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(Pocket-lint) - You'll notice that there has been a change in terminology when it comes to Lumia. It's not new news, but the Lumia 535 is the first Lumia to appear with Microsoft branding rather than Nokia.

Microsoft Devices' first handset is pitched at the low end. It's a budget device, as are the subsequent Lumia 435 and 532 handsets that have been announced since, in a portfolio of handsets that's increasingly diverse and somewhat muddled.


The Lumia 535 aims to put reasonable specs in the palm of your hands for under £100. But is this budget handset any good? 

Our quick take

The Lumia 535 is the first Microsoft branded handset and, unfortunately, the experience is poor compared to some of its Lumia predecessors. The poor touchscreen experience feels like a blast from the past, while the exterior finish isn't up to quite the same high standards.

On paper, the 535 has plenty going for it. The low price, combined with a large display, the latest Windows Phone software, quad-core power and a pair of reasonable cameras, should make this a cracking device for those on a budget.

In reality it's the stuttery text entry that makes for awkward use. Unless that's corrected we can't recommend the first Microsoft Devices badged Lumia device, especially with the likes of the Moto G out there.

Microsoft Lumia 535 review: Losing touch?

Microsoft Lumia 535

3.0 stars
  • Affordable
  • Latest Windows Phone and Lumia software
  • Display quality is low
  • Touchscreen response is poor
  • It's sluggish
  • No 4G

Design and build

The design of the Lumia 535 is typical of the Nokia Lumia devices we've seen before. Sticking to the "bright is best" mantra, there's no missing the green of our review handset, which helps these Windows Phones stand out from the crowd. 

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The curved edges make for a comfortable grip and the softly curved corners have a lovely precision to them. In that sense, it's exactly what we've come to expect from a Lumia handset.

The 140.2 x 72.4 x 8.8mm chassis has a removable cover to access the internals, but it's not the best fitting that we've seen - we could feel some movement around the sides and across the back. When pressing the side-mounted standby button, for example, it gave a little creak. That's not a huge deal, but day-in day-out, it imparts the feeling of cheapness.

The exterior also has a glossy finish, rather than the lovely subdued tactile finishes we've seen before. That means it's often smeary from fingerprints, needs a polish and just doesn't feel great to the touch - more like a toy than a smartphone.

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That's not a great start for this device and, although we've seen Lumia devices offer great build quality at more affordable prices than, say, Samsung, the Lumia 535 isn't one of the best.

Hardware and specs

But it's really the hardware story that Microsoft is looking to sell here. This is a bone fide smartphone, packing in a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core chipset clocked at 1.2GHz, with 1GB of RAM. That's an entry-level core spec, but the story doesn't end there.

There's 8GB of internal storage, which is reasonable for a budget device, along with a microSD card slot supporting cards up to 128GB.

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This is also a dual SIM device, which might not be in much demand in the UK, but in wider markets there's plenty of interest. The two SIM cards are handled easily enough, so you can see what is appearing from where within the operating system, but speed-wise there's no 4G connectivity, it's 3G only.

The performance matches the hardware specs, so this handset doesn't exactly fly: it's a little slow to get around Windows Phone; apps are a little slow to open; and launching the camera invokes a pause too, with those loading dots being a sight all too common.

But for the price we accept that this is going to be a slower experience than some others, but that's not the thing we're concerned about. It's the display that's the albatross around the Lumia 535's neck.

Unresponsive display

The Lumia has a 5-inch display with 960 x 540 pixel resolution (220ppi), which is a reasonable pixel count considering the sub-£100 price of this handset, although it's overshadowed by the lovely efforts put in by Motorola and devices like the Moto G - which is £50 more, but a stronger performer all round. 

It's an IPS display, coated with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, offering reasonable viewing angles. It's fairly bright, but doesn't seem to react to changes in light conditions too well. The colours are ok too, but not hugely vibrant - not as punchy as the rear luminescent shell - while the sharpness is affected by the limited resolution, so things are a little fuzzy. But there has to be some trade-off for the price.

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However, the physical response is poor, with a sluggish keyboard experience. You can't type at any sort of speed, and scrolling falls down because so often you click through rather than swiping up.

It reminds us of old resistive displays that were commonplace five years ago. There have been rumours circulating that Microsoft would be issuing a software update to fix this, but so far there's been nothing.

If Microsoft can update the software to fix the display's slow response, then that will change the position of the Lumia 535. But until then, we can only say it is a poor performer overall. 

Windows Phone 8.1 and Denim

What the Lumia 535 does have working for it, however, is the latest version of Windows Phone, with the latest goodies from Lumia Denim. In truth, many of the Denim advantages relate to the camera experience on the more powerful Lumia devices, but at least it's up-to-date on day one with the Lumia 535 - until Windows 10 appears, of course.

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Windows Phone has come on leaps and bounds over the past year. The app gap has been closing and although Windows Phone doesn't offer the experience that iOS or Android does when it comes to app choices and volume, most of the mainstream apps are available. 

READ: Windows 10: What will it bring to Windows Phone?

It's Home Security Week on Pocket-lint

There's a wide feature set in Windows Phone now, which will be further enhanced by Windows 10, but for the time being there's plenty of cool functionality. The customisation options on the homescreen, decent notifications, Cortana (Microsoft's clever digital assistant), as well as nice features like tap to wake, leading to a smartphone experience that's increasingly compelling.

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But with the rapid advancement that Windows Phone has gone through, we've arrived at a point - particularly on Lumia handsets - where the settings menu is now very convoluted. For example, there's about five different places to change settings that pertain to the display, as if all the settings were just dumped into one list with no consideration for device-wide cohesion. Looking forward and Windows 10 will tidy this up, but at least we criticise the overall range of options available.

Speaker and calling

The single external speaker is on the rear of the 535, and while it offers plenty of volume, it's not a great performer, with tinny sound that distorts at higher volumes. It's position on the rear isn't great either, because it's almost entirely muffled when you put your phone down: if you want to use the speaker, it will have to be face down, or in your hand.

Call quality, however, is perfectly good. We found that reception (both for data and calling) was strong and we had no reported problems when making or receiving calls.


Where Lumia handsets have often made their case is in the camera department. In the case of the 535 there's a 5-megapixel camera on both the front and rear, with Microsoft making a play for the selfie crowd here.

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The rear camera is supported by an LED flash and has autofocus, with a f/2.4 aperture and fairly wide 28mm equivalent lens. You get to use the newly named Lumia Camera app, which brings a full range of options and settings. 

The results are good when shooting in good lighting conditions. The camera app gives you enough diversity to do what you want with images, and the results in most conditions outdoors are reasonable. In low-light things shots acquire image noise, so indoor conditions in average to dim light things can appear mottled, but that's typical.

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The front camera is wide-angle and the results are pretty good too, but not faultless. Again, low-light will produce shots with some image noise, which we found a little soft and sometimes they had a pink tinge to them. If you're a selfie fan, you can give the Lumia Selfie app a try.

One downside of this level of device is there's no HD video capture - instead it maxes out at 848 x 480 pixels.

Writing by Chris Hall.