Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Audio

Speaker quality

We found the Lumia 650’s sound quality to be mids orientated, as we have found it to be the case with a lot of the Nokia and now Microsoft devices. Its speaker is located at the front of the phone, located at the bottom of the display. This makes it great for watching content on your phone as the sound is directed towards you.

On our loudness tests, we scored it a healthy 7.5/10, just a little quieter than its older brother the Lumia 950 and on par with HTC’s flagship, the HTC One M9. However, due to its very lightweight construction and plastic back panel, there were slight vibrations that could be felt on the phone when used at maximum volume. Read next: Best sounding phone of 2016.

Moving on to the sound quality traits, we found it to be centred around the mids and highs, with the mids being quite forward and the highs having a decent extension but could do with a better sparkle.

The same couldn’t be said about the bass, where the sub-bass frequencies were non-existent and the mid-bass slam was very faint. Moving on to its soundstage, we found it to lack depth whilst having good width. The Lumia 650’s instrument separation is closed and makes the sound jumbled.

Microsoft Lumia 650 Review - Audio

Internal sound quality

We weren’t expecting a great deal here, especially as we presume the Lumia 650 is utilising a SoC (system on chip) Qualcomm Snapdragon 212, with the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP which supports the impressive 24-bit/192KHz audio format.

When we performed our amplifier tests, where we use a headphone amplifier to boost the internal signal to notice low-level audio signals to hear any problems a phone might possess. We found the Lumia 650 to suffer from a constant buzzing sound when on the lockscreen, whilst in the home screen there wasn’t any audible hissing, but every now and then heard small static popping sounds. The amplifier tests might be of concern to you if you use an amplifier - be it within your car or a headphone amplifier.

Without an amplifier the phone was able to reproduce an average sound output at 80-85 percent volume for our ears to feel they were being filled with music. In comparison the Lumia 950 needed 75-80 percent, whilst the OnePlus 2 only needs 60-65 percent to reproduce the same output. Read our detailed breakdown of some of the best sounding phones: Best sounding phone of 2016.

Listening to its sound quality, we found the lows to extend into the sub-bass regions but cut-off in the lower frequency spectrum. Its mid-bass has decent control and impact and thankfully doesn’t bleed into the mids that much.

Speaking of which, we found the mids to be a little recessed creating a slightly warm sound signature. Despite being slightly pushed back we were satisfied with the forward sounding mids, producing a good all-round sound signature.

The highs are a little rolled off at the top end and lack a little sparkle, but they’re not sibilant which allows you to enjoy your music for longer listening sessions.

The reproduced soundstage is odd to our ears, which we presume is down to the decay, making the sound feel a little closed, lacking depth and also width. It does however have average instrument separation, but due to a slightly odd tonality doesn’t have the spacious sound that you would expect from a Microsoft phone. 

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Connectivity and extras

The Lumia 650 comes equipped with a single 4G LTE Nano-SIM slot enabling you to enjoy 4G speeds, as long as you’re on an appropriate 4G contract. Read next: Best SIM-only deals 2016 UK.

The Microsoft phone comes equipped with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS). It’s nice to see the later revision of Bluetooth included and advanced GPS tracking abilities. There is also NFC support built into the phone, a great addition for quick pairing.

Microsoft Lumia 650 Review - Extras

At this price range we didn’t expect Wi-Fi 802.11ac or a fingerprint scanner and it comes to no surprise that they’re not included at its £150 price tag. Read next: Cheapest 4G smartphones of 2016.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Camera performance

The phone is equipped with a rear 8Mp rear-facing camera which has an aperture of f/2.2 using a 1/4in sensor, able to take 16:9 and 4:3 pictures.  The camera has the ability to record video at [email protected] which is slightly disappointing considering full-HD has become a norm within smartphones. Fortunately there is a rear LED flash for low-light shots and videos. Read next: Best Android phones 2016

Microsoft Lumia 650 Review - Camera

Through the Camera app you’ll be able to adjust the white balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed and brightness. Useful features for taking your perfect picture. We found that taking multiple photos at once was a little hit and miss, where at times it would take several seconds before taking the photo (due to the camera looking for a focus point), whilst in other situations being able to quickly snap photos with no delay – through the camera’s settings you’ll be able to adjust the ‘Press and hold camera button’ action.

The camera’s performance in low-light conditions is good, but we did find it to produce a little image noise. In bright-light conditions we were happy with the overall picture quality with no real signs of blurring or inconsistencies. However, the camera did have trouble distinguishing focus points in sunny conditions, where no matter what we tried we would get extremely dark images (without flash), due to the camera focusing on a light, rather than a the darker subject. Read next: Best phone camera 2016.

Lumia 650 review - Camera

The front-facing camera is also capable of [email protected] recordings and takes 5Mp pictures with an aperture of f/2.2. We found its picture quality to be good; it lacked fun selfie features which are offered by its Android and iOS competitors.

The video quality of the Lumia 650 is good and performed well in our stability tests. The video was smooth and clear, whilst audio was accurately reproduced. We were again disappointed not to find full-HD recoding capabilities or 60fps abilities.

Being limited to 720p is rather disappointing and this all comes from a combination of the Snapdragon 212 chipset limitations of only being able to display a 1280x720 display and the phone’s camera sensor being limited to a 720p recording. It obviously doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to have a camera recording at full-HD (1920x1080), whilst your phone’s display can only output HD (1280x720).

After taking a picture the editing options are extremely limited, with you being able to only crop, automatically enhance or rotate the image. We would have liked to see more options included within the in-built photo editing tools.

Microsoft Lumia 650 review: Software

The Lumia 650 comes with Windows 10 Mobile, but lacks Continuum support meaning you won’t be able to fully enjoy desktop Windows 10 features and benefits. Through Microsoft’s website it’s clear that the ‘Lumia 650 is the smart choice for your business’, however we struggle to see it really being used by business power-users, due to the lack of Continuum support and its somewhat sluggish performance due to the crippling power of the Snapdragon 212 chipset.

Microsoft Lumia 650 Review - Software

We did experience lag and slowness whilst switching in-between apps, especially ones which are slightly more intensive. This was a big disappointment for us, as despite not having the hardware, we were hoping for a fluid Windows 10 Mobile experience. As previously stated, we don’t expect the phone to be packed with the latest and greatest CPU, GPU nor RAM modules, but would have liked to see the Lumia 650 feel more fluid.

Moving on to the software itself, we have a full detailed review of Windows 10 Mobile, which goes into the functionalities and features you can expect to get from your Lumia 650 – just remember that Continuum isn’t (currently) supported on the 650.


Microsoft Lumia 650: Specs

  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • 5in 1280x720 OLED touchscreen, 297ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 Quad Core A7 processor up to 1.3GHz
  • Qualcomm Adreno 304 up to 400MHz
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB storage (expandable Micro-SD card offers additional 200GB)
  • 8Mp main camera, LED flash
  • 5Mp front camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano-SIM
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS
  • NFC
  • 2000mAh removable battery
  • 70.9x142x6.9mm
  • 122g
  • 2 year warranty