Nokia Lumia 710 review

The Nokia Lumia 710 is seems to be pitched as the poor man's Lumia 800, but can that be right?

We've been testing the two Windows Phone 7 powered Nokia phones together for the last two weeks to see how the 710 really lives up to the flagship Nokia smartphone, and whether you really are getting second best if you go for the Lumia 710.

Design

If you like the rounded edges of the Nokia Lumia 800, the one piece design, the overall "different" feel and approach to the Lumia 800 then although it hurts us to say this, but this isn't the phone for you. Get the Lumia 800 and be done with it. The 710 isn't in the same league when it comes to design. That's not to say it is an ugly phone, but it is more "traditional" in its approach.

Slightly bigger, although lighter than the 800, the 710 comes with the same size 3.7-inch screen that dominates the front of the smartphone. Rather than touch-sensitive buttons, you now have one large physical button beneath the screen that is spilt into three buttons. The buttons are the standard Windows Phone offerings of back, home, and search.

The side features volume keys and a dedicated shutter button for the camera, while the top offers a power button, a micro USB socket - that isn't covered like it is on the Lumia 800 - and a headphone jack. The micro SIM slot can be found inside, something you can access along with the battery because the Lumia 710 has a removable back cover.

It's the removable back cover that will also appeal to those that like to customise the phone as, just like you did in the 90s, you can swap out the cover and change the colour of your phone on a daily basis, if that's your thing.

Our review unit came with black, however there are a range of other colours available and planned including magenta and cyan. We've also seen patterned designs as well.

The Lumia 710 is by no means striking, nor is it the worst phone we've ever seen. It's built well, is solid, and most importantly, comfortable to use.

Insides

Strangely, from a core spec point of view - the processor and memory - the Lumia 710 is identical to the only other Windows Phone available from Nokia; the Lumia 800. That means you get a 1.4Ghz processor and 512MB of RAM to power your Windows Phone 7 experience. In our tests and having used the Lumia 800 extensively for the last three months, this is more than enough to enjoy the operating system and all that you can throw at it.

Whether it is playing games, loading applications, or merely surfing the web (the browser is hardware optimised) there's a plenty of power to go around. On the connectivity front you get Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS.

So where have the corners been cut? Well for starters you only get 8GB of storage rather than 16GB as found on the Lumia 800. Then there is the screen quality, LCD over AMOLED, and finally the 5-megapixel camera instead of the 8-megapixel model found on the Lumia 800.

All that gives sucks the standard days worth of battery on a single charge, while we had no complaints or out of the ordinary praise for call quality either. As a phone the Lumia 710 acts as you would expect. 

LCD vs AMOLED

The single biggest difference you'll spot instantly when looking at the Lumia 710 is that it uses an LCD screen rather than a AMOLED one. That takes away the stunning visual impact you get from the Lumia 800 and presents you with a screen that is rather flat in its colour. The viewing angle isn't as great and in both the white and black themes of WP7, unless you are looking at it straight-on, there is a tendency to believe that the screen colours are somewhat under-saturated. It certainly isn't as vibrant.

Again that's not to say the screen is bad, it's just not as good as other Windows Phone handsets like the Super LCD-touting HTC Radar. What is instantly noticeable, however, is that extra .2-inch over the iPhone 4 and 4S. It really does make the Apple smartphone screen look small. 

Camera time

The Lumia 710 might only have a 5-megapixel camera with single LED but we were very impressed with its performance. As long as you are able to hold the phone still at the moment you press the shutter, you'll get good results regardless of light available. Failing to do so results in softer images, but then that's normally the case with many smartphone cameras. Pictures are processed immediately with little or no lag.

The success of the camera is down to the f2.4 wide-angle (28mm) lens that gives you plenty of room to play with. There is a digital zoom, but we would advise against using it.

Sadly, unlike the HTC Windows Phone 7 smartphones you don't get additional features like panorama or the ability to apply effects, but you can get panoramic apps like Pano and PictureLabs that will fill those gaps.

You also get 720p HD video recording.

App time, or not?

It's fair to say that apps aren't the strongest part of the Windows Phone 7 platform at the moment. But don't panic, because not only are there plenty of apps coming, but interestingly WP7 isn't as app-focused as the iPhone or Android. There are plenty of features built into the phone's operating system that means you don't need thousands of apps to let you do anything.

Nokia understanding this give you Nokia Drive; a very good turn-by-turn satnav app that will easily get you from A to B, Nokia Music; A free music service that will have you listening to the latest songs in seconds, and Nokia Maps; which is really just a better version of the phone's Bing maps feature.

There is also the promise in the coming months of Nokia Transport; a public transport planning app, Nokia City Lens; an augmented reality app to tell you which direction restaurants are nearby, and Nokia Pulse; a BBM clone that needs a few more people to sign up to Nokia phones to get it really work. 

That's Nokia, but we also know that there are new apps coming from Skype, supposedly Instgram, and many others, meaning that it is a winning rather than losing battle.

But as we said there are many times that you won't need a flashy app. Windows Phone 7 has been designed around hubs and those hubs do a good job of covering your basic needs. The People hub is exceptionally good for keeping track of everyone be it via your own contacts, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, while the office hub will sort out your document needs.

So who is the Lumia 710 for?

There are three Nokia Lumia models at the time of writing, and this is the model that will appeal to those looking for a cheap phone with low monthly costs.

What makes the Lumia 710 so appealing is that you get a phone that isn't sluggish, like the equivalent Android offerings. As well as one that comes with some great apps out of the box like satnav and music, without having to pay for extra apps. TomTom for iPhone is £50, and while Drive isn't as featured, it will certainly do for most. 

That should mean that the 710 does well when it hits the shops in February, and one that might help Microsoft lure those BlackBerry users away from their BB Curve. After all we suspect that they won't be able to afford an iPhone 4S and might struggle to understand or get frustrated by Android.

Verdict

The Lumia 710 isn't as nice as the 800 but then we know that it isn't supposed to be. This is about making Windows Phone 7 affordable, and on that front the 710 is perfectly pitched.

With the Lumia 800 around the £35 price point on contract, we suspect that you'll be able to get the Lumia 710 for around £15 - £20 a month with the handset "free". That's a good price in anyone's books. 

The Lumia 710 is perfect at showing that you don't need to have powerful expensive specs to still get a phone that is enjoyable to use day-in, day-out. It might not be as durable as the metal clad HTC Radar, but you won't be disappointed.