The Nokia Lumia 720 Review - Low-end Hardware & Premium Build Quality
The Nokia Lumia 720 is a strange smartphone when you analyze it in detail. First of all, it looks great and it has a solid design and build quality. Holding it in your hand and using it as a phone is a real pleasure. But, its insides are not so premium. Its hardware configuration is almost identical to that of its lower-end brother - the Lumia 620. Does this combination of low-end hardware and premium build quality make for a good mid-range smartphone? Let's find out in this review.
Hardware Specifications & Packaging
From a hardware specifications perspective, the Nokia Lumia 720 is almost identical to the Lumia 620. It uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor, running at 1GHz, it has 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage space. Obviously, the storage can be expanded with a microSD card. The screen is bigger and slightly better - the Lumia 720 has a 4.3-inch IPS LCD ClearBlack display with a 480x800 resolution. The battery has 2000mAh compared to 1300 mAh on the Lumia 620. The rear camera has 6.7 MP and it can shoot 720p video while the front camera has 1.3 MP.
Another plus for the Lumia 720 is that it has a more elegant unibody design and it is thinner (9 mm vs. 11 mm on the Lumia 620). The weight of the phone is 128 grams which is makes it light and comfortable to hold in your hand. The full list of hardware specifications can be found here. The packaging on the Lumia 720 is the standard used by Nokia for all its phones. It includes: the phone, headphones, the USB cable, the USB charger, the phone's documentation and a key for opening the microSD card and SIM trays. More can be learned from the unpackaging video below.
Design & Build Quality
The Nokia Lumia 720 has a unibody non-removable shell made of polycarbonate. The design is elegant and good looking. My first impression was that this phone looks and feels classier than most mid-range smartphones.
Lumia 720 comes in a variety of colors including matte yellow, matte red, glossy white, matte cyan and matte black. The review unit we received was white and, after using it for a couple of days, I can say that it looks better than the usual black used for smartphones. The layouts of the buttons is classic for all Lumia smartphones: all buttons are placed on the right side and their positioning is great. You can easily lock and unlock your phone with just one finger, change the volume, take screenshots, etc. Regarding the screen - the black & white levels are better than on the Lumia 620 and they contribute to a more pleasant visual experience.
Also, the phone can be used in direct sunlight without any major visibility issues.
The Phone Experience on the Nokia Lumia 720
Call quality was good even though the signal strength is weaker than on the Samsung Ativ S which, in my testing, has the best signal strength and call quality out of all Windows Phones. In locations where the 3G signal was not that great, the Samsung Ativ S enjoyed slightly better signal strength and better call quality than the Lumia 720. However, most times you will be satisfied by the Lumia 720. The sound quality for playing music and video is average. The sound lacks detail and depth and it doesn't compare to the high end models from HTC, Samsung and Nokia. It's very similar to what its cheaper brothers offer - Lumia 620 or HTC 8S. Not even the extra audio enhancements offered by Nokia make much difference. Also, the phone's speaker is on the loud side and its sound quality is rather average. The sound lacks in detail and crispness.
Having average sound quality on the Lumia 620 was OK, since that's a low-end smartphone at a really good price. However, the Nokia Lumia 720 is priced as mid-range smartphone and I felt disappointed by this problem. I was expecting better! On the positive side, the picture and video quality is better on the Lumia 720 than on the Samsung Ativ S and the Lumia 620. I found it comparable to HTC 8X but poorer than that of the Nokia Lumia 920. To get good shots, it is best to use this phone in well lit surroundings. In low light conditions, the results are not spectacular but Lumia 720 does fare a bit better than the cheaper smartphones with Windows Phone. The battery is great though, as shown also by our synthetic tests. In normal usage scenarios you can use the phone for about a day and a half until you have to recharge it. Even during heavier use, the battery should last you about a day. Last but not least, I noticed that the Lumia 720 doesn't heat up so quickly as other smartphones do. For example, my Samsung Ativ S gets hot relatively quickly, while the Lumia 720 needs to be stressed a lot more before it becomes hot. For some users, this will be a big plus.
Nokia Apps for Windows Phone 8
The Nokia Lumia 720 packs the following Nokia exclusives:
- Angry Birds Roost - shares information about Angry Birds games, walkthroughs, screenshots, leaderboard, links to install the games available in the Store.
- App Highlights - a useful app for discovering great apps available in the Windows Phone Store.
- Here Drive - provides offline, turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation.
- Here Maps - provides turn-by-turn walk navigation, helps you discover places around you, find public transit stations, etc.
- Nokia Care - provides tutorials for Windows Phone.
- Panorama - an app for creating panoramas.
- Smart Shoot - an app for creating group shots and portraits.
- Transfer My Data - this app copies your contacts and text messages from your older phone to your Nokia Lumia 720, via Bluetooth.
Even though the Lumia 720 has the same limited storage space as the Lumia 620, it doesn't bundle the Storage Check app. You have to rely on the storage management features added in the latest update to Windows Phone 8.
As shared in my review of other Nokia Lumia phones, the exclusive apps add a lot of value and the available collection expands each month. You can access the latest exclusives in the Store and install them whenever you wish.
Performance in Benchmarks
As usual, I have ran several benchmarks to compare the performance of the Nokia Lumia 720 with other Windows Phones. Since the hardware is almost identical to the Lumia 620, its performance is the same. MultiBench 2 showed very minor differences in performance between the Nokia Lumia 720, Lumia 620 and HTC 8S. In real life, you won't notice them.
The WP Bench CPU test shares the same story but the results for the Lumia 720 are worse.
The other tests ran by WP Bench say once again that there is no meaningful performance difference between the Lumia 720 and the Lumia 620.
The same story remains true when testing the web browsing performance with Sunspider.
In terms of boot timings, the Lumia 720 is a top performer, together with Samsung Ativ S. Both smartphones boot in 35 seconds.
Regarding battery time, the Lumia 720 is an uncontested leader. While running the WP Bench battery test, the phone lasted 4 hours and 24 minutes - almost one hour more than the second best - HTC 8S.
I can honestly say that the Lumia 720 offers the best autonomy out of all the Windows Phones we tested so far.
Giving a verdict for the Nokia Lumia 720 is a hard task. This phones feels unbalanced for its market positioning. That's because you pay for a mid-range smartphone but you get low-end hardware in exchange for your money. For users interested in raw performance, this will be a big turn off. However, Windows Phone 8 does an admirable job even on this hardware and the phone never feels slow. Unless you want to play demanding games, the low-end hardware will not be a big issue. Another important minus is the average sound quality, way too similar to that found on cheaper smartphones. If you listen to lots of music on your phone, you will want better for your money. Regarding positives - you will be very pleased with the design and build quality of this phone. The finishing is great, so is its size and weight. The phone feel just right and its definitely a lot more comfortable to hold and use than the Lumia 920. Also, the battery time is one of the best you'll find on any Windows Phone, plus Lumia 720 doesn't have the tendency to heat up very quickly which makes it more comfortable to use for longer periods of time. In the end, my recommendation is for you to test this phone before you purchase it or to buy it from a shop with a good return policy. If the Nokia Lumia 720 would have been priced as a low-end smartphone, it would have been the best low-end smartphone you have ever used, indifferent of the platform. But, its price is that of a mid-range smartphone and for that money some people will want more while others will be perfectly happy with what the Lumia 720 has to offer.