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Nokia Lumia 810: Hands-on with T-Mobile's Windows 8 phone

It almost isn't fair to call the Lumia 810 midrange, though it's less high-powered than Nokia's most premium Lumia model. The 810 packs in speed and specs in its own right. We get a first look at MobileCon in San Diego.

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SAN DIEGO--Nokia and T-Mobile had a little surprise waiting for us when we landed in San Diego for MobileCon. The Nokia Lumia 810, a variant of the Nokia Lumia 820 for AT&T, will support T-Mobile's fastest HSPA+ 42 network. T-Mobile is keeping quiet on pricing or availability details at this point, but be sure that it'll come out in the holiday rush.

Hardware and design
Like the Nokia 820, the 810 carries on the colorful promise of the Lumia line with interchangeable covers in cyan and black. The face is otherwise black and the build is boxier than the sleeker, more styled Lumia 920. I was surprised that it looked so blocky in real life, with sharp, square edges defining the spines. This is no dainty handset.

The removable covers are deep, so much so that I almost felt like I was popping off the screen instead of the back panel. It was also hard to pry off, and I worried I'd come away with a cover in my hand, but only half a nail -- the cover seems to loosen at one specific spot near the Micro-USB charging port. While there's a point earned here for keeping things securely in place, I wouldn't plan on swapping colors willy nilly. I guess that's why there are only two available shades instead of three or four.

Nokia Lumia 810
Lynn La/CNET

The Lumia 810's 4.3-inch WVGA AMOLED ClearBlack display looks large, bright, and clear; this is the same technology used in the Lumia 900, which was terrific, but it differs from the Lumia 920's PureMotion+ screen, which is also LCD.

Camera features sound impressive for the 810, which gets an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics in addition to a 1.2-megapixel HD front-facing camera (they call it Skype-certified.) There's a big "however," though since the same camera in the Nokia Lumia 900 fell a little flat. However, for the right price, the camera could play out like a nice little bonus. I didn't get a chance to test it out here at the show.

As with all Windows phones, the 810 has a hardware camera button, which lets you press and hold to launch the camera, even from a locked and sleeping phone.

Underneath it all, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor keeps the phone humming along.

Features
Windows Phone 8 defines the Lumia 810's character in a big way, but since Microsoft is about to launch the OS officially later this month, Microsoft and Nokia had the OS on lockdown. As in, the phone was turned off the entire time.

Still, we do know that the 810, like Nokia's other devices, will feature Nokia Music and Nokia Maps, in addition to the Nokia CityLens augmented reality app, and Nokia Transit.

The company has also added some camera software to help differentiate its devices, including a panorama mode (OK, this is actually obligatory these days) and Group Shoot, which reassembles photos of a group taken in a series of shots in an attempt to flatter everyone. I can't wait to really test this out in the wild.

As nice as that is, the feature I'm most excited about is wireless charging. The Qi-compatible module is located on the inside of the back covers, which, by the way, you really have to pry off in a specific area to remove. There's a point here in favor of security, but I wouldn't want the hassle of swapping covers out often to match your clothes or mood.

Outlook
T-Mobile may get the Lumia 810 exclusively, but there's actually very little we haven't seen before. That's not a knock. For T-Mobile customers, a high-quality Windows 8 phone at a low price is almost guaranteed. If the initial $100 price on the Nokia Lumia 710 is any indication, the Lumia 810 could very easily fall in line for subscribers.

The carrier didn't announce pricing, but like the earlier Lumia 710, it should come in less than $100 with a contract, and that would be a very valuable introduction price indeed

Nokia Lumia 810
Lynn La/CNET

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