We loved the Nokia Lumia 800, and praised its less fiscally demanding alternative, the Lumia 710, almost as highly. The Lumia 610 is an entry-level model in Nokia’s Windows Phone 7 range, available for $449 from Vodafone.
The first thing that struck me about the Lumia 610, before I’d even opened the box, was the phone’s resemblance to my beloved HTC 7 Trophy. They’re by no means identical – the 610 is clearly more rounded at the edges. Still, they both have an understated design, black with mild silver highlights, and have an air of professionalism that some of the ‘bubblier’ and more garish smartphones couldn’t hope to achieve.
The 3.7-inch, 480 x 800-pixel touchscreen is sharp, though a little dimmer than ideal under bright sunlight. It’s a 65K-colour panel, rather than the 16 million colours found on higher-end devices – I didn't really find the difference noticeable most of the time. With a keen eye, you might spot slight dithering in particularly colourful images.
The rear-facing 5-megapixel camera provides good image quality. The LED flash gives clean shots at night or indoors, and autofocus is fast enough that it’s not a bother. A dedicated camera button supports the usual ‘half-push to focus, rest-of-the-way to shoot’, which I find easier than the tap-to-focus used on phones without a physical shutter-button.
Call quality is fine: nothing to exclaim about, but nothing to complain over, either. Audio quality in music, videos and games is great with the included headphones, and if you use the speakers, it's the usual ‘tinny but listenable'.
The Lumia 610 runs Windows Phone 7.5 ‘Tango’ out of the box, preinstalled with Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps – alternatives to the operating system’s built-in Bing Maps. Apart from that, the software experience is the same as any other Windows Phone. Well, with one little caveat: the 610’s pathetic 256MB of RAM.
When Microsoft launched the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) platform in late 2010, part of its appeal was a stringent set of minimum hardware requirements for WP7 devices. Microsoft claimed that this would give “the confidence of standard specs” and “universal capabilities that are easy [for developers] to target”. In other words, none of those “my app will run on Phone A but not Phone B” issues that plague Android.
Some aspects of that minimum spec have since been relaxed to allow for lower-priced devices such as the Lumia 610. One of these is changing the allowed minimum RAM from 512MB to 256MB. This has created a split in the application marketplace: there are now apps designed for a minimum of 512MB RAM, that aren't available for download on devices with less memory.
Skype is just one example, though there are many other popular apps that won't run on the Lumia 610. Games such as Angry Birds
, Glyder: Adventure Worlds
and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2012
, require more RAM. The rest of my usual suite of WP7 apps, as well as many less memory-intensive games such as Flight Control
and Need for Speed: Undercover
, work fine on the 610.
Even if you can't get all the apps you might like, for those you can install, the Lumia 610 is snappy and responsive. Its 800MHz processor is acceptable for the price range, though it’s worth remembering that you can get the Android-powered Sony Xperia U, with its dual-core 1GHz CPU, for $399. Yep, that’s $50 less. And here, we stumble across the one monumental reason you should not buy the Lumia 610: for $50 less, at $399, you could also get yourself a brand-new Nokia Lumia 710, the next model up.
If it does what you want, and if you can somehow pick one up for substantially less than cost of the Lumia 710, then by all means go for it. Otherwise, pay less and get the better phone.