Lumia 625 Sports Larger Screen And 4G Connectivity

Written by Andrew Williams & David Hague     27/09/2013 | 00:00 | Category name i.e.REVIEWS

Key Features: Dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon CPU; 512MB RAM; 8GB storage, microSD slot; Windows Phone 8; 4.7-inch 800 x 480 pixel screen

Can you make a ripper budget phone based on the Windows phone mobile platform? Nokia reckon so and hence the Lumia 520 and 620s were born.

But the bar has been raised now with the launch of the 625, with a larger screen and 4G connectivity. But as always, there are a few trade-offs.

Nokia Lumia 625 - Design

On the surface, the Lumia 625 looks like a 620 on steroids with its larger 4.7" screen.

The Lumia 625 also features the same battery cover as the 620. The Lumia 625 has a plastic shell that covers the rear and sides of the phone, so there aren't any obvious seams to see on its body. 


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It also shares the dual-layer finish style and the outer part of the plastic shell is translucent plastic. Colours available include the Lumia-staple red, green and yellow, alongside white and black for those after a more serious look.

Although it borrows design elements from the Lumia 620, the Lumia 625 isn't quite as good-looking a phone. There are visible dots on the plastic case, under the translucent part, that spoil the look a bit, and the high-contrast black buttons have been dropped in favour of a more innocuous colour-matched ones. The larger handset size ensures it's simply not as cute either. 

It's a bit like a child actor who has grown up, but retained enough of their childish looks to appear a bit weird as an adult. The Lumia 625 - it's the Fred Savage of the budget phone world. Of course, all of that is avoided if you opt for the black or white models.

Ergonomically, it's sound too. The Lumia 625 is 9.2mm thick and its lightly curved back leaves no harsh edges for your fingers to grip hold of. It's heavier than most phones at 160g but not enough to become a serious issue.

As we expect from Nokia, build quality is good too. The plastic used in the Lumia 625 is thick enough to avoid suspect creaks in normal use

Its 8GB of internal storage is one of the signs that the Lumia 625 is a budget phone. However, under the cover you'll find a microSD memory card slot for easy and cheap storage expansion.

Nokia Lumia 625 - Screen

Another feature of the Lumia 625 that makes it feel like a blown-up Lumia 620 is the screen. It's a 4.7-inch display with the same 480 x 800 pixel resolution as both the Lumia 520 and Lumia 620. 

This is a very low-res display for such a large screen. To put it into context, the screen on the HTC One has more than two million pixels. The Lumia 625 fewer than 400,000. 


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The screen is not very sharp. Windows Phone 8 tries to combat the problem with clever text smoothing in the main interface. This makes the Lumia 625's display appear soft, rather than blocky. Fundamentally though it doesn't look great. The disappointing screen resolution shows up even more in parts of the phone Microsoft has a little less control over - such as playing video or browsing the web. Small text can also look very blocky.

It uses a basic LCD panel that has none of the "Clear Black" claims attached to Nokia's pricier phones. When turned at certain angles, the Lumia 625 screen turns greyish. More importantly, colour and contrast in general just aren't particularly good. Disastrous? No. Images do not pop in the same way they do on other Lumia phones. Side-by-side, the Lumia 625 screen appears worse than that of either the Lumia 520 or Lumia 620. 

That said, the anti-reflective coating of the Lumia 625 is superior to the Lumia 520 - it's fairly usable outside at maximum brightness.

Nokia Lumia 625 - Software

The Nokia Lumia 625 runs Windows Phone 8, just like all of this year's Lumia-series phones. If you're upgrading from a Windows Phone 7 phone, you'll notice it looks pretty familiar. 

One of the most obvious upgrades in this version of Windows Phone 8 is that you can use smaller shortcut icons on the home screen. This comes in extra handy with a large-screen phone like the 625.

Windows Phone 8 is a slick-looking system that looks and feels consistent whether you're using a budget phone or a top-end one like the Lumia 925. This consistency is one of its greatest strengths.

Flicking through the fully customisable home screen and the apps menu feels classier than it does in Android. It's full of swish transitions and it's a highly stylised look.

It comes with the HERE suite of apps, which provides a decent maps app and a GPS navigation app for use in the car. 

Nokia Xpress is on board as well. This is a browser software that used to be a big deal on Nokia's cheapy smartphones, but has made a return here. It's designed to reduce the battery life and data you use while surfing. It does so by giving you easy-access shortcuts to your favourite websites, and weaving articles from them into a digital magazine. It means you need to spend less time trawling around the web manually.

Windows Phone 8 is also strong at incorporating content from a host of different sources. In the settings menu you can plug in your login details for email accounts and social networks including Facebook and Twitter. All your emails, DMs and tweets will then be drawn into the People hub, where they'll be linked to their respective contacts (People doubles-up as your phone book in Windows Phone 8.)

It's neat, but we did find that we reverted to using social apps rather than relying on Windows Phone 8's built-in features. 

Nokia Lumia 625 - Apps, Games and Performance

Apps are not the Lumia 625's strong point. Windows Phone 8 has the weakest apps and games selection of all the major mobile platforms. 

If you're a mobile gaming fiend, stay away. If you're just after the app basics, the Nokia Lumia 625 does have most bases covered. Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, news reader apps - you'll find them all on the Microsoft Store. 

However, you'll often find that the apps aren't all that good. For example, the Nokia-optimized YouTube app is nothing more than a link to the YouTube mobile site.


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You'll need to live with a few of these issues with a Lumia 625, or at least be willing to spend longer looking for half-decent apps. The limited number of high-end games makes having a fairly good mid-range processor feel a little pointless.  None of our usual benchmarking games - Real Racing 3, Dead Trigger, Epic Citadel - are available on Windows Phone 8. 

The Nokia Lumia 625 has a dual-core Qualcomm MSM8930 1.2GHz CPU, the same used in the more expensive Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. It only has 512MB RAM, where the top-end Lumias have 1GB, but you generally wouldn't notice this deficiency day-to-day. 

The phone feels fast, with no hint of the budget compromise that the display suffers from.

Nokia Lumia 625 - Cameras

Nokia makes some of the best phone cameras, but the Lumia 625 has a pretty bog-standard lower mid-range camera setup. It has an f/2.4 lens (not particularly fast) and a 5-megapixel sensor of unremarkable size. Crucially, though, it does have an LED flash, making it far more versatile than the flash-less Lumia 520.


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In good lighting, performance isn't too bad either. Despite the similar specs, photo performance is significantly better than the Lumia 520. You can expect cleaner photos and better colour reproduction suggesting the Lumia 625 has a better-quality sensor or lens (or both). Exposure is pretty even too, resulting in some surprisingly good-looking shots. 

Comparing images with ones taken with the Nokia Lumia 925, though, it's pretty clear this isn't a high-end camera. You can clearly see the rainbow noise caused by the close-knit lines of the building near the Gherkin building. It's a sign that it's not a terrible camera, which would have reduced it to mush but demonstrates the Lumia 625 does not have the same ability to resolve detail as the Lumia 925.

Turn the lights down and the Lumia 625's camera performance predictably fails pretty badly. Low-light photos are very noisy, and the flash does not have the even coverage of a higher-end or dual-LED flash.

Perhaps the Lumia 625's biggest camera success is how simple it is to use. A tap on the subject both focuses and takes a snap. Alternatively, you can use the physical shutter button, on the phone's side. This is a two-stage button that focuses on a half-depress and takes a snap when fully pressed down. 

We're also glad to report that the Lumia 625 uses the LED flash to aid focusing when it senses it's in poor lighting. Not all phones do this. 

Once again, Windows Phone 8 fails a bit on the app front. The native camera app is pretty lean on features, relying instead on things called Lenses - additional camera modes that are downloaded separately (from within the app). 

You get one Nokia-made extra Lens with the Lumia 625 called Smart Cam. This is a burst mode-based lens that lets you pick the best facial reaction of your friends, remove moving objects from a scene and more. It seems conspicuously designed to make the Lumia-series cameras keep up with the feature-packed snappers of phones like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. 

However, in reality it's only useful for fiddling about with for fun. It takes shots at significantly lower resolution than the 'standard' camera, making them pretty useless for anything beyond a quick Twitter post. Even for Facebook snaps we'd strongly recommend using the standard camera. 

As already mentioned, the standard Lumia 625 camera app is dead easy to use, but is almost entirely bereft of additional modes. Most notably, there's no panorama and no HDR. Both of these seem like staples for a modern camera phone. You can plug them in with additional lenses, but we'd really like to see these staples incorporated in the basic app. Lenses can feel a little clumsy, and many are paid-for.

Nokia Lumia 625 - Call Quality and Sound Quality

The Lumia 625's earpiece speaker is of fairly decent quality. It's reasonably loud, but sounds a little scratchy at top volume. Although we were unable to pin-point it when scouring the phone, there is a secondary microphone used to remove ambient noise from the call signal before it reaches whoever you're talking to. 

From sound quality of calls to music quality, Nokia Lumia 625 has a pretty poor internal speaker. It's a mono speaker that outputs from a hole on the phone's rear. For a phone of its size, the scale of the speaker's sound is disappointing. It's tinny and brash, and not particularly loud. 

Some consideration has been put into sound quality in another respect though, as there's a Dolby mode that purports to alter sound for the better by creating a 'virtual surround' sound stage. You can turn this on when using headphones.

It's a bit too invasive for music, but it works fairly well for films, making the soundstage sound appear more expansive (if not any wider). Thanks to the clean headphone output, microSD memory card slot and the decent integrated music player app, the Lumia 625 makes a handy little music player. 

Nokia Lumia 625 - Battery Life

It's not the perfect road warrior, though. The rear may be removable, but you don't have any access to the battery. It's a 2,000mAh unit that's locked into the phone. 


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Battery life is good, though. Naturally, if you're using 4G (or even 3G) a good deal, you will need to charge this phone every day. However, with light use it will sail through a couple of days' use without a charge, thanks to the relatively battery-efficient way Windows Phone 8 can operate. The low screen resolution also helps too. 

The Lumia 625 will play video for about 10 hours constantly off a charge, although as already noted the low resolution means it's not really as good a video jukebox as the large screen size might suggest. 

Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 625?

The Nokia Lumia 625 is yet another solid value Lumia phone. Set to sell for around $399 without a contract, it's one of the most affordable routes to 4G land (forgetting the pricey 4G contracts). 

However, it is not a miracle. The screen really doesn't have enough pixels for its 4.7-inch size, and it's particularly noticeable when watching videos or browsing the web - both areas where a large-screen phone should excel. Specs-per-pound, this is a cracking phone. But in the flesh there are some real compromises to deal with.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 625 is one of the cheapest 4G phones you can get. It's colourful, stylish and has the same Windows Phone 8 OS as other Lumia phones. However, the screen is disappointingly low in resolution. With a 720p screen this would be a corker. In its current form this is a cheap 4G smartphone that's not quite the finished article.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Good value Decent performance 4G support

Cons:

Low-resolution screen Limited apps and games selection