With the newest Windows Phone version, codenamed Tango, Microsoft has lowered the hardware requirements. 800MHz processors, down from 1GHz, and 256MB RAM, down from 512MB, are the new baselines.
Thus far there have been two phones with these specifications: the Nokia Lumia 610 and ZTE Orbit. Hitting a lower price point means expanding the potential market for Windows Phones, but has the budget specification come at the cost of performance? We got our hands on the Nokia Lumia 610 to find out.
There have been some widespread doubts expressed about the impact of Tango's reduced hardware requirements on overall performance – after all, we all know how horribly laggy and slow cheap Android devices can be. So we were expecting the worst when we visited the Nokia booth (which is huge, by the way) to try out the Lumia 610 to see how well it fares.
Besides a slower processor and less RAM, Nokia has also cut costs of the display and hardware design. You might think it's got the same 3.7in 480 x 800 LCD as the Lumia 710, but that's not the case: while the 710 features ClearBlack technology, which allows for dramatically deeper blacks, the 610 has a regular LCD screen. That's not to say it's bad – it just can't compare with fancy ClearBlack, Super LCD or even AMOLED displays.
As for the design, you don't get those interchangeable back plates as on the Lumia 710, but instead have to choose from black, white, cyan, or magenta models.
In the about screen, there's a warning that some apps may not work correctly, due to the limited amount of RAM. However, Windows Phone chief Joe Belfiore has said in a blog post that 95% of all current apps do work fine, so that's probably an acceptable trade-off for the lower price.
In terms of general performance, however, we felt virtually no difference compared to other Windows Phone devices. Scrolling, zooming and swiping around was buttery smooth, switching between open applications was as fast as you'd expect. It should be noted, though, that we weren't able to test more hardware-intensive applications, such as games, that might be more demanding of the hardware.
Still, it's obvious that, even with these low-end devices, you'll still get largely the same Windows Phone experience that is, truth to be told, miles ahead of similarly priced Android devices.