Nokia Lumia 620 review: Where price and features align

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The Good The Nokia Lumia 620 has a glare-cutting screen, a decent 5-megapixel camera, NFC, and an affordable price tag.

The Bad The Lumia 620 loses points for poor call quality, a short screen time-out, a small battery, and numerous design issues -- including a hard-to-find SIM card slot.

The Bottom Line Nokia's Lumia 620 smartphone successfully delivers a complete Windows Phone 8 experience for a low price, but buyer beware of some compromises in battery, sound, and design.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

This review originally posted at 1/08/2013, and was updated 09/12/2013 with performance specs for the Aio Wireless model.

The Lumia 620 is Nokia's stab at an affordable unlocked Windows Phone 8 device for the global masses, and its fun, youthful design so typical of the Lumia line will help it stand out from competitors in the same price point.

Still a dual-core Windows 8 phone with front and rear cameras, the 620 isn't as stacked with high-end features as its fellows -- the screen comes in sub-4 inches, there are some design flaws, and there's no wireless charging. However, NFC, an anti-glare screen, and a decent camera make it an appealing, and fairly feature-rich, smartphone choice for budget-keepers.

In the U.S., Nokia takes careful, calculated aim at the premium and upper-mid-range markets with Lumia devices like the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 series (also: 822 and 810). Yet, it could very well be phones like the entry-level Nokia Lumia 620 that embody Nokia's strongest growth opportunity.

Starting as low as $249, or about 190 euros, the Lumia 620 sells in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, and with Aio Wireless in the U.S. for $99 (it was $180.)

Design and build
With its five saturated hues -- white, black, yellow, cyan, and magenta -- the Lumia 620 cries out for attention. The case colors are double-layered, with an interior color (like white) that melds with the top coating (like blue) to create a sort of gauzy, layered look. Since the back covers pop off, you could technically switch them out.

Beyond its various candy coatings, the Lumia 620 bears a resemblance to the feature-rich 920, at least in terms of its button and camera positioning. Not all of that resemblance is a good thing. Though the phone only stands 4.5 inches tall and 2.4 inches wide, it's heavy for its size, coming in at 4.5 ounces, and just as thick as taller Lumias, 0.43 inch deep.

Rounded corners characterize the 620's shape, along with heavily rounded spines and a smooth, sometimes slippery backing that nevertheless fits the curve of my palm. Less successful is the sharp edge where the screen meets the sides; I feel it whenever I grip the phone in my hand (but not when I hold it lightly).

The Lumia 620 comes in more traditional Nokia Windows smartphone colors like cyan, yellow, and magenta.
The Nokia Lumia 620 comes in several candy-colored hues, including lime and cyan. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Nokia gave this lesser Lumia a 3.8-inch display with a 800x480 pixel resolution (WVGA). Windows Phone's bold, bright themes help keep elements looking sharp, but Nokia's polarization filter deserves much of the credit for cutting down glare. With the screen brightness set to auto, and the "sunlight readability" setting on (this happens by default), I could happily read CNET's Web site, in desktop mode, no matter which way I faced. One disclaimer, though: I tested the phone in the full winter sun, but it's possible that strong summer rays could overpower the filter. I definitely recommend testing this out somewhere tropical.

Above the main display area, you'll find the front-facing VGA camera; below it, a large bezel hosts the three typical capacitive touch navigation buttons for Windows Phone. There's the back/multitasking button, the Start/voice command key, and the search button.

On the top of the phone sits the 3.5 millimeter headset jack, and on the bottom, you'll find the Micro-USB charging port. On the right are Nokia's now-standard oblong buttons for controlling volume, power/lock, and the camera shutter. I love how these buttons rise from the surface, but on my review phone at least, the power and volume buttons were stiff and uncomfortable to press. In contrast, the camera button depressed easily.

Flip over the phone to see the 5-megapixel main camera lens and flash module. You'll have to pry off the back cover to access the microSD card slot -- which takes up to 64GB of external storage -- and the micro-SIM card slot. Luckily, Nokia included a sticker demonstrating how the heck to pop off the back cover. I'll tell you: place a thumb firmly over the camera module while curling your fingers over the top of the backing and pull/push.

Nokia Lumia 620
You'll need a manual to find the 620's SIM card slot. Josh Miller/CNET

Your efforts will reward you with a revealing look at the 620's innards, with the microSD card slot cage to the left of the battery. Does that mean the hollowed-out area on top is for the micro-SIM? Don't be preposterous! You have to first remove the battery, then either pull out the tag that reads SIM or, even better, feel around with your nail for a tiny ledge beneath the microSD card mount and pull out. And good luck fitting the SIM tray back in its slot on your first try.

Here's one last pro tip: When putting the panel back on, start at the bottom and snap the cover on the top of the phone last.

Apps and OS
The Lumia 620 runs Windows Phone 8, which means that it comes with tools to sign on to multiple e-mail and social networking accounts. I had no problem adding my corporate e-mail to the phone and, as usual, signing into Twitter and Facebook were a breeze.

For the most part, you can do everything on the 620 that you can on any other Windows Phone 8 device. For a refresher, check out my Windows Phone 8 review.

Nokia Lumia 620
I love the shape of the 620's buttons, but not their stiffness. Josh Miller/CNET

As far as what Nokia brings to the table, you'll find its suite of apps, including Nokia Care, City Lens for augmented reality, maps, and Nokia Drive. There are also several camera lens filters available, like Smart Shoot. I noticed that Nokia Music is absent.

Several other apps come pre-installed on the 620, including ESPN and Angry Birds Roost (a hub for all things pertaining to the peeved poultry.) As always, these are in addition to basics like a calculator, a calendar, a music player, the browser, Microsoft's Office suite, and the digital wallet. My review unit also contains a few apps specific to the Indonesian market.

There is NFC capability on the 620, through Tap + Send, but keep in mind that the 620 has no wireless charging. One thing I noticed while using the phone is that there are only two intervals for screen timeout: 30 seconds or one minute. Both are short enough to make having a password lock inconvenient, something that many businesses require as a security precaution when accessing company e-mail on any smartphone.

Camera and video
Considering that the an entry level smartphone, I was pretty impressed with the quality of the 5-megapixel images. Resolution won't be as sharp as with the best 8-megapixel lenses, but colors were overall vivid and pretty accurate. I lay out a series of sample photos; in many cases, you can click to enlarge the image. Others are cropped samples from the image at full resolution.

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
This winter bloom's colors are true to life. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
Here's a close up of the same flower, taken at full resolution. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I did notice quite a bit of noise on some shots, especially at their full resolution. However, if you're planning to use photos to populate your social networking threads or other people's in-boxes, I think the Lumia 620's images are sufficient.

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
This market-goer's hand and shirt are very noisy, and his features don't look smooth. Full resolution crop, indoor farmer's market. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Nokia is one of those manufacturers that does give you options to change your resolution, but you can select shooting modes for close-ups, night mode, and sports, for instance. You can also adjust ISO and white balance settings, as well as the aspect ratio.

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
CNET editor Jaymar Cabebe and his Friday bagel, full resolution. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

It's nice that the Lumia 620 lets you shoot 720p HD video (at a rate of 30 frames per second). I shot indoors and outdoors, and both times, the camera produced video with pretty good color accuracy and smooth playback. As with other cameras, the picture adjusts as you change your light source, for instance, if you pan around an indoor room or capture a 360-degree view outside in the sunlight.

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