There is a Lumia, another Lumia and yet another Lumia, can you distinguish it? Microsoft is firing volleys of Lumia in the budget and affordable market with a wide range of Lumia devices in various price points and screen sizes starting with the cheapest Lumia 430 to the Lumia 640XL with a bigger display. Joining the league is the Lumia 540 which finds its place between the Lumia 535 and Lumia 640. Phew! Some numbers to remember. We have the Lumia 540 at our hands and here is our take on the phone.
2D: Design and Display
One cannot deny that Lumia devices are the most peppier, colorful and playful looking Smartphones around. Outwardly, all the devices might tend to look indistinguishable but the design DNA has become Lumia’s identity. Being an Android user and since most times I have half a dozen of Android review devices around me, I do feel it’s time Microsoft starts experimenting with their design and come with more cool stuff but for now the Lumia 540 looks familiar but still not boring either. It’s the same trusted Lumia design with seriously good build quality. It comes in comes in blue, black, orange and white colours. The blue especially looks uber cool and would have loved that in my hand but have to settle with the more familiar Lumia orange I received for review.
The polycarbonate shell is sturdy and have a good feel about it. The back panel is thick and swoops down the sides and hugging the front. The back panel is glossy but not slippery. Surprisingly, it is not a finger-print magnet either or atleast they are not much visible due to the high quality shiny finish. It is comfortable to hold and offers a good grip.
The volume rocker and power button are placed at easy reach and comes in black shade, which is good in case you change the shell to a different color. On the top, there is the 3.5mm audio jack and the bottom houses the microUSB port in the middle. The rear flaunts the Microsoft branding in the middle and nests the 8MP rear camera with LED flash on top and the speaker in the bottom.
The corners have smooth with gentle curves and sports an unique semi-transparent nature, a design carried forward from Nokia XL. The screen-to-body ration is 64.9% which makes it slightly bigger than many of the 5-inch devices around.
The 540 is a dual-SIM phone and it does not support 4G. Surprising since I was told that the 540 is LTE capable and for some reasons, Microsoft has switched it off for Indian market. I was not convinced why it should be when we are seeing so many LTE handsets in sub-1oK price segment in Android world. A 2200mAh battery is housed inside and is removable.
There are no capacitive buttons but the 540 uses soft buttons which can be hidden and pulled out when required. Overall, the Lumia 540 lives up to its strong reputation of build quality, ergonomics the Lumia devices are known for.
The Lumia 540 features a 1280 x 720p resolution on its 5-inch screen, a resolution which is now a base standard to expect from a display of 5″ and above. The ClearBlack and TrueColor technology gives the Lumia devices an upper hand when it comes to display and 540 has it too, the screen looks pretty good at this level. The black never looked deeper in any non-lumia device. Plus, the viewing angles are great too.
The minuses? Lack of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and glance screen feature. A screen guard is an absolute necessary to keep the screen clean and I am yet to figure out the reason why Microsoft would omit glance feature, which I really liked when I used the 640XL. For starters, this Lumia-exclusive feature displays time, missed calls, texts and emails, Facebook and Twitter notifications among others when the screen is off. I sorely missed glancing the time, it looked perfect like a bedside clock, softly displaying the time.
The OS – WP, the dark knight
In spite of my daily driver being an Android device and I get to play with different Android Smartphones with their own user interface, I should admit Windows Phone OS is the most unique OS with a very clean interface and lively. The OS has come a long way and the Lumia 540 features the WP 8.1 with denim update 2. The WP 10 is round the corner and the 540 is future-ready to be upgraded when it launched.
When you talk about Windows Phone, the major grouse is the lack of apps but I think the scenario is pretty much good now compared to few years back. It has atleast all the essential apps covered and the easy portability of Android and iOS apps to WP10 should make the picture more brighter. My wife uses a Lumia device and I have never seen her complain about lack of apps. Microsoft has covered many basics in the OS right out of the box, so we have the live tiles for news, MS health and fitness taking care of the health freaks, Here Maps, Sports news app, Mix Radio etc for most of the consumers to just go around their business. Then the OS also gives you the ability to pin even your favourite websites to the homescreen for easy access. The customization of tiles and the background can make your device unique if you have a flair for it.
Camera – The third eye
The affordable and mid-range Windows Phone has earlier never impressed much with their camera but recent devices have made marked improvements. The Lumia 540 fares better. It is equipped with an 8 megapixel, auto focus rear camera along with a flash light and a 5 megapixel wide angle front camera. The lens is not Carl Zeiss optics that we have seen in few other Lumia devices. Its a shame that the camera takes video only at 480 pixels.
There are many Lumia camera apps pre-installed and lenses you can download from the market. I found the manual mode work pretty well and suggest the users to play around with it. The manual mode on Lumia camera app are user friendly and easy to use.
In general, the picture qualities are OK. The low light / night shots are passable too. The macros come surprisingly decent enough.
Performance – the boiling point
TheLumia 540 is powered by Snapdragon 200 Quad core processor clocked to 1.2 GHz , 1GB RAM and Adreno 302 GPU. A 8 GB internal storage with an option for microSD slot that can include up to 128GB. On paper side by side devices from the Android world at this price range, it might look under-powered but different OS have different optimization levels. WP is known to handle well with lower specs and Lumia 540 makes best use of the available hardware. The lack of power is felt mainly when you play heavy games like GT Racing 2 or Asphalt 8. The graphics is also scaled down and frame rates drops when playing graphic intense games but it handles most other games pretty well. It does take time to load / resume certain apps while multitasking which is annoying . For every day tasks and multi-tasking you don’t feel strained though.
The 2200mAh battery for most Android devices with similar hardware specs and display size might yield dismal results. The story is bit different with Lumia 540. The various optimization makes the best use of the pack and you can easily sail through a day with a medium to heavy usage that most of us put it through. For peer to peer file sharing, there is Lumia Beamer, Lumia Storyteller, and Play To DLNA apps.
Video playback is a major concern when you try playing HD videos with the native app. The way around is to download and install third party apps like VLC player and it play smoothly. I wish Microsoft makes the native video player app better in the WP10.
Talking about the audio quality, the in-call audio is pretty good and the Lumia has a very loud speaker with a good clarity. In general, the 540 offers a good audio quality both for calls and listening music. Then there is also Mix Radio, a music service almost all the WP users love, it lets you have offline mixes or collection of songs which you can listen without consuming mobile data.
So should you buy Lumia 540? It is a definite upgrade from the 535 but then there is Lumia 640. Microsoft has been confusing with their pricing strategy and product placement to differentiate between their own other models. You can find now in market both the 540 and 640 almost at similar pricing, that makes it bit complicated. The 640 has a better processor, slightly better battery and gets Gorilla glass protection but one area where the 540 outscores the 640 is at the front camera. The 5-megapixel front camera of the 540 overshadows the mere 1MP front camera of the 640, thus making it the best affordable selfie phone in the Windows Phone devices.