T-Mobile Lumia 710 Review: Is this the start of a Nokia comeback?

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The Lumia 710 on T-Mobile is the first Nokia Windows Phone to hit the United States and Nokia hopes that it is just the first of many successful devices to land with Microsoft’s mobile operating system. While it’s not as high-end as the Lumia 800 or some of the leaked devices we’ve seen, it comes with a fantastic price and operating system. In this review, we’ll see if the Lumia 710 is just “good for the price” or legitimately a good smartphone on its own merits.

The Good
  • At $50, the Lumia 710 is a very nice smartphone for the price. Great bang for your buck.
  • The screen is pretty nice with deep blacks.
  • I thoroughly enjoy the Windows Phone Mango experience.
The Bad
  • The 5-megapixel camera is not up to the standard we hold Nokia to.
  • The design is kind of boring and chunky.
  • While the platform is nice, it's still lacking in some areas like the app selection.

Hardware

The Lumia 710 continues Nokia's tradition of pumping out high-quality hardware but I just couldn't get that excited about this handset. It's packed full of power, has a nice screen and feels good in the hand but I was still underwhelmed by the overall experience. It's not bad at all but a few design choices bother me and it's not quite as sweet as the Lumia 800.

Design

The 3.7-inch Clear Black display takes up the bulk of the face of the Lumia 710 and it's quite nice. As the name implies, the blacks are really deep and pictures and videos really look good. I missed the whole content-floating-to-the-top-feel that the Lumia 800 had but it's still a nice, responsive display. Underneath the screen are the three standard Windows Phone buttons: back, Windows and search. These buttons are on a raised single piece of plastic and I'm not sure I agree with this design decision - I would have preferred individual hard buttons or just three capacitive buttons.

On top, you'll find an exposed microUSB port, a standard headphone jack and the power/unlock button and all of these work as you would expect. There's a single-piece volume rocker and camera button on the right spine and I had a heck of a time pressing the camera button halfway down for autofocusing. The bottom and left spine are clean and smooth.

The backing is a smooth and curved so it fits really nicely in your hand but the phone is rather chunky. It's not heavy but just chunky. When you take off the back cover, there's some additional padding between the back cover and the battery and that may account for a little bit of the chunkiness. The back also sports a nice speaker at the bottom, as well as the 5-megapixel camera with a flash.

Other than the single piece, plastic Windows Phone buttons and the overall chunkiness of the device, I can't really point to things I don't like about the design of the Lumia 710 but it's also difficult to single out elements which really seem innovative or exciting.

Guts And Glory

Even though the Lumia 710 has an entry-level price, it has high-end specs. We're looking at a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor, a 5-megapixel camera, T-Mobile 4G up to 14.4 Mbps, Bluetooth and more. While it's not a dual-core processor, the Windows Phone software has been optimized for this chipset, so the performance can actually be comparable to dual-core chips in competing devices. Switching between apps, launching programs and other things were smooth but I did ding the device in the performance category for things like the camera and the browser. Otherwise, the Lumia 710 is packed full of power and it should be performing well by the time your T-Mobile contract is up.

Software

The Lumia 710 runs Windows Phone Mango with a few Nokia-specific apps and if you don't already know about Windows Phone, you should know that Microsoft has created a fresh, new take on mobile computing. Unlike iOS or Android, Windows Phone Mango isn't hitting you with multiple icons in a grid but it instead relies on live tiles that are constantly updating information. It's fresh and kind of looks like a high-gloss magazine but it may be a bit too different for those familiar with other platforms.

Still, it's a good way to download new apps, surf the web, send and receive e-mails, message your friends through various means and hook into a variety of online services (particularly Microsoft's services). Additionally, it is a great platform for integrating with work services because Microsoft pretty much owns enterprise software. Services from Google and Apple tend to work better on those company's respective platforms (as you would expect) but Google's services work reasonably well on Windows Phone and Microsoft offers its own credible versions of these or Apple's services.

While there are now more than 50,000 apps for Windows Phone, there are still a few key missing apps and we're not just talking about niche apps. As of publishing time, you can't get major apps like Skype or Pandora. That should change soon and there are alternatives available but we're still seeing the innovative apps come to iOS first, then Android and then Windows Phone.

As we've covered in the Lumia 800 review, the T-Mobile Lumia 700 comes with some Nokia-specific apps including one for navigation, sports and music. The Nokia Drive app gives you turn-by-turn navigation in multiple countries and unlike something like Google Maps, you can get this even if you don't have a continual connection. The downside of this is that you'll have to download a large file to your phone (1.8 GB for U.S. maps) but that's a small price to pay for some excellent navigation capabilities.

The ESPN app does what you'd expect, as it brings you scores, news and videos of your favorite sports to your fingertips but the problem is that it's geared toward non-U.S. sports. For example, you can do a deep dive into football (soccer), rugby and more but if you want to know the latest on the Lakers, it will kick you into the browser for the mobile version of ESPN. There's also Nokia new music service but I didn't get a chance to really dive into it properly before this review - I'll update this once I do.

Basically, this phone runs Windows Phone Mango well and I like Windows Phone, so I like this phone. The addition of free turn-by-turn navigation is great and the look and feel of Microsoft's platform is fresh, even if it takes some time to get used to if you're coming from another platform. Overall, you should like most of the software on the Lumia 710.

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

The Lumia 710 comes with Internet Explorer 9 and it provides a great mobile browsing experience ... for the most part. While there's no support for Flash or Silverlight, most sites work well, it can handle HTML5 like a champ and JavaScript is handled easily. The problem occurred with a website I use often to check on public transportation (nextmuni.com) and I was hit with an odd error message about it not being able to download a file.

On an iPhone or any other Android phone, this has never been a problem, so it's kind of a pain for me. Pretty much every other site I wanted to visit worked well though, so I'm not expecting this to be  a widespread problem. There were a few other issues with sites not recognizing this as a smartphone and defaulting to the mobile version but the browser works well enough that it can handle a desktop site with no problems.

Multimedia

The Lumia 710 is quite a good multimedia machine, as you have Microsoft's Zune service and software for buying and finding new music and videos. There are also a bunch of third-party apps to augment your multimedia experience like Netflix, Slacker, T-Mobile TV, Rdio and more but there are still a few missing apps like Pandora. Still, I found the speaker to be great: it was loud but retained nice levels of bass.

It's a very competitive multimedia environment compared to Android and iTunes, although some of you may be more familiar and comfortable with iTunes. Microsoft's Zune operates in a similar manner - as a hub of your content and syncing - but you can choose to to just focus on streaming services if you never want to plug your device into a computer.

Camera

The Nokia Lumia 710 has a solid 5-megapixel camera but I couldn't help but be underwhelmed, particularly with the class of cameras available now. The camera software is as good as ever with Windows Phone but I wasn't in love with how the pictures came out: color reproduction was hit or miss, it was difficult for it to focus on what I wanted (even with tap to focus) and it was hard to hold down the camera button half way for the auto-focus. The flash is a bit overpowering as well but you can't really expect that much from a smartphone in low-light conditions.

I don't want to be too harsh on the camera because it can still do some solid shots and it's a snap to share it with Facebook, e-mails or other online repositories. I just expect more out of Nokia when it comes to camera optics and I was also disappointed with the Lumia 800's camera, so please step up your game with this Nokia.

Good lighting, standard settings

 

 

Good lighting, flash

 

fine lighting, standard settings

Call Quality And Battery Life

Say what you will about Nokia over the last few years but the company knows how to make a phone, so the call quality on the Lumia 710 was pretty good. The only voice issues I had were with Google Voice calls but I blame that on Google's service because calls made directly with the phone were crystal clear. Battery life was also quite stellar, as I could easily get through a full day on a single charge and it doesn't even draw that much juice when idle and not in use. These are two well-executed aspects of the Lumia 710.

The Final Take

The Nokia Lumia 710 is a very solid smartphone with a pleasing operating system and it represents incredible value for the price. I'm not fully in love with some of the design choices, the camera or the lack of some key apps but if you're willing to give Windows Phone a chance, the Lumia 710 is a great device for first-time smartphone buyers. If you're a high-end user waiting to dive into Windows Phone, you may want to see what Nokia has up its sleeves over the next few weeks.

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