The Windows Phone 8 phones that we've looked at so far - the Nokia Lumia 920, Lumia 820 and the HTC 8X - were all high-end phones with high-end prices. More affordable Windows Phone 8 smartphones are starting to appear, and today Hardware.Info is taking a closer look at the Nokia Lumia 620, the HTC 8S and Huawei Ascend W1.
You won't find Full HD displays or wireless charging in this segment, and you should expect less storage and slower hardware. The upside of Windows Phone is that it runs quite well on less powerful equipment, so these mid-range phone could potentially be very interesting. Who doesn't want an affordable and compact phone that packs a punch?
Until now all Windows Phone 8 phones have been equipped with dual-core Snapdragon S4 SoC from Qualcomm.
These system-on-chips contain Krait cores which are pretty powerful, but there are some big differences between versions. Clock speeds vary from 1.0 GHz to 1.5 GHz, and this obviously has an impact on performance.
More importantly, the high-end Windows Phones have the MSM8260A (1.5 GHz sans 4G) or MSM8960 (1.5 GHz with 4G) processors which contain a relatively fast Adreno 225 GPU. The more affordable models instead have the MSM8227 (1GHz) or MSM8230 (1.2 GHz) with the noticeably slower Adreno 305 GPU. The less advanced chips only have a single-channel memory controller, compared to the dual-channel controller of the more advanced chips.
The more interesting question is whether this makes a significant difference. Windows Phone 8 is an efficient OS that knows how to squeeze the most out of the available power. Unused apps are frozen so they don't use up resources, and the interface doesn't require a lot of power.
Whether or not you will notice a difference between a high-end Windows Phone 8 and a less powerful one depends on how you will use the smartphone.When you load a game or larger apps, it does go a bit slower on the Lumia 620 compated to the high-end Lumia 920. It's not a huge difference, and if you don't do it with the phones sitting next to each other, most likely you wouldn't be able to tell.
The Windows interface worked really smoothly on the three phones we tested for this reviews, with only very minor and infrequent hick-ups compared to the high-end phones. The biggest difference is with playing 3D games, however. The Adreno 305 GPU in the budget models really isn't fast, and noticeably slower than the Adreno 225 from the high-end phones. However, we should be honest and mention that not many games are available (yet) for Windows Phone8 where you will actually notice this.
Generally speaking, the difference between a faster and a slower SoC is much more noticeable in Android than in Windows Phone. This is great news if you're not an avid phone gamer. Read the rest of this group review over at Hardware.info.