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Nokia Lumia 635 Quick Review

One of my favourite phones of last year was the Lumia 625 - a big-screened, 4G device that embodied all that was good about the Windows Phone platform but packaged it in a phone that was incredible value. It was so good I bought one for my wife to replace her HTC 8S.

Nokia NZ has just made the Lumia 635 available - and whilst it embodies many of the values from the 625 I'm not sure it's a direct replacement. The screen shrinks from 4.7" to 4.5" and loses some features. A smattering of upgrades make sure it's still an attractive phone though, especially if you once again consider the price.

The first thing that strikes you about the 635 is that it's the first Lumia phone that doesn't actually feel nice in the hand. It's chunky, square edged and completely eschews the lovely radiused sides which make other Lumias so nice to hold. The black finish of the device I tried made it look like a no-nonsense device, although I'm sure the coloured versions will look altogether more friendly.

Nokia has always delivered good screens and the 635 is no exception - it's resolution may not seem high for the size, but it's dot pitch is actually higher than the 625 - and of course Windows Phone's flat, live tile based design does a good job of bringing out the best in lower resolution screens. The 635 gains a ClearBlack coating and there's no question that this does make a difference to the IPS display, adding a level of contrast that belies the bargain basement price.

As Windows Phone's strongest point is it's performance on low end hardware, it's no surprise to find the interface is smooth and there are no hesitations or stutters in use. I suspect the biggest performance difference between the 635 and the 625 is likely to be a slightly longer lived battery despite the slightly smaller battery, as a result of the improvements that come moving from the Snapdragon S4 to the 400.

The camera takes decent pictures in good light, however it loses the flash of the 625, and there's no front-facing camera either, so selfies and video calls are out of the window. Also missing are the camera button, something of a shock given its previously mandatory requirement, and the touch sensitive front panel keys, replaced with virtual soft keys on the display.

As compensation the 635 supports Miracast, so you can display your screen on a compatible TV or one of Microsoft's new Miracast dongles if you don't have a compatible TV. There's removable back cover which conceals a micro SD slot - given that there's only 8GB on the phone you'll probably need to slot some extra storage in here.

Away from the hardware there's little more to say about the 635, given the commonality of software features across the Windows Phone range.

If you're in the market for a budget Windows Phone and are in a 4G area, then this beats out the 530, however it's probably worth trying one before you buy - I didn't like the feel of the phone in the hand and if you feel the same I'd highly recommend seeking out a 625 instead, which you might find offers a better set of features than the newer phone.

Otherwise the 635 is a good buy at NZ$299. Whilst the app gap still exists, for a phone like this, at the cheaper end of the market, that's not so important. It's a solid offering, and probably one of the better phones currently available.

The only other options of comparable quality are the new Motorola G - which has grown rather large by comparison and lacks 4G, although in compensation you do get a larger, higher resolution screen for the same price. The older 4G Motorola G is also still available (for now), offering all the same features and an improved screen for just NZ$30 more.

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