Nokia Lumia 720 Review: Deja Lumia

Nokia has made another Lumia and called it the 720, and to be honest, I'm having trouble telling what it's for. Does it cut the mustard, or has Nokia just confused us?

What Is It?

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The Nokia Lumia 720 is a 4.3-inch smartphone running Windows Phone 8, an 800x480 screen with 217 ppi, a dual-core 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it is exactly the same as the Lumia 620 we looked at back in February.

The differences? The Lumia 720 has a 6.1-megapixel camera compared to the 620's 5-megapixel shooter, the screen is slightly bigger on the 720 — 3.8-inches compared to 4.3-inches — and the 720 has a much bigger battery at 2000mAh compared to a measly 1300mAh in the 620.

The 720 forgoes the removable covers of the 620, however, meaning you're stuck with the colour you buy for good (unless you like third-party cases which are ugly anyway).

The 620 will set you back $329, while the 720 — with its beefed up camera and battery — will cost you $100 more at $429. The Lumia 720 is also available from Vodafone and Virgin on 24-month contracts if that's more your speed.

What's Good?

While it might sound like I'm down on the Lumia 720, it's actually a really great Windows Phone 8 device.

First of all, Nokia has done away with the obnoxious screen positioning it had on the Lumia 620 and actually set the screen front and centre in the device for a change. On the Lumia 620 the screen was off-centre in a big way, and that was annoying. As far as general looks and design are concerned, the 720 isn't too dissimilar from the Lumia 920. Put the two side-by-side and you'll have trouble telling the two apart at first.

The 720 is a better thought out phone than its predecessor, the 620, and you feel that across the whole device.

The screen has the deep blacks that we've come to love from the Lumias, and while the contrast and colours aren't as deep on the 720 as they are on the 920, the former actually has a brighter screen. We suspect that has something to do with the air gap and the distance between the screen and the glass on the 920 due to its curved frontage. The 720 still has a slightly curved screen, but it's nowhere near as pronounced as the 920.

Despite the fact that it's not running world-beating specifications under its rubberised hood, the Lumia 720 still feels like a fast, fluid and smooth device to use. We didn't notice any input lag or any slow down in the device while doing big tasks.

I was blown away by the speaker on the Lumia 720. Who knew that something so tiny and svelte could belt out such an impressive sound. To put it in perspective, we have tested laptops that aren't as loud as the Lumia 720. It is found wanting somewhat when it comes to bassier tunes, but that's what the Dolby sound enhancer and the Equaliser presets are for.

Even more impressive than the speaker is that battery! Because it doesn't have to power a device that could jumpstart a planet, the 2000mAh battery will last for an age compared to other smartphones. I just got five days of standby time and under heavy use you can expect around three before it dies completely.

The camera is better than the Lumia 620, but that's not difficult nor something it should be proud of. We'll get to that.

The 720 also gets full access to Nokia's new suite of apps, including HERE Maps, HERE Drive and HERE Transit for showing you where you are, giving you turn-by-turn directions and helping you get to your bus or train on time.

The new Lumia also has wireless charging, but only if you add on a proprietary shell purchased separately. You clip the case on and voila: instant wireless charging. It's cool if you're into that sort of thing, but the Lumia 720 looks so nice at just 9mm thick that it'd be a shame to bolt a naff case onto it.

What's Bad?

I had been down on the Lumia 720 earlier because it bore a striking physical similarity to other phones in the range like the Lumia 920, and it's almost exactly the same device on the inside as the Lumia 620. This is probably Nokia's biggest sin: laziness. By designing something that's pretty much the same as what's already out on the market, Nokia risks confusing its customers, and that's not something it needs right now when it's clawing for market share.

The Lumia 720 doesn't have removable covers like the Lumia 620 or the Lumia 820, so you're stuck with the colour you bought it in — red, black or white.

The camera is this phone's big selling point, and it leaves a bit to be desired. Auto-mode (which is what most people will shoot in) puts a whole mess of contrast into your shot and the low-light performance is found wanting. On a $429 handset, you shouldn't expect something that's going to set the photography world on fire — for that you should buy the Lumia 920 for closer to $700 — we just expected something a little more impressive on a phone that asks you to pay an extra $100 for the beefed up camera optics.

Instead what you get is a shooter that gives you pixellated images when viewed on the phone's own screen. Never mind blowing these one's up. It's a shame.

Finally, the 720 doesn't have 4G support. You'll be stuck with HSPA+, same as the cheaper one.

Should You Buy It?

The Lumia 720 is a really interesting look at the way Nokia is ranging its new Windows Phones: for every expensive handset, there has to be a relatively cheap yet not at all dissimilar cousin waiting in the wings.

The Lumia 920 has the 820 to back it up, and playing second fiddle to the new 720 is the 620. These pairings are all within shouting distance of each other as far as size, specs and price are concerned, and if you don't watch this stuff closely, be prepared to be confused when it eventually comes to making up your mind as to which one you should buy.

If you want a cheap Lumia that does the job a Windows Phone 8 smartphone should, then you can't go wrong with the Lumia 720. If you looked at the Lumia 620 and thought you wanted something slimmer with a better camera, then the Lumia 720 is for you. Other than those two differences and a price tag $100 higher than the 620, the Lumia 720 might as well be the same phone.

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