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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nokia Lumia 630 review: A vibrant, cheap alternative to Android Part II

As it did with previous Lumias, Nokia has chucked in its own software, including Here Maps, Here Drive and Here Transit. Nokia's mapping software is pretty good and it allows you to download large areas -- such as the entirety of England -- to your phone for offline use. Here Drive gives you turn-by-turn satellite navigation, meaning you won't need to shell out on a TomTom. I had a little trouble though, as the app wouldn't load on my phone, even though it was apparently up to date. I was forced to manually download the app from the online store onto a microSD card, then load that into the phone. It may be just a one-off bug, but it's worth bearing in mind if you have similar troubles.
Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Here Transit meanwhile gives you live departure times for local public transport -- buses, trains and the Underground too, if you're in London. You'll also find Nokia's Mix Radio on board, which lets you stream free music playlists, without ads. It's a good job Nokia includes so much stuff as the Windows Phone app store is still poorly stocked. While big names like Netflix, Spotify, WhatsApp and Instagram are on board, Windows Phone almost always receives apps long after they have launched on iOS and Android.

Power and performance

Powering the phone is a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. It's the same chip that you'll find in the Motorola Moto G, although the G has 1GB of RAM, while the Lumia 630 has 512MB. Microsoft argues that Windows Phone doesn't require as much RAM as Android to work smoothly however and indeed I found the phone to be perfectly capable.
Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Navigating around the radiant tiles was swift, with no noticeable stuttering or slow down. Apps opened quickly, although the camera app is subject to a several second delay, which could prove annoying if you're trying to catch your pet doing something particularly cute.
Still, it handled more demanding tasks without trouble. Glossy 3D racer Asphalt 8 played smoothly with high frame rates in all but the most intense of racing moments, while video streaming in Netflix and BBC iPlayer was handled admirably. It might not have the world's most powerful processor on paper, but the fact remains that there's not a whole lot in the Windows Phone store that will really tax the top-end processors. For the majority of tasks you're likely to ask of your phone, 630 has enough juice to cope.


On the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel camera -- the same number of megapixels you'll get from the Moto G. I took it for a spin in the CNET office and found it gave adequate results for a budget phone.
Nokia Lumia 630 camera testAndrew Hoyle/CNET
My first shot was rather dark -- certainly darker than the area actually was -- and there's a far bit of image noise in the shadowy areas. Still, it achieved a decent focus.
Nokia Lumia 630 camera testAndrew Hoyle/CNET
On my second shot of our pool table, I again found the camera to err rather on the dark side. The Nokia camera app does give some manual control over settings like exposure, shutter speed and white balance, so it's worth playing around if you're not happy with the auto mode.
Nokia Lumia 630 camera testAndrew Hoyle/CNET
I'd certainly need to tweak the white balance settings on this close up shot of some fruit, as the colours on full-automatic mode are very drab and unimpressive.
The camera doesn't really impress, but I won't go so far as to call it awful -- realistically, it's about what you should expect, given the price of the phone. It's not going to catapult you into photography stardom, but so long as you take your shots in well-lit areas and take the time to use the manual controls properly, you should be able to get snaps good enough for Facebook. Bear in mind that there's no flash -- something you will find on the Moto G -- so you can forget about night-time portraits of your friends.


The Lumia 630 is powered by a 1,830mAh battery, which Nokia reckons will provide 13 hours of 3G talk time. That's a fairly decent claim and from my own testing, I'd say it's pretty close to the mark. With general use -- a bit of Web browsing, social networking and so forth -- the phone holds its charge fairly well.
In my more demanding video looping test, the battery had dropped to 73 percent after 2 hours and 32 percent after 5 hours, which isn't too bad. You certainly shouldn't be worrying about eating through all your power when watching a film on a long train journey. If you're not too careful about how much battery you're using, you'll almost certainly want to give it a charge overnight.
If you want to squeeze every last bit of juice possible from the battery, keep the screen brightness down, keep Wi-Fi turned off and avoid doing anything processor-heavy like gaming or video streaming. The battery is removable so you could always pick up a spare to carry around in case of emergency.


If you're taking your first tentative steps into the smartphone world, the Nokia Lumia 630 isn't a bad option. It's dirt cheap, it has enough power for anything you're likely to want to do and its Windows Phone 8.1 software is simple to get to grips with. Nokia's software additions are a bonus too.
You'd be wise to consider the Motorola Moto G though. It has a higher-resolution display for crisper photos and text and its Android software, while a little more complicated, means you have considerably more apps to choose from in the Google Play store. If you want the latest games when your Galaxy S5-toting friends get them, the Moto G is the one to go for.
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