Like the Lumia 800, the 710 is powered by a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor which is only single core. And you do notice the lack of an extra core when you compare the performance of the 710 against today’s high-end Android devices or the iPhone 4S. While navigating the WP7 menus is slick and has obviously been optimised to work with single-core processors, when you begin opening a number of apps and trying to switch between them, you do get a noticeable lag. This is not helped by the fact that you only get 512MB of RAM which doesn’t help multitasking any.
Browsing the Internet is relatively pain free with the Internet Explorer app loading webpages quickly and with pinch-to-zoom very smooth and webpages rendering as they should, thanks to hardware graphic acceleration. - though there is no Flash support. The neat and simple interface means you don't waste screen space with unnecessary clutter. The address bar on the bottom of the screen, which doubles as a search bar, and a refresh button are the only on-screen icons.
Looking at the camera, the snapper on the back features a modest five megapixel sensor but does at least have a relatively fast f2.4 wide-angle (28mm) lens which helps a little to make the most of what that sensor can offer. The camera is nothing to write home about but performed decently in most conditions. Outdoor results were okay, but like the 800 dark areas are underexposed. Images tended to come out a little soft which will happen if you fail to hold the phone perfectly steady when pressing the shutter button.
Speaking of which, the physical shutter button is a big bonus point on any phone, and we commend Microsoft making it a prerequisite on any phone - however as we said previously, it's not the most comfortable to press on this phone due to poor ergonomics. Pressing the button at any time, even when the phone is locked, will bring you directly to the camera app. While this is a great feature, it can at times see you taking inside-of-the-pocket pictures inadvertently. There is an option which prevents the shutter key from starting the camera if the proximity sensor is triggered.
The camera app itself is pretty decent letting you tweak a good range of settings including white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness and ISO, as well as letting you touch the screen to focus on something which may not be in the centre of the screen. The app processes the pictures very quickly and there is also a wizard to clean up your snaps on the phone before sharing them. All photos will be automatically saved to your 25GB SkyDrive account but this option can be disabled.
Sample Camera Images
One point to note is that the default setting when you get the phone for focus mode is macro and for most pictures this should be changed to normal. The phone is capable of shooting 720p video at 30fps and in our tests, it handled video capture reasonably well considering this is a budget handset. While anything more than gentle panning will cause a bit of blur, the video, even when displayed on a large screen, still looked pretty decent.
Turning to the phone’s ability to handle calls, it performed well in most of the conditions we tested it in. Indoors, voices were clear and we even found that it had a markedly better reception than our iPhone 4 when in the same location. We never had to boost the volume to much to hear the person on the other end, even when they were outdoors. The speaker, located on the back of the phone, is as you would expect pretty poor. While it offers enough volume, the sound coming from it is distorted and pretty tinny.
One of the areas where the Lumia 710 is let down is the battery. While the 1,300mAh battery is replaceable, we barely managed to get a day of moderate use out of it on a full charge. This is a disappointment considering some smartphone batteries are finally getting their act together and giving you up to two full days of use nowadays.
Managing you phone and connecting to a PC is another pain, but one common to all Windows Phone handsets, because you have to use Microsoft’s Zune software in a similar way that iPhone users have to use iTunes. This means that instead of simply dragging and dropping files onto your phone, you have to download the software, install it and use the rather clunky interface if you want to transfer music or movies to your phone. Not good, especially as Zune isn't even the default media player on Windows, unlike the way iTunes is for Macs.
Finally we come to the question of value, which in a phone of this level is one of the most important considerations. At the time of publishing this review, Nokia had not released official pricing for the Lumia 710 making it difficult to gauge exactly the value score for the handset.
However, it is expected to be priced in or around £250 SIM-free and certain networks are offering it on pre-order for free on a £20-a-month contract but considering you can get the Lumia 800 for free on the same contract, we don’t see this as particularly good value.
This is a phone which will be competing against the likes of the HTC Radar which cost £330 at launch and the soon-to-be-released ZTE Tania which is currently available for pre-order also for £250. We think that if the Lumia 710 does come out at £250 or preferably a bit closer to £200 it represents very good value.
The Nokia Lumia 710 could have been the first budget Windows Phone handset to attract users in large numbers, but the inherent limitations placed on Nokia by Microsoft, along with a couple of poor design choices mean it falls just short of being a great budget handset. However, if Nokia gets the pricing right, it could represent great value for money for those looking to take their first step on the Windows Phone 7 platform.