Nokia Lumia 710 (Rogers) - review

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When Nokia announced early last year that they would be adopting Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform in lieu of developing in-house platforms, the exasperated screaming of Nokia fanboys could be heard all around the world. Nobody could understand why Nokia would choose to leave years of development behind, only to embrace a foreign platform equally unproven as their own.

Then in October, the two Lumias were unveiled. The new Lumia line-up was well received by the critics, and they suddenly became objects of desire for mobile enthusiasts everywhere. Nokia Lumia 710 is the first Nokia smartphone based on Windows Phone 7 to come to North America. Was this Lumia worth the wait? Did Nokia make the right decision? Find out in this review.

Hardware

 

  • Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 3.7" 480 x 800 ClearBlack display with Gorilla Glass
  • 512MB RAM / 8GB internal storage
  • 5MP camera with flash
  • 802.11 WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS
  • 1300mAh battery
  • microSIM slot 

The Lumia 710 has a fairly traditional design, unlike its flashy sibling Lumia 800. Measuring at 119 x 62.4 x 12.5mm (4.69 x 2.49 x 0.49 inches) it is not the monstrously huge superphone nor the slimmest fashion phone that we've come accustomed to. Weighing at 125 grams. it feels pretty light in the hands.

Typical for devices powered by Windows Phone 7, it runs on a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 512MB RAM and all of the standard wireless options. The Lumia 710 actually shares the same guts as the Lumia 800. It is rare to see a mid-range phone come with almost identical specs as a flagship phone made by the same company.

On the top there is a sleep button, headphone jack, and micro USB port. Along the right side, there is a dedicated camera button and volume rocker. Left side and the bottom are smooth with no buttons, and the sides maintain a smooth curve to back. Below the screen, you can find the three standard Windows Phone buttons for back, home, and search. Every button feels sturdy and responsive. The removable battery cover has a soft-touch matte finish, and has holes for the speaker and the 5-megapixel camera. Taking off the battery cover reveals the 1300mAh battery, and the microSIM slot is accessible by taking off the battery. 

Display

The ClearBlack display found on the Lumia 710 is the best screen I've seen on a mid-range device. Although it's not Lumia 800's AMOLED, Lumia 710's display has deep blacks and accurate colors. The WVGA resolution (480 x 800) is somewhat dated compared to iPhone's Retina display and qHD screens found on Android devices, but the outdoors visibility and colors more than make up for the relatively low resolution.

The front of the device is a very powerful fingerprint magnet, displaying a brief history of where my digits have been trailing. I suspect that the Lumia 710 either lacks or has a weaker variant of the oleophobic screen coating that other smartphones employ today. This doesn't affect the functionality, but it's something to be aware of.

Software

The aesthetics of Windows Phone 7 is a very welcomed refresher in the world of icon-based iOS and Android. Some of the signature aesthetics of Windows Phone 7's Metro UI include large square blocks with bold colours, clean text on black background, paned-UI with text extending beyond the screen, and others. It takes some time to get used to if you are coming from iOS or Android, but it's all new and fun. Metro UI design language is consistent in every part of the OS, and it is a joy to navigate through the device.

However, Windows Phone 7 still has room for improvement. The native browser doesn't render site websites properly, because it is missing some font files. The app catalogue is still not on par with other platforms. I could not find a worthy WP7 substitute for the Reeder RSS app on the iPhone, and there aren't many head-turning cool apps on the platform. Good games are also hard to find on Windows Phone 7, which is surprising considering they have an entire Xbox Live portal that comes pre-installed on the OS. It seems like many of the big mobile game developers have not joined the Windows Phone party yet.

On the other hand, a handful of Nokia apps and Bing features are great differentiators that really make life easier. The Navteq-powered Nokia Drive is a turn-by-turn navigation app that works offline, so the navigation function could be used even in areas without cell coverage. Bing search features Siri-like voice command system and Google-Goggles-like Bing Vision, both of which provide new and innovative ways of searching. These native features that Nokia and Microsoft included are very well implemented, and make the Lumia 710 more useful right-out-of-the-box than other phones.

Camera

The lackluster performance of Lumia 710's camera is a bit disappointing, but it is to be expected at this price range. The 5-megapixel camera takes okay pictures, but it's not quite the stunner that Lumia 800's camera is. If you are serious about photography, don't let Lumia 710 be the only camera you are carrying. It does take really good macro shots, though, as shown in the review video.

In-Use

Nokia Lumia 710 has a great radio inside. It holds a reliable data connection while on the go, and the WiFi radio is very strong as well. Call quality is one of the best out of the recent smartphones, and it never dropped a single call. The battery also lasted a satisfactory length of time, consistently getting a full day's use on a single charge with heavy use. The 1.4GHz processor never showed any signs of lagging as well, partly due to good software optimization on Microsoft's part.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Windows Phone 7 Mango
  • ClearBlack display
  • Price

Cons 

  • App catalogue
  • Web browser rendering

Having used the Nokia Lumia 710 for an extended period of time, I can safely say that Nokia made the right decision to transition off of the burning platform that is Symbian. The combination of Nokia's hardware and Microsoft's software results in an alluring and sophisticated piece of gadget that trumps any of Nokia's previous releases.

Nokia Lumia 710 is available at Rogers for $49.99 on 3-year contract, and $255 off-contract. Factoring in the affordable price, this is easily the best mid-range phone on the market today. Most Android handsets and even the iPhone 3GS seem obtuse and amateurish next to the dignified Lumia 710. While this phone lacks the exquisiteness of the Lumia 800, it doesn't skimp out on the major features that make the Lumia line-up great. 3.5 enjoyment balloons out of 4!

Sean