Nokia's first Windows Phone device to land in the United States is here. Actually the Lumia 710 for T-Mobile won't really be here until it hits online and in stores January 11, but T-Mo's PR team sent a slew of early review units out for the media to play with ahead of time. Priced at just $49 (after rebate) on a two year contract, Lumia 710 promises a lot of bang for your buck, even if it's not the sexy siren its sibling – the Lumia 800 – is.

When T-Mobile announced the 710 a few weeks back I was crestfallen, mainly because I'd fallen so hard for the 800 when I had the chance to review it in unlocked form. But the 710 is actually a solid device that brings a lot to the table given its sub-$50 price tag. Yes, I'll be the first one to point out that the difference between $49 and $199 up front becomes semi-negligible when taken in light of the total cost of a 24-month service contract. But that up front price carries huge psychological weight for many consumers, and so it remains a big deal that T-Mo's got a Windows Phone 7.5 device available on the cheap. And it's a Nokia, at that!

The phone itself has made a good, if not remarkable, first impression on me. Performance has been solid, the display has gone easy on my eyes, and the Mango user experience remains pleasantly novel. Lumia 710 is a bit of a chubby slab that's not going to win any "World's Thinnest!" or "World's Lightest!" contests, but it's rounded-off design language and soft-grip backside are winning. The 3.7″ ClearBlack TFT LCD display isn't quite on par with the 800's Gorilla Glass AMOLED screen, but it's still really nice to look at and swipe across. And while the camera has fewer megapixels and the internal storage is smaller, the 710 is powered by the same processor/RAM combo as its big sibling. That makes for a lovely user experience which may ultimately be more important than specs to many users – not to mention building buzz around Windows Phone. T-Mo's 710 also supports their current version of "4G", aka HSPA+. While it can't compete with LTE in the long-term, T-Mo's 4G network offers up usable speed at value prices if you're within the coverage map.

And, oh yeah, the 710 is about half an ounce lighter than the 800. Take that, big sister!

The timing of the 710's arrival to market may be a bit tricky for Magenta, as it falls smack dab in the middle of a CES show that promises the arrival of at least four new Windows Phone devices, including the flagship Lumia 900 "Ace" from Nokia themselves. While the rumored LTE-equipped Ace and mid-range Lumia 719 likely won't ship until March or so, US consumers considering a move to Mango might be inclined to pass up the immediate gratification of a 710 now in favor of wider carrier selection and LTE support later this Spring. Then again, the $49 price point is could prove a powerful motivator in getting the budget minded to hop aboard the WinPhone bandwagon with a cheap but slick and powerful smartphone in tow.

Me, I'm still using my unlocked HTC Titan on AT&T, though I'm starting to feel a bit of "giant screen fatigue." And so I eagerly await the CES unveils as I go back to testing the T-Mo Lumia 710. Viva Las Vegas!