Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nokia Lumia 920 review

Nokia's first Windows Phone device, the Lumia 800, was a beautiful thing. In fact, it is often heralded as a piece of design marvel, one engineered almost to perfection, at least when it comes to what you could get out of a piece of polycarbonate. Despite being a disappointing seller (and also a phone at times), the design was iconic, so much so that for its follow ups retains the same basic design with some tweaks. Nokia's Windows Phone 8 debut, the Lumia 920, follows this formula.

But first, for specification lovers:
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 SoC with dual core 1.5Ghz Krait and Adreno 225
  • 1GB RAM and 32GB built-in flash storage (no expansion slot)
  • 4.5" LCD IPS capacitive touchscreen with 768 x 1280 resolution (332 ppi)
  • Quad band GSM and 3G (LTE on select models)
  • 42 Mbps DC-HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
  • 8 Megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash and 1080p30 video recording
  • 1.3 Megapixel front camera with 720p30 video recording
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11b/g/n
  • Qi contactless charging, NFC
  • microUSB
  • 2000mAh battery
The Lumia 920's design doesn't differ much from the Lumia 800. The microUSB port has been moved to the bottom, which is an improvement. It is weighty, perhaps too much. At around 185g, the Lumia 920 sits right on the the heavy end of scale. I have nothing against heavy phones but the Lumia 920 is just a tad too heavy for me. The 2000mAh battery is respectable in size, but could have been larger. After all if Motorola can do it, why couldn't others? Still, the battery life is somewhat okay, capable of lasting a full day on moderate use. Power users will want to look into investing into a portable charger.
In any case, the Lumia 920 is a brilliant designed phone, just a tinge over designed compared to the Lumia 800. With a resolution of 768x1280, the curved 4.5" IPS display is one of the biggest yet seen on a Nokia device, and also one of the sharpest. As I personally abhor the 16:9 aspect ratio on smartphones, I am glad the display here has a bit more horizontal pixel than normal. The IPS display coupled with Nokia's own ClearBlack filter is close to the brilliant of the iPhone 4S, but comes just short of the magnificence shown on the HTC One X. Still, it's an amazing display and I am glad Nokia has finally ditched AMOLED. The display's touchscreen features a technology stupidly called PureMotion+ HD, which turns the sensitivity up so it can be used with a pair of gloves or any other materials.

With a thickness of 10.7mm, the Lumia 920 is thick by today's standard though the tapered edge gives it a slimmer feel. It isn't the most comfortable phone to hold and use due to its heftiness. Unlike the Lumia 800, no bundled case is included, so beware. I am not a fan of Nokia's decision to use glossy plastic, but at least it doesn't attract as much fingerprints as I imagined it would. Thankfully, the superficial branding plate on the back is a matte variety, so it doesn't scratch as easily as an old school iPod Mini.

The 3.5mm headphone jack resides on the top middle of the device alongside the micro SIM slot. Nokia has ditched the flap door design seen on the Lumia 800, and instead uses a similar mechanism pioneered by Apple for the iPhone 4/4S. This means having to access a small pin simply to switch the SIM card. It's a small price to pay for ditching the over engineered fragile flap door. The micro USB has been moved to the bottom of the device, sitting in between two loudspeaker grills.

While the left side of the device is devoid of anything, the right side is populated by a row of buttons - the volume rocket, power button and camera shutter. Each of these keys provides sufficient feedback, though I did find the power button to be a tad too close to the volume rocker, almost always accidentally pressing that whenever I want to change the volume. Incidentally the volume rocker not only allows one to change the volume, it also pops up the music control from anywhere within the OS. This is a key Windows Phone 8 feature brought over by Windows Phone 8. Down on the bottom of the display lies the typical Back, Home and Search hardware keys.
On the back you will find the 8.7 Megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss-branded optics and a dual LED flash. The flash is sufficiently bright, and as an added bonus can be used as a fill light when using the camera to film. The camera supports both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, as well as up to 1080p video recording. On paper the PureView branded camera should perform well. After all the performance of the camera has always been part of Nokia’s better strengths in relations to their competitors. Unfortunately this is not the case, as I outlined in my dedicated review of the Lumia 920 camera. The front's camera is made up of a 1.3MP module capable of 720p video.

Inside the Lumia 920 lies Qualcomm's incredible Snapdragon S4 SoC. This comes with a pair of 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex A9 crushing next generation Krait and Adreno 225 GPU 3D hardware accelerator. While relatively outdated by today’s quad core standard, the Snapdragon MSM8960 is still an incredible performer, especially when paired with a very efficient Windows Phone 8 operating system and 1GB RAM. The upgrade in processing muscle is evident - apps launch faster and you hardly ever have to deal with any form of lag. 32GB of fast none-expandable NAND storage is included, a modest increase over the 16GB standard that Nokia settled last year, but still lower than the 64GB many power users are demanding.
Like its predecessor, the Lumia 920 isn't a proper world phone (the MSM8960 SoC lacks a pentaband 3G chipset), but still offers an impressive array of wireless connectivity and features including quad band GSM, quad band 3G, support for the latest DC-HSPA+ up to 42.4 Mbps, Bluetooth 3.1, A-GPS with GLONASS support, accelerometer and NFC. A LTE version is also available. The Lumia 920 also supports wireless charging via Qi standard. I am unable to test this feature, but I have seen it in action before, and it works.

Powering the Lumia 920 is Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone platform has always torn me, in that sense that I love the design, feel and intuitiveness, but I am also frustrated by the continued ignorance of the platform by third party developers. When I was using the Lumia 800 as my daily driver, I always had to rely on a second Android device, where I can access apps that has not been ported to Windows Phone yet. The same applies with the Lumia 920.
Windows Phone 8 adds a ton of features both beneath and on UI level, including the ability to run native applications, a new more complex but versatile homescreen (which I did not like, but have grown to tolerate) and shared kernel with Windows 8. This means, in theory at least, Windows 8 RT apps can be easily ported to Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 a good improvement over Windows Phone 7.5 Mango and adds plenty of features that we've been asking for. The Internet Explorer browser is one of the best I've used on a mobile device yet, only betrayed by the lack of Flash plug-in (not that it matters).

On a whole, the stylish and usable Swiss style Metro UI design language has more or less been retained. Nokia has not done anything to ruin the pure Windows Phone 8 experience, which is something I wish all Android OEMs would learn from. If the core experience is good enough, leave it alone!
What Nokia has instead done is install a ton of Nokia exclusive applications. Some of these comes in the form of useless storage wasting third party apps like Red Bull, but others are a bit more useful. These includes Nokia Music, a Spotify-like service offering free music downloads and Nokia Drive, a free voice navigation application complete with 3D landmarks and offline maps. Other enhancements includes Creative Suite, a free basic image editing suite, and Smart Shoot, a rather brilliant, an image editing wizard that allows one to change faces or remove unwanted objects.

Like Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 is built around people. Contacts are pulled from Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and LinkedIn and can be linked. Every social updates are available from the People hub. You can post to their Facebook wall as easily as mentioning them on Twitter or sending them an email, all within the profile hub. You can also view any historical text exchanges or phone calls between you and any contacts.
The integration with social networks goes beyond status updates. The Pictures hub allows one to view their Facebook albums, in addition to those stored on the phone. As long as there is a good network connection the transition is seamless. In fact the loading of thumbnails and pictures are so quick, one could almost believe that the albums actually reside on the phone itself. You can also pin contacts to the sub-pictures people hub and even as a Live Tile. This gives users an easy access to all public pictures of the person in question. This is either creepy or unique depending on who you ask.

App numbers are growing daily, but the platform is still missing big sellers like Instagram. On the gaming side of things, while I am not a fan of playing traditional console games like GTA III on a smartphone, it is still a headline hitter and Microsoft's inability to at least convince Rockstar to port the title to Windows Phone 8 has me worried if they are committed enough. Windows 8 has certainly taken much of Microsoft's attention lately, but I wish they start remembering that they have a smartphone side project.
Then there's the issue of incompatible Windows Phone 7 apps such as Spotify and the best damn mobile game of last year, DoDonPachi Maximum, both of which are curiously missing from the Windows Phone 8 marketplace. Consumers who have adapted Windows 8 will find themselves at home with Windows Phone 8, where as those who are still used to Windows 7-era UI will probably prefer Android. Regardless, choice is great, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

With an estimated retail price of £500 in Britain, the Lumia 920 is a rather pricey phone. The design is unique and Windows Phone 8's elegant UI certainly has some groove, but it isn't for anyone. The lack of apps, average battery life and buggy camera (Nokia did promise to fix the camera with a firmware update last month) does count against it. It is a decent phone in its own right, but with next month's MWC ahead of us about to unveil a bunch of 1080p quad core smartphones, the Lumia 920 might already be living on borrowed time.

+ Great design
+ Great performance
+ Gorgeous display
+ Windows Phone 8
- Average battery
- Buggy still camera
- Heavy


jacobsson said...
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Anonymous said...

Great review. Would you also review the 8X and Ativ?

Binarii said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ponsel said...
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Md Rafiqul Islam said...

Nokia Lumia 920
The two great company Nokia and Microsoft joined to geather and announced two new smartphones, one is Nokia Lumia 920 and the other is Nokia Lumia 820. Here we publish pictures of the new Nokia Windows Phone 8 handsets. Nokia i...More