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.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 8