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Nokia Lumia 720 Review

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The Nokia Lumia 720 is a Windows Phone 8 device brought to the market for mid-end buyers who wish to have a quality smartphone without spending too much money.

Nokia Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8

In terms of pricing strategy, the handset fits between the Nokia Lumia 820 and the Lumia 620, and is the upgrade of the Nokia Lumia 710. It brings a 4.3″ IPS touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels protected by Gorilla Glass 2, an unusual 6.1 megapixel camera with LED flash and Carl Zeiss optics, HD video recording, 8GB storage, A-GPS and GLONASS, Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, HSPDA and HSUPA, and is powered by a dual-core 1 GHz Qualcomm processor aided by 512 MB of RAM and an Adreno 305 GPU.

Nokia Lumia 620 820 710

From left to right: Nokia Lumia 620, 820, 710

Just like the other smartphones in the Lumia line-up, this one too can be purchased in different colours, namely white, red, yellow and cyan. Its closest competitor could very well be the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini, which brings a slightly smaller 4″ screen with the same resolution, as well as the same amount of storage and processing power, double the RAM and weaker camera resolution and battery life.

Samsung Galaxy S III Mini

Samsung Galaxy S III Mini

Hardware

Nokia hasn’t changed much in terms of construction of its latest smartphones since it released the Meego-based Nokia N9. As a result, users will find a well-built handset that is both stylish and feels nice to hold, weighing just 128 g and measuring 9 mm only in thickness.

The only aesthetic disadvantage is the full-glass front side that attracts many fingerprints, but these are hardly visible when the display is on.

Nokia Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8

The display itself, unlike many devices nowadays, has a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, below HD. The colours are vibrant and visibility under sunlight is not a problem.

Nokia Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8

The speaker is located at the back, which removes the stereo effect when watching videos with the loudspeaker active. With a set of headphones, users will be able to enjoy Dolby Headphone technology and automatic audio levelling across songs, as the device comes pre-loaded with it. The included earphones aren’t of the highest quality, and it is difficult to discern which piece is intended for the right and left ear.

Nokia Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8

As the Lumia 720 is limited to a dual-core 1 GHz processor and just 512 MB of RAM, watching high-quality videos, playing games and browsing the internet take some time to load, and certain apps from the Windows store may not even be compatible.

Software

The operating system running on the Nokia Lumia 720 has already been extensively covered in our Windows Phone 8 review, but Nokia has added a few apps of its own to differentiate itself from its competitors.

Windows Phone 8 has a tile-based user interface with buttons that transform into 3D rectangles when they’re pressed. The layout of apps designed for this platform stretches out into many “screens”, making the platform look larger than what it is. It’s one of the most original user interfaces in the smartphone market today, and perhaps a reason for Android and iOS users to change their platform choice.

Although the 65 000 apps in the Windows store may seem like a lot, both iOS and Android have over 700 000, which may cause potential customers to think twice before choosing.

The centralized menus for downloading videos, music, apps and games is one of the highlights of the platform, together with the settings menu from where all social networks, email and instant messaging accounts can be connected to. There is also a combined hub that displays recent activities from contacts, similar to what’s provided on BlackBerry 10 and HTC BlinkFeed.

When connected through mass storage mode, it is easy to retrieve data from the handset, but images and videos copied into it do not show if they’re not transferred using the phone software, which is only compatible with Windows. Further, the system lacks a file manager, which means that users can’t manually manage folders and files.

Nokia bundled in its own Here maps and navigation, and even though maps are available offline, the navigation does not work without a SIM card inside the device. A music player from Nokia was also pre-loaded, which brings free offline streaming, downloads of music playlists, and lists concerts nearby. The Nokia City lens, yet another exclusive app from the manufacturer, allows users to point their phone at their city, and depending on where they’re facing, several establishments are shown superimposed on the camera viewfinder, as illustrated below.

Nokia City lens

Regular applications such as email client, calendar, alarm and web browser are all present and perform as expected, besides the latter one which can be slow given the hardware limitations of the handset. Office too has been incorporated, given that Windows Phone is a Microsoft product. A form of multi-tasking, similar to iOS, is present in the device, together with voice control throughout the system’s functions.

Camera

It is not usual to have a 6.1 megapixel sensor in camera units, but since this one carries Carl Zeiss optics and offers HD video recording, Nokia surely wanted to beat its competitors – the Galaxy S III Mini has a 5 megapixel unit, for example.

Nokia Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8

Even in day light, 100% crops of images captured present a huge amount of noise in dark areas, making this camera an absolute disaster for photography enthusiasts who may want to crop and edit pictures, completely opposite to what Nokia presented its customers when it launched the Nokia 808 PureView and other smartphones of the same calibre. Click here for the original full-sized version of the image below.

Nokia Lumia 720 image capture camera sample

The close-up capture below doesn’t present any image noise since it contains relatively light colours. The focus is spot on, even at a close distance, and even though I didn’t select macro mode, the camera’s auto-focus automatically detected the range of my picture’s subject – in this case, a flower. Click here for the original full-sized version of the image below.

Nokia Lumia 720 macro image capture camera sample

In terms of video capture, the Lumia 720 struggled to present a sharp image, especially when moving the phone rapidly. There is evident noise in the dark sections of the video, and the colours aren’t vibrant as otherwise expected.

Camera lenses, a feature that comes with Windows Phone 8, allow several filters and additional plug-ins for when capturing images. One of the lenses that comes with the Lumia 720 is Smart Shoot from Scalado, that can capture several images and allow the user to choose the best smiles of the subjects within the time the images were captured, as well as removing unwanted moving objects.

Nokia Lumia Smart Shoot Windows Phone 8

Nokia Lumia Smart Shoot Windows Phone 8

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 720 fills the void in the Windows Phone 8 portfolio for customers looking for a good smartphone at an affordable price, together with decent features and up-to-date software.

With a 4.3″ display that has vibrant colours and a dual-core 1 GHz processor, it’s suitable for video playback and games, although the experience could be improved if the screen presented an HD resolution, and if the clock-speed and RAM were increased.

Nokia Lumia 720 Windows Phone 8

The camera was the most disappointing feature if the customer is a photography enthusiast, but for most users, it will not make a difference.

Advantages: 4.3″ screen with vibrant colours, good build quality, thin and lightweight, useful app collection from Nokia (free music streaming, City Lens, offline GPS navigation), full Office functionality.

Disadvantages: Camera noisy even in day light, some apps and videos are laggy.

Rating: 8.4/10

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By , Editor-in-Chief, Johannesburg office

Published on May 29th, 2013 GMT +2

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