Microsoft Lumia 535 review
Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 960x540, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, Size: 140x72x8.8mm, Weight: 146g, Operating system: Windows Phone 8.1
One of the best things about Nokia's Lumia phones was how well each one handled the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. The budget handsets were particularly impressive, as even the £90 Lumia 530 with its meagre 512MB of RAM felt consistently smoother and more responsive than many similarly priced Android phones. Sadly, the first Lumia phone to arrive without any Nokia branding brings this legacy to a grinding halt.
On paper, the Lumia 535 should be a fraction faster than the smaller Lumia 530, as it now has 1GB of RAM accompanying its quad-core, 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor. This certainly seemed to be the case in our web browsing benchmarks, with the Lumia 535 finishing in 1,258ms compared to the Lumia 530's 1,453ms.
In practice, though, Microsoft somehow seems to have broken its own operating system, as the 535 is noticeably jerky when swiping between menus. When we first reviewed the handset in January, it also regularly failed to register taps while typing and using the onscreen menu buttons. Even worse, we found pinching-to-zoom while web browsing nigh on impossible, as it nearly always selected a link instead or made the whole page wobble as it decided whether to scroll or zoom. It's the first Windows Phone we've ever found truly frustrating to use, and we can't quite believe how much it pales in comparison to previous Nokia efforts.
Fortunately, Microsoft seems to have an issued a software update to fix this problem since January, as the touchscreen is now much more responsive and we didn't have any problems scrolling up and down and tapping various app buttons. Pinch-zooming has also been improved, but it's still not completely perfect. For instance, there were multiple occasions when it didn't work the way we wanted it to, and even when it did it would often start scrolling instead when we zoomed back out. These fixes are certainly an improvement, but there's still a long way to go before it can match the speed and responsiveness of Nokia's cheap Lumia handsets.
The phone's battery life is equally terrible. In our continuous video playback test, the Lumia 535's 1,905mAh battery lasted just 7 hours and 10 minutes with screen brightness set to the medium profile setting. That’s the worst battery score we've seen from a Lumia phone this year. Admittedly, the Lumia 530 only lasted another 75 minutes under the same conditions, and that has a much smaller screen eating up less power, but if the £100 Lumia 630's 1,830mAh battery can manage just over 12 hours, then we'd expect the Lumia 535 to last around ten hours at the very least.
That said, the Lumia 535's 5in 960x540 display is much brighter than almost every other Lumia phone we've tested this year, bar the Lumia 830. With a peak brightness of 427.69cd/m2, this will draw more power regardless of which of the phone's three brightness profiles you choose, but at least it means the phone is easy to use when you're outside.
A high brightness level also means washed-out blacks, though, as our black level measurement of 0.44cd/m2 meant that text and the black menu background looked noticeably grey compared to the phone's jet black bezels. Text was still legible, thanks in part to the decent contrast ratio of 960:1, but the tiny 960x540 resolution means that desktop sites are quite a strain on the eyes when you're fully zoomed out.
One thing the 535 does have in its favour is a reasonably accurate screen, as our colour calibrator showed it was displaying 83.5 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. This isn't fantastic, as we now regularly see at least 90 per cent from budget Android phones, but it’s at least in keeping with the Lumia 630 and surpasses the Lumia 530's 67.1 per cent score by quite some margin.