Nokia Lumia 710 hands-on (video)

We've been bedazzled by the higher-end Lumia 800, but here's Nokia's more modest offering: the slightly thicker, less expensively built -- but still distinctly Finnish -- Lumia 710. At 270 Euros ($375) excluding taxes, this promises to be a keenly priced device when it starts hitting Western markets, and it may well prove cheap enough for emerging markets too. But without that special something that makes the 800 stand out, can it compete against the growing army of mid-range Windows Phones from manufacturers like Samsung and HTC? Read on for our initial impressions.%Gallery-137563%

Nokia is an expert in minimizing manufacturing costs without making it obvious, and some of that expertise is visible here -- alongside a cunning lack of spec talk in the PR and marketing. The plastic cover is thin and flexible, but fits neatly and solidly. Overall, there's some good manufacturing here, but it doesn't soar above its budget origins. The biggest let-down is the use of stiff hardware buttons beneath the display: Back, Home and Search (which brings up Bing). It's a bit annoying to switch from touching a sensitive capacitive touchscreen to a tough hardware button, so it would have been nice if these were touch sensitive too.

The screen is plain LCD and isn't nearly as stunning as the AMOLED on the 800, but it's standard fare and gets the job done. The rep in the video told us it had ClearBlack technology too, but he might have confused it with the 800 -- there was no sign of that deep blackness on this device.

3.7 inches with 480 x 800 WVGA resolution is just about sufficient to do justice to those bold live tiles of the OS, and these tiles seemed to flow and open up smoothly on the 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor. Of course, a number of tiles are specific to Nokia and will -- if all goes to plan -- help to differentiate this device from other Mango handsets, at least at the software level. These include Mix Radio for streaming and downloading music and Drive for voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation. We must say, we were expecting something more in the way of tailored Nokia-exclusive software -- maybe a different look or layout to the tiles, or the adoption of some of the swiping moves we saw on the N9, but there's none of that -- if you're familiar with standard Windows Phone Mango or have read our review, then you've got the measure of the 710's software experience.

The 710 benefits massively from the presence of the Windows Phone keyboard, which -- as we've repeated many times -- is one of the best typing experiences you'll get on a mobile device. It's amazing on a big-screen device like HTC's 4.7-inch Titan, but it's still great at this smaller scale, and you'll bashing out texts and emails with ease.

Onboard storage is only 8GB and there's no MicroSD slot for further expansion. Nokia is hoping to compensate for this with access to 25GB of cloud storage with SkyDrive, and of course there's always the Mix Radio platform for music -- but this assumes users can afford tons of data usage fees when they're away from their WiFi network, and it isn't a viable alternative to good onboard storage at this stage in the game. If you use your phone for music, you may have to switch out albums regularly rather than carrying your whole collection around with you.

The camera is 5MP, with a single LED flash. The rep we spoke to didn't know the maximum aperture, but we suspect this will be a significantly less powerful unit then the 800's -- but stay tuned as we'll get sample pics imminently. There's no front-facer for your Skype action, despite the OS supporting this, which is a big omission.

There's some confusion at this point about the availability of this device. Officially, the news is that it's coming to the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain in November, with other markets later -- and we think that's accurate. However, the rep in the video says the 710 won't reach the UK until Q1 of next year. We're working to clear this up asap -- but for now you're probably safer ignoring that part of the video.

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Update: we've had a play with the camera now, and it's a game of pluses and minuses. The minuses: as anticipated, this isn't a patch on the 800's camera, and low-light performance is poor. In mid-to-low lighting, our snaps were noisy to the point where any zooming in destroyed the image. Video was also too noisy. On the other hand, in good light, there was no sign of excessive compression and detail was good. Which bring us to the positives: the camera is fast during operations (albeit with a slightly long load up time when you hit the dedicated camera button), and the Windows Phone software is great for photography. Your settings are within easy reach, you only have to swipe the screen to playback your shots, and it just has the WP slickness to it. In general, this isn't a patch on higher-end smartphone cameras, but it's not bad at this price point and many mainstream users will be content that it does the job (primarily thanks to Microsoft, not Nokia).

Myriam Joire contributed to this report.