Nokia’s New Windows Phones: Lumia 800, 710 Hands-On

Nokia’s New Windows Phones: Lumia 800, 710 Hands-On

The guys at Gizmodo US flew all the way to London and crashed on a friend’s couch just to tell you all about the new hotness from Nokia. Why? Because this is important: Windows Phone has long been a legit competitor in need of some beast hardware. It just got it.

As promised, Nokia just threw a significant pile of chips on the smartphone table with two sweetnew Windows Phones, The Lumia 800 and the Lumia 710. Though they looked awesome from afar, they look mighty appealing up close as well.

The Lumia 800

The Flagship of the day, the much-leaked 800 has all the bits and blinkies to be legitimately worth thinking about when buying a new phone. In typical Nokia fashion, the phone is a gorgeous piece of hardware. We’ll keep updating the post updated as we learn more, but here’s what we know:

– It runs Windows Phone Mango. Duh. More: Windows Phone 7.5 Mango: Australian Impressions – 1.4 Ghz processor with hardware graphics acceleration. – 3.7-inch curved 800×480 AMOLED display – 16GB of onboard storage – Injection-molded polycarbonate skin that’s designed to optimize antenna function. – It’s available in cyan, magenta, black, black, black, and black. – Zeiss optics and an “optimized” LED flash on the f2.2 camera. It’s packing 8MP and shoots 720p at 30 fps, although we wish it were joined by a front-facing sibling. – The design is based on the N9—it looks just about the same, though without the bulginess. – Leaked specs say it’s 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1mm, but we’ll get you some side-by-sides soon. – 512 MB of RAM, which is basically table stakes. And Windows Phone certainly isn’t resource-heavy. – A 1450mAh battery, which is solid but not a killer spec. In fact, all of the guts seem pretty basic.

– Nokia is really pushing two new apps: a turn-by-turn navi called Nokia Maps (original!) that guides you based on a combination of offline and downloadable maps, and Nokia Music, which has something called MixRadio that let’s you listen to pre-populated playlists on or offline. Kinda yawn, but the navi could be nice. Really wish it had Google Maps though.

– Headed to the US in “early 2012,” although Europe gets them Nov. 16th. Stay tuned for any Australian news. No word on international pricing, but it’s going to be €420.

Lumia 800 Hands On

Remember the N9? It’s basically that on a diet. Or if you’re not familiar with Nokia’s flagship Meego phone (and why would you be?), remember the last vertical iPod Nano? It’s basically that, but wider and fatter. Not that it’s a chunkster; it feels great in the hand, good in the pocket, and solid overall. Balanced.

A lot of that solidity comes from the 800’s polycarbonate body. It’s seamless, literally, the way a hockey puck or an egg is seamless, without feeling as stoic as those. It’s not as robust as a glassy iPhone or (we giddily assume) a kevlar Razr. But compared to the plasticky backside of the Samsung Focus, it’s a worlds-apart improvement.

The screen is improved, too, and Samsung’s was plenty sparkling to begin with. Nokia got Microsoft to let them use the company’s signature blue on its tiles, which is an aesthetic victory as much as it is a corporate one. There’s a curve here, just prominent enough to appreciate but also subtle enough not to get in the way.

It’s fast. That’s the first question you have about the Lumia 800 based on those specs, and you get the answer the second you touch it. Tiles almost swipe before you do. And it’s a specific kind of fast; you can get where you’re going quickly enough with a Samsung Focus, but there are too many miscues, too many misfired touches. Everything feels precise: typing, swiping, scrolling. Everything does what you want it to do, quicker and more exacting.

What else? The camera is quick and crisp, very Carl Zeissian. App switching is also efficient and speedy, although the internet at Nokia World was busted to the point that we couldn’t check browsing speeds. Overall, though, this is a very good start for Windows Phone. Albeit a year after its release.

The Lumia 710

So this one was a bit of a surprise! We hadn’t heard a peep about the 710 until a couple days ago, but this puppy looks sweet as well:

– Yes, Windows Phone. I don’t know why I’m bothering to mention that, except that I’m very tired. – Also packs 512MB of RAM. – Only 8GB of storage, though, and it looks like no SD slot for expansion. – The screen’s less brilliant, too: WVGA TFT. – And the camera’s a 5MP job, which rounds out the good-enough-not-great spec parade. – This one’s going to be €270, but again, we have no idea how much it’ll be if it actually does come to Australia. – It’s slightly chunkier than the 800—the leaks say 119 x 62.4 x 12.5mm, but this keynote is the opposite of specific. – Also headed to the US in early 2012, and to EU November 16th.

Lumia 710 Hands On

Let’s just say this upfront: the Lumia 710 is the more affordable model, so if anything disappointed you about the Lumia 800 you’re going to be positively downtrodden here. Not that it seems at all like a bad phone. It just feels like another in a string of okay Windows Phone handsets.

Remember that seamless 800? Its counterpart feels like nothing but seams, thanks in part to a removable backplate but more to its plasticky, thrown-together aesthetic. The camera is slightly less good. In fact, we can pretty much sum it up with: It’s not bad, but everything is slightly less good. There.

Good Enough or Great?

It seems clear that Nokia’s given Windows Phone its purdiest, sturdiest hardware to date, by far, which is welcome news for Microsoft and WP fans. But reading down the spec sheet makes Lumia feel like a partial answer to a modest prayer; there’s nothing here, other than maybe the Lumia 800’s camera, that sets it apart from any other handset on any other platform. If anything, it lags behind, especially given its 2012 release date.

But as Apple has shown with iPhone after iPhone, specs and performance are two very different things.