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Nokia Lumia 735 review: A budget Windows Phone with comfortable curves

The Nokia Lumia 735 has a curvy shape, a decent screen and an affordable price.

Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon
Andrew Lanxon headshot

Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

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6 min read

It's a time of massive change for Nokia as the ink has finally dried on Microsoft's takeover of the Finnish firm. Although new Microsoft Lumia phones will arrive without the Nokia brand anywhere to be seen, the Lumia 735 and its pricier brother the 830 were the last of the Nokia line.

nokia-lumia-735-camara
8.0

Nokia Lumia 735

The Good

The Nokia Lumia 735 is comfy to hold, with colourful, interchangeable cases and a good screen. It doesn't cost much either.

The Bad

Its camera doesn't impress, its processor doesn't provide enough power for demanding tasks, and its Windows Phone app store still receives little attention from developers.

The Bottom Line

Although the Lumia 735 doesn't have the best camera, it's colourful, curvy and comfortable, has a good display and an affordable price -- all of which go a long way to making up for it.

The Lumia 735 is a 4.7-inch phone with colourful, interchangeable cases, a 720p display and the latest version of Windows Phone 8.1. The Lumia 735 has 4G LTE and is on sale now in the UK for free on contracts starting at £14.50 per month, or SIM-free from Microsoft for £189.

A US launch has yet to be confirmed (it could well appear under a different name, exclusive to a particular carrier), but the £189 UK price converts to roughly $300. In Australia, Microsoft Devices has said that pricing and availability will be "made available closer to local sales start"; the UK price converts to AU$340.

It's joined by the Lumia 730, which is physically identical, except for dual-SIM card capability and 3G-only radio. The 730 will go on sale in "select markets where dual-SIM phones are important".

Design and display

If you've ever clapped eyes on Nokia's older Lumia 800 , the 735 will be familiar. Like the 800, it has a one-piece polycarbonate plastic back that curves around to meet the screen. It's very comfortable to hold -- particularly given its fairly palm-friendly 4.7-inch size.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Unlike the 800, however, the plastic case is removable, allowing you to swap it out if you fancy changing the colour of the phone, or if your existing case is starting to look battered and you want a fresh one. It comes in bright green and orange colours, or you can stick to the less garish white and black versions if you prefer.

It feels very comfortable to hold, as the plastic back curves sweetly against your hand. I think it looks good too -- I loved the curved design of the Lumia 800 and I'm very happy to see its return, albeit in a larger version.

The phone comes with 8GB of built-in storage, but if you like to keep your photos, music and videos saved locally to your phone, you'll quickly find yourself running out of space. There's a microSD card slot hidden beneath the case, however, so you can expand the storage. I suggest transferring over all your music and videos to save space on the phone for your apps.

The display is 4.7 inches on the diagonal, giving a good amount of room for texting or a spot of Netflix on the go, without making it too cumbersome to use. It's far from the thumb-stretching proportions of the 6.5-inch Lumia 1520. It has a 720p resolution, which is a step down from the full HD panels you'll find on many phones -- including the Lumia 930 -- but given the much lower price of the 735, it's very much forgivable.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

For most things you'll want the phone for, the resolution is more than adequate. Windows' live tiles have sharp edges, text is crisp and high-resolution photos look fine -- although without the same clarity you'll find on higher resolution panels. The colours are rich too and the deep black levels provide good contrast.

The display is more than good enough for everyday tasks such as tweeting, emailing and stalking your friends on Facebook. If you want a phone to show off your photo gallery in glorious high definition, you might want to splash out on a bigger, full HD display. For the price though, the 735's display is certainly among the best.

Windows Phone software

The Lumia 735 uses the latest Windows Phone 8.1 software, with its cheery live tiles and newly added notifications bar. Even better, it comes with the latest update, codenamed Denim, which brings a bunch of new features into the mix.

Chief among these is Cortana , Windows Phone's Siri-like voice assistant, which is finally available in the UK and China after launching in the US. Denim also allows you to create folders on your homescreen for your live app tiles, which will still show live scrolling information.

I'm quite keen on Windows Phone. It's easy to use and looks good too. Its main drawback is still its app support, though. Although many of the bigger names are found on its shelves (Instagram, Spotify and Netflix are present and correct), it's usually later to receive new apps than iOS or Android -- if it receives them at all -- so it's not great if you like trying out the latest games and services with your friends.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Nokia does have a whole host of its own software available in the store that's free and genuinely useful. Here Drive, for example, provides turn-by-turn GPS satellite navigation, while Here Transit shows real-time departure times of local public transport.

The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, which is sufficient to keep things ticking over adequately. Windows Phone 8.1 doesn't need a massive amount of juice to run smoothly, so navigation is swift. It doesn't have much power to spare, however, as glossy racer Asphalt 8 played with low frame rates, resulting in quite unimpressive gameplay. For everyday tasks, there's plenty of power, but this isn't a phone for gaming or video processing.

Camera

The back of the phone features a 6.7-megapixel camera, while on the front is an impressive 5-megapixel effort. The 735 is evidently aimed at selfie lovers, with a wide-angle 24mm lens that will allow you cram more of your friends into the shot. I took both cameras for a spin.

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Nokia Lumia 735 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The rear camera doesn't hugely impress. In this first autumnal shot, the camera captures plenty of detail for a Facebook shot, but at full screen there's a definite lack of detail in some of the further trees. The colours are rather cold as well, suggesting the auto white balance hasn't done a great job of reading the scene.

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Nokia Lumia 735 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Up close with these leaves, the camera has achieved a sharp focus and again, the sensor has sufficient quality to bring out the details on the veins on the leaves.

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Nokia Lumia 735 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The shadowy areas are clearly visible in this park picture, but the bright sky has been overexposed. Again, the white balance has erred rather on the cold side.

nokia-735-camera-indoor.jpg
Nokia Lumia 735 camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Indoors, the camera achieved a good overall exposure -- albeit slightly dark -- and while there's noticeable image noise in some of the darker areas, I've certainly seen worse attempts from similarly priced phone cameras.

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Nokia Lumia 735 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The front-facing camera's wide-angle lens does cram a lot into the scene, so you won't need to squash in quite as much to fit all your friends in the shot. The quality isn't brilliant though -- particularly not in this dimly lit room, so I recommend only going for selfies when you're out basking in the sun in a park.

The camera isn't awful by any means. It has sufficient quality to capture some snaps for Facebook, although not really much more. The auto white balance isn't great, but using Nokia's Lumia Camera app, you can take manual control of it. If photography is of paramount importance, you'll need to splash more cash on a better phone, but for quick snaps in good light, the 735 is fine.

Battery life

There's a 2,200 mAh battery inside, which put up a decent fight in my tests. From full, it had dropped to 78 percent remaining after 2 hours of video streaming, which is above average. With careful use, you shouldn't struggle to get a day of use from the phone.

As with any phone though, battery life really depends on how you use it. If you keep the brightness at max, stream hours of video and play games throughout the day, you'll certainly need to give it a topup in the afternoon.

Conclusion

Although the Nokia Lumia 735 doesn't have the top-end camera or high-definition display you'll find on the flagship Lumia 930 , its compact, attractive design, vivid screen and much more affordable price makes it a great buy if you're after a good all-round phone for everyday tasks.

nokia-lumia-735-camara
8.0

Nokia Lumia 735

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7
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