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Microsoft Lumia 535 first impressions: bigger, better, pricier

|November 26 2014 |Mobiles, Microsoft, Windows Phone 8, First impressions, Nokia lumia

"We take a first look at the first Microsoft-branded Lumia smartphone"

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Well, it had to happen sometime. Today, Microsoft launched the Lumia 535 in India, the first Lumia smartphone without Nokia branding. The device is priced at Rs 9,199, and is slated to go on sale on November 28th. At the launch event, we had a chance to spend some quality time with the handset. These are our first impressions.

The first thing you notice about the Lumia 535 is its size. Most budget Lumia smartphones have traditionally featured smaller displays (even the mid-range Lumia 630 has a 4.5-inch screen), but the Lumia 535 goes all out with a 5-incher. At this size, the smartphone is a good fit for single-handed use, but is still large enough to accommodate three columns of live tiles. The display gets a resolution of 960 x 540 pixels, which is an improvement over the Lumia 530 (review), but still isn’t up to par with the competition, most of which offer HD resolution. On the plus side, it does get a protective layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. During our brief time with the smartphone, the display seemed smooth and responsive, with adequate brightness levels that make it legible in sunlight. However, colours appeared slightly muted.

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Above the screen, you’ll find the front camera, Microsoft branding, earpiece and sensors. The chin is bare, with the Windows navigation keys present as software overlays on the display. The Lumia 535 is available in four colours – bright orange, bright green, white and black. The cyan variant will unfortunately not be available in India. While the green and orange units sport a glossy finish, the white and black versions are matte.

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On the back panel, you’ll find the primary camera with flash on top, a loudspeaker at the bottom, and Microsoft and Windows branding prominiently displayed in the centre. Prying open the cover reveals the removable 1,905mAh battery, dual SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. Like the Lumia 630 (review), both SIM cards support 3G. Coming to the port and button placement, the right spine is home to the power button and volume rocker, the top features the 3.5mm audio jack, and the micro-USB port is located at the bottom.

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Powering the device is a quad-core Snapdragon 200 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, paired with 1GB of RAM. We did notice a few lags when opening some apps, but since this was a demo unit, we’ll reserve our comments on performance for the full review. The internal storage on offer is a healthy 8GB, out of which around 3.42GB was available on this unit. However, this was a demo handset, so it's possible it was loaded with content... so we'll wait for a review unit to confirm this. The microSD card slot supports expansion up to 128GB.

As its mainstay, the Lumia 535 features a 5-megapixel wide-angle front camera, the same seen on the Lumia 730 (first impressions). The camera is fixed-focus, but features a 24mm lens which makes it great for group shots. We took a few photos with the snapper, and while it offers good results in bright lighting, in artificial light grain tends to creep in. We also noticed that selfies are flipped, making the images look awkward, especially if you have text in the background. The primary camera also features 5MP resolution, but is autofocus. 

In terms of software, the Lumia 535 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with the Lumia Denim firmware pre-installed. Microsoft is also pre-loading five of its services on the phone - Office, OneDrive, Outlook, Skype and Xbox. In addition, there's a Lumia Selfie app, which offers several effects and filters to help you beautify your mug shots.

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On paper, the Lumia 535 seems like the first affordable Lumia smartphone with decent specs. Microsoft has addressed several of the complaints on previous budget Lumias, adding a good front camera, 1GB of RAM, generous internal storage and a larger display to the mix. However, at its price of Rs 9,199, the Lumia 535 seems overpriced for what it offers, especially when we consider the competition on the Android side, like the Xiaomi Redmi Note, ASUS Zenfone 5 and Moto G. For more on the smartphone, stay tuned for our full review.

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