Microsoft Lumia 540 first impressions: the not-so budget Lumia

“The Microsoft Lumia 540 is the latest Windows Phone handset to land in India. Our first impressions”

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Microsoft has been on a launching spree lately. Just last month, it launched its mid-range duo, the Lumia 640 (review) and 640 XL (review) in India, as well as it’s most affordable smartphone yet, the Lumia 430 (quick look). Now it’s back with yet another budget device, the Lumia 540. The successor to last year’s Lumia 535 (review), the Lumia 540 packs in some much-needed improvements under the hood. Priced at Rs 10,199, the device is currently up for pre-order, and will go on sale across the country starting May 18th. At the launch event yesterday, we got the change to spend some quality time with the smartphone, and here’s what we thought. 

Microsoft follows an almost unwavering design philosophy for its Lumia range, and the Lumia 540 is no different. It gets the usual curved edges, quality construction and colourful, interchangable back panels. You can purchase the smartphone in a choice of black, white, orange and cyan colours. 

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The Lumia 540 gets a 5-inch display just like its predecessor, but the resolution has received a much-needed upgrade to 720p. With a pixel density of 294ppi, text and images look sharp and clear. We found the brightness levels to be on the lower side though.

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 Above the screen you’ll find the wide-angle front 5-megapixel camera, earpiece, Microsoft branding and sensors. The navigation buttons are present on the screen, so the only adornment below the display is a tiny notch for the microphone.

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The power button and volume rocker are at their usual slot on the right spine. The top edge is home to the 3.5mm audio jack, while the bottom holds the micro-USB port. The Lumia 540 is quite a compact device, measuring 8.6mm around the waist. As always, the build quality is superb for a budget smartphone, and we particularly liked the layered design Microsoft has used on the cyan, orange and white models. The black colour option comes with a matte finish.

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Flipping the phone around, you’ll see the primary 8MP camera on top, an upgrade over the Lumia 535’s 5MP shooter. There’s also an LED flash and Microsoft branding, as well as a loudspeaker at the bottom. The rear shell can be opened, and inside you’ll see the 2,200mAh user replaceable battery, dual micro-SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. 

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Powering the smartphone is a dated quad-core Snapdragon 200 chipset clocked at 1.2GHz. Given that most new budget Android smartphones are now equipped with a Snapdragon 400/410 processor at the very least, we wish Microsoft had decided to make the upgrade in this department. The memory configurations include 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. On this demo unit, there was around 3.8GB user available. The microSD card slot lets you increase the storage by an additional 128GB, and you also get 30GB of free OneDrive storage with the smartphone.

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Handing software operations on the phone is Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 with the Lumia Denim firmware. Update 2 brings features like a revamped settings menu, the ability to pin individual settings to the start screen and a new app permissions function. The smartphone will be upgradable to Windows 10 Mobile later this year. For connectivity, the Lumia 540 features 3G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth and GPS, in addition to dual-SIM support. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support 4G.

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With the Lumia 540, Microsoft has sought to improve on the limitations of Lumia 535, and we hope that the nasty touchscreen issue that plagued its predecessor has also been sorted out. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the Lumia 540 is still far behind its Android counterparts when specifications and price are put on the table. To give you an idea, the Xiaomi Redmi 2, Lenovo A6000 Plus and YU Yuphoria are all priced below Rs 7,500, and offer much more bang for the buck. It’s also worth noting that the Lumia 640, which Microsoft is touting as a mid-range option, is already selling for the reduced price of Rs 9,999 on some online stores. While for dedicated Windows Phone users, the Lumia 540 might seem like an attractive budget proposition, Microsoft will need to step up its end-game if it hopes to recreate the success of the Lumia 520 in the current Indian smartphone market scenario.
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