Monday, February 16, 2015

Lumia 535 review : The 'first' Microsoft Lumia

FEBRUARY 16, 2015

The Lumia 535 is the first Windows Phone handset from Microsoft to not feature the Nokia branding. But what's more significant is that it's also the most feature-complete budget smartphone from the Redmond giant's mobile devices stable, addressing a number of deficiencies of its predecessors.

Microsoft is now aggressively targeting the entry-level and the budget smartphone segments as it loses grip on mature markets and higher end of the spectrum. Is the Lumia 535 its best shot yet? We try to find out in our review.

Build & design

Despite not sporting the Nokia branding, the Lumia 535 doesn't appear to be very different from other Nokia Lumia budget phones. In fact, it's as 'Nokia' as the Lumia 530 and 630 and all the other predecessors and the only thing that stands out is the Microsoft logo at the front and back.
The Lumia 535 looks similar to Lumia 530, complete with rounded corners and a changeable coloured back cover that wraps around the phone. The major difference is the larger size which is majorly due to the inclusion of a bigger display.Our green coloured demo unit sports a glossy finish and is a bit susceptible to smudges. The right edge of the phone features the power and volume rocker keys, in the same colour as that of the shell and offer good tactile feedback. The top edge sports the 3.5mm headset jack while the bottom features the micro-USB port.
The phone doesn't feature capacitive navigation keys.
The removable shell hides the battery(also removable) which is branded Microsoft, two micro-sim card slots and a microSD card slot.
While the design is not very fresh, materials used in the phone are of good quality and feel durable. We did not notice any wobbles or squeaks.

Display

Lumia 535 sports a 5-inch qHD (960x540p, 220ppi) IPS LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches. We would have loved a 720p display at this price, but even the qHD display is not bad though not very sharp. Viewing angles were wide and brightness levels were decent.
The phone's display comes with sunlight readability enhancements and turning it on slightly improves under sun readability but its reflective nature is a big dampener. The display also lacks the ClearBlack technology found in the Lumia 630 making blacks look grey-ish.We also did not find the touch of the display panel to be very responsive. At times it failed to register taps.


Software


Lumia 535 runs Lumia Denim which is essentially Windows Phone 8.1 with Update 1 with some Nokia-exclusive features.

Windows Phone 8.1 ironed out inconsistencies and achieves feature parity with competing smartphone platforms like Android and iOS. It pretty much covers the basics and would satisfy most casual users. You can read more about Windows Phone 8.1 in our Lumia 630 review.
Update 1 brings features like Live Folders, Cortana support (alpha) for India, SMS merge and forwarding, consumer VPN and Internet Explorer improvements.
You can now organise apps or games by grouping them into folders similar to iOS and Android. You can press, hold and drag an app over another to create a new folder on the Start screen. Folders can be renamed by tapping on the text field above the open folder. The implementation is good, so, better late then never!

You can now select individual text messages to either delete them out of a messaging thread, or copy and past them into a new message to forward them. One can also customize snooze time in the alarm app and configure a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection to access a work network or use a VPN service to bypass geo-restricted website or service.
You can read more about the software in our Nokia Lumia 830 review.

Camera

Lumia 535 sports a 5MP rear camera (1/4 inch sensor, f/2.4 aperture and 28mm focal length) with auto-focus and LED flash and a 5MP front-facing camera for selfie fans. It can shoot video at 848x480p resolution with both cameras. The phone comes pre-loaded with Bing vision, Creative Studio, Lumia Camera, Lumia Selfie camera apps.
The inclusion of the LED flash enables the phone to take pictures in the dark and front camera facilitates selfies and Skype chats (more critical as Skype is part of the Microsoft mobile experience).
The quality of still images shot in abundant light was pretty good, with decent amount of detail, accurate colour reproduction and good contrast. Low light shots were not as good but the flash comes in handy in such situations and does a good job of filling light. At times, we felt the white balance was a little off.
Quality of video captured with the phone was just average with mono sound and lesser detail.

Just like the Lumia 730, the Lumia 535 comes with a 5MP front camera for selfie lovers. The phone's camera has 24mm focal length, f/2.4 aperture and wide-angle capabilities, making it the most well equipped camera unit at this price point. Photos taken with the selfie camera show mostly natural colours, details are sufficient and more than what we have seen in any front camera shot at this price.

The Lumia Selfie app lets you enhance photos, and here we have used one filter that makes the photo appear livelier than the original shot. We were able to take wide-angle selfies too, fitting in more people into the frame without compromising the photo. You can even take a selfie using a rear camera on Lumia 530, wherein the phone notifies you when your face and the camera lens are aligned.

Performance

Microsoft Lumia 535 is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. It comes with 8GB internal storage and supports microSD card slots of up to 128GB for expansion.

While we like the fact that the phone comes with 1GB RAM given that a number of games and apps are not optimized for 512MB devices at the time of their original release, the Snapdragon 200 chip is slightly inferior to the 400 chip used in the Lumia 630. This means that it misses out on SensorCore which allows applications to use the sensors in a Lumia phone without affecting battery life. In tandem with a software solution, the functionality helps the phone track the user's activity, including steps travelled, and record location data.

Windows Phone OS is not a resource hog and WP 8.1 optimizes it to suit low-end devices. We did not observe lag or stutter while launching and switching between apps, though the apps still take time to resume from their suspended state when running in background. We also did not encounter any issues while browsing the web, clicking pictures and playing videos and music.

The phone has a 1905mAh battery. It will last you more than a full work day (15-16 hours) even if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 2-3 hours of phone calls, play some casual games and browse the web in this time period. You'll be able to get about one and a half day backup with moderate use.

In terms of connectivity, the dual-sim handset offers 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and A-GPS.

Gaming

We were able to play casual games like Temple Run and Angry Birds without facing any issues. However, we experienced frame drops while playing graphics-heavy games like Asphalt 8. If you set Visual Quality to High and Engine at 100% then you'll also notice pixelation and distortion.

Verdict

Microsoft's first self-branded Windows Phone handset is a great budget smartphone. While it tries to fill in the gaps, there are areas where the company has made compromises. For instance, the display is not that great; the processor is also inferior compared to the Lumia 630 and touch sensitivity was also problematic at times. In heart and soul, the phone is still very much a 'Nokia' despite Microsoft's attempts to eliminate the branding from inside and out.

As with other Windows Phone devices, the usual caveats apply. It's not as rich as Android and iOS when it comes to apps but the basics are pretty much covered (including all major Indian apps). It's another thing that developers do not update their Windows phone apps as often as they update iOS and Android ones.

At Rs 9,199, we feel the phone is slightly expensive for what it delivers. More so when you look at Android alternatives like the Xiaomi Redmi Note and Asus ZenFone 5 that offer a much richer app ecosystem in addition to superior hardware specifications.




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