We here at BandwidthBlog have always had a bit of a soft spot for Nokia’s Lumia range. While the high end target market has completely moved away from Nokia in the last few years, you can truly see that Nokia is doing its best to convince people to come back to their way of thinking. After moving to Windows Phone, Nokia has really pulled out all the stops with their Lumia range – while beautiful hardware with innovative software means that the phones look great on paper, it somehow has not translated into sales for Nokia. The Lumia 920 continues with that formula, but everything is much improved in this latest generation of Lumias. We spent some time with new flagship, the Lumia 920, and once again walked away very impressed.
The Lumia 920 is made from a single block of polycarbonate, but trust us when we say this – it is one of the most solid feeling phones we have used in a long time. We had a very flashy red model to review, which comes in a glossy finish. While some people might like it, others thought it was reminiscent of a shiny piece of Lego. We also played around with a yellow version – which grabs attention everywhere it goes (it looks quite similar to the electric yellow shoes Nike sponsored in the Olympics). There is also a more traditional black model that has a matte finish.
The phone is large however – its even larger than the older Lumia 900, so if you do not like supersized phones, the Lumia 920 might not be for you. The 4.5 inch display means that you are forced to use the phone with two hands. It does have a nice curved glass on the screen, which looks great.
The biggest issue with the design of this phone is the weight – where other manufacturers have been pushing ever lighter weight despite larger displays, Nokia has seemingly moved in the other direction. At 185 grams, the 920 is a weighty tank of a phone.
But after a week of carrying the phone around with you, eventually you do not notice the weight and you quickly realize the weight might not be too big of a deal. Put it this way – 185grams is basically the same weight as an iPhone 4 with a case snapped on.
While we loved the older Lumia 800 and 900, the resolutions of the screen always felt like a major step back compared to their competitors. The Windows Phone 7 operating system was partially to blame – luckily Windows Phone 8 is more focused on the future.
The Lumia 920 has a beautiful 1280 by 768 pixel 4.5 inch display. At that resolution it means it is running at a pixel density of 332 pixel. That means that Apple’s “Retina” marketing term is no longer considered a technical advantage.
Nokia has also moved away from the OLED screen for the 920. OLED was always a great choice with Windows Phone, because the interface’s default black backgrounds looked especially good with the pitch dark black of the OLED panel. The side effect of OLED screens are less than perfect colour representation.
So switching to LCD might seem like a step backwards, but Nokia has employed polarizing filters in the LCD panels to make the blacks really dark. In fact, it is easily the best black levels we have ever seen on an LCD display. But LCD still has better (and more accurate) colour accuracy, so images don’t look like oversaturated cartoons on this display.
The polarizing filters mean that the display is also very readable in direct sunlight – something you don’t typically find when the OS is primarily designed to be white text on black. Nokia also packed in a cool feature for people in colder areas of the world with a new high sensitivity mode, which allows you to use the touch screen with gloves on.
To put it simply, the Lumia 920 has the best screen we have come across on a phone – the HTC One X does come very close though.
Before the dawn of the iPhone, Nokia had always been the leader when it came to phone cameras. Certain models in Nokia’s history were purely focused on imaging – remember the Nokia N93?
The Lumia 920 is a return to that focus on imaging. Sporting a “pureview” camera, the 920 has optical image stabilization and pretty amazing low light capabilities. In all of our testing it handily beat out other high end phones like the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S3. We found the colours of daylight photos to be somewhat subdued (some might argue more accurate) than its competitors.
In dark environments it’s incredible to see the amount of detail the camera can still capture, without any shake. Our opinion – if you take plenty of low light photos, the Lumia 920 is the phone to go for.
Performance and Software
The big news with Windows Phone 8 is that the operating system can finally use multicore processors, and new higher resolution displays. These new capabilities are perfectly showcased in the Lumia 920 – it is very quick under your fingers, and apps launch fast.
The 920 also uses a Nokia technology called PureMotion HD, which forces the system to never drop below 60 frames per second. This is somewhat similar to what Android does in its latest Jelly Bean release, and the end result is that the OS always feels perfectly reactive.
Multitasking is also properly supported in Windows Phone 8, but not all apps support it yet. For example, the native Twitter client still shows a very irritating “resuming” screen when launched again.
But Windows Phone 8 does have one major negative against it. While the app selection has improved dramatically in the last year, there are still some very popular apps that we could not find. For example – Dropbox. While there are some unofficial “viewer” apps for Dropbox, they are just not there officially. We don’t know who to blame – is Dropbox too lazy to build for Windows Phone, or is Microsoft actively pushing their SkyDrive (which is built into Windows Phone)?
Nokia is also pushing a few truly useful apps into the phone, which really does give it an advantage to other Windows Phones on the market. The Nokia Music app is brilliant, with a great selection of free music streams that can be customized to your liking. Fair warning – don’t attempt on 3G.
Nokia Drive is one of the better navigation apps out there, and by far the best one out on Windows Phone 8. The mapset is up to date, and Nokia gives you the option to download any of the worldwide maps when on Wifi, something Apple Maps cannot do.
There are some other apps like Nokia Citylens, which makes for a great demo, but I am not convinced the average person will use it all too much.
That lovely big high resolution screen obviously needs more power to run on – and the 920 comes with 2,000 mAh battery. We think the battery is part of the reason the phone might be so heavy. Good news then that we found the battery life to be better than previous Windows Phone devices.
We easily got through a full day of chatting, texting, tweeting etc. with this phone.
Nokia is also eager to show off the new wireless charging feature, but Nokia does not go as far as bundling the wireless pad with the phone. The idea is simple – you use a wireless pad that is still plugged into the wall, and then simply put the phone down on top of it. You will hear the tell-tale charging sound to tell you all is OK.
While wireless charging is not a game changer, we are very excited to see what will come out in the future. Nokia relies on the Qi charging standard, meaning you will potentially see more phones and accessories using this in future. We are particularly looking forward to some car makers building Qi into their cars – how cool will it be to simply put your phone down into a dash cubby for a charge?
The Nokia Lumia 920 is one of our favourite phones of 2012.
Windows Phone 8 is a big upgrade, and is much more prepared for the future. We have a healthy respect for the innovations that Nokia has packed into this phone over and above the operating system.
The build quality is brilliant, but does not fall into the staid looking gray and black looks of its competitors. We like that Nokia offers a black model for the business crowd, but also some nice bright colours with different finishes. It feels incredibly solid, and does not come across as cheap unlike some other plastic phones on the market.
Nokia has really put all their efforts into this phone, and we really feel that they did a great job. We would happily recommend this phone to anyone who does not want to follow the crowd to Android and iPhone.
Pros: Excellent build quality. Best screen we have seen. Windows Phone 8 is a big improvement. Excellent performance.
Cons: Still some major apps that are not available for Windows Phone 8. Weight might bother some. Large screen means two handed operation is needed.
Cost: Standard on most higher end contracts with all major network providers.