Unfortunately, we've still got the same complaints that we mention in most Windows Phone reviews: there's no HDR mode and the UI itself is relatively low on customizations.
The camera was able to take a handful of decent stills, although focus seemed slightly more temperamental than on other Windows Phones we've tested in the past. It still managed to give us some passable results in less favorable conditions, but if we were aiming for a close-up shot in better light settings, that reduced resolution made itself known in not-so-detailed results. That said, there's none of the fuzz and noise we've seen from other sub-£200 smartphone cameras we've tested in the past 12 months -- we're pointing our finger squarely at some of ZTE's and Huawei's cheap carrier-specific models.
Unfortunately, we've still got the same complaints that we mention in most Windows Phone reviews: there's no HDR mode, the UI itself is relatively low on customizations and there's no way to lock down exposure to avoid blowing out your images in bright light. However, the Panorama mode (above) and Nokia's GIF-crafting Cinemagraph are worth installing as they both add some extra talents to the camera.
More interested in video? Well, the Lumia 620 gives a decent showing here too. There's no optical image stabilization, but that remains a very rare addition to phone cameras, so it's hard to hold it against a colorful, rich recording. While a bit of breeze buffeted the mics, it picked up our voice (and some waterfowl noises) with perfect clarity.
Battery life and performance
So, the Lumia 620 has the same resolution of the Lumia 820, memory expansion through microSD and even a pair of high-amplitude mics, but we had to see how Qualcomm's lesser Snapdragon S4 Plus processor would handle an almost-identical Windows Phone UX. You can lay any of those concerns to rest, as the 1GHz dual-core processor offered up a very similar experience; you're getting far more than what you pay for. We ran the Lumia 620 against both the Lumia 820 and Lumia 920, and found that the only major differences in performance were the startup times, with the smaller phone taking about five seconds longer to reach the home screen. Scrolling around on Internet Explorer 10 on any device resulted in largely the same level of speed and responsiveness, a testament either to Microsoft's mobile browser or to Qualcomm's processor know-how.
The dearth of highly polished Windows Phone games to push the technical abilities of the hardware makes it even harder to differentiate real-world performance between the three phones.
The 1,300mAh battery inside is smaller than the one found in the Lumia 800, although this time it's thankfully replaceable. During our WPBench rundown tests, which push the processor to the max until the battery cuts out, we averaged a time of 3:41. That puts it below the Lumia 900 but more than an hour beyond most Windows Phone 8 devices. It even bests the hardy HTC 8S. Naturally, this isn't representative of the battery with more moderate use, but the Lumia 620 did better in this regard, too. It typically gave us two days of use before cutting out. This entailed plenty of web browsing, listening to offline playlists and a handful of calls and email replies.
Its benchmark results don't stand up to phones with beastlier processors like the 820 or 920, but the 620 still manages a respectable sub-1,500 score on SunSpider. Meanwhile, the dearth of highly polished Windows Phone games to push the technical abilities of the hardware makes it even harder to differentiate real-world performance between the three phones. On the rare occasion the device froze, it was often during data upload from the camera app to SkyDrive, but the experience was otherwise smooth and without issue. The HSPA+ radio (WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100 and GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900) promises speeds up to 21 Mbps down and 5.7 Mbps up. During our tests on Three UK, we were picking up download speeds of around 5 Mbps, while uploads hovered just below 1 Mbps. The good news is that this phone will work on both AT&T SIMs and T-Mobile's recently claimed 1900MHz HSPA+ spectrum, both data and voice. If Nokia US decides to offer the phone directly to customers, it could prove to be a tempting introduction to Windows Phone without the fiscal carrier hangover.
Read our Windows Phone 8 review? Or our reviews of those bigger Nokia models? Then sadly, there's not much new to tell you here. But that's actually good news -- despite those lower specifications, the phone gets Nokia Music and Maps, not to mention those Lumia-specific camera enhancements. Mix Radio throws in a substantial amount of offline music your way for free, while Nokia's map navigation loads quickly and reliably. There's also the option to download countrywide maps ahead of any trips abroad. Problems still left to be solved include some major apps that are MIA, including Dropbox, Instagram and Spotify -- the music service remains available on last-generation Windows Phone devices. Despite that Xbox brand association, gaming remains a shallow experience. If you're making noises about having Angry Birds in 2013, there's an issue.
It's also worth mentioning that after getting hands-on with (and feeling underwhelmed by) Windows Phone 7.8, we can't recommend picking up those old Lumia devices, even when they can now be bought for a similar price to this new Windows Phone. To get the full experience -- and join an app selection that will grow in the future -- you're going to have to pick up the Lumia 620, 820 or 920. Another benefit to the off-contract phone means there's no carrier bloatware to be found. The apps that do arrive pre-installed are mostly worth keeping around and getting rid of unwanted programs is just a long-press away.
The Lumia 620 represents a new high-watermark for entry-level smartphones, regardless of OS. Ignoring the app drawbacks, the phone provides a great web browser experience alongside the full Windows Phone 8 feature set. It could be a very exciting phone for Nokia -- it's an exciting one for us. We've mentioned the price several times during the review, but for a new smartphone with the latest version of its respective OS, it's a steal. The phone might house a less-capable camera, but for anyone sick of oversized, unwieldy, expensive smartphones, Nokia now has an entry-level Windows Phone to lure the bargain-hunting crowds away from Android, if the Nexus 4 proves too expensive.
What's more, it's arguably more attractive than most Google-powered phones around the same price point and could prove to be a huge hit among smartphone beginners. There's also a good chance that the more-gadget obsessed might pick up the Lumia 620 as a second device to give Microsoft's mobile OS a try -- and with compatibility on two US networks, it might be worth an import. It delivers real-world performance as good as Windows Phones that cost more than double. If anything, it's making us reconsider whether those other rivals are worth the extra outlay.