Hands-on review: MWC 2016: Microsoft Lumia 650

Windows 10 Mobile is limited to only four handsets right now and the latest comes in the form of the Microsoft Lumia 650. Microsoft is putting a much bigger focus on the business elements of Windows 10, but overall it feels much the same as we’ve seen before.

In fact the Lumia 650 features a remarkably similar design to the Lumia 550. Picking it up on the stand at MWC 2016 I had to double check I had the right phone.

The Lumia 650 sits at the bottom end of the new Windows 10 Mobile handsets, alongside the Lumia 550, and comes in at US$199 (around £150, AU$270).

Lumia 650

Considering it’s so much cheaper than the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL it’s quite a surprise how good the design is on the Lumia 650.

It certainly doesn’t feel like a premium phone in the hand, but the rounded corners and plastic back make it comfortable to hold. It sits nicely in the palm too.

Lumia 650

When picking up the Lumia 650 I did note how particularly thin it is, something the Lumia range has struggled with on budget handsets until recently.

It does mean the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone protrudes slightly as it’s too thick for the phone. But considering the rest of the phone is so slim, it’s easy enough to deal with.

Lumia 650

That screen could be a little better though. It’s a 5-inch, 720p display which I felt was dull in my time using the phone. I only got to flick through the screens for a few minutes but it didn’t feel anywhere as near as vibrant as the other Lumia phones I’ve used recently.

Then we come to the software. Windows 10 Mobile is a major leap forward for Microsoft’s operating system. Windows Phone was struggling and Microsoft didn’t go back to the drawing board, but instead made a number of big improvements to make it a worthy.

Pretty much everything is here with the new system menu, Cortana features and much more customisable design.

Lumia 650

Considering this is aimed at being a business device, the one software feature this really lacks is Continuum. This has been one of Microsoft’s big selling features for the new software, where it allows you to put your phone up to a big screen such as a TV or monitor and use it much like a PC.

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It means you can work on documents within Word or watch films directly from your phone – problem is it’s not actually here. Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to include the feature on the Lumia 650.

Lumia 650

That’s a big shame and it means the phone is only using microUSB rather than USB-C as well. Considering this phone is directed at the business market, I think this is a big flaw of the phone.

I understand it takes a lot of computing power to do Continuum, but it’s one feature a lot of customers would have appreciated.

In terms of camera, the Lumia 650 is particularly impressive on paper considering its price. On the back is a 16MP shooter while the front-facing camera is an 8MP sensor.

Lumia 650

I played around with the rear camera a little and although the phone did struggle with the lighting on a stand at MWC, it was quite a good set up. It’s good to see the Lumia range try and take back its title of the best camera phones on the market, even when it’s coming from the cheaper end of the range.

Lumia 650

One concern about the Lumia 650 is the battery. It’s a 2000mAh cell powering the 5-inch screen and everything else inside, and to me that feels like it may struggle to make it all the way through the day.

Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to include fast or wireless charging technology either, but this is all something we can judge properly in our final review.

Lumia 650

As for a release, it isn’t quite clear if the phone will be coming to the US yet. The phone is already out in Europe, and the UK should be up next, as well as a selection of other markets but Microsoft hasn’t revealed release dates for the US or Australia at the time of writing.

Early verdict

The Microsoft Lumia 650 has a decent line up of specs, a reasonable build and an affordable price tag making it a solid budget offering. There’s a clear business focus here, although the omission of Continuum is slightly odd and limits its appeal slightly. It’ll likely be a solid enterprise handset, but I don’t see the Lumia 650 making much of a splash in the general market.

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