Nokia Lumia 620 review: Where price and features align

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
This nighttime shot of a local bar, taken with automatic settings, is not so hot. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I did notice that the microphone wasn't very strong picking up ambient sound, so while my voice boomed, my friends also sounded mumbly.

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
I assure you, this gum does not taste good. Full resolution. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Consider the front-facing VGA camera as a very specific tool and you won't be too upset. Image quality is very grainy and faces look highly pixilated. Colors are also a little dull.

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
That's yours truly, taken with the front-facing VGA camera. Full resolution. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

When it comes to storing your multimedia, the Lumia 620 has 8GB internal storage. You'll also have access to 7GB over Microsoft's cloud-based Skydrive server, and you can fill up to a 64GB microSD card. The phone has 512MB RAM.

Nokia Lumia 620 camera test
CNET/CBS Interactive

Call quality
I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Lumia 620 in San Francisco using AT&T's network. An unlocked GSM phone, you could also use a T-Mobile micro-SIM card to make calls. Later, I also tested it on Aio Wireless, also in San Francisco.

I used the 620 to call a variety of land lines and cell phones. On all calls with AT&T and Aio, I noticed persistent white noise or crackle. Sometimes it whispered more quietly than on other calls, and at one time an oscillating tone squiggled across the audio landscape. Voices sounded a little muddy and flat (much more muted on Aio,) but there wasn't any breaking up or cutting out, and volume was very pleasant at medium high (setting 5-7 of 10).

On his end of the line, my regular call tester said I sounded loud but distorted on AT&T, and noticeably scratchy on occasion. To be specific, he said that my vocal "amplitude peaks drive distortion." So the louder I got and higher frequencies I hit in the course of a discussion, the more distorted my voice quality. He said I sounded like I was on a cheap phone (he had no idea which phone I was using).

On Aio, my caller said I sounded terrific: loud, warm, resonant, and fully human, without any distortion.

Nokia Lumia 620 (AT&T) call quality sample Listen now:

Nokia Lumia 620 (Aio Wireless) call quality sample Listen now:

Surprisingly, speakerphone sounded better than conversing through the earpiece with both Aio and AT&T (Note: Aio is AT&T's off-contract brand, and the two network resources overlap.) Volume held steady and maybe even picked up a notch over AT&T, but on Aio, it dropped. Audio sounded slightly less muffled on both networks, and the white noise calmed down. My speaker's voice didn't sound tinny or echoey, but it did come across a little hollow.

On his end, my caller said that volume dropped, distortion mellowed (with AT&T,) and I sounded fairly clear.

The Lumia 620 is a 3G phone, supporting HSPA and HSPA+ speeds. Performance was about what I expected; spot on for 3G speeds, but lagging behind 4G LTE. For instance, CNET's graphically rich desktop site loaded in about 20 seconds, which isn't bad compared to phones on 3G without HSPA+ support.

Windows Phone: Performance testing (3G)
Download Endomondo (3MB) 36 seconds
Load up Endomondo mobile app 3.4 seconds
CNET mobile site load 4.7 seconds
CNET desktop site load 20 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 37 seconds
Camera boot time 3 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 2.5 seconds with flash and focusing

Processing power also slides in right where you'd expect it for a phone of this class. To Nokia's credit, it comes with a 1.0GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor; not the fastest that Qualcomm makes by any stretch, but good enough if you're coming from something slower.

I test a lot of phones with fast clock speeds, so it was a little laggy in comparison. However, the performance was pretty much on par with Verizon's Nokia Lumia 822, which took 26 seconds to boot from the off position and 3 seconds to load the camera app.

Speeds consistently clocked in at around 3Mbps down when using the diagnostic app, and about 1Mbps up, give or take.

The Lumia 620 has a rated talk time of 9.9 hours over 3G and a standby time of 13.75 days. Music playback time is listed as 61 hours. The 1,300mAh battery is on the small side of the capacity scale. During our battery drain test, the phone lasted 11.12 hours for talk time.

The Lumia 620's limited screen light time helps preserve battery. If you're interested in purchasing the phone, be sure to check out these tips for improving the battery life on your Windows 8 phone. According to the ICNIRP, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.84W/kg.

Overall take
If you're looking for an affordable, unsubsidized smartphone that can do a lot for a little, the Nokia Lumia 620 is a good choice -- so long as you're well aware of the compromises in battery life, audio quality, and design that it takes to make an inexpensive smartphone.

Camera and video quality are more than decent for what you get, the screen reads better than most outdoors, and the operating system gives you your smartphone basics.

Did Nokia prove that it can create an entry-level smartphone worth buying? Yes. But if you have the wherewithal to upgrade to another model with more premium specs, do.

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