- Windows Phone looks good
- Neat design
- Good social networking integration
- Awful games support
- Some stuttery lag
- Review Price: £169.99
- 800MHz processor
- 3.7in 480 x 800 pixel screen
- 8GB internal memory
- Windows Phone 7.5 OS
- 256MB RAM
With a 3.7in screen and 5MP camera, several specs haven’t been cut down too obviously, but the 800MHz processor, 256MB RAM and 8GB of storage do have an impact.
Cuts have been made in the Nokia Lumia 610’s design too, but are only obvious when compared to something like the higher-end Lumia 800. The lovely unibody frame of that phone has been traded-in for something more conventional. Its rear is a removable plastic battery cover that scoops around the front in unibody-apeing style, and its sides are finished in smoky silver plastic. There’s no metal, and no advanced plastic treatments here.
Using touch sensitive front buttons rather than the physical type, the Lumia 610 is a bit moodier and cooler-looking than the middle-model Lumia 710, and the soft touch finish of the plastic rear is smooth and – you guessed it – soft-feeling. Inspired and impressive it may not be, but it’s among the better-looking phones at the price. Only the slightly cheap-looking camera sensor housing and all-too-obvious speaker grille let the side down aesthetically. The Nokia Lumia 610 comes in four shades – black, white, blue and a red-pink.
Hardware and Connectivity
In common with all Windows Phone 7.x phones, the Nokia Lumia 610’s connectivity is pretty limited. On its top edge there’s a microUSB socket and 3.5mm headphone jack, but that’s your lot.
There’s no video output, and no microSD slot. The non-expandable memory is one of the most likely deal-breaker issues, because the phone only comes with 8GB of internal memory. If you want a phone to act as your main music player too, there’s a good chance this won’t be enough.
Transferring files to the internal memory is more of a pain than it is with an Android phone too. You can’t just drag and drop media files, you have to install the Zune software on your PC/Mac, and sync the phone through that. In this sense at least, Windows Phone mobiles are quite iPhone-like.
The annoying quirks are offset with a few hardware highlights, though. Point one goes to the power button, which is placed deliberately just under your right thumb (for right-handers at any rate) to make bringing the phone in and out of standby feel natural. Point two goes to the physical shutter button, which has been a mandatory Windows Phone 7 feature since the software’s launch. It too fits right under a finger and has a bit of give to it, like the shutter button of a dedicated digicam.
One other hardware feature demanded by Windows Phone 7 is the trio of soft keys, used to navigate around the phone’s menu system. As already mentioned, these are set into the glass front of the phone touchscreen, and they glow with a cool blue light when pressed. Unlike some cheap Android phones, there are no sensitivity issues with these virtual buttons, reaffirming that while the Nokia Lumia 610 doesn’t have the glamour of a top-end phone, it is well-made.
In similar fashion, the Lumia 610 does not have a screen bearing any fancy marketing terms. Its high falutin’ Lumia siblings use Clear Black displays (AMOLED, essentially) where this phone has a standard TFT LCD. It’s far from a bad effort, though. 3.7in across and using the only resolution Windows Phone 7.5 allows – 480 x 800 – it’s reasonably sharp for a budget model and viewing angles are great.
Contrast isn’t as strong as the other Lumias, with a tiny grey-ish hue to the blacks, but image quality is good. The screen is also large enough to make typing quick an accurate, thanks in part to the excellent Windows Phone keyboard.
The Nokia Lumia 610 runs a version of Windows Phone 7.5 known as “Tango”. If you’re at all familiar with Windows Phone, the interface will seem completely familiar as the “.5” added missing features rather than fundamentally changing the way the system works.
For Windows Phone newcomers it works a little something like this – there’s a “scroll” of square and rectangular Live Tiles that forms your home screen. From here, a right-to-left flick here takes you to the full apps menu. Once again, it’s a vertically-scrolling list that’s easy to thumb through.
Windows Phone 7.5 is not particularly flexible, but it does have a definite – and mostly successful – style. It’s a style that carries on into many third-party apps too.
There are far fewer Windows Phone apps than Android or iOS ones, but the OS integrated social networks with the best of them from the off. Within the settings menu you can plug Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and reams of email accounts into the phone. Updates from all are then weaved into the People app.
The Windows Phone keyboard – looks good, feels good, is good
The People app acts as a phone book and a way to keep up with the latest social networking goings-on. You can view them chronolocially, or by person within the contacts book view.
Other Windows Highlights
Other top bits of Windows Phone 7.5 include Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps. A turn-by-turn GPS navigation solution and a way to find your way around on-foot respectively, they are good alternatives to what’s on offer from arch rival Android.
In Nokia Drive, you can select the maps you want to download manually, removing the need for the phone to constantly leech data using a mobile internet connection. This is an area where the 8GB of internal memory becomes a nuisance, although England takes up a mere 204MB, and the entire UK just 241MB. Larger countries are predictably less forgiving – the USA is 1.8GB.
The Nokia Lumia 610 has an 800MHz processor and 256MB of RAM, where almost all other Windows Phone mobiles use at least a 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. It’s a step-down that has noticeable drawbacks, but it’s not as sluggish and you might think.
Flicking through the home screen and apps menu is quick, keeping the slick feel that made us fall for Windows Phone in the first place. What do suffer are the transitions between apps, which take that bit longer to load. Windows manages these little gaps well – better than most Android Gingerbread phones – but next to a Lumia 800 the Lumia 610 does seem a little sluggish.
What is more likely to annoy for those less accustomed to just how quick Windows Phone can get is the compromised app and games support. As many games in particular will have been developed with the previous minimum Windows specs in mind (1GHz CPU, 512MB RAM), many do not currently support the Lumia 610.
Important omissions include Angry Birds, Sid Meier’s Pirates, Civilization Revolution, PES 2012, NFS: Hot Pursuit, Let’s Golf 2. Higher-end Windows Phone offer limited games support compared with iPhones, but Lumia 610 support is currently dire. It’s likely to improver dramatically over the next six months, but you’ll need patience. The phone has enough power to play fancy 3D games – Super Monkey Ball runs just fine – but games need to be tweaked to work with the lesser hardware.
Low-end Windows phones like this also drop all multitasking support, which makes switching between apps a little more laborious.
The Nokia Lumia 610 only has one camera, the one on the back. If you want video chat, this is not the phone for you.
Its rear camera is a step above the basic type you might expect after all the other compromises we’ve seen. It has a 5-megapixel sensor, autofocus and flash – the latter two making it much more flexible than some.
The built-in camera app gives you a reasonable amount of control over settings too. There are scene modes, exposure compensation, a macro mode plus contrast, metering and white balance options. Effects and resolution options are very limited, but we wouldn’t expect real-time distortion effects from such a lowly processor. Extra modes we do miss include panorama and HDR.
Although the Nokia Lumia 610 offers many of the same core camera specs as the Lumia 800, its performance isn’t a match. Its autofocus is a little slower and it often has trouble focusing on objects less than 20cm or so away. There are two ways to take a picture – you either tap on screen, which focuses where you press and then takes a shot, or use the physical “shutter” button on the phone’s edge. Living within the constraints of the so-so autofocus, it’s mostly reliable, but get too close and you’ll find where you tap often has little bearing on the focal point.
In less-than perfect lighting conditions, shots tend to look pretty glum, and detail captured is pretty unremarkable for a 5-megapixel sensor. What offsets all these problems is that Windows Phone makes the camera easy and fun to use. It has the immediacy of the iPhone camera, which is enough to make us want to use it, even if most of the shots it produces are fairly ropey.
Video and Music
The music and video of the Lumia 610 both benefit and suffer from the Windows Phone styling, which dictates wholesale how they work. Benefits include the super-swish media player interface. It looks and feels great, with far more style and grace than what you get from a similarly-priced Android phone.
There’s an integrated FM radio and Nokia Music is bolted-on too. This gives you access to loads of online mixes, which you can listen to for free, Nokia’s music store and a location-aware gig listing service. Sifting through music isn’t entirely lag-free, as it (almost) is with a top-end Windows phone, but it’s snappy enough.
Where Windows Phone starts being a pain is in getting video and music from your computer to your phone. It relies on a sync process with the Zune desktop software, which is a bit like iTunes. You cannot drag and drop files manually here – it’s the same situation with photos.
The video and audio codecs are quite limited here as well, and it’s likely Zune will have to transcode most of your videos before transferring. With an 800MHz processor, the bit-rates and resolutions supported are more limited than usual – some 720p types are ok, but not many. Then again, with a 480 x 800 pixel screen, 8GB memory and no video output connector, there’s little-to-no point going HD with your vids here.
Yes, Windows Phone is limiting, but a few pluses sprout from its restrictive style. Battery life is relatively good, for one. The Lumia 610 has a pretty unimpressive-sounding 1300 mAh battery, but it lasts a full day and change off a charge. We expect this may be in part down to the lack of support for multitasking, reducing how much thinking the phone needs to do when you’re not actively using it.
What can you get for £170? Other than a network-unlocked Nokia Lumia 610, your other options include the £110 Orange San Francisco II, the HTC Desire C, Sony Xperia U and Samsung Galaxy Ace. Yes, they’re pretty much all Android phones – the iPhone 3GS still costs £319 after all.
The Nokia Lumia 610 feels simultaneously slicker and far more compromised than these phones. They tend to lag a similar amount, but that snappy Windows Phone scrolling feels pretty special within such a cheap phone. What’s hard to look beyond, though, is that so many apps and games just don’t work. As an introduction to Windows phones, or smartphones in general, it’s liberally spattered with disappointing moments.
There’s also the arrival of Windows Phone 8 devices to consider. Budget models haven’t been confirmed, but we do know current Windows Phone 7.x devices won’t get a next-gen upgrade.
The Nokia Lumia 610 is a budget Windows Phone 7.5 handset. Hardware cuts have been made to get the price under £200, but most must-have smartphone features are included. And while lag has increased, it’s snappy enough to go head-to-head with similarly-priced Androids. What’s less easy to forgive is the limited app and games support, which adds a bitter edge to the phone, especially as an intro to smartphones.
How we test phones
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 8
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3.7in|
|Screen Resolution||480 x 800|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||8GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5 Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||No Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
Processor and Internal Specs