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Review: Nokia Lumia 920

Allan Swann
November 28, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920
www.nokia.com
Network Temporary exclusive to Orange, T-Mobile and EE 4G.
Price 4G – £36 per month and £129.99 upfront for 500MB of data unlimited calls and texts.
Reviewer Scott Snowden

Can Nokia’s new flagship kick the Windows Phone platform in to gear and save the company?

Nokia has been floundering in the wake of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS in the smartphone market, and it just has been through a tough 24 months switching to Microsoft’s much hyped Windows Phone platform. While last year’s Windows Phone 7.5 Lumia 800 and 900 models failed to make an impression on the market, Windows Phone 8 is a different proposition and comes backed by the full might of Microsoft’s promotional machine, helped by its cross platform integration with Windows 8, and Xbox. Is it enough to help Nokia return to its 90s supremacy?

Booty-licious
The first thing you’ll notice upon holding the Lumia 920 is its size and weight. It measures 130 x 70.8 x 10.7mm and weighs 185g. It has heft and certainly feels like it means business, especially when compared to the relatively flimsy 133g Samsung Galaxy S3 or the 112g Apple iPhone 5. Many will find the weight feels nice in the hand, but this is not the handset you want to carry in the exterior pockets of a suit jacket. Not only will it jut out and look a bit silly, but it will probably cause the material to warp and permanently sag.

The weight of the Lumina 920 has provoked a lot of discussion, since many of the early mobile phones from 10 or 15 years ago were the same weight or even heavier, but it’s really about what the standard is today, since smartphones made by rival companies are significantly lighter. Some customers will indeed prefer the more substantial feel of this handset in their hand, but in our opinion, any device that could be lighter is better, simply from a practical point of view of having to haul it around.

 

Front view

The Lumia 920 might be a bit too monolithic for some users


The casing itself is stunning, its one-piece polycarbonate construction providing a sturdy, first-class finish. Yes, if you were to drop this hefty handset, chances are you’d probably damage it – but it feels like you’d really have to want to damage it. It feels like a good solid phone that will stand up to whatever gets thrown at it.

The smooth, rounded sides of the handset do make for a comfortable hold in your hand – provided you have quite big hands, that is. The only exterior keys are on the right, but that said, there’s no marking of any kind indicating what these keys actually do. Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and users will quickly get comfortable with Nokia’s choices. The bottom button takes you straight to the digital camera, even when the handset is in standby mode, which is quite handy. The middle button is power/standby and the top two keys adjust volume and vibrate.

In terms of ports, the Lumia 920 has a 3.5mm headphone jack on top and a micro-USB port underneath. There’s no microSD card slot, which will disappoint many but the 32GB of internal storage should be plenty for most.

Stunning screen
The Lumia 920 boasts a 4.5-inch (1280×768 pixel) HD display, sitting between the smaller 4-inch (1136 x 640 pixel) display of the iPhone 5 and the 4.8-inch (1280 x 720) display of the Galaxy S3. Boasting Nokia’s own Puremotion technology, it is bright and clear and very smooth. Flicking between menus and apps is a breeze with no shuddering or lag of any kind. Colour reproduction is excellent, and photos especially look good with those extra pixels in play.

Wireless charging – more than a gimmick?
The 920 can be charged by way of either the USB connection or by induction via the rather cool wireless charging plate. This means you just plop your handset on top of this thing and it recharges. We’ve seen this kind of technology before with products like the Duracell Powermat, but this is built into the handset, so there’s no need for any third party hardware. It is rather satisfying to be able to just put your phone down and not have to untangle a mass of cables beforehand. Whether many users will bother, given the charger has its own plug (why not just plug the phone in?) is another matter.

Killer Camera
Finally, the other feature that Nokia has hit the bull’s eye with is the camera. This could quite possibly be the most impressive camera phone on the market.

Not only is it a 8.7MP camera, it has the latest Carl Zeiss optics and a high power LED flash. The sensor works well even in low light, thanks to the built-in optical image stabilisation that allows the shutter to stay open longer. It also utilises Nokia’s proprietary PureView technology, which was first developed in the Nokia Pureview 808 smartphone (reviewed in our September issue). While that device was a bust, its pixel sampling technology means that the photos coming out of the Nokia 920 are class leading – comparable to a standalone digital camera. It is brilliant. This phone is worth considering just for the camera.

The 920 also offers a load of extra camera features: Smart Photo takes multiple photos in a row, allowing you to erase errors, blurs and other problems, Cinemagraph lets you create fun little animated gif images and the lens itself has optical image stabilisation to smooth out your video, giving a pleasing, Steadicam-like look.

Windows Phone 8 – still struggling with a lack of apps…
Accompanying the 920 is a long list of impressive features, a new operating system and a new app store. It is one of the first smartphones to run Windows 8 – the latest version of Microsoft’s mobile software – and it’s quite different to what you might have seen previously on Android or iOS.

Taking the form of a simple, tile-based layout, the home screen lets you fill the space with widgets and the like, squeezing in apps here and there and for the most part, it works well. The downside however, is that the app store is currently somewhat sparse. Some basic essentials including WhatsApp and Netflix are already available and work to integrate Skype into the OS is coming along nicely.

Unfortunately the App Store is still a bit sparse...

Unfortunately the App Store is still a bit sparse…

Microsoft has included several apps, including Trip Advisor, eBay, Xbox and World of RedBull. But to be honest there’s nothing close to the number of apps on offer when compared to Google Android or Apple iOS. So, if you love playing the latest mobile games, this might not be for you.


If you’re a keen Xbox 360 gamer, however, the Nokia Lumina 920 is certainly an attractive solution. Once your past the initial chore of linking passwords and connecting your Xbox Live account, you can manage your online profile and avatar right from the handset, stay in touch with your Xbox Live friends online, browse the latest games news and deals and download the most popular smartphone games.

Nokia has incorporated some of its own software too; Nokia Drive is an effective and vastly under-valued offline navigation tool, while Nokia Music lets you play, purchase and stream audio from a huge library.

Nokia Drive worked superbly and given the recent unfortunate events between Google Maps and Apple, if you rely heavily on an electronic navigation device, then this is a genuine, viable alternative. Microsoft’s own Bing maps is also installed.

Sadly, like Microsoft, Nokia’s own app store still has some way to go to match Google, Apple and their partners. Hopefully, app support will come as this is an excellent device and besides, greater consumer choice is always a good thing.

Do we really need quad-core performance?
The Lumia 920 also isn’t a slouch – where the last generation of Lumia devices were hampered by a reliance on single core devices,when the market had already moved to dual and quad core phones, Nokia has made sure this model doesn’t run out of steam. A dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 means that this phone will handle anything that’s thrown at it.

To conclude, this new Nokia flagship is a promising device. Physically and technically it is a brilliant device, although its size and weight might not be for everyone. What will determine its fate is how quickly Microsoft can fill the app store to offer a comparable user experience to its Google and Apple rivals – there are still too many key games and apps missing. Fix this and the once mighty manufacturer has a fighting chance of returning to its position as the smartphone brand of choice. It is a learning curve, but this is a promising first step.

Plus
+
Great looking design and build
+ Stunning screen
+ Probably the best smartphone camera available

Minus
Pretty heavy
App store remains limited
Windows Phone 8 remains unproven

Performance 5 stars
Design 4 stars
Usability 4
Features 5

OVERALL 4


Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 920 is an impressive device technically, the camera in particular is an absolute standout. It needs a few tweaks, but not many. Maybe Slim it down and offer more apps to entice users of Android and Apple to change. However, this is a great first step and bodes well for Windows Phone 8’s future.

Tech Specs
OS
Windows Phone 8.0
Processor 1.5 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon S4
Screen 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+۬WXGA (1280 x 768) IPS LCD
Input Capacitive touchscreen
Camera 8.7MP
Video 720p or 1080p, 30fps
Storage 32GB
Audio Music player/FM radio
Size 130 x 70.8 x 10.7mm
Weight 185g
Battery 2000 mAh

 

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