Nokia Lumia 735 review

Price when reviewed

Nokia’s Lumia 735, along with the Lumia 830, was one of the first smartphones to feature Microsoft’s voice-driven personal digital assistant, Cortana, when it was first released. It will also be one of the phones to get Windows 10 when it comes out in the summer of 2015.

Nokia Lumia 735 review

But is Microsoft/Nokia’s mid-ranger the best phone on which to experience the new OS, or should you be opting for the 930 or 830 models instead?

Nokia Lumia 735 review - front, back and side

Nokia Lumia 735 review: design

Not surprisingly, a quick glance at the specifications of the Lumia 735 reveals that it’s clearly the most basic unit of the bunch. There’s a compact 4.7in screen up front, and the hardware under the hood is far from cutting-edge, with only a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 driving things along. It also looks and feels a lot cheaper than its pricier siblings, lacking the solid, metal-framed build of the high-end Lumia handsets.

Not that the design is unattractive. In fact, the design calls to mind the classic designs of early Nokia Windows Phones – this handset looks exactly like a slightly beefier Nokia Lumia 800.

Aside from being slightly larger, though, and running the latest version of Windows Phone, it’s a very different device. The back can be removed to expose a replaceable battery, and microSD and nano SIM slots. There are no longer any capacitive buttons below the screen. Instead, you have an onscreen button bar for back, home and search that auto hides when you’re not using it and pops up when you swipe your finger from the bottom of the display.

Although there’s no 802.11ac wireless, nor dual-band 802.11n, you do get 4G support, NFC and Qi wireless charging – not a line-up you’d necessarily expect in a budget smartphone such as this.

Nokia Lumia 735 review: selfie supreme?

The big selling point of the Lumia 735 isn’t its array of connectivity and features, but its front-facing camera, which has both an unusually wide-angle field of view and a high resolution of 5 megapixels.

Nokia Lumia 735 review - group shot

I’m told the kids call this a “selfie” camera. Either way, don’t be fooled by the numbers. The front-facing camera on the Lumia 735 produces smeary, grainy, disappointing snaps all-round that need a hefty dose of processing in order to look their best. At least the Nokia Selfie app makes this easy to do.

The rear camera is a little better, but in the desperation to jump on the selfie bandwagon, it seems to have been overlooked, capturing images at only 6.7 megapixels. Snaps are passable, and generally well balanced, while the Lumia Camera software makes it easy to take full control over advanced settings such as white balance, flash, ISO and shutter speed. However, photos captured with the Lumia 735 inevitably lack the fine detail you get with higher resolution cameras. We also missed the dedicated camera button seen on higher-end Lumia phones.

When it comes to imaging, however, the star of the show is the phone’s 4.7in, 720 x 1,280 screen. Using an AMOLED panel, this boasts perfect black and saturated colours. Brightness isn’t stunning at 291cd/m2, but you’ll be able to read the display in all but the brightest of direct sunshine, and colour accuracy out of the box is excellent; impressively, the Lumia 735’s screen covers 100% of the sRGB colour gamut.

Nokia Lumia 735 review: software

Aside from the expected upgrade to Windows 10 in the summer, however, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about when it comes to the Lumia 735’s software. There’s Cortana, of course, and she’s reasonably competent at dealing with voice commands, but her potential is held back by voice recognition that isn’t quite as accurate as Google’s Now or Apple’s Siri.

The recent Denim update is a little more interesting, bringing various new features, including folder organisation for Live Tiles on the homepage, and the aforementioned Lumia Camera app. Sadly, you don’t get the 4K video capture that owners of recent PureView handsets currently enjoy, nor the improved Glance screen notifications, and there’s no sign of the “hey Cortana” key-phrase activation either.

Still, Cortana is perfectly easy to fire-up. All you need to do is long-press the search key in the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen and start talking. And elsewhere the selection of pre-installed apps is as good as ever, with the excellent Here+ maps and navigation software leading the way, followed closely by Microsoft’s mobile Office suite.

Nokia Lumia 735 review: performance, battery life

As you might expect of a chip that’s now getting on a bit, the quad-core, 1.2GHz qualcomm Snapdragon 400 inside the Lumia 735 doesn’t produce the most stellar set of benchmark results. It finished the SunSpider test in a dreadful 1,510ms and gained a mere 8fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD onscreen test.

Nokia Lumia 735 review - group shot

What’s more disappointing, however, is that unlike most other Windows Phone handsets we’ve tested previously, the Lumia 735 feels occasionally sluggish and stuttery, particularly on the transition animation back to the homepage. It isn’t restricted to the OS, either: in games – even casual titles such as Candy Crush Saga – we experienced judder.

And although acceptable, the battery life is far from fantastic. This phone will get you through a day of moderate use, but you’ll need to charge it at the end of each day, and our battery benchmarks paint a similar picture. While playing a 720p video through the stock video player with the phone in flight mode, battery capacity fell at a rate of 9.1% per hour, and it fell at 5.3% per hour while streaming a podcast from SoundCloud over 4G with the screen off.

Nokia Lumia 735 review: verdict

Despite this, there’s plenty to like about the Lumia 735. Windows Phone remains as easy to get to grips with as ever, and despite our reservations over the stutter of certain animations, it’s more responsive than many cheap Android phones. The adoption of Cortana and the Denim update proves that the OS is moving forward, and if you buy a Windows Phone 8.1 such as this today, you should get Windows 10 to play with in the summer – these are exciting times for Microsoft-powered mobile devices.

It’s also nice to see 4G connectivity and support for wireless charging, features that are all too often overlooked from low-cost smartphones. In the end, though, it’s the price that proves the Lumia 735’s undoing. Although it’s a highly competent smartphone at a reasonable price, it isn’t good enough to eclipse the best budget Android handsets, such as the cheaper Motorola Moto G 4G.

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