Nokia Lumia 630 review

11 Jun 2014

A perfectly passable budget handset, but a poor display robs it of greatness

Price when reviewed: 
117(£117 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
4

Nokia has form in producing high-quality, low-cost smartphones, but it's had its thunder well and truly stolen by Motorola in the past year. The Nokia Lumia 630 is the company's latest attempt to claw back lost ground in the budget phone space; it's also the first handset we've seen to ship with Windows Phone 8.1 on board. Read on for our in-depth Nokia Lumia 630 review.

Nokia Lumia 630

We were impressed with Windows 8.1 when we tried out the developer preview on a Lumia 1020 last month, and it works just as well on this smaller handset. In particular, we've found ourselves using the new pull-down Action Center, with its shortcut toggles and Settings menu shortcuts, every time we pick up the phone; and the Swype-style "Shape writing" addition to the on-screen keyboard works beautifully.

Unfortunately, there are still many rough edges. The automatic time and date function simply doesn't work on this phone, and Windows Phone's problem with Google Calendar synchronisation – being an hour out due to daylight saving time – persists more than a year after the bug was first reported.

Nokia Lumia 630 review: design and specifications

At first glance, the phone itself isn't especially interesting. Like many budget smartphones, it feels a touch on the cheap side the first time you pick it up, with a simple flat glass front and a plain, removable matte-plastic rear cover, which is available in a variety of bright colours. It doesn't even have the iconic Windows Phone Home, Back and Search keys stencilled beneath the screen: on the Lumia 630, the buttons have been moved onto a bar at the very bottom of the screen.

Nokia Lumia 630

In terms of build, it isn't a patch on the solid hunks found on models at the top of the Lumia range, but it does at least look reasonably smart with its angled edges and rounded corners. It's also light, weighing only 134g, and the 4.5in screen ensures the 630 is more pocketable than the 5in-plus range-toppers we've seen recently.

On the rear, the Lumia 630 has a 5-megapixel camera but no flash, and there's no front-facing snapper at all. Unusually for a Nokia handset, there's no dedicated camera shutter button, which proves a real pain; to take a photograph, you have to first unlock the phone then launch the camera app, which can takes as long as ten seconds if you secure your phone with a code.

Other shortcomings include a lack of 4G (the Lumia 635 does have 4G but it isn't available in the UK yet), no dual-band Wi-Fi support, and no near-field communication (NFC). On the plus side, the phone's 1,830mAh lithium-ion battery is replaceable, there's 8GB of internal storage – generous for a budget phone - and you also get a microSDXC card slot, which allows you to expand that by a further 128GB.

Nokia Lumia 630 review: display

Unfortunately, there isn't much positive to say about the Lumia 630's 4.5in display, either. It's an IPS panel, and measured with our colorimeter it reached a reasonably bright 323cd/m[sup]2[/sup] when set to Windows Phone's High brightness setting. It's topped with Gorilla Glass 3, and so ought to resist scratching and scuffing while stowed in your pocket.

Take it outside, however, and it quickly becomes clear that this is a second-class screen. The first problem is that it picks up fingerprints easily, and the greasy smears create a glare that makes it difficult to read the screen in bright conditions. A contrast ratio of 788:1 prevents onscreen images looking washed out, however.

Dim the display and another problem rears its head: the top edge of the screen is terribly patchy, which can be distracting when using the phone in dark conditions. There's also an awful lot of smear and motion blur evident when you swipe and scroll around quickly.

The 480 x 854 resolution is the least of the Lumia 630's worries, but graphics and text do look noticeably more coarse than on a 720p display of the same size.

Nokia Lumia 630 review: Performance and battery life

Qualcomm's 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC is a common sight at this price level, and as usual its performance fails to set the pulse racing. In SunSpider, the Lumia 630 achieved an uninspiring time of 1,529ms, which is well below average for a modern smartphone. Alas, we weren't able to run the GFXBench (DXBenchmark) gaming test since the phone has only 512MB of RAM, and Geekbench isn't available on Windows Phone as yet.

Nokia Lumia 630

The Snapdragon 400 had enough juice to run Windows Phone 8.1 smoothly, however, with only the occasional hitch, usually during app installation. And you won't find many games on the platform that will overtax the Lumia 630's Adreno 305 GPU, since the screen resolution is so low. We loaded up Asphalt 8 and Despicable Me: Minion Rush and were perfectly happy with the frame rate.

Anecdotally, the battery life is fine, too. In general use, with no gaming, we found the Lumia 630 would get us through a day with capacity to spare, the battery charge falling to a critical level only well into day two. In our tests, the picture wasn't quite as rosy. With the screen set to medium brightness, our 720p video consumed 10.4% per hour, and audio streaming over 3G at up 5.2% per hour. It can't match the most recent flagship devices with their huge batteries, but these results put it on level pegging with the Motorola Moto E and ahead of the Motorola Moto G.

Nokia Lumia 630 review: camera and call quality

The 630's 5-megapixel camera isn't capable of producing the stunningly crisp photographs of a Samsung Galaxy S5 – for one thing it doesn't have the resolution for it, and its sensor isn't as large, at 1/4in across – but in good light, images are clean, and exhibit more natural colours than most budget rivals. There's plenty of noise in low light, which obscures fine details, but no more or less than we'd expect for the money.

Nokia Lumia 630

When it comes to video, it's much the same story. In good light the Lumia 630's 720p footage is lacking in detail, and there's no stabilisation to sort out shaky hands, but colours are well balanced and there's none of the horrible exposure stepping we saw with the Moto E. In low light footage is noisy, but not unusably smeary or juddery.

All-round call quality, meanwhile, is superb. Both the earpiece speaker and mic produce clear audio with no distortion; the rear-firing, single external speaker can be set surprisingly loud, and it doesn't distort when you turn it right up to maximum volume – although it does have a harsh, nasal quality to it.

Nokia Lumia 630 review: verdict

The Nokia Lumia 630 is a pretty good smartphone. Performance is acceptable, battery life is good, and even the camera is tolerable. Although the Windows Phone Store still can't match its Android and iOS counterparts for the quality or number of apps available, we like the latest Windows Phone 8.1 update. And the price for this handset is very reasonable at only £117 SIM-free. Expect lower prices on pay-as-you-go and from £10/mth on a free-phone contract with 500MB of data.

All the same, that patchy, dim, low-resolution screen is well below par, even in this price bracket. It's a weakness big enough to rob this otherwise perfectly capable Windows Phone handset of a place alongside the best budget smartphones around.

Details

Price ex VAT £98
Price inc VAT £117
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £10.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.tescomobile.co.uk
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 67 x 10.4 x 130mm (WDH)
Weight 134g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 512MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? no
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.5in
Resolution 480 x 854
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Other

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