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Nokia Lumia 630 Review

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A couple of weeks ago, Nokia launched the successor to the venerable Lumia 620. When I reviewed it, I admitted to like it, but since that review didn’t come in a timely manner, I couldn’t recommend it since it’s overshadowed both by the bang-for-the-buck Lumia 520 and the not-quite-the-successor Lumia 625.

I’ve used the Nokia Lumia 630 for more than a week since then. Will the proper successor be a worthy purchase? Is it worth owning? Join me, and let’s delve deeper into this phone.

Nokia Lumia 630 Specs

  • 4.5 inches IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, FWVGA screen resolution (480 x 854 pixels, ~218 ppi pixel density), Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with ClearBlack technology
  • 1.2GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 4 with Adreno 305 GPU
  • 5 MP, 2592 х 1944 pixels, autofocus main camera, no secondary camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS + GLONASS
  • 512MB RAM,8GB internal memory, expandable via microSD up to 128GB
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • Dual SIM, GSM, HSDPA
  • 1830mAh battery

To be honest, the hardware specs, at least on paper leaves a lot to be desired. The only thing going for it is its quad core CPU. In fact, the two most noteworthy advantages over its predecessors (Lumias 620 and 625) are its OS version (Windows 8.1), and its jaw-dropping price of PHP 7,990.00. In fact, Nokia seems to know this because during the launch, they talked more about Windows Phone 8.1 and a lot less about the phone. For all intents and purposes, what they’re actually launching is WP 8.1, and the Lumia 630 was just the packaging. It does make sense as, given the relatively price point of the Nokia Lumia 630, they can distribute the new OS version faster. Or at least, that’s apparently the plan.

Packaging and Accessories

They did break tradition with the box, though. Gone is the familiar, and very similar box. The new box looks very nice, though. It’s simple and elegant. I’m guessing that it’s part of their transition from the Nokia brand to Microsoft Mobility (I guess I really have to get used to that).

Nokia Lumia 630 Box

Nokia Lumia 630 Dual-Sim

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Hands-on: Lumia 630

Unfortunately, Nokia Lumia 630 comes with a dearth of accessories. It doesn’t even come with the usual assortment. The phone only comes with the required charger and cable, and, yeah, that’s about it. It doesn’t even come with the should-now-be-a-standard pair of earphones. While that’s a non-issue for some (since tech-savvy ones usually either already own better ones, or they’d rather buy higher-end ones than use these free ones), I’m sure it’s something worth noting for budget-conscious ones, which are I’m sure the target base of this phone. I guess they had to cut corners somewhere and the lack of accessories is far from being a deal breaker.

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Design and Build

Thankfully, they didn’t cut corners in the build quality. Nor did they skimp on the aesthetics. Nokia Lumia 630 still exudes elegance, its polycarbonate shell is still top-notch and feels good to the touch. I’m not too hot with my review unit’s color, it being orange and all. It does seem to be the phone’s standard-bearer color (it’s the prominent color during launch). If orange isn’t your cup of tea, it also comes in four other colors such as white, black, green, and yellow.

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Back cover of Lumia 630

Sides of 630

Overall, though, the design of the Lumia 630 somewhat departs from the other Lumias that came before. In fact, its silhouette looks closer to the Nokia X. It’s more rectangular than its predecessors, and it no longer sports a dedicated camera button. This, IMHO, is a mistake on their designers’ part. That button was among the best aspect of the Lumia design as it gives you faster access to the camera app and makes it easier and more natural in taking photos as well. Another major change is found at the camera’s front. Gone are the soft keys at the bottom. This is because Windows Phone 8.1 now supports on-screen buttons. It takes a while getting used to it, but I like it. The back only has the camera and speakers.

Nokia Lumia 630 Battery, Dual-SIM, microSD

Removing the polycarbonate shell (it even has an instruction sticker that shows you how to do that – yey!) grants you access to the long battery stick, the microSD port, and the two microSIM ports. Curiously, SIM2 is hot-swappable as you don’t need to remove the battery to gain access to the port. It would’ve been nice if they were all hot-swappable, but it’s a non-issue. The top of the Lumia 630 has the 3.5mm jack for your earphones and such, and the bottom has the microUSB port.

Ultimately, Nokia Lumia 630’s design is what you’d expect out of Nokia: elegant, beautiful, and an eye candy. It feels good in the hand, and upon touch, you’re assured that the materials used are of high quality. It really does feel more than it costs.

Display and Touchscreen

At 4.5″, I do appreciate the extra real estate, but then again, I love large screens. It’s unfortunate, though, that Nokia Lumia 630 sports a low resolution. Having 720p at least would’ve made it divine. Despite the low resolution, though, the screen is bright and colors are beautifully rendered. I had no problem watching high-resolution videos, whether it be 720p or 1080p. Reading with this phone is adequate as well. I never had problems with font sizes, which is my initial problems with high resolution screens (and yes, I read a lot on my phones).

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Touchscreen controls are unsurprisingly smooth and responsive, a hallmark of the platform. Whether it be surfing, navigating, or playing games, I never experienced any lag.

Hardware

As said before, the hardware is absolutely underwhelming. While it’s great to have a quad-core processor, it’s disappointing that it only has 512MB of RAM. As a successor to a previously venerable phone, it should’ve had higher specs. There’s no such thing as having enough RAM. Same goes to the internal memory. Having the same amount as the previous generation is lamentable. And, yes, that’s my pet peeve in EVERY next generation phones. For me, it’s like manufacturers farting on our faces. But I digress. Thankfully, Windows Phone 8.1 has an answer to limited internal space. More on this later.

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As for battery life, I found it to be a mixed bag. For the most part, Nokia Lumia 630 has stellar battery life, with the 1830 mAh running that modest specs. I was able to take almost a couple of day’s worth of heavy use out of the phone, consisting of my standard always-on WiFi, moderate web surfing and YouTube watching, occasional gaming, and offline reading, heavy texting and calls. I didn’t encounter any problems connecting my device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Unfortunately, it went sharply downhill when I used the GPS without a power outlet. The unit got worryingly hot, and it sapped power like there’s no tomorrow. I got a similar experience from my Nokia X. I hope this isn’t a trend.

Nokia Lumia 630 also lost two crucial sensors: the proximity and ambient light sensor. This effectively takes away some “smarts” away from the phone. I can’t even begin to fathom why they did that. A lot of budget phones that cost half as much as this phone even have those.

Software

But, like I said, the purpose of this phone (or at least the way I see it), is to bring WP8.1 out in the open, and in that regard, it performs remarkably well. I can safely say that the software overshadows the downsides of the meager hardware.

Nokia Lumia 630 Philippines

At last, the platform has caught up with Android FroYo in terms of features (although performance is still way ahead in favor or WP8.1). And it’s no accident that I’ve compared this new version to FroYo as far as bells and whistles go.

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While the platform update brought a lot to the table, the most notable ones are what we’ve been enjoying from other platforms for quite a while. First, there’s the Notification Center, which functions similarly to Android.

Windows Phone 8.1 Lumia 630

While I’m not complaining and actually welcome this, I really wish they also brought the Fastlane screen from the Nokia X and Asha lines. That could’ve one-upped the competition (it’s one of the things I absolutely loved about the Nokia X).

Another major breakthrough for the platform is the ability to install apps to the miscroSD card. First to appear in FroYo, it’s a useful aspect that’s lamentably slowly disappearing in Android. This is a good thing, too, because the platform’s app selection is vastly improving. In fact, we’re starting to see more high profile games that take up a lot of space, such as Gameloft’s popular Modern Combat 4. The improvements aren’t just in games. Many of the apps that I couldn’t live without in Android can now be found here as well. Of course, not everything is there since there are a lot of things that the platform won’t allow you to do, such as use third-party keyboards. Thankfully, they’ve improved the OEM keyboard and it behaves similarly to Android’s stock keyboard (such as swype-like input, ability to learn your texting patterns, simultaneous language dictionary usage, etc.).

The platform has also gained a lot of personalization options. For example, you can now set a wallpaper. Once you do, most of the tiles will become transparent, paving the way for you to see the wallpaper underneath. Unfortunately, not all tiles do that, specifically most of the tiles for the “system apps” (i.e. OEM apps).

Themes

Music app, Songs, Videos

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Even the lock screen can be personalized, even beyond its wallpaper. You can set shortcuts and such. Another thing I really like is that some third-party apps jumped in on the personalization bandwagon. For example, the Facebook app lets you periodically change the lockscreen wallpaper with your synced photos. I wish there’s a similar feature in Facebook (if there is, please tell me because I honestly don’t know if there is).

WP 8.1 Settings

The Windows Phone Marketplace has also improved a whole lot, and I’m not just talking about the improved number of install-worthy apps. Finally, you get notifications for updates to your installed apps more often. And, thank God in heaven, there is now a section for a list of your installed apps, and it even puts apps with updates at the top of the list, similar to what we have in Google’s Play Store.

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To be honest, I had a much richer experience with the current Marketplace than I do with Nokia’s app store for the Nokia X platform. It’s not all peaches and cream, though. Navigating through the Marketplace still has a lot of rooms for improvement. But I did have fun finding some real gens that weren’t here before, like feedly.

Overall, I can say that Windows Phone 8.1 is moving the platform into the right direction. Despite the fact that it didn’t bring anything new to the table (relative to its competition), it’s nevertheless good that the platform is improving and catching up.

Overall Performance

As a phone, the Lumia 630 does very well, as expected from a company that seldom disappoints in this category (seldom because I’ll never forget the turd that was the N80). Audio clarity is great, provided you have good reception. Microphone also does well. I’ve also hadn’t encountered any difficulty sending text messages. The default keyboard does remarkably well as well (but it still doesn’t hold a candle to my favorite keyboard). I have to admit, though, I only used the dual SIM aspect for only a day. However, my limited experience with it was good.

As an entertainment device, Nokia Lumia 630’s good, if not admirable. The larger screen makes it a more pleasurable experience to watch videos than either my Nokia X or Lumia 620.

With the games library slowly improving, the platform is slowly becoming a viable gaming platform. Of course, it also helps that controls run smoothly. I downloaded two games: Zombie Tsunami and Real Steel. The former represented casual games and it ran smoothly.

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It’s such a bummer, though, that Real Steel didn’t run at all. It always just gets stuck at the intialization screen. So that means that some apps won’t run on this phone? I’m not sure, but in what I experienced, it seems that way.

Another thing that disappointed me was the camera’s performance. While not awful, I felt that the 620’s and 625’s were better. It all hinged on its low light performance. In normal lighting conditions, the camera actually did well.

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Camera samples of Nokia 630

As such, it won’t be a problem snapping photos in the street during day time.

Low light performance is a different story, unfortunately. Color reproduction suffers and noise management seems poor, in not non-existent. Even in seemingly ample fluorescent light, pictures didn’t come out as well as I liked. It also didn’t help that this phone lacked even a LED flash. I doubt that you’ll be using this beyond casual snaps.

Indoor shot: Camera

Image sample shots

As a GPS device, it performed infinitely better than my Nokia X, which goes to show that having GLONASS is a HUGE help. Nokia Here+ is still the King of the Hill, the gold standard by which all other offline navigation apps in ANY platform seem unable to equal, let alone surpass (especially free ones). Just remember to plug it to a power source while using it as such. My phone’s battery went from hero to zero in a surprisingly short time when I used it unplugged.

Another feature that is much vaunted during launch, but I was unable to test was something the call SensorCore. Simply put, it’s a software layer which enables the phone to constantly collect data from sensors like GPS, compass, etc. all the while using very little power. The chief user of this feature is the Bing Health & Fitness app, which monitors your calories burnt, steps taken, etc. when connected to a wearable device, such as the Jawbone Up24 fitness tracker. Since I don’t have any of those, and I don’t think I’ll be buying one anytime soon, I never got to use SensorCore. However, Microsoft seems set to support this feature since it released a SensorCore SDK for developers to implement the APIs in their apps. You need to enable motion data in settings to use SensorCore.

Verdict

Overall, I have to say that using the Nokia Lumia 630 was a great experience for the most part. However, my feelings for this phone is mixed. When basing it on its own merits, I can say that it’s a great phone. It’s a joy to use, doesn’t look too shabby, adequate screen size by modern standards, and its cost is comfortably good for the wallet. Unfortunately, majority of its wow factors stem from Windows Phone 8.1. At its core, it performs similarly to its predecessors that I found nothing noticeable for me to say that it performs better (i.e. is just as fast and just as smooth, not faster and smoother).Nokia-Lumia-630-Review-Specs-Price-Features-NoypiGeeks

Add to the fact that it seems that x20 and x25 series of phones sill also get the Windows 8.1 update, it means that the few advantages it has over its predecessors are negligible.

With those in mind, will I recommend this phone? Well, yes and no. If you want a first time phone in the WP platform, then I’ll wholeheartedly recommend this phone over the Lumia 620, 625, 520, and 525. It’s so much more bang for your buck and you can use the latest OS version right away. It’s unknown when we’ll see the update for the others.

If you’re coming from Lumia 520 or 525, then this phone is a worthy upgrade. It doesn’t cost a lot and the upgrade would feel more natural. But if you’re already using a Lumia 620 or 625, then I personally feel that it’s not worth the upgrade, especially if you’re using the former. The update in the hardware is so incremental, and add to the fact that you lose a few for a bump in processor. I’d rather wait for the OS update instead. Between this and the Nokia X, the latter is an easy pass. I’d rather take this phone any day unless they come with at least a mid-range Nokia X.

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