The low-end of the smartphone market is where Windows Phone truly has a chance to shine and gain significant market share. Yesterday we compared the king of smartphone affordability – the Lumia 520 – against the newcomer to the throne – the Lumia 530. We learned the Lumia 530 was a worthy upgrade to the Lumia 520, but should you opt for the Lumia 520 or the Lumia 635. We find that out today.
How does the Lumia 530 and its 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 200 chipset stack up against the Lumia 635 and its 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor? Does the price difference between the two add up to a comparable performance difference? Let's find out.
Like before, we'll be using the free and cross-platform Basemark II OS app to compare the Lumia 530 against the Lumia 635. The app was loaded directly onto the internal memory of each device and not the micro SD card.
Why use the Lumia 635 and not the Lumia 630? Well, they're the same phone. The Lumia 630 comes in either a single or dual-SIM model and tops out at 3G speed for data while the Lumia 635 has LTE, but only accepts one SIM card. Other than, the internals of these two phones are identical.
Both the Lumia 530 and Lumia 635 in this test are running the latest retail software available – Windows Phone 8.1 and the latest firmware – Lumia Cyan. The Lumia 635 it is currently rocking build 12359 while the Lumia 530 is running build 12397. Both phones were soft-reset prior to the test.
Basemark II OS was ran multiple times on each phone for consistency.
As expected, the internals of the Lumia 635 outperform those of the Lumia 530. The overall system score for the Lumia 530 is 371, while the Lumia 635 sits at a higher 451.
The largest difference in the sub-tests is found in the Memory, which is somewhat unexpected. The Memory performance test in Basemark OS II looks at the read rate, write rate, and runs a fragmentation test. The Lumia 635 scored 707 in the Memory performance test, while the Lumia 530 earned a 497. Surprising because both devices feature 512 MB of RAM, though the Lumia 635 has 8 GB of onboard storage with the Lumia 530 only rocking 4 GB.
The Snapdragon 400 inside the Lumia 635 and its memory components clearly best the Lumia 530 Snapdragon 200 and its memory components.
Real world usage
How do the above benchmarks relate to real world usage?
When installing apps or games, they'll finish a few seconds faster on the Lumia 635, but this is only noticeable if you pull up a stop watch and time the two. The same results apply when launching a game with the Lumia 635 finish just a second or two faster than the Lumia 530. You won't see major differences like we did between the Lumia 530 and Lumia 520.
Once you're in a game, like Tentacles: Enter the Mind or Subway Surfers, you won't notice any major graphical advantage in the Lumia 635 over the Lumia 530. Games ran relatively well on both devices. The Lumia 635 has a Qualcomm Adreno 305 GPU, while the Lumia 530 has a Qualcomm Adreno 302 processor. In real world tests, they're neck and neck when playing games.
In terms of the display, the Lumia 635 crushes the Lumia 530. The difference between the displays is worth highlighting and one that might influence your purchasing decision.
Both the Lumia 635 and the Lumia 530 feature the same resolution, 480 x 854, but do differ in size and display technologies. The Lumia 530 has a 4-inch display and higher pixel density at 245 ppi. The Lumia 635 has a 4.5-inch display and a slightly lower pixel density at 221 ppi.
However, the Lumia 635 display has one big advantage over the one found in the Lumia 530. The Lumia 635 has a ClearBlack display. With the ClearBlack technology inside the display you get higher contrast, better color saturation, deeper blacks and overall superior viewing experience. The display on the Lumia 530 looks washed out by comparison.
Neither the Lumia 530 nor the Lumia 635 has an ambient light sensor, so you will need to manage the brightness of the display manually. Not a deal breaker, but something to point out when comparing the two displays.
The camera is better on the Lumia 635, though not by much. We didn't compare camera benchmarks since the Lumia 530 was unable to complete the test in Basemark OS II.
Both phones feature a 5 MP sensor, but the Lumia 635 can auto-focus, while the Lumia 530 has a fixed-focus. You won't find a flash on either device. Neither phone has a front-facing camera, so you don't count on being able to do Skype video calls.
Does the difference in performance reflect the difference in price between these two affordable Windows Phones?
Short answer? Yes.
On average, the Lumia 530 can be yours for just $100 (£60/€75) while the Lumia 635 can be picked up at $168 (£101/€127). However, we've already seen the Lumia 635 show up on sale in the United States from $80 at Fry's to $105 as a Newegg flash sale. Prices will, of course, vary in your region, but these two phones should prove to be affordable no matter where you are.
However, if it was our money we'd spend a little bit extra and go with the Lumia 635 (or the Lumia 630). Sure you get somewhat comparable specs on the inside and similar real world results when using apps and games. We just can't see ourselves using the display on the Lumia 530 for extended periods of time.
The Lumia 530 is a good choice if you're on a budget, but do your eyes a favor and spend a little bit extra for a much better display in the Lumia 635.
If you're like us, you'll spend most of your smartphone time looking at your phone, make sure the display is attractive.
Full reviews for the Lumia 530 and the Lumia 635 should be up shortly. For now let us know which device you'd go for and why.
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