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

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:

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

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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