Kazam Thunder 450L and 450W whip up a Windows Phone storm (hands-on)

Meet two new Windows Phones from the fledgling European brand.

Richard Trenholm

Richard Trenholm

Movie and TV Senior Editor

Richard Trenholm is CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture over the past 15 years from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.

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Thunder only happens when it's raining, as a great lady once sang. And up-and-coming smartphone brand Kazam is raining down two new Windows Phone devices in the shape of the Kazam Thunder 450W and Thunder 450L.

The main difference between the pair is that the 450W is a 3G phone and the 450L supports 4G LTE. 4G lets you enjoy extra-fast connection to the Internet for faster browsing and smoother music and video streaming. However, it's still relatively new, so check with networks to ensure your local area is covered by a decent signal before purchasing.

Of the two, the 450L is more soberly designed, with rounded corners and a textured case that's fun to run your fingernail over. The 450W is more brash, with bright colours that match the colourful Windows Phone home screens. The neon yellow case is certainly bold -- you won't lose it in the dark.

Check out the neon look of Kazam's new Thunder smartphones. Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Both phones are powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz MSM8212 processor, with 1GB of RAM. There's 8GB of storage -- some is taken up by the phone's firmware -- but the rest is free for your music and movies, apps and snaps. A microSD card slot gives up to 32GB of extra leg room if you need it. There's also an FM radio built-in.

The 5-inch screens are 720p high definition. That's not eye-popping full high definition but it will give you plenty of detail in movies and games.

The main camera on both phones is an 8-megapixel snapper with autofocus, shooting 1080p HD video. At the front is a 2-megapixel camera for video chat, with Skype built-in to the phone.

Kazam claims the phone's batteries will last 340 hours -- two weeks! -- but only if you don't actually use it. Talk time is closer to six and a half hours. The 450W's battery can be removed, but the 450L is sealed in.

A dual-SIM version of the 450W is available so you can have two phone numbers in the same phone.

Both phones run Windows Phone 8.1 software. Windows Phone is an operating system made by Microsoft for mobile devices. It's based around a home screen of colourful squares for each app, called live tiles. Unlike Apple's iPhone, a Windows Phone device's home screen can be customised to show you useful information without having to open each app: for example, the calendar live tile shows your next appointment, the photo gallery live tile cycles through thumbnails of your recent pictures, and the messages tile shows you your newest text. You can alter the size of the tiles and move them around to your heart's content.

Like Android and iOS, Windows Phone lets you download apps to customise your phone. Many of the big names like Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Evernote offer Windows Phone apps. But on the list of app-builders' priorities it's still a distant third behind iOS and Android, so if there are dealbreaker apps you use a lot -- your bank app, for example -- it's best to check whether there's a Windows Phone version of the app before you commit.

One big advantage of Windows Phone is that it's designed to run well on any kind of phone. So while a cheaper Android phone might be appreciably slower, any Windows Phone at any price will be just as slick to use, with fast swipes and quick animations.

The big question is why you'd buy Windows Phone devices from a small brand when Microsoft makes its own Windows Phone devices which are very competitively-priced. In this case, Kazam wants to tempt you away from Microsoft with a three-year warranty and a year of free screen replacement if you crack the display.

The new Kazam devices will be available around March or April in Europe. Various operators offer the phone in different countries, while UK customers can find Kazam at stores including Argos, Tesco and Amazon. Prices will be confirmed nearer the release date.