T-Mobile is fast becoming a great place to be for a good Windows Phone. A couple months ago, the carrier released the HTC Radar 4G, one of our favorite Windows Phones, especially at its $100 price. This month, the Lumia 710 joins the family. It represents the first device in Nokia’s 2012 effort to re-enter the US smartphone market — this time with Windows Phone. It’s also one of the most affordable Windows Phones yet. We examine if the sacrifices are worth the low price.
Hands-on video overview
Design and feel
When choosing a Windows Phone on T-Mobile, there are only two choices: the HTC Radar and the Lumia 710. Currently, the Lumia is about half the price of the Radar. Part of that price cut comes out of its design and materials. Unlike the Radar, which has a brushed metal shell with white plastic highlights, the Lumia 710 is completely plastic with a rubberized back. It also comes in two color variations: white (with black back) and all black. It’s also a bit smaller, with a 3.7-inch screen instead of a 4.0-inch screen. The 710 is definitely not as sexy or comfortable to hold as the Radar, but compared to many Android devices, it holds its own.
The 710’s design makes it a bit easier to hold than some phones. The back shell, which is removable and replaceable, gently curves upward toward the screen and protrudes outward a bit, giving your fingers a good place to grip the phone without having to touch the screen.
All of the buttons are on the right (starboard) side of the phone. The power button rests on the top upper right, followed by a volume rocker on the right and then the camera shutter button on the lower right of the phone, which is more accessible when the phone is tilted into landscape orientation. The three standard WP7 navigation buttons (Back, Menu, Search) are in their usual place, but are actual clicking buttons instead of the touch-haptic navigation buttons we’ve been seeing on phones in the last two years. This is nice, in a way, but because all three buttons are formed from a single piece of plastic, we found them a bit hard to press. The volume and camera buttons are even more difficult to press because they’re built into the removable battery cover and don’t stick out enough. They don’t have a satisfying click to them. The power button was easy enough to press, though it was a bit small.
The micro-USB and headphone jack are both on the top of the phone, next to the power button. The battery and micro SIM (this doesn’t take a standard-sized SIM) are both accessible by removing the back plate. There is no microSD slot.
The main speaker is on the back of the phone, at the bottom. It was surprisingly powerful for a phone of this size and price.
Overall, the Lumia 710 is not one of the most comfortable phones to hold, but it’s small enough that almost anyone can hold it. You’ll likely get used to the device’s button quirks after a few days use. They shouldn’t cause any massive headaches.
Specs and screen
If you want to know the specs of the Lumia 710, you could look at almost any other Windows Phone’s spec sheet and be 90 percent right. No major innovation in processing power has occurred. The 710 has roughly the same processing power and specifications of the Radar. It runs on a 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm MSM8255 processor and has 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage (6.5GB are usable), and a 480 x 800 pixel screen. It has no front-facing camera, but does have the standard proximity sensor, magnetometer, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, two microphones, and GPS built in.
Like the Radar, the Lumia 710’s screen is LCD, not AMOLED. The latter is preferable on a Windows Phone because of how many basic colors the OS uses and how much brighter they appear on AMOLED. Still, LCD isn’t terrible, and if you choose a white background, LCD actually provides a much better experience than AMOLED (we recommend the white 710). AMOLED screens look great with black backgrounds because the technology actually allows the black pixels to turn off completely, whereas LCD pixels always produce a bit of light, even when they’re darkened to black. This makes LCD look a bit more washed out than AMOLED. Still, this is the price you pay for a budget phone. AMOLED is still very much a premium screen technology.
Finally, we like the Gorilla Glass screen on the 710, but it tends to attract fingerprints more than most phones. This is nowhere near as bad as the HP TouchPad or Toshiba Thrive tablets that came out last year, but it does mean that your phone screen will look a tad grody at the end of the day. We hope Nokia invests in better fingerprint repellant coatings on all of its future devices (we haven’t had this problem with the Lumia 800, which is good).