Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
10/26/2011 11:17:00 AM
Strong performance for a budget device, and the Nokia apps and smart Windows OS seal the deal
We're not fans of the limited 8GB of storage and the slightly clunky design
The Nokia Lumia 710 is a budget-conscious follow-up to the Lumia 800, offering a similar spec and the same Windows Phone experience at a more digestable price. The major changes concern the design, and unfortunately we're not huge fans of the cut-price look. Manufacturers like HTC and ZTE have nailed budget phone construction, putting out phones like the HTC Explorer and ZTE Tania that look smart and feel good. The Lumia 710 isn't quite their match when it comes to looks.
At first glance it's an intriguing design, with funky angular corners and pointy edges. However, the Back/Home/Search buttons beneath the screen are part of a physical bar that juts from the surface. It ruins the otherwise smart appearance, and we're not sure why Nokia didn't use touch-sensitive buttons instead. Those pointy edges also make the narrow volume control buttons a little uncomfortable to push.
It's not all bad news, though. Resting in your hand, the Nokia 710 is pleasingly lightweight at just 126g, although isn't so light that it feels like a toy. It's also rather chunky so you definitely won't lose it in your pocket. A rubberised rear keeps it stuck to your palm, but if you tire of the all-black design you can swap the back for a more colourful panel - a smart blue alternative came bundled in our box.
The 3.7-inch screen is the same size as the Lumia 800's and features the same 480x800-pixel resolution, but uses basic TFT technology instead of AMOLED. As a result, colours are a little saturated and viewing angles aren't quite as strong (though still good). Still, it's an impressively bright panel, easy to read in direct sunlight. The Gorilla Glass display is also reassuringly resistant to scratches, but lacks the curved finish that we loved on the Lumia 800.
One of the Lumia 800's weak points was the camera, which was fine in daylight but struggled when you moved indoors. We toured London with the Lumia 710, which features a trimmed-back five-megapixel camera, and took lots of random snaps to test it out. The results are strong for a budget phone. Outdoor scenes are bright and lifelike, with minimal motion blur. Pressing the dedicated camera button on the edge of the device takes photos in around half a second, so you won't miss that hilarious moment where your uncle offends your mum at a family gathering.
The auto-focus struggles with close-up objects, so you'll need to manually focus by tapping the screen. The camera also struggles in dim interiors, as with the Lumia 800, but the flash goes some way to rectifying this. You can also shoot 1280x720 HD video.
In terms of the inner workings, the Lumia 710 is impressively similar to the Lumia 800. The same 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor powers the device, along with 512MB of memory. Only storage has been cut back, with 8GB of internal space instead of 16GB (and there's no memory card slot for expansion sadly). One of our chief concerns was battery life, as the Lumia 800's was pretty dire (although an update to improve battery life has already gone live). After preliminary testing, the Lumia 710 fares a little better than the Lumia 800 - you'll get around a day between charges with fairly heavy use (emails, texts, web browsing and the odd short phone call or blast of music).
Windows Phone Mango runs perfectly, and apps load in a flash. Web browsing is also a satisfying experience, with sites popping up in seconds providing your signal's strong. Pages scroll smoothly with a flick of the finger, and you can zoom using the usual pinch technique. It's good to see Nokia's excellent Maps and Drive apps return too, providing an excellent way of getting where you need whether you're stuck on foot or snug in your car.
Although the cut-back design of the Lumia 710 is a disappointment after the sleek, curvy Lumia 800, this budget Windows Phone handset makes up for it in other areas. The screen isn't as colourful but still crisp and impressively tough, while the powerful processor ably handles your apps. While the Lumia 800 is still our favourite Windows phone, the 710 is a commendable entry-level effort.
• If you're looking for a budget Windows Phone handset, check out our Nokia Lumia 710 vs ZTE Tania feature.