BARCELONA: Microsoft has been flooding the smartphone market with a stream of affordable Windows Phone devices designed to increase the OS's presence in the business market.
Most of these devices, while fairly good, have been budget affairs that feature low-end internal components.
Unveiled alongside its smaller sibling the Lumia 640, the Lumia 640 XL takes a different tack, featuring a number of technologies previously only seen on much more expensive Windows Phones.
Design and build
Despite having almost the same name as its smaller sibling, the Lumia 640 XL has a noticeably different design.
The most obvious difference is its larger dimensions and weight, with the Lumia 640 XL measuring in at a sizable 158x81x9mm and weighing 171g.
However, the most important difference is the more robust chassis that has a matte finish that gives the Lumia 640 XL a more premium feel than the 640, which has a shiny, smooth plastic finish.
The Lumia 640 XL's chassis also felt firmer and more scratch resistant than that of its smaller sibling.
People who are used to plus-sized handsets will find the Lumia 640 XL comfortable to hold, but those trading up from smaller phones might find it slightly cumbersome.
The Lumia 640 XL has a 5.7in 1280x720 pixel 259 ppi Clearblack display, which for a device of this price is pretty impressive. On the brightly lit Microsoft MWC stand it performed fairly well. Thanks to the inclusion of Clearblack, the blacks were deep and the primary colours popped out, while colour balance and vibrancy levels were good.
The handset also boasts a sunlight readability mode that automatically adjusts the Lumia 640 XL display's settings so that it remains readable in very bright light.
Like the Lumia 640, the Lumia 640 XLn will be among the first wave of smartphones to be updated to Windows 10. Available as a technical preview now, Windows 10 is Microsoft's bid to create a single, multi-form factor friendly operating system that can run on smartphones, tablets, laptops, convertible and desktops.
This should mean application developers will be able to develop and release "universal" applications that share the same core code.
The common platform is also designed to make it easier for IT managers to deploy and manage Windows devices and reduce complexity within enterprise networks.
While Windows 10 is still a work in progress and yet to have a formal release date, it does have the potential to revolutionise smartphone use in enterprise and so we're pleased to see Microsoft confirm an update for the Lumia 640 XL.
Until then though the Lumia 640 XL will run Windows Phone 8.1, which boasts a wealth of productivity and security features, including in-built Outlook, OneDrive, Exchange and Skype support. As an added bonus Microsoft has bundled the Lumia 640 XL with a free one-year Office 365 subscription.
Powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB RAM, the Lumia 640 XL's specs aren't anything to write home about when compared to most top-end handsets.
However, thanks to Windows Phone's low system requirements, if our opening impressions are anything to go by, they are more than good enough.
While we didn't get a chance to benchmark the Lumia 640 XL, during our hands-on we didn't notice any major performance issues. Applications opened in milliseconds and the Lumia 640 XL was suitably responsive and smooth to use.
Microsoft has been working hard to maintain Windows Phone's lead in the smartphone camera technology space since it acquired the phone division of Nokia.
To this end, Microsoft has loaded the Lumia 640 XL with a 13 MP, 4128x3096 pixel rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus and LED, and put a 5 MP camera on the front.
Testing the rear camera on the MWC showroom floor we found the quality of photos to be above average.
Colour balance and vibrancy levels were good and images generally came out sharp and crisp.
The Lumia 640 XL's impressive rear camera tech is complemented by the Lumia camera app, which offers manual controls for key photography settings like white balance and ISO.
Our one concern is that shutter speeds were slightly slow on the demo device we tested, with a noticeable delay between when we pressed the phone's capture button and the photo actually being taken.
Battery and storage
We didn't get a chance to battery burn the Lumia 640 XL's non-removable Li-Ion 3000mAh battery during our hands-on, though a Nokia spokesman told us it should last at least one day off a single charge.
In terms of storage, the Lumia 640 XL comes loaded with a basic 8GB of internal space. A further 128GB can be added using the Lumia 640 XL's microSD card slot.
Price, release date and conclusion
The Lumia XL will launch in April. The 3G Lumia 640 XL will cost €189 while the 4G model will cost €219.
Overall, while the Lumia 640 XL isn't the most exciting of handsets, it does target a currently under-served segment of the market - the affordable phablet space.
During our hands-on we found plenty to like about Microsoft's budget phablet. Featuring a reasonable display, good-for-the-price rear camera and an enterprise-friendly OS, the Lumia 640 XL has the potential to be a worthy device for business users.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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