The Nokia Lumia 610 is the fourth Windows Phone smartphone to arrive in the UK, following the Lumia 800, Lumia 710 and more recently the Nokia Lumia 900. The previous trio shared dual-core processors, but had differing designs, storage and screen technology.
The Lumia 610 is a bit different; starting at around £10.50 a month on contract and £130 on PAYG, it's billed as the most 'affordable Windows Phone to date.' But with compromises that include a low-spec'd processor and limited storage, does it offer enough to tempt people to Microsoft's OS?
Nokia Lumia 610: Design and build
A trait common to all Nokia Lumia phones is high-quality build and the Lumia 610 is no exception. Pick up the Nokia Lumia 610 and you get none of the cheapness you get from budget phones; the back is smooth to touch and easy to grip and at 12mm deep it's not too shallow. The design isn't particularly stylish, but cyan, magenta and white colour variations, stand out dramatically from a host of black phones in this category, although there is a black version.
On the top of the Nokia Lumia 610 sits the micro USB port and 3.5mm jack. Located on the side are the volume control rocker, power button and shutter, under the screen are the recognisable WP7 Back, Home and Bing touch-sensitive controls.
The back is removable so you can access the battery and micro-SIM slot. Sadly there's no micro SD slot and with only 5.41GB usable memory (from 8GB) on-board and without a card slot, it will quickly become full.
Nokia Lumia 610: Screen
The Lumia 610 sports the same screen size (3.7-inches) and resolution (800x480) as the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800. 3.7-inches is a respectable size for browsing, watching movies and composing photographs, though text is sharp enough to read.
At this price point you don't get any of the cool technology like ClearBlack or AMOLED that impressed us so much in the other Lumia phones, so colours lack vibrancy, whites aren't crisp and blacks aren't as deep. That's not to say the screen is bad - it's just average.
Nokia Lumia 610: Operating system
Some may argue Windows Phone is little restrictive - for instance you can't have a WiFi shortcut on the homescreen (like Android), but conversely nothing is hidden in menus, making it exceptionally easy to use and great for beginners.
The Metro interface homescreen is packed with tiles which run vertically down the screen and can be customised with shortcuts and apps, some tiles are live and update automatically.
Windows Phone has one of the best 'People' apps, syncing email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, so you can quickly swap between feeds and aggregate contacts. Elsewhere Office includes Excel, Word and Powerpoint and Skydrive offers 25GB free Cloud storage.
But what makes the Lumia 610 stand out from other Windows Phone handsets and budget phones are some of the Nokia-specific features. Nokia Drive is a fully-featured sat nav with turn by turn European maps you download and use offline, while Mix Radio includes full playlists across a range of genres and even works offline.
Nokia Lumia 610: Multimedia
The Nokia Lumia 610 includes a 5-megapixel camera, which you can launch using the dedicated camera button. White Balance, ISO, Metering and Exposure, Contrast and Saturation can all be adjusted, allowing the sure far more flexibility than you get on many cameraphones.
Touch to focus is a bonus and works quickly. It's a shame then that picture quality is so disappointing. Colours are subdued even on a sunny day, blue skies are dull and reds lack punch. In dimmer conditions, such as low light and indoors there's an issue with noise. Despite macro mode having a focus distance of 10cm, we really struggled to capture a sharp photograph.
Another price-based compromise is video camera, which captures VGA rather than HD movies, again colours are drab and it's not very smooth, but it's better than nothing.
The speaker is fairly loud - surprisingly so, certainly there's enough volume for several people to listen comfortably, although sound is a little brassy at higher volumes.
Nokia Lumia 610: Performance
The Lumia 610 includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 processor and 256MB RAM, which is fairly standard for a phone at this price point. While it can handle daily tasks such as calls, texts and internet browsing without a problem, but some of the web-based applications take a few seconds to load and Nokia Drive crashed a couple of times.
What might be the killer for some people is that limited RAM means the phone isn't capable of running some apps - namely Angry Birds and Skype. Luckily the Windows Market does inform you of this before you download, but it certainly will put some people off buying the phone.
We've got no complaints about call quality though, and battery life is excellent. The Lumia 610 lasts well into a second day - far longer than many smartphones.
Nokia Lumia 610 verdict and price
Nokia Lumia 610 isn't perfect, but it's well built, comes in some sparkling colour variations, offering an excellent user experience with some nice extras - it's certainly one of the best entry-level smartphones we’ve seen. But the problem is the price.
The Nokia Lumia 610 is pitched as an affordable Windows Phone handset, but the cost varies from £129 to £189 on PAYG. £129 is a reasonable price, but if you find it for £160 or higher it's worth considering it's almost the same price as the Lumia 710, which has seen a price drop to around £160 sim-free yet has more storage, a better processor and screen. If you really want this phone, wait for the price drop.