Microsoft Lumia 535 review:

Microsoft's first Lumia phone tries a bit too hard to be cheap

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 3 user reviews

The Good The Microsoft Lumia 535 is very cheap, it has a fun design with interchangeable cases, a 5-megapixel front camera and software features found on higher-end Lumias.

The Bad It doesn't have 4G LTE, its under-powered processor results in a sluggish interface, the touchscreen can be unresponsive and the screen is neither sharp nor particularly vivid.

The Bottom Line The Lumia 535's cheap price, big screen and colourful body earn it plenty of points, but its lack of 4G LTE, unimpressive display and sometimes sluggish interface mean this phone isn't suitable for anything more than the basics.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 4.0

Now the ink is dry on Microsoft's buyout of Nokia, the Nokia name is now a thing of the past on Lumia phones. Say hello, then, to the Microsoft Lumia 535. Name aside, it's business as usual for a Lumia. It has that familiar plastic body, with rounded replaceable covers. But instead of celebrating the Microsoft takeover with an all-singing, all-dancing flagship, the Lumia 535 is an ultra-budget phone.

Its 5-inch display has a 960x540-pixel resolution, it has a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 5-megapixel cameras on the front and back. One area that's particularly lacking is its connectivity -- the Lumia 535 does not support 4G data speeds, so you'll only be able to use 3G networks.

The Lumia 535 is widely available in the UK for around £85, and from online retailers in the US for $130, and in Australia for around AU$170. You should expect it to be offered for even less when subsidised by phone networks.

Design

Microsoft may have slapped its own name over the phone, but the 535 doesn't stray far from the usual Lumia design scheme. It has a one-piece plastic rear shell -- available in a range of vibrant colours, of course. It's a cheery, fun design that stands out from the usual miserable grey slabs that you'll find in the bargain section (I'm looking at you, Huawei Y550 ).

It feels well put together and as the rear case is interchangeable, you can always swap it for a fresh one when it starts to look a little battered. Or simply change it for a different colour if you want it to match that day's outfit.

microsoft-lumia-535-6-2.jpg
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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

With a 5-inch display shoved inside, the body has to be quite large. It measures 140mm long, 72mm wide and 8.8mm thick (5.5 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches), which may be a tad cumbersome for many of you. It's certainly easier to type on using two hands, rather than using one and stretching out your thumb.

You'll find the power and volume buttons around the edges, along with the 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port for charging and data transfer. Underneath the casing is where the microSD card slot and SIM tray are hiding. It supports microSD cards up to 128GB in size and I suggest you pick one up -- a 32GB one won't set you back much -- as the 8GB of built-in storage won't last long.

Display

The Lumia 535's 5-inch screen is on the large side for a budget phone. That means there's loads of space for you to really make the most of watching YouTube clips or browsing through your photos.

microsoft-lumia-535-3-2.jpg
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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It has a 960x540-pixel resolution, which isn't particularly high and does result in small text looking a little fuzzy. High-resolution photos, too, lack the crisp clarity you'll see on screens with more pixels. The Windows Phone interface is perfectly clear, however, and basic apps like email and calendar, along with commonly used apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Spotify, are all easily readable.

Colours aren't great -- they look particularly washed-out when you view them next to more vivid displays such as the one on the slightly pricier Lumia 735 -- but viewing angles are fair. It's not an amazing screen by any means, but for this little money it's more than adequate.

Windows Phone software

As a Lumia phone, it of course comes with Windows Phone 8.1 , along with the latest software update, codenamed Denim. Windows Phone 8 is easy on the eye, made up lots of large, bright tiles that show live information. You can resize these tiles and reorder them to suit your preferences, set different backgrounds and group tiles together into folders, thanks to the Denim software update.

Another recent feature is the notification panel that you pull down from the top of the screen, like in Android. It shows incoming notfications from your messaging apps or emails, as well as giving quick access to critical settings such as Wi-Fi and screen brightness.

microsoft-lumia-535-2-2.jpg
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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Denim update also includes Microsoft's new Siri-like voice assistant, Cortana. Like Siri, you can ask questions such as, "What's the weather like tomorrow?" or, "How much is £5 in dollars?" and you'll be given results in the app, or shown a list of Web results, if Cortana doesn't have the answer. It mostly works fine, although I'd say it defaults to a Web search a little too often. Being able to do a search by pressing and holding the search button and speaking your question is certainly quicker than typing out in a search in the browser.

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