- Incredible value for money
- Compact and lightweight
- Feature packed
- Chunky design
- Weak cameras
- No 4G or NFC
Another day, another Windows Phone and yet, we can’t help but fall in love with Microsoft’s plucky little Lumia 435.
Design: Not fat, just big boned
Whilst the design of the 435 is unquestionably Lumia, it’s not as svelte or curvaceous as its more powerful family members. The squared edges remind us more of the ill-fated Nokia X range. The proportions and angles actually give you plenty you purchase, whilst the curved back feels comfortable in the hand. Its small size means that it’s easily pocketable and lightweight too.
There’s no hardware shutter, but physical buttons reside on the phone’s right side whilst the typical Windows soft keys sit underneath the display (rather than on the screen itself). As with other low-cost Lumias, the phone’s coloured polycarbonate shell can be popped off, granting access to the battery, SIM tray and micro SD slot.
It’s not the sexiest phone on the market, but whilst other budget smartphones overlook design and aesthetics entirely, the 435 retains its character and that iconic Lumia DNA.
Screen: Blinded by the light
So it may not be a looker in the classic sense, but what’s it like to look at? Well, if you’re inside, perfectly fine actually.
The 4-inch WVGA LCD does a good job of pushing vibrant enough colours and due to its size; pixel density is tight enough to make even small text legible. The affordability factor does mean that it’s prone to contrast and colour distortion at more extreme angles and reflectivity can cause problems outside in bright sunlight, but in general use you’ll have little to grumble about.
OS: Feature rich, but waiting for more
Whichever Lumia you choose, the Windows Phone experience on offer is always surprisingly rich. Running one of the latest builds of version 8.1, the 435 has enough functionality to serve the majority of users before you’d even think about opening up the Windows app store.
It’s a familiar sight out-the-box; with the Bing apps suite covering you for weather, health, sports, travel and the latest news, offline-capable mapping from HERE, Xbox Music, MixRadio and Xbox Video for multimedia and Skype, Twitter and Facebook pre-loaded for some obligatory social networking.
Features like the less charismatic, but nonetheless useful British Cortana also make an appearance; letting you schedule events in your calendar and search the web using only your voice. For the time being, Internet Explorer serves the default web browser; until the promised Windows 10 update from Microsoft lifts this little Lumia beyond the aging browser brand and blesses it with a dash of shiny new Project Spartan.
8.1 also boasts battery extending and storage saving features, but more premium touches like Glance lock screen functionality is notably absent.
Performance: I thought entry-level used to mean rubbish?
A look at the hardware sheet and you’d be forgiven for anticipating lacklustre performance and a buggy user experience, however Windows Phone has a good track record with low-end hardware and the 435’s 1GB of RAM lifts it above its lumbering predecessors.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 200 chipset performs impressively well with intensive games like Asphalt 8, delivering a gameplay experience that goes beyond passable and enters the realm of enjoyable, despite not shifting quite at the ideal silky smooth 60 frames per second. UI navigation is fluid too, just don’t be surprised to find yourself waiting a few seconds.
The small battery also isn’t over-taxed on the regular, giving you up to two full days of use between charges and should you smother the 8GB of internal storage, microSD expandability support lets you append up to an extra 128GB on top. OneDrive is the go-to cloud service, courtesy of Microsoft directly and there’s a 30GB quota up for grabs for all new Outlook.com users.
Camera: The simplest of snappers
When affordability is one of your biggest selling points, sacrifices have to be made somewhere and the camera is often the first thing to suffer.
That’s certainly the case with the 435, which packs a VGA front-facer and a lowly fixed-focus 2-megapixel rear snapper. For basic snapping of faces and places both cameras are passable, but either carry a compact digital camera or consider this a backup for every other eventuality.
As is so often the case with lower-end cameras, natural light is your best friend and in well-lit environments the 435 produced nicely exposed shots. Low light breeds noise early on and the absence of a flash entirely literally leaves you in the dark.
Video resolution maxes out at FWVGA (800x448) but copes well with motion and the Lumia Camera app, whilst not as fully featured as on beefier handsets, still gives control over white balance, ISO, exposure and shutter speed.
Verdict: A brilliant budget blower
As one of the latest handsets in a growing lineage of impressively well-stocked budget offerings from Microsoft, the Lumia 435 is a must have for any first-time smartphone user, those prone to breaking or losing their handset or those simply after a functional low-cost second device.
You don’t get an HD display, 4G, NFC or great cameras but for £49.99 SIM-free we’re bowled over by just how much you do get for your money.
- WVGA (800x480)
- 134.1 grams
- Windows Phone 8.1
- VGA 0.3-megapixel
- 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
- Bing apps suite, Skype integration, Data Sense