Nokia has today unveiled two phones it plans to launch locally, with the new Windows-equipped range of smartphones heading to stores in March.

The first of the pair is the Lumia 800, a premium handset that takes the well-designed shell of last year’s Nokia N9 and gives the internals a much needed refresh, ditching the Meego operating system and replacing it with Windows Phone 7.

Like the N9, the Lumia 800 will feature an 8 megapixel auto-focus camera with Carl Zeiss lens, polycarbonate unibody phone chassis, 16GB internal storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, and support for microSIM. Unlike the 3.9 inch N9 though, there’s a 3.7 inch AMOLED screen with dedicated Windows buttons – Back, Home, and Search.

Last year's Nokia N9 (left) is very similar to the Lumia 800, and they should be: the casing is almost identical.

Nokia’s recommended retail price for the Lumia 800 is $699, with the phone available in four colours – white, black, cyan, and magenta – and heading to all major telcos from March.

Playing with the Lumia 800 today, it’s easy to see that Nokia has done a lot of work here. We originally loved the unibody hardware of the N9 and in the Lumia 800, it’s just  as striking – the single-colour one-piece body looks absolutely superb. Likewise, it feels robust, and is nicely reassuring in the hand.

In use, the screen provides a very clear display, and Windows Phone seems to perform very well. We didn’t see speed issues from our brief play, but time will tell if this is an exceptional phone, and we look forward to reviewing it in more detail soon.

The Lumia 710 held on the left, alongside the Lumia 800.

Nokia is also launching a mid-range handset alongside the Lumia 800, with the Lumia 710 aimed at a more budget focused audience, heading to the Optus and Virgin networks for $379 in March.

This handset won’t feature the same one-piece design, adopting a more common multi-piece plastic body, albeit one with a slightly rubberised back. The specs are understandably lower in the 710, with a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera, 3.7 inch AMOLED screen, 8GB storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, and microSIM.

While this phone isn’t in the same league for looks, it does feel just as quick in the hands as the Lumia 800. That’s no surprise, mind you, as both handsets take advantage of the same 1.4GHz processor and 512MB RAM, making them very close – if not identical – in performance.

There was no difference in speed using the Lumia 710.

A third Lumia is also expected – the Lumia 900 – with 4G LTE connectivity, although Nokia was pretty quiet on the subject,  giving GadgetGuy only a “no comment” at this time.

Coming off the back of the Nokia partnership with Microsoft, the Lumia range of phones launched today offers Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, featuring the “Metro UI” look that appears on the Xbox 360 and on the forthcoming Microsoft Windows operating system – Windows 8.

Now in version 7.5, Windows Phone features tight integration with Windows Live Messenger, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Office. Nokia is also throwing in a few extra things to help strengthen Windows Phone, with Nokia Maps working as the GPS mapping solution and Nokia Drive providing turn-by-turn voice navigation for more than 100 countries.

A music service is also being thrown in, with Nokia Music and Mix Radio providing free streaming for over 14 million tracks and caching on offer in case Internet connectivity will be lost.