Nokia’s first Windows Phone effort was met with decent reviews, but not exactly staggering sales. Networks even complained about the cost of the Lumia 800. Now Nokia’s hoping to win the hearts and minds of the budget-conscious, Windows Phone-craving crowd with its cheaper Lumia 710, but is it any good?

 

What Is It?

It’s Nokia’s second attempt at a Windows Phone that slots in underneath its current flagship the Lumia 800, but still packs almost the same guts.

 

Who’s It For?

Anyone who’s after a Nokia Windows phone on a budget, or wants to customise their phone with different swappable back covers like the “xpress-on” covers of yesteryear.

 

Design

Nokia has certainly aped Samsung and other budget smartphone manufacturers with its design of the Lumia 710. It’s not an ugly phone, but on first glance it looks like a Galaxy Gio, only with the cut off corners of Motorola’s Xoom 2. The curved plastic swappable back ads a splash of colour, but gives the phone a cheap appearance, which is hammered home by the cheap looking and feeling plastic raised button panel on its face.

 

Using It

It’s a Windows Phone so it behaves exactly like its bigger brother the Lumia 800 (check out our Lumia 800 review for a more in-depth look at the software), with exactly the same processor; RAM and version of Windows Phone. It’s a smooth experience and everything feels pretty zippy as you burn through the menus and apps.

The curved back actually fits in your hand nicely, and the plastic is pretty grippy so you don’t feel like the phone is going to shoot out and test that legendary Nokia resilience as it says hello to the pavement.

All the buttons work fine, but they’re not particularly satisfying to use like they were on the Lumia 800. The power button is positioned on the top though, like most other phones, which is an enhancement over the Lumia 800’s power button placement, which was infuriatingly easy to hit where it was on the side-edge.

The 3.7-inch screen looks pretty good too. It’s pretty standard “ClearBlack” LCD, so it’s not quite as vivid and saturated as the Lumia 800’s AMOLED, but pictures look vibrant and text looks sharp on its 800x480 resolution display. It’s also protected by Gorilla Glass, which combined with the replaceable back covers means you should be good to treat this phone a little more roughly than you would say an iPhone or Galaxy Nexus.

 

The Best Part

It’s Windows Phone, so you know you’re getting pretty much exactly the same experience as any other high-end Windows Phone, but at a lower price point. You can feel free to use the phone without having to worry about it being fragile and earth-shatteringly expensive if it happens to hit the deck.

 

Tragic Flaw

Although it feels pretty solidly-constructed; doesn’t really creak and is dead light, it just feels a bit cheap. The buttons on the front look and feel a bit naff. I know it’s a cost-saving measure not having capacitive buttons, but that, combined with a fingerprint magnet-of-a-screen, just makes the Lumia 710 instantly look budget. You might want a phone to be budget, but you certainly don’t want that phone to look budget.

 

This Is Weird

It could be me, but I found the keyboard surprisingly inaccurate. That, and when I tapped on the lower right-hand side of the keyboard (the return/delete/full stop area), the screen would flicker just slightly when typing out texts. It didn’t happen all the time, and could be my unit, but it was a bit weird.

 

Test Notes

- The screen looks good, when clean. Keeping it that way was difficult; it’s the biggest fingerprint magnet I’ve ever come across.
- You get two back covers in the box: a coloured one and a black one. They’re quite easy to get on and off, but they feel a tad flimsy. I could certainly see the lugs that hold them in place breaking or wearing down.
- Nokia’s range of Windows Phone 7 apps are great. You’ve got Nokia Maps, Drive and Music. The range of music available in Nokia Music has grown much larger since we tested the Lumia 800 and it’s a really great way to discover music for free. It’s worth getting a Nokia Windows Phone 7 over other WP7 offerings just for that.
- The camera is of the five-megapixel variety and does surprisingly well in low light. Images are relatively free of grain and well saturated – I was quite impressed. Video quality at 720p was pretty good too, although like a lot of pocket shooters it suffered from blurring with motion, but the colours again were well reproduced even in relatively low light conditions.

 

Should You Buy It?

If you’re after a new, cheap Windows Phone experience, and Nokia plays the budget phone pricing game with networks come February, then you won’t go far wrong with the Lumia 710. The Windows Phone experience is solid; the camera is pretty good, and you’ve got Nokia’s great Windows Phone apps to boot. But a small battery; limited 8GB of storage space, and cheap-feel means that there are better Windows Phones out there. The Lumia 800 is certainly worth the extra money just for the quality feel for example, so it really comes down to price point and your budget.

Nokia Lumia 710

- Screen: 3.7-inch ClearBlack LCD with Gorilla Glass
- Processor: 1.4GHz Single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon
- Storage: 8GB flash
- Camera: 5-MP rear camera with LED flash
- Connectivity: HSPDA/3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Ports: microUSB, 3.5mm headphones
- Battery: 1300mAh
- Price: £300 off network