What is the Nokia Lumia 630?

The Nokia Lumia 630 is a low-end phone. As it is set to sell for around £100, you could call it Nokia’s Windows _phone_ 8.1 alternative to the Motorola Moto G, currently one of the most popular lower-cost phones.

The screen disappoints next to the best Android phones at the price, but otherwise this is a likeable _phone_ for those on a budget.

SEE ALSO: Best Cheap Mobile Phones 2014


Nokia Lumia 630 – Design

Like almost all Nokia Lumia phones, the Lumia 630 has a plastic shell. And it’s a shell that embraces colour.

You can get a black Lumia 630 if you’re after a subdued look, but we imagine many buyers will be attracted to the phone because of the bright green and orange shades it’s available in.

We got hold of the orange Lumia 630, and it’s a real screaming highlighter-style shade. Photos cannot really do justice to quite how bright it is. The colour continues onto the phone’s buttons too, giving it an assured look that is often missing from cheaper phones.

SEE ALSO: Best Android Phones 2014

Nokia Lumia 630 2


The Lumia 630 doesn’t feel quite as strong or expensive as the higher-end Lumias, but the finish is good. Texturing has been used in the plastic of the removable back to give it a bit of grip, and avoid the tacky feel of some phone plastics. That said, the 4G edition of this phone, the Lumia 635, does have a glossy, shiny finish.

One of the star features of the Nokia Lumia 630’s design is that everything is designed to be within easy reach.  This is a mid-size phone, but Nokia still places the power button on the side rather than the top, meaning it sits right by where your thumb naturally rests (for right-handers at least).

SEE ALSO: Windows phone 8.1 review

Nokia Lumia 630


With the screen off, the Lumia 630 has some of the design purity of the Moto G – something generally missing from budget ZTE and Huawei rivals. There are no physical soft keys to label (this phone has software soft keys), and as the memory card and microSIM slots sit under the battery cover, there are no on-body trays to deal with. Nokia has also applied a tapering effect to the phone’s lines, providing an added sense of deliberation.

The Lumia 630 is a successful design, only lacking the dense, flex-free feel of the pricier Lumias.

Nokia Lumia 630 1

Nokia Lumia 630 – Screen

The Nokia Lumia 630 has a 4.5-inch screen. This is becoming a norm for budget phones, and while people’s impression of what constitutes a ‘large’ or ‘small’ phone is changing constantly, it offers a pretty great compromise between display size and accessibility.

What do we mean exactly? You can still pull down the notifications menu while holding the Lumia 630 in one hand, but you have enough space to type away accurately using Windows phone 8.1’s keyboard.

Nokia Lumia 630 7


Display quality is more of a mixed bag.

First, we’ll cover the good bits. Colour is OK for a phone of this price. There is a slight blue-ish-ness to the blacks that makes us think Nokia labelling this a ClearBlack display is pushing it a bit, but for £100 it performs reasonably well.

For the uninitiated, ClearBlack is a stamp Nokia puts on the phones it thinks offer really good displays that provide a vibrant, punchy image. There’s no particular display tech involved (there are both IPS and OLED ClearBlack screens), but it is a generally reliable seal of quality.

What we’re most pleased to see is no sense of the display being recessed far beyond the top layer. Less advanced IPS LCD screen types tend to look a little washed out, partly thanks to being made of a number of discrete layers between which are tiny air gaps. But the Lumia 630’s screen is pretty immediate and vital-looking.

Angled viewing diminishes the brightness a bit, but as with most IPS LCDs, viewing angles are generally very good – there’s no dramatic contrast shift.

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So what’s bad? Resolution.

The Lumia 630 display is 854 x 480 pixels in resolution, which is well below the 2014 standard for budget Android phones. We’d like to see devices of this size use at least 960 x 540 resolutions, if not 720p, as seen in the Moto G – a phone of roughly the same price.

This resolution also marks a step down in sharpness from last year’s budget Nokia Lumias, the excellent Lumia 620 and Lumia 520. Those phones use 800 x 480 resolution screens, but as they are so much smaller they both appear sharper than the Lumia 630. If you're picky about screen quality, you probably won't be 100 per cent happy with this phone.

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Windows phone 8.1 emphasises the resolution issue too. It lets you fit more, smaller Live Tile shortcuts onto your phone’s home screen, showing off quite how blocky the screen appears next to more expensive phones.

It’s immediately obvious, and one of the most off-putting aspects of the Lumia 630.

Windows Phones have traditionally lagged behind the Android competition in terms of resolution. Once we could blame the software, as previous version of Windows phone limited the resolutions available to phone manufacturers. But now that Windows Phones use everything from 480 x 800 pixels right up to 1080p, we can only assume it’s a pure cost issue.

The lack of adaptive brightness is another screen complaint. Most phones have an ambient light sensor in their screen surround, letting a mobile tell how bright the screen needs to be for any occasion. Here, you manually pick between ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ backlight settings.

Having to flick between these as you move between outdoors and indoors is annoying, and technophobes who don’t realise they can do this may just end up thinking their Lumia 630 is merely indecipherable when used outside. Even at top brightness the phone struggles with a bright, sunny day.

The backlight is also quite inconsistent. There is a slightly dimmed area at the top that appears to be where the downward-firing backlight LEDs live. It's a sign this isn't a top-quality screen.

Nokia has got a few elements of the Lumia 630 display right, but others are way off.

Nokia Lumia 630 – Windows phone 8.1

The Lumia 630 is the first phone to be released fresh out of the box with Windows phone 8.1, a mid-stage release that will bridge the gap between Windows phone 8 and, presumably, Windows phone 9.

Some of the big differences it introduces are ones that make phones like the Lumia 630 possible. For example, before Windows phone 8.1, mobiles had to have physical soft keys as there was no support for software ones.

The Lumia 630’s soft keys use the bottom bit of the display, rather than having separate sensors, and this makes the phone a bit simpler to produce. Simpler equals cheaper.

There’s also no need for a separate camera shutter button these days – the Lumia 630 doesn’t have one.

SEE ALSO: Windows 9 release date, news and rumours

 
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Windows phone 8.1 isn’t just about making Windows phones even cheaper, though. There are several important new functions.

There is an Android-like notifications drop-down menu that gives you a round-up of your latest emails and so on, and a row of buttons that act as a Wi-Fi switch, Bluetooth switch, camera shortcut and screen brightness flicker.

As we said in our Windows phone 8.1 review, these new elements aren’t particularly well executed in visual terms, but this doesn’t necessarily matter a great deal in a low-cost phone like this.

Windows phone 8.1’s other big feature is something that’s not available in the UK yet – the Cortana digital assistant. This works a little like a mash-up of Siri and Google Now, offering a voice assistant and something that functions a little like a more intelligent web search. However, you won’t be able to access it until later in the year.

SEE ALSO: Cortana vs Google Now vs Siri

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Windows phone 8.1 is a bit of a work in progress effort, and feels like a stop-gap release. But the most important question to ask yourself is whether you’ll get on with Windows phone as a whole.

The system has significant pros and cons. In the plus column, Windows phone looks and feels quick and slick. At its original release Windows phone looked a good deal more sophisticated than the competition. iOS 7 and newer version of Android have largely caught up, but the Lumia 630 will look a good deal better than some of the half-hearted custom Android interfaces that are common at the price. 
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The basic navigation lag that is also a feature of cheap Androids is largely a non-issue with Windows Phones like the Lumia 630.

On the negative end, Windows phone still has a serious apps and games problem. The library is much weaker than that of Android or iOS.

The arrival of Windows phone 8.1 has only compounded this problem, as they also need to be tweaked for release on the new system. For example, at the time of writing there’s no Whatsapp.

The longer-term issue for many – given these issues will likely be sorted fairly soon – is that you don’t get the stream of new games seen on iOS and, to a lesser extent, Android. Most of us settle down to use a core team of apps, but if you like your games you’ll probably want regular new ones. And that is an area where the Lumia 630 will not shine.

Storage isn't a big issue here, though, as it is in some budget phones. You get just 8GB of internal memory, but there's a microSD slot under the cover and you can manually select where games/apps are installed to.

Nokia Lumia 630 – Specs and Performance

As it lacks a strong selection of high-end 3D games, it’s actually quite tricky to really test the power of the Lumia 630 in a real-world sense. Nothing we tried posed any particular problem: Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Kinectimals and a bunch of other games all run fine.

That’s no great surprise. The Lumia 630 has a fairly decent Snapdragon Qualcomm 400 processor, the same used by the Motorola Moto G.

There’s just 512MB of RAM, and this seems to make loading apps pretty sluggish. As we’ve said, flicking through the Windows phone 8.1 interface is nice and quick, but actually moving between apps is a lot slower. Slower too than the best Android phones at the price, such as the Motorola Moto G. If anything this seems to have got worse since last year's budget Windows Phones, although this may be a side effect of our increasing expectations of budget mobiles.

Most of our normal phone benchmarks are not available for Windows Phone, but the browser-based Sunspider test shows you roughly what to expect. The Lumia 630 completes this test of Java-based tasks in 1461 milliseconds, around the same time as the Moto G. Windows phones used to decimate Androids in this test, but with the latest version of Android and the latest version of Chrome, they’re pretty even.

Windows Phone’s performance lead over Android doesn’t really exist anymore, if you pick the right Android phone (at this price that means the Moto G).

Nokia Lumia 630 – Camera

The Nokia Lumia 630 has a 5-megapixel rear camera. It’s about as basic as they come, with no flash on the back and no front-facing camera for selfies or video chat.

Its hardware is similar or identical to that of the Lumia 520, with a 1/4-inch sensor and f/2.4 lens.

The shooting experience is much like those phones too. The Lumia 630 camera is not super-fast, but is mostly reliable and there isn’t the horrible shutter lag seen in some ultra-budget phones.

Nokia Lumia 630 5

No flash no front camera

Shot-to-shot times are around two seconds, though, which is quite slow for normal photo shooting. It would have been good to see Nokia make a bit of progress in this area since last year – it’s a good deal slower than the rival EE Kestrel, for example.

As is quite common among lower-resolution phone camera sensors, the Lumia 630 performs quite a lot of processing to help its photos ‘pop’ a little, and this results in shots looking slightly unnatural at pixel level when there's a strong variance in light levels.

But image quality is a fair bit better than, say the Motorola Moto G and Moto E. You can create some nice-looking photos, if not ones you can successfully crop into. Here are a few examples of the sort of quality to expect:

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Nokia Lumia 630 9

The Lumia 630 appears to use the same camera internals as the Lumia 625. The older Lumia 520 looks more processed, but that may come as a result of the tricky highlights - we see such 'painted' looking processing in some other Lumia 630 samples (see below).

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Nokia Lumia 630 3


Nokia Lumia 630

The Lumia 630 doesn't have the resolution to let you crop much into pics like this, but as-is the result can look decent.

Lumia 630 2

This is a pretty boring photo, but reveals quite how 'painted' the Lumia 630's shots can look when dealing with powerful light sources. Check out the crop below for a closer look:

1:1 pixel crop:
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Lumia 630

This photo highlights the most major issue the Lumia 630's colours have: the phone struggles with reds. They're not radically undersaturated as in some cheap phones, but they can look a bit "toxic crusader".

In more taxing low-light conditions, the limits of the hardware are soon revealed. Without a flash, you can’t really take decent pictures of people at night. And while the Lumia 630 has a pretty successful stab at metering darker scenes correctly, the detail in night shots is extremely limited. You can expect vague approximations of night-time photos and little more.

That said, you won't get much better at the price.

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Teleman playing at the Islington Assembly Hall, May 2014

1:1 pixel crop:
Nokia Lumia 630 5


Nokia Lumia 630 1

With relatively little light to work with, the Lumia 630 has a fair stab at exposing the scene, ramping up brightness in order to make objects visible. But as the crop below shows, image quality is pretty poor.

1:1 pixel crop:
Nokia Lumia 630 2


Nokia still doesn’t have a proper inbuilt HDR mode in its cameras, either, which is disappointing. The ‘backlight’ mode doesn’t have the desired effect and the ‘bracketing’ mode, which takes 3 or 5 shots with differing exposure settings, is hopelessly slow for handheld HDR’ing, and doesn’t merge the shots for you.

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This is an example of an image that could do with the HDR treatment. While the Lumia 630 has performed an even exposure, the foreground would pop a lot more if it was a little brigther, which is what HDR would provide. As-is, it's not going to get many Instagram upvotes or Facebook likes.

Nokia hasn’t really made much progress since last year’s models it seems, and you could easily judge the camera apps situation as a step backwards.

The Lumia 630 has two camera apps – one standard Windows phone app and another made by Nokia. We can imagine many people getting confused, especially when there’s no way to hide one from your apps menu. We’re making more a point of this here than we would in a high-end Lumia review as more phone novices are likely to get their hands on this than, say, a Lumia 1020.

As with Nokia’s pricier phones, the Nokia camera app lets you have manual control over the Lumia 630’s camera settings. However, the camera isn't really good enough to warrant too much experimentation.

Video capture tops out at 720p – most phones over 1080p, but at the price we can accept this sort of cutback.

Taking a step back, the Nokia Lumia 630 has a better camera than some at the price. But when little-to-no progress seems to have been made since last year and the £100 EE Kestrel offers a more intuitive experience, a flash and a front-facing camera while supplying marginally better image quality, it is a minor disappointment.

Nokia Lumia 630 – Battery Life

One of the issues with the Lumia 630’s closest numerical forbear the Lumia 620 was that it had a pretty small battery. Nokia largely solved this issue with the Lumia 520, and it had packed a respectable brick into the Lumia 630 as well.

The phone uses a 1,830mAh battery, which you have easy access to simply by taking the phone’s back off. Capacity doesn’t sound that great at first, but we do need to consider quite how low-res the phone’s screen is. With 480 x 800 resolution, the Lumia 630 only has roughly a third the number of pixels to drive as the Moto G.

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We were able to get at least a day and a half out of the phone, and it holds onto its charge fairly well when not in use. Nokia says you’ll get 600hrs out of the phone in standby – the reality will almost certainly be a bit less, but it does mean your battery won’t drain down much overnight.

The Nokia Lumia 630 also has a battery saver mode, which limits screen brightness and background data in order to conserve battery. It’s pretty effective, but we don’t recommend using it 24/7, just when you need to drag out the last few per cent of battery. Why? Limiting backlight brightness makes the phone’s display tricky to read outdoors.


Nokia Lumia 630 – Speaker and Call Quality

As is common among Nokia phones, the Lumia 630’s call quality is pretty decent. The call speaker offers quite beefy sound, which should help out when you’re taking calls in slightly noisier environments.

The internal loudspeaker isn’t quite so hot, though. Top volume is decent but the sound is a little coarse and bass-light, as you’d probably expect at the price.

The Lumia 630 has a pretty standard speaker setup, with a single mono speaker on the back.

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Nokia Lumia 630 – Connectivity

The Nokia Lumia 630 offers fairly rudimentary connectivity. The main omission is 4G, which is found in the slightly more expensive Lumia 635 if it is a must-have.

Other less useful missing bits include an IR transmitter, used to let a phone work as a universal remote, ac Wi-Fi and NFC. Nokia was once a big supporter of NFC (it featured in the Lumia 620), but even it seems to have conceded that it is not all that useful for most people.

Aside from 4G and a few bells and whistles, the Lumia 630 has just about everything you’d need. There’s GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 and 21Mbps HSPA (about as fast as 3G gets in phones). There’s also an FM radio, which is often missing from phones these days.


Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 630?

Nokia and Microsoft seem to have trouble maintaining a competitive position with their Android rivals. Last year it had a strong budget showing with the Lumia 620 – it hit it out of the park with that phone. The Lumia 520 was a sensible, hugely popular follow-up.

But it hasn’t kept up the pace.

The Lumia 630 doesn’t have quite the same spark. It acts as a showcase of how much Nokia can now leave out of its phones thanks to the new regime of Windows phone 8.1, but doesn’t really cost much less, and doesn’t add all that much more either. A larger screen is welcome, but while it adds to certain experiences, its spotlight on the low-dpi screen is a real problem – especially if you compare it to Android rivals of the same price.

We don’t demand Moto G-like sharpness, but a blocky display sees the Lumia 630 arrive already well behind the curve.

Display issues twinned with the continuing app issues of Windows phone mean most tech fans should probably consider an Android alternative. The Moto E, Moto G, EE Kestrel and Alcatel Idol One Touch S offer more for your money.

 Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 630 is a cheery, low cost phone with a better camera than some bargain basement Androids. But its screen resolution is quite poor and the availability and load speed of apps are issues.

Next, read more mobile phone reviews or try our best cheap mobile phones round-up