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Nokia Lumia 625 review: A big Lumia with a medium price

The Lumia 625 is the largest phone in Nokia's Windows Phone lineup and sports a sleek design for only 220 euros.

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Sarah Mitroff
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Sarah Mitroff

Senior Editor

Sarah Mitroff is a senior editor for CNET, managing our health, fitness and wellness content. She's written for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.

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8 min read

The Nokia Lumia 625 is neither a premium or budget device, but instead a little bit of both.

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6.7

Nokia Lumia 625

The Good

The <b>Nokia Lumia 625's</b> 4.7-inch screen makes for effortless viewing, and the $300 price tag its wallet-friendly for an unlocked phone. Depending on your area, it also supports LTE.

The Bad

For a phone of its size, the Lumia 625's too-low resolution is fuzzy and dull compared to premium Lumias. The 625's 5-megapixel camera struggles taking photos in the shade.

The Bottom Line

Despite a few faults, the Lumia 625’s smooth, higher-end design and solid performance make it a great value for the price.

This midrange phone comes with features normally spotted on the premium Lumia 820, 920, and 1020, including LTE (where available), a solid, sleek build, a promised long-lasting battery, and a Gorilla Glass 2 screen.

On the other hand, the 625 has little internal storage and RAM, a low-resolution display, a 5-megapixel camera, and no NFC, most of which are characteristics of the lower-end Lumia 520, 521, and 620.

Meet the largest Lumia yet (pictures)

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In a way, you're getting the best of both worlds; since Nokia borrowed features from each end of the Lumia line, the 625 has a luxury feel at a reasonable 220 euro ($295 US) price tag.

Unfortunately, the Lumia 625 will never officially debut with a US carrier. The phone goes on sale in the third quarter of 2013 in Europe, Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

Lumia 625
The Lumia 625 is the biggest phone in the Lumia line. Josh Miller/CNET

Design and build
The most defining feature of the Lumia 625 is its size. The phone is largest Lumia Nokia has built, at 5 inches tall with a 4.7-inch screen. At that size, you have a lot of screen to work with, yet the phone is still small enough to slip into a pants pocket or purse.

The Lumia 625 might be big, but you can still slide it into a pants pocket. Josh Miller/CNET

Officially, the Lumia 625 measures in at 5.2 inches by 2.8 inches by 0.36 inch (133 x 72 x 9 mm) and weighs 5.6 ounces (159 grams), which makes it about as big and heavy as the Lumia 1020. It's not the thinnest or lightest Lumia, but it doesn't feel bulky, thanks to its slim profile and rounded sides.

Nokia has a penchant for making its phones bright and colorful, which you can easily see on the 625. It's hard to miss its almost neon-colored back cover that comes in a reddish-orange, yellow, and green. If you'd rather your phone fit in instead of stand out, you can opt for the black or white back covers. The Lumia 625 I tested had the red-orange back cover.

Lumia 625
This bright back cover comes in red-orange, yellow, green, black, and white. Josh Miller/CNET

That back cover is made of curved matte polycarbonate that's smooth, yet easy to grip. Though the cover is thin, it feels sturdy when you pop it off the phone to reveal the battery and the microSD and Micro-SIM slots. You can't remove the battery, as it's embedded in the device, but the card slots are stacked on top of each other on the right side of the phone and are easy to access.

All of the physical buttons are along the right-hand side of the 625. Josh Miller/CNET

In keeping with the Lumia style, all of the phone's physical buttons are all on the right side. From top to bottom, there's a volume rocker, power/lock button, and camera button. The slim buttons are easy to press, and feel responsive.

However, I did have a few issues. Since the volume rocker is higher up on the right side than other Lumias I've used, I had a hard time adjusting the volume when I held the phone up to my ear for a phone call. To turn up the volume on a call, I had to readjust my grip to reach the button which was annoying and awkward.

On the top edge of the 625 is the headphone jack, and on the bottom is the microUSB charging port.

Lumia 625
The 625's screen resolution isn't as sharp as other Lumias. Josh Miller/CNET

Thanks to its overall bigger size, the 625 has the largest screen of all the Lumia devices, measuring at 4.7 inches diagonally. It's a IPS LCD display made of curved Gorilla Glass 2, so it's resistant (but not impervious) to cracks and scratches. The screen is also using Nokia's super sensitive technology, which means you can use it while wearing gloves or tap the screen your fingernail instead of the pad of your finger.

Though the 625's screen is impressively big, its screen resolution isn't spectacular at just 800x480 with 198 pixels per inch (Nokia says 201, but our calculations come out to 198). That's the same resolution found on the Lumia 520, 620, and 720, but all three of those phones have smaller screens that make their displays look sharper.

Compared with those Lumia phones, the 625's screen isn't as sharp and you can definitely see pixels. Some icons look fuzzy, but text is easy to read and the screen is bright inside. In direct overhead sunlight, the screen is tough to read and reflects a lot of light.

Bear in mind that Nokia isn't billing the 625 as a top-of-the-line device, so it's not surprising that the company didn't go the extra mile with the screen. Still, it's disappointing that the biggest Lumia to date is missing a high-definition display that could have made the 4.7-inch screen look much richer.

OS and features
The Lumia 625 is running Windows Phone 8, which comes with a few neat features, including access to your Xbox account and the People Hub, which brings all your friend's social updates from across the Web into one central app.

Lumia 625
Windows Phone 8's tile interface on the 625. Josh Miller/CNET

Nokia also added its own apps to the phone, such as the Xpress browser and navigation and mapping app Here Maps. However, the 625 is missing a compass, which means you can't use augmented reality in Here Maps and the map won't rotate when you move your phone.

The 625 has the typical Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS features you'd expect on a Windows Phone, but there is no wireless charging or NFC. That means you can't tap to share files with other NFC-enabled devices.

As promised by Nokia, the 625 also gets the Amber update, which adds several new features, such as camera improvements and a FM radio player. Also included in that update is an option to silence the ringer on an incoming call by flipping the phone over.

Unfortunately, the 625 misses out on one feature from Amber called Glance screen. It's an always-on lock-screen screensaver that shows the time and new notifications. Anyone who used a Nokia feature phone from several years back will likely recognize it from the older devices.

Camera and video
The Lumia 625 got the budget end of the stick with its cameras. On the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel back camera and there's a 0.3-megapixel front camera on the top-right bezel. For a frame of reference, the Lumia 820 and 920 both have 8-plus megapixel cameras.

Lumia 625
This 5-megapixel camera has a single LED flash. Josh Miller/CNET

That back camera doesn't have a Carl Zeiss lens and with only 5 megapixels, the photo quality just doesn't measure up to other Lumia cameras. In the standard CNET studio shot, the photo looks grainy in places and there's an obvious brown tint in the photo.

Lumia 625
In our studio shot, you can see that the 625's camera doesn't pick up detail very well. Josh Miller/CNET

The camera comes with a single-LED flash and a variety of typical camera light settings, such as ISO and white balance. One good thing about the camera, is that if you turn off flash, the camera will use still the flash to light the shot before it snaps the picture. That made indoor photos in average lighting look brighter and more natural than they did with the flash on.

The biggest knock against the camera is that it doesn't handle outdoor shots very well. I took the phone outside to take a few test shots, one while standing in the shade, and one standing in full sunlight. As you can see in the photos below, shadows look overly dark in both lighting conditions.

Lumia 625
Here you can see that shadows show up too dark in photos shot with the 625. In the left photo, I was standing in the shade, in the right I was standing under direct sunlight. Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You can compare some smartphones' image performance in our periodically updated gallery of studio shots.

Given the front-facing camera's low-megapixel count, it's not surprising that photos come out grainy. On the plus side, color and lighting look more natural than on many front cameras I've encountered.

You can also record video with either camera, but stick with the the back camera for home movies. The main camera records video in a respectable 1080p full-HD resolution at 30 frames per second, while the front-facing camera records in 480p resolution.

In my testing, video turned out clear and the camera's autofocus worked well while shooting.

Call quality
I tested the unlocked Lumia 625 (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) on AT&T's network in San Francisco.

My first call was to another cell phone while standing in a quiet room, with full bars showing on the display. The person I called said my voice didn't sound completely natural and that it would fade in and out. On my end, her voice sounded robotic at times and occasionally one or two words would cut out.

Using speakerphone helped, as both my voice and my tester's voice sounded clear and loud at chest height and lower.

Next I called one of my colleagues on her landline while I stood outside next to a busy street. She said that I sounded loud and clear, with no background noise, even with cars driving by and people talking nearby. For me, her voice sounded a bit robotic and there was occasional static.

Nokia Lumia 625 call quality sample Listen now:

Performance
Nokia gave the 625 lower-end processing guts, but, make no mistake, this phone is still snappy.

The Lumia 625 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.2Ghz processor and 512MB of RAM, which gives the phone enough power to load apps quickly and move through menus without feeling sluggish.

Inside, the phone has 8GB of storage, with the ability to add up to 64GB more with a microSD card. You also get 7GB of cloud storage with Microsoft's SkyDrive.

Like many of the higher-end Lumias, such as the 1020 and 925, the 625 supports LTE. However, be sure to check with your carrier to be sure the Lumia 625 can use their LTE bands, as the phone only uses certain frequencies.

For instance, I tested the Lumia 625 on AT&T's LTE network in San Francisco. AT&T uses 700, 1700, and 2100 MHz LTE bands, but the Lumia 625 only supports 800, 1800, and 2600 MHz LTE bands. That meant I could only get a 4G HSPA signal in San Francisco because the phone couldn't connect to AT&T's LTE signal.

Despite the fact that the Lumia 625 I tested didn't have the right network for LTE, the HSPA data signal I had was fast enough to stream videos and download apps quickly.

The phone is powered by a 2,000mAh battery. Nokia promises the battery will last 23 days on standby and has 15 hours of talk time using a 3G connection. The battery held up well to normal use even on the highest brightness level, and during our battery test for talk-time, it lasted 20.48 hours.

Nokia Lumia 625
Download Endomondo (3MB) 1 minute, 33 seconds
Load up Endomondo mobile app 3.9 seconds
CNET mobile site load 3.2 seconds
CNET desktop site load 18 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 27.5 seconds
Camera boot time 1.5 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 1.2 seconds with auto-focus, flash

Conclusion
Nokia went big with the Lumia 625, making it the largest Lumia device to date (as of late August 2013). The record-setting device sports a premium build and wide mixture of high-end and budget features.

On the premium end, the 625 has a large screen, long promised battery life, and support for LTE in some areas. The phone shows its budget side with poor screen resolution and an unimpressive camera. All those features combine to create a well-built phone that's overall unremarkable and dull, despite its bright colors.

When you consider all of the Lumia 625's specs, and its reasonable 220-euro price, the device is a great value for its smooth design and solid performance. Get the Lumia 625 if you want a big phone, can get LTE in your area, and care more about screen size than resolution.

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6.7

Nokia Lumia 625

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7