Latest Lumia fails to meet low expectations

An entry level Windows phone, but not at the best entry level price. Is this the Lumia for you?

When Nokia’s local branch office said it was adding another Lumia phone to its lineup in New Zealand I was hoping it would be the surprise announcement of the Lumia 900 in New Zealand. Instead Nokia has added a $449 “budget phone” to its Lumia lineup. I was not expecting to be blown away by this phone, and I wasn’t, but the Lumia 610 is an uncomplicated entry-level smartphone for those who aren’t hung up on apps.

From the snub nosed top to the slightly jutting chin at the bottom, the Lumia 610 looks and feels a lot like those old HTC Windows Mobiles that would come stock standard in enterprises as a “perk” of the job.

The phone weighs 132 grams, and with the rubberised back lid feels comfortable and secure in your hand even when using it in the rain. The soft rounded edges makes finger placement easy, and Nokia has placed the back and home capacitive touch buttons far enough away from the edges that accidental presses are unlikely to happen.

The physical buttons however are a whole different story. The volume rocker, power off and lock button, and dedicated camera button are all made of very small thin plastic which looks like it will fall off if pulled at. The volume buttons would often register the opposite of what I was intending, and the camera button just refused to cooperate. This is what I expect from budget Android phones, not something I would accept from a Nokia product.

The Lumia 610 has a 3.7-inch LCD screen, with 480 x 800 pixels. The display panel is larger than an iPhone’s but the resolution and overall picture quality is much lower, however I couldn’t see a real difference between this and its mid-range cousin the 710. Both the 610 and 710 have good white quality, but some difficulty displaying blacks which tend to come out as dark grey.

With the quality of smartphone cameras increasing with every generation, I often recommend to people to skip buying a point-and-shoot camera and instead invest in a decent smartphone.

But when it comes to the Lumia 610 I can’t make this same recommendation. The five megapixel camera on the 610 is enough to take basic snaps of your family and friends, and the occasional video, but in low light and even bright indoor situations the amount of noise created is distracting. In daylight the photos are almost indistinguishable from those taken on other devices in this price range.

In common with most Windows Phone 7 devices, the Lumia 610 does not have a front facing camera — so that will limit your ability to use this phone for teleconferencing or Skype.

Running on the absolute minimum spec mandated by Microsoft, this phone is definitely not a powerhouse productivity device.

An 800 MHz Snapdragon processor and 256 MB of RAM is all that stands between you and a frustratingly slow performance. I found that all the basic pre-installed apps work well with this modest spec, but games and even some of Microsoft’s Office for Windows Phone products run slowly or not at all.

Windows 7.5 (Mango) does not support true multi-tasking, but future releases hint at multi-tasking capability. I’m not sure whether the Lumia 610 will be able to handle Windows Phone 7.8 (Tango) later in the year.

One of my favourite features on the Nokia Lumia 800 was the Nokia Drive app. This GPS program is Nokia’s own turn-by-turn driving system, which performs remarkably well on New Zealand roads. The app has been significantly improved since I last used it; routes are input much more cleanly and accurately than before.

Using the phone mostly for web browsing, checking my social networks over 3G, sending off a few emails every hour and the syncs that involve — the Lumia 610 easily lasts 7 hours.

For $449 I expect a lot more from a phone than the Lumia 610 offers. At this price point you can get very good Android phones with higher specs, and access to a much richer list of apps.

If you are looking specifically for a Windows Phone I would recommend the investment in the excellent Lumia 800 or at least the Lumia 710 — because the 610 isn’t the kind of phone you'd want to keep for more than six months.

2 and a half stars

SPECS

Dimensions: 119 x 62 x 12 mm - 131.5 g

Display: 480 x 800 pixels, 3.7 inches LCD

Storage: 8 GB, not expandable

Camera: 5 MP with flash

Processor: 800 MHz Snapdragon

OS: Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 Mango

RRP: $449

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