Nokia Lumia 630 review: affordable, but with a few flaws


WhistleOut
08 July 2014

The Lumia 630 is a super-affordable Windows Phone from the dearly-departed Nokia mobile division. Recently absorbed by Microsoft, the Nokia brand is likely soon to be relegated to the annals of history.

In the meantime, all the phones that Nokia was working on when the merger happened are still on the way. The 630 is the first phone to rock Windows Phone 8.1 out-of-the-box in many countries, but that’s not all that is appealing about it.

Design

4/5

The 630's design reflects its budget nature, but without totally sacrificing aesthetic quality. Of course, being a Lumia there is a range of vibrant colours to choose from. Ours was unfortunately black, but you can get yellow, green and orange, as well as white.

Even better, if you get sick of your colour then the protective shell is easily replaceable. Prices and availability vary depending on region, but eBay is always a good bet if you can’t find a local vendor.

Speaking of the shell, it provides the added of some extra sturdiness. We had a worrying moment when we (I should say I) dropped it hard on to a road. The ensuing result was much like what happened when the same thing happened to an old Nokia feature phone. The rear case flow off and the battery came half out.

This is actually a good thing. When the pieces of your phone can come apart, they more-safely absorb the energy of an impact without transferring it to more delicate areas like the screen or motherboard. Our plastic shell got a little scuffed up, but no major damage was taken by the phone itself.

The right-side button layout is well-implemented and easy to reach. This isn’t too much of an achievement on such a compact device, but we’ve been surprised by confoundingly poor button placement in the past.

One interesting feature is that the main UI buttons are on-screen, rather than dedicated capacitive buttons below the screen. We presume this has been done in an effort to save manufacturing costs and keep the price down. Still, the virtual keys cut in to what is already a pretty small area.

User Experience

3.5/5

The Lumia 630 is an impressive for a device in its price-range. It’s not without its drawbacks, but this is still one of the best phones we’ve used in this class.

The Windows Phone 8.1 update brought with it a huge range of new and updated features, all of which we covered back when it was first announced. It’s great to finally see them in action and to get an idea for how well they’ve been implemented.

The notification tray and updated task manager were our favourites. The second is particularly important on devices like this with limited computing capacity. We’re also big fans of the new home screen customisation options, where instead of a colour theme you can throw whatever image you want in to the background.

Of course, with budget phones comes less-powerful hardware. In general the Lumia 630 operated with an appreciable level of smoothness, but there was a decent amount of lag and a few bugs.

The most commonly-recurring problem we had was with the audio, particularly when headphones were being used. It seemed like every time we used the audio the default volume level would change. By this we don’t mean that it randomly jumped from 18 to 25 or another number. It was more an issue of ‘this time the 25 sounds like the 18 did yesterday’. One time the phone just stopped letting us change the headphone volume all together. The display showed that we were on 0/30, but our tunes were still blasting out at max volume. Restarting it solved the issue and it never came back, but that certainly doesn’t mean it wouldn’t resurface with extended use.

On the whole, however, the Lumia 630 did have a little lag, but it was predictable and as such we got used to it and even stopped noticing it after a while.

The only thing we never really got over was the lack of 4G. Of course, no device this affordable is going to have 4G connectivity, but if you’re coming from 4G broadband then you may not realise just how accustomed to it you’ve become. On the other hand, if you’ve only ever had 3G then the lack of 4G on the Lumia 630 won’t be an issue for you.

Camera and battery

3/5

The 5MP camera takes passable photos during the day, but is just about unusable at night. That’s still pretty common for budget devices and even some of the more-expensive models, so a lack of low-light ability isn’t really a mark against.

One problem we did have was that every once in a while the camera app would take a really long time to open. We’re talking upwards of 5 or 6 seconds. Sometimes it just froze and we’d have to hit the Back button and reopen it from the Start Menu.

This was unfortunate, because it was one of only two big issues we had with this phone (including the audio irregularities), and it detracted from what would otherwise have been a pleasantly-usable feature.

Battery life was a full day but no more. We got past 10% a few times, but generally we made it safely right up until bed time without having to worry about finding the nearest outlet.

Verdict

The Lumia 630 is a good phone for its class with two major drawbacks. If it weren’t for the audio issues and the camera boot-up lag time then we’d be giving it a much better review.

Unfortunately, we can’t ignore those problems and so the Lumia 630 ends up just being quite-good in its price-range. Without them it would have been fantastic.

If you’re after a super-cheap phone then the Motorola Moto G is probably still your best option. For those specifically after a Windows Phone then the Lumia 630 is the best we’ve used down this end of the market. It’s also the only one rocking the full WP8.1 update right now, which is an advantage you absolutely should not ignore.


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