impressed by the performance of the Lumia 620 when I used it to navigate from my house to an airport, using Nokia Drive (without pre-loaded maps) while also playing back music at the same time. I never needed to question the performance of the phone as it did both tasks simultaneously without any complaint.
As I discovered while reviewing the Windows Phone 8S, the Adreno 305 GPU is actually equal in performance, on a WVGA display, to the Adreno 225 GPU on a 720p display – so all your favorite games that can be enjoyed on higher-end devices can also, generally speaking, be enjoyed on the Lumia 620. You may run into issues in the future with the RAM limitations, but for now it seems like most games work fine on this device.
In case you want to check how the Lumia 620 performs against other smartphones on the market, you can check out the benchmarks I did below. Peacekeeper is a test run in the stock browser provided on the device, and WP Bench, as you might have guessed, benchmarks Windows Phone devices through a series of GPU, RAM and CPU tests.
As you can see, the Lumia 620 performs exactly as expected: right about the same as the Windows Phone 8S, and below other higher-end devices that are available.
The storage situation on the Lumia 620 should also be mentioned, as 8 GB of on-board space is quite adequate for a low-end device, and is one of the reasons you may choose to purchase this device over the HTC 8S. Of course there's also the microSD card slot, which I'm always happy to see as I can simply whack in a 32 GB card and have my entire music collection at my disposal.
Nokia's choice to include just a 5-megapixel camera on the back of the Lumia 620 is undoubtedly a budgetary choice, and the quality it delivers is merely average as far as cameras in this range go. While the quality isn't too terrible that you'll be screaming your way back to a point-and-shoot, it's not nearly as good as high-end cameras, and you'll probably want to use it only for occasional picture snapping.
When taking wide-angle photos outdoors, the Lumia 620 performs adequately, reproducing colors to an acceptable extent with okay dynamic range. However, results are nothing amazing for a phone camera, and often you're left with a shot that simply isn't as vibrant as you might expect for the conditions.
Often I found that the f/2.4 28mm lens produced very soft photos when lighting was mediocre (think indoors), and occasionally the camera would completely miss focusing on the right spot. Sometimes you can't tell just how uncrisp the lower light images are until you take a look on a larger display, so it may be best to take a few shots to try and maximize your chances of getting a good photo.
When looking at a 100% crop of the images the Lumia 620 takes, the use of higher ISOs becomes apparent, and often there are numerous artifacts aside from a mediocre level of sharpness. You'll be wanting to downsize these images wherever possible to avoid seeing these artifacts, which disappear readily when taking them down in size.
100% crops of the image appear on the left, and those artifacts are indeed there in the full image.
You can get some pretty good shots out of the Lumia 620's camera, provided the conditions are right. The one below I took indoors, however there was a considerable amount of light streaming in, which most low-end cameras thrive on.
In poor lighting you can really see how high the Lumia 620 boosts its camera's ISO and slows the shutter speed to try and capture a visible image, and often that's not enough to make out details. Looking at the data from my selection of shots, the maximum light that can be captured is at f/2.4, ISO 800 and a 1/8s shutter speed, and as you can tell from the shot below, unless you have steady hands the camera doesn't do particularly well in low light.
It should also be noted that the Lumia 620's camera has an accompanying flash just in case you desperately need to take photos at night, which isn't recommended. On the other hand, it's good to see the Lumia 620 come with a front-facing camera, and although it isn't particularly great quality (the maximum resolution it does is 640 x 480) it does facilitate video calling and random self-shots.
The camera included on the Lumia 620 isn't completely horrible, but some of the results that it delivers are less than fantastic. For the amount of money it costs to buy this phone I can't really complain too much about Nokia skimping on the camera, as it still ends up serving its purpose for quick shots on the go; however if you're looking at needing a camera for a holiday or something along those lines, it's best to pick up a point-and-shoot.
Even though the Lumia 620 is a budget Windows Phone, its capabilities as a music player are quite good, meaning that you shouldn't need a secondary music player for day-to-day use. You get Xbox Music as provided by Microsoft in the operating system, as well as Nokia Music, and there's Dolby Headphone audio enhancement plus a full graphic equalizer in the phone's audio settings. Of course that microSD card slot also does wonders in expanding storage so you can fit your collection on the device.
The single speaker located on the bottom rear of the device is remarkably powerful – although complete rubbish as far as quality is concerned – and at full volume you'll actually find that the entire rear shell of the device vibrates. Notifications are very easy to hear thanks to the loudness of this speaker, even when the phone is placed flat on a desk; in fact you'll probably want to turn the phone down in volume not to annoy people in the vicinity when an email comes through.
Listening to music through headphones I was glad to discover the sound quality is identical to that of the Lumia 920, which is to say the sound quality is quite good but nothing outstandingly amazing. Volume levels around the half-way to two-thirds region I found to be comfortable for regular music listening through my standard set of earbuds, but that also leaves a significant region of amplification if needed.
Dolby Headphone enhancement is basically not suitable for music playback as it makes the audio sound like it's being played in a toilet (as in, it increases the echo), however if you plan on watching a film on the Lumia 620 it does improve the surround effects to an extent. If you want to play with the audio playback I'd suggest looking to the equalizer over Dolby Headphone, but the latter is worth using in some circumstances.
With just a 3.8-inch WVGA display, the Nokia Lumia 620 is perhaps not the most ideal smartphone for watching a quick video, but like devices before it that use the MSM8227 chipset it's reasonably capable. All SD and 720p content I threw at the device, using the most popular formats such as H.264 MP4 and XviD AVI files, the Lumia 620 managed to play back, and surprisingly 1080p content also worked where it didn't on the Windows Phone 8S. Unfortunately all Windows Phone 8 devices don't support the MKV container, so you might need to some slight converting if you have those types of files.
Again, the 3.8-inch display is not the best for video playback, but as far as audio is concerned the Lumia 620 is more than capable especially for the class the smartphone fits in to.
The battery life of the Nokia Lumia 620 is not particularly great, however this is to be somewhat expected when there's only a 1,300 mAh battery packed into the rear of the device. As the battery only needs to power a 3.8-inch LCD display and other medium-power internals, if you're only using your device occasionally (as in, moderate usage) the Lumia 620 should last you through the day reasonably well.
It's when things start getting into the heavy usage spectrum, or you will be away from a power point for a long time, that the battery flirts with being inadequate. Several days ago I was using the Lumia 620 as my main device while covering a press event in Sydney, requiring juice for the best part of 14 hours doing some pretty battery-intensive tasks, and needless to say around 9 hours in I needed a recharge to stop it from dying completely.
That said, on Wi-Fi the device seems remarkably power efficient, and in a day of light-ish usage around my house the Lumia 620 rarely dipped below 80% full, which was a surprise to me. The fact that the device has a removable battery will also benefit some people, as you will simply be able to purchase a secondary battery (or even an extended battery) to hot swap during the day if you find yourself running out of juice.
Compared to the HTC 8S though, it seems like the Lumia 620 definitely doesn't last as long away from the charger, but the added advantage of a removable battery will come in handy for some. If you want to see a direct comparison between other devices on the market, check out my video playback battery test results below, where devices play a 720p video on repeat, in airplane mode and on medium brightness, until the device dies.
|Device||Movie Playback Life|
|Samsung Galaxy Note II||12:47|
|Motorola RAZR HD||11:49|
|HTC One XL||9:03|
|Samsung Galaxy S III||8:41|
|Motorola RAZR V||8:32|
|HTC Windows Phone 8S||7:28|
|HTC Windows Phone 8X||7:15|
|Nokia Lumia 920||6:57|
|Sony Xperia S||6:50|
|Nokia Lumia 620||6:13|
|LG Optimus 4X HD||5:16|
Even though I tend to stick to the high-end of the smartphone spectrum for my personal devices, the Lumia 620 is an extremely compelling value proposition. For just US$250 you get a decent enough 3.8-inch LCD display, 8 GB of storage plus microSD expansion, a front-facing camera to complement the 5 MP rear shooter, NFC, and a range of vibrant colors to choose from.
Sure, the design is not particularly amazing, and neither is the rear camera or the battery life, but for the cost of the device it's quite amazing the quality you're left with. Windows Phone 8 is so smooth and so fluid to use on the 1.0 GHz dual-core processor that there's little reason to look towards a slower Android device, and the Lumia 620 is still capable of gaming and multi-tasking as you wish.
The value doesn't end there though, as Nokia's exclusive range of applications sweetens the deal on a software side. The selection of apps is improving in the Windows Phone Store, especially with the Nokia exclusives, and basically all of them can run without trouble on even a low-end device like the Lumia 620.
As far as I'm concerned the Lumia 620 is the best choice for an entry-level Windows Phone on the market today, and it could even be the best smartphone available in its price bracket. There are some questions about how it will fit into the range with the impending release of the Nokia Lumia 520, but until it's available on the market, Nokia has made a real winner here with the 620.