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Microsoft Lumia 540 full review including Gaming, Performance and Camera Review

Microsoft Lumia 540 review

*Good display
*Great camera
*Decent build quality

Almost six months after unveiling the first non-Nokia smartphone, Microsoft has introduced the phone's upgraded version, Lumia 540, in the Indian market. The phone features a better display, improved camera and a bigger battery and is priced Rs 1,000 higher than its predecessor. Will the Lumia 540 turn out to be the perfect budget smartphone? We take it for a spin to find out if it has what it takes to be the gateway to Windows Phone ecosystem.

Build and design
The Microsoft Lumia 540 looks identical to Lumia 535, complete with rounded corners and a changeable coloured back cover that wraps around the phone. The white coloured demo unit sports a glossy finish. The right edge of the phone features the power and volume rocker keys, in black colour and offer above average tactile feedback. The top edge sports the 3.5mm headset jack while the bottom features the micro-USB port.

Unlike the 535, the Lumia 540 features a frosty-looking, translucent plastic coating around the edges of the back cover that Microsoft likes to call semi-transparent layered design. We spotted the same design element in the Lumia 532 and some Asha series phones.

The removable shell hides the battery(also removable) which is branded Microsoft, two micro-sim card slots and a microSD card slot. We had a hard time trying to remove the cover a the process is a little tricky.

The phone doesn't feature capacitive navigation keys and makes use of software keys. While the design is not very fresh, materials used in the phone are of good quality and feel durable.

The display of the phone is one area where the Lumia 540 has an edge over its predecessor (Lumia 535). The phone sports a 5-inch HD (720x1280p) IPS LCD display with ClearBlack technology. Viewing angles were wide and outdoor visibility under sunlight was decent.

However, unlike the Lumia 535, the 540 doesn't come with Corning Gorilla Glass protection. So the screen would be more susceptible to scratches.

Lumia 540 runs Lumia Denim which is essentially Windows Phone 8.1 with Update 2 with some Nokia-exclusive features.

Update 2 brings an enhanced Settings app that breaks settings items into different sub-heads. It also makes the settings items search-able (through a search button) and brings the ability to pin individual settings items to the Start screen. The Windows Phone Settings app was a big mess and Microsoft has tried to fix it to a certain extent with the update. We like the changes but feel the Settings need an even bigger overhaul.

The update also brings the ability to connect to a Bluetooth keyboard in case you wish to hook up a physical keyboard with your phone.

Cortana voice assistant now works in India if you activate and select UK English in the speech settings. It worked fairly well and was able to detect our speech most of the times. It is not as good as Google Now when it comes to localisation but is slightly better than Siri. The feature is still in alpha so we'll not discuss it at length.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, we have to say that while more third party apps and games are now available for Windows Phone 8, it still pales in comparison to the app selection offered by Android and iOS.

Also, official apps for services like Instagram lack some critical features available on other platform. Internet Explorer works but all mobile sites are not optimised for it. While multitasking is supported, it's not as smooth as other leading platforms and you still meet the dreaded 'Resuming..' screen time and again.

The key strengths of the software is Microsoft Office Mobile and Here Maps. The e-mail experience (especially if you use Outlook and Exchange) is also great. All our hopes are now set on Windows 10.

Lumia 540 sports an 8MP rear camera (1/4 inch sensor, f/2.2 aperture and 28mm focal length) with auto-focus and LED flash and a 5MP front-facing camera for selfie fans. It can shoot video at 848x480p resolution with both cameras. The phone comes pre-loaded with Bing vision, Creative Studio, Lumia Camera, Lumia Selfie camera apps. The Lumia Camera app lacks the Rich Capture feature.

The LED flash enables the phone to take pictures in the dark and front camera facilitates selfies and Skype chats (more critical as Skype is part of the Microsoft mobile experience).

We were impressed by the quality of images captured outdoors in daylight. The pictures had great level of detail, accurate colour reproduction, no noise and good contrast. Indoor photos shot in artificial light were no less. Low-light shots also came out well, though these had some noise.

Quality of video captured with the phone was above average with mono sound and lesser detail.

Photos taken with the selfie camera show mostly natural colours, details are sufficient and more than what we have seen in any front camera shot at this price.

The Lumia Selfie app lets you enhance photos, and here we have used one filter that makes the photo appear livelier than the original shot. We were able to take wide-angle selfies too, fitting in more people into the frame without compromising the photo. You can even take a selfie using a rear camera on Lumia 540, wherein the phone notifies you when your face and the camera lens are aligned.

Microsoft Lumia 540 is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. It comes with 8GB internal storage and supports microSD card slots of up to 128GB for expansion.

While we like the fact that the phone comes with 1GB RAM given that a number of games and apps are not optimized for 512MB devices at the time of their original release, the Snapdragon 200 chip is inferior to the 400 chip used in phones like the Lumia 630. This means that it misses out on SensorCore which allows applications to use the sensors in a Lumia phone without affecting battery life. In tandem with a software solution, the functionality helps the phone track the user's activity, including steps travelled, and record location data.

Windows Phone OS is not a resource hog and WP 8.1 optimizes it to suit low-end devices. We did not observe major lag or stutter while launching and switching between apps, though the apps still take time to resume from their suspended state when running in background. We also did not encounter any issues while browsing the web, clicking pictures and playing videos and music.

We were able to play casual games like Temple Run and Angry Birds without facing any issues. However, we experienced frame drops while playing graphics-heavy games like Asphalt 8. If you set Visual Quality to High and Engine at 100% then you'll also notice pixelation and distortion.

The phone has a 2,200mAh battery which is bigger compared to the Lumia 535's 1905Ah battery. With moderate to heavy use, the phone lasted a full day (about 14-15 hours) on a single charge even if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 2-3 hours of phone calls, play some casual games, click a few pictures and browse the web in this time period.

The dual-sim handset offers 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity options. As with most Lumia handsets, call quality and network reception was great.The speaker outlet is at the back and the sound gets muffled when the phone is placed on a soft surface.

Microsoft Lumia 540 is the perfect budget Windows Phone device with an impressive camera, vivid HD display and decent battery backup. It also boasts of good build quality though the design is not very fresh. With telcos like Airtel rolling out their 4G networks in more cities, we feel the device lacking support for 4G connectivity is a downer.

As with all Windows Phone devices, the usual caveats apply. It's not as rich as Android and iOS when it comes to apps but the basics are pretty much covered (including all major Indian apps). It's another thing that developers do not update their Windows phone apps as often as they update iOS and Android ones.

At Rs 10,199, the Lumia 540 will compete with Android rivals like the Huawei Honor 4X, Lenovo A7000 and 6000 Plus, and Phicomm Passion 660. There's no doubt the budget Android phones offer better specifications and features but it's difficult to get your hands on these as most are sold online through flash sales. Microsoft also has an edge over these devices when it comes to after sales support.

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