Microsoft Lumia 535 Review

Price
Euro80

Microsoft Lumia 535 Review

Microsoft Lumia 535 Review


Introduction

The same Lumia design, build quality, color vibrance, familiar kit – its all there. What is missing is the logo, replaced by another one. While Microsoft has taken over operations, it has started out with a basic entry level smartphone that is released to a wide audience. The same reliable and affordably priced smartphone is yet again the focus of Microsoft, following in the footsteps of Nokia. Even the screen size is similar to the last release from Nokia, the Nokia Lumia 830 – both touch 5 inches, and have IPS LCD capacitive displays. The resolution has been taken up for the display though, going to qHD level which though not ideal on a 5 inch display, is not unheard of either.

The Lumia 535 seems to have selected the camera on the Lumia 520 for itself, adding an LED flash for benefit. There is a front facing selfie camera though for benefit, contrary to the Lumia 520, close to the Lumia 735 – the CPU is one of the cheapest from Qualcomm, though it has got a couple of additional cores still, Microsoft has been known to purr along smoothly with even the lowest of hardware requirements.

Microsoft has added in the dual-SIM card for further attraction. The classy design with great color options is still available, and the large screen, as well as good front facer and selfie camera all make up for quite a package coming in at an economy price. Even with a not too pixel-rich display, the screen property does come handy, be it for browsing, using social networks, messaging or email, or for Office related tasks.

Of course there are some negatives to consider, topping which is the video recorder, which standing at 480p is not something to even talk about, considering the competition is working on UHD recording. Still, the puzzling 480p recording is tried to be covered up by providing a wide-angle front facer, which can benefit both selfies and Skype calls, among others.

There is a long list of plus points, and some negatives, both associated to the Lumia 535, though at the end of the day, it does look like a promising startup phone for budget users. Lets see how the details come out to see what really the Microsoft Lumia 535 is made of.

Unboxing the Microsoft Lumia 535

While unboxing the Microsoft Lumia 535, you will get the following inside the retail box, though we feel Microsoft should have included a USB cable as a standard offering.

  • Microsoft Lumia 535
  • microUSB Charger
  • Basic headset

Display

The 5 inch display on the Lumia 535 has qHD resolution, meaning 540 x 960, and has a 220ppi, which gives out surprisingly sharp display and image quality while the display is decently sharp. The colors are very punchy, and the viewing angles are very good – it has only minor color and contrast loss at even extreme angles.

The blacks are pretty average, and so is the pixel density, the contrast on the other hand is exceptional for a smartphone in this price range. The sunlight legibility is also poor due to the high reflectivity of the screen. Even the touch is slightly on the inaccurate side, quite a surprise for a Lumia, and though not a regular feature, it is to be considered.

Design

While all the Lumia devices may look very similar to most people, the Lumia 535 is actually very similar to the Lumia 630 and more to Lumia 530, with the same simple style. While the design is very similar, the Lumia 535 is not particularly on the slimmer side, nor is the finishing on the Lumia 535 something out of the ordinary. The price tag justifies the smartphone, as Microsoft has not tried to tinker much in its first release, making the Lumia 535 look and feel consistently similar to generic Lumia smartphones. The multiple colors and exchangeable back covers are still intact. Hence, the overall device is pretty standard, save for the logo change. The size is close to that of the iPhone 6, though bulkier. Still, it is a good manage in pockets.

The Gorilla Glass 3 covers the front for protection, while the colorful back cover takes up the back and the sides. Microsoft offers matte plastic back coversin parallel to the glossy finished ones, and either can be selected – the matte ones do have a good grip, and are smudge-resistant.

The front contains the earpiece and front facer above the display while the mouthpiece resides below the screen. The left side is bare, while the right contains the power key and volume rocker, both offering a solid feel and covered with the back cover. The top of the Lumia 535 contains the 3.5mm audio jack, while at the bottom resides the microUSB port, used for both charging and connectivity. There is no cable provided with the package, so any other microUSB cable will have to be used. At the back, the logo has been replaced, while an LED flash has also been introduced, near the 5MP autofocus snapper, with the loudspeaker grille placed towards the bottom of the back. Under the back cover, which was fairly difficult to take off, resides the microSIM slots and microSD card slot – the SIMs cannot be hot-swapped, though the microSD card can be – Microsoft supports 128GB card memory for this.

User Interface & Operating System

The Lumia 535 is released with Windows 8.1 and Lumia Denim out of the box, same as the Lumia 830. In the update 1, Microsoft adds customizable snooze alarms, Cortana support in UK and China, folder support, and some other back end improvements.

The Glance screen, reintroduced after a gap back in the Lumia 830 has been removed again and so is the double-tap to wake up option. Still, the six notification slots are present on the lock screen, and PIN code can be set up too.

The familiar home screen greets once inside, with the familiar live tiles, which can be resized, and can have backgrounds set–the concern for this, where some tiles are not transparent, filled with solid color instead, is still there, and this makes the background image look a bit broken and out of sorts. The Update 1 for the Windows 8.1 now allows users the ability to create folders at the Start page, and using them is pretty easy.

A much-awaited feature is the notification center, publicized as Action Center. Accessing this is the same as Android, and a very similar row of toggles and notifications are present. Notifications can be removed one by one or altogether, whichever is required. The display shows four quick access toggles by default, changeable, and double tapping on toggles leads to accessing their additional settings.

The notifications customization as well as the multitasking features are both very similar to that from iOS. The Quiet Hours mode tested around in the Lumia 830 is again available with the Lumia 535 in its same consistent full featured release. The newly released Files app, which allows for file management, is available for download from the store, and hopefully soon will a part of the package. The Find My Phone option is again a part of the release package, and has the same abilities as those on the Microsoft Lumia 830.

IE 11 comes with the Lumia 535 along with all the recent modifications, which are pretty extensive and detailed. This time around, the IE includes private browsing, passwords saving and sync, unlimited tab support, reader mode, bookmark and tab sync between different devices, and support for inline videos. Web pages can be pinned to home screens, and they show up as Live Tiles, displaying the latest page preview. Even the forward and back options have been associated with right and left swipes. At least the features list, and to some extent, the performance, is coming closer and closer to the competition.

The most favored document editor around, Microsoft Office, is present with the Lumia 535, giving view and edit support for Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and has integration with OneDrive for support. OneNote is added on as the preferred tool for note taking, and has been made more powerful than before, allowing multi-level lists, sending via emails, photos and voice memos, and sync via OneDrive.

Microsoft includes the standard Alarms, Weather,Calendar, and Calculator apps as part of the package. The Finance, Sports, Travel, News, Food & Drink apps are on board along with the above. The Creative Studio,and the Storyteller app, both part of the recent release of Lumia 830 are here too, and the HERE Maps and HERE Drive+ apps round up the package. Two more apps, which we feel will become a cornerstone of WP releases are the Battery Saver and Storage Sense, which were recently showcased in the Lumia 830, as well as the file manager app, though the file manager app is available on the store currently.

Automatic updates for apps are now present, and it can be defined to run updates only via wi-fi or use mobile data networks in addition for this purpose.

Media

The Microsoft assistant labeled Cortana, is pretty good when it comes to voice recognition, and can help out at different instances throughout the day. Cortana functions similar to Siri, recognizing audio commands and questions, providing voice feedback. The Cortana needs to be personalized in the start to work better via settings labeled Notebook, which include Interests, Quiet Hours, Reminders, Places and Music Searches along with Inner Circle. Cortana can help track news, plan trips, and find restaurants, among other things. Reminders are included. Basic cell phone can be managed by Cortana with ease. Cortana can also, on your behalf, make third party apps perform different functions, like calling a contact via Skype – currently, only Skype, Facebook and Twitter are enabled for this feature, but this list will surely grow.

The word recognition is prompt in Cortana, and accuracy levels have been taken up quite a bit. Cortana is still some way behind Siri and Google Now but with the focus it has been given, we feel it will not take much time in doing so, and the alpha release in more regions will only increase its popularity.

The People Hub app is the central place for all communication with different contacts across multiple accounts, with all communication grouped together, and this includes social updates, Rooms and Groups. This includes chats and emails, which is always beneficial for complete communication tracking. A Me option is present to display your own updates and related information from across the social media too. There is a very easy SIM switching mechanism in place, which is intuitive and simple.

The Phone application is another standard application, displaying the call history and duration, including shortcuts which lead to dialer, voice mail, and phonebook, and though smart dial is disabled, Cortana helps out in this area. On the in-call screen, an addition is the Skype button, which converts the call into a Skype video chat – understandably, this works only when both parties have Skype and internet. With both SIMs having separate Messaging and Phone apps, there is no chance of confusion.

The Lumia 535 has in-call performance at a decent level. The sound is clear, with no signal reception issues whatsoever, though it is not among the louder ones, and there will be instances where calls may be missed.

The Messaging app has the same standard set of features as present in the past, along with additions, the first of which allows to view the contact’s full details as well as another option labeled Mute, which temporarily blocks notifications of all communication from that sender, though the communication will still be saved against in the thread. The communication contains, in addition to messages, messenger communication, social media messages, all in one place. The keyboard on the Lumia 535 includes the swype-like Wordflow to help in texting and communication.

The generic email client coming with the Lumia 535 is the same one we saw in the Lumia 830 which can do batch operations, search and display messages as a thread, and can link multiple accounts together.

The Photo Hub showcases the traditional Windows Phone like look which was earlier displayed in the Lumia 830, spread across three pages, All, Albums and Favorites. The automatic sync with OneDrive is available once enabled from Settings, allowing 15GB free space, with an additional 3GB per device on which this feature is enabled. Other sharing options includes Bluetooth, messaging, Facebook, email, and other social media.

The music play is the same quality performer that was present with the Microsoft Lumia 830, with similar features like collection view, genres, playlists, as well as Music Store highlights, giving command over managing playlists, and has good audio quality, standard organization and options for equalizer. The player still does not support FLAC.

The video player too, is same as that on the Lumia 830, with the same layout, limited subtitles support, unable to support MKV and AC3.

An RDS supporting FM player is present on board the Lumia 535. Speaker play is possible, though headset, is required in this case since it also works as an antenna.

The Lumia 535 has good scores when connected with an external amplifier – clean audio, though with average volume, lower than recent Lumia releases as far as we can tell. Plugging in headphones raised the crosstalk to an extent, and frequency and distortion also increased, and that with the still moderate volume means the performance goes down to mediocre.

Camera

The Lumia 535 comes with the standard 5MP autofocus camera supported by an LED flash. The camera can take shots of up to 2592 x 1936 resolutions.

The Lumia Camera UI is again, present with the Lumia 535, as it was with the Lumia 830. The interface is familiar and intuitive, with the basic settings of exposure settings, white balance, focus, shutter speed, ISO, and modes, which allows users to select whether they want images in 4:3 (this takes images in 5MP) or 16:9 mode (this takes images in 3.7MP). There is the standard Lenses feature available with all the Lumia releases, and though a large amount of lenses can be downloaded from the store, the only one that came with our Lumia 535 was the Cinemagraph.

The images that we captured were of good quality, nice exposure, decent contrast and color rendering, though the white balance is sometimes slightly off, though noise has been kept to a minimal level. The level of detail is within acceptable limit.

The video recorder is one of the lowest points of the Lumia 535, with a WVGA at 30fps in place for recording purposes, with videos stored as MP4 at 3Mbps bitrate, 160Kbps audio at 48KHz.

The interface is almost the same as that of the camera, though only the white balance and the settings for manual focus can be adjusted.There is an option to switch between the WVGA and VGA modes of recording too. Audio bass filter can be managed, either turned off, or between 100Hz and 200Hz. The 200Hz captures the best audio, though it is probably better suited for concerts or clubs etc.

The performance is pretty average for a video recorder of this day and age, with resolved detail not even on par with the snaps, though the contrast and colors tend to be consistent with the images mostly – still, we felt slightly let down with the quality of recording coming from a Lumia device with such a long list of predecessors which already have pretty decent recording capabilities.

Processing Power

Microsoft has brought into play the Snapdragon 200 for the Lumia 535, powered by four Cortex-A7 1.2GHz processors, coupled with Adreno 302 for graphics and 1GB of RAM, and even though the Snapdragon 200 has been used by Nokia in the past for Lumia phones, we feel its performance in terms of graphics is slightly underachieving.

In terms of CPU, graphics and memory testing, the Lumia 535 was generally in the mid-range in close proximity to Snapdragon-400 powered smartphones and mainly the graphics was to blame – the overall performance was on par with Snapdragon 400 smartphones. For the browsing test, the performance is slower than the competition, as Internet Explorer is considerably slower than the likes of Chrome and Safari, in the mobile division – even though in real-life, the difference is hardly recognizable.

The overall performance of the Lumia 535 turns out to be pretty decent, though, and with Windows Phone 8.1 keeping it moving along at a steady pace, the smartphone has minimal issues, though it does have increased times in loading sometimes, and just a few hiccups in the UI, still they did not ruin the good overall performance. The Office Suite did not give any issues, but there will be some delays due to the low-end processor when playing some of the very popular games.

Connectivity

Talking about the connectivity in the Lumia 535, the smartphone covers the basics like GSM and 3G.

The smartphone has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS together with GLONASS. An FM radio is also on board with RDS, while the standard microUSB 2.0 port is present for charging and data connectivity. The microSD card allows for large storage space.

Battery Life

The 1,905 mAh battery assigned with the Lumia 535 is something of a surprise, as it is one of the smallest batteries we have encountered in recent times – the performance too, then, should have a hit.

As we had suspected, the 3G talk time came out to 12 hours, which is still pretty ok, but the video playback and browsing both ran to 5 hours, which is seriously on the lower side – we are taking on smartphones that can play video and browsing for more than 9 hours now, Microsoft really should be concerned with this battery size. The endurance rating is 44 hours, meaning the smartphone can be used for close to 2 days, with an hour each for calls, browsing, and movies. These scores are far from impressive, and a distant cry from being average even.

Disadvantages

The Lumia 535 we perceive, may receive mixed reaction from the market when pitted against formidable competition from market due to some drawbacks, a few of which are listed below:

  • Pixel density is on the low side
  • Glance screen is missing
  • Battery is insufficient
  • No microUSB cable out of the box
  • Video recording is on the lower side

Should I Have to Buy the Microsoft Lumia 535?

The Lumia 535 is a smartphone designed for the mid-range market, where the appeal for a mid-priced, large screen smartphone, running a smoothly and with dual-SIM support, are all factors that attract. This is the first smartphone to wear the Microsoft logo, and all the prominence that this one gets is good for Microsoft.

The entry for Microsoft, in the smartphone market is new, and so, Microsoft will be likely taking a feeler initially – that said, Microsoft already has enough Lumia smartphones in the market to tinker around easily. Still, Microsoft is taking careful steps while penetrating newer domain, and a basic smartphone with a wider audience a mid-range price tag will be lesser objectivized rather than releasing an expensive flagship straight away, though those will come too, eventually.

The Microsoft Lumia 535 does have its lows, some of those being the low-res recording and the low pixel count in display – the pixels are just about enough to make it a par set, though the size is of value for many users what with the browsing and media play along with usage of Office. Additionally, the in-car navigation is easier on the large display, and that is something very convenient with the constant presence of the HERE Driver+ apps, which are a cornerstone of Windows Phone OS. The audio quality, is a mixture of pleasantness and disappointment, as though the audio is pretty clean, it is on the quieter side.

The Lumia 535 positions Microsoft very nicely in the market, especially with the price tag that it comes with – though there will be a few others with similar specs, they are mostly in a higher price range, and so Microsoft has penetrated at a level that is easily accessible for all, and Microsoft has to be commended on this feat alone, if not for the whole package that it offers.