Nokia Lumia 920 Review: In Depth

Windows Phone 8 is finally here and without any disrespect to the strong showings from HTC with the excellent HTC 8X and Samsung with the Samsung ATIV S, the phone we’ve been most excited about is the Nokia Lumia 920.

Make no mistake, a lot rests on the success of this phone – for Nokia and Microsoft. According to data from from the Kantar World Panel in the 12 weeks up to the end of September, Windows Phone’s market share in the UK stands at just 4%.  Will the Nokia Lumia 920 help to change that? With a carefully crafted exterior in bright colours, 4.5-inch screen, 4G and PureView camera, first impressions are reassuring.  Let’s take a closer look 

Nokia Lumia 920: Design

With its gently curved back and soft, rounded edges all fashioned from a single piece of polycarbonate, the Lumia 920 is a stunning phone – touches like the matt back and thin bezel ensure it looks elegant rather than ostentatious. Although opt for the gorgeous yellow version and heads will turn.

The phone feels comfortable to hold whether making a call or browsing the web, although if you are are upgrading from the Nokia Lumia 800 it will feel oversized. Due to the materials used and the inclusion of an optical image stabiliser, at 185g it is significantly heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S3 (133g), Apple iPhone 5 (112g) and even the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (180g).  We still managed to use it with one hand – although those with smaller hands really need to try the phone before buying.

On the top there’s a port for the microSIM, accessed using a metal tool (much like the iPhone), which  is infinitely superior and safer than the hinged door used on the Lumia 800. There’s also a 3.5mm jack and noise-cancelling microphone.

The side placed volume rocker, power and camera launcher/shutter are made from scratchproof ceramic and running along the bottom ridge there’s a USB port for charging and micro drilled speakers –  evidence of the attention to detail Nokia has clearly poured into the phone.

Standard Microsoft back, home and Bing controls sit under the screen – although it’s very easy to accidentally tap the latter and launch Bing search.

Nokia Lumia 920: Screen

So onto the screen, which Nokia describes as a ‘PureMotion HD+’ display. At 4.5-inches it’s a fantastic size for watching movies and browsing the internet, the 1280×720 HD resolution and pixel density of 332 ppi (higher than the iPhone 5’s Retina display) ensuring detail is sharp and crisp.  Colours are bold and bright yet natural, blacks are excellent too – although perhaps lacking the depth of AMOLED display. IPS technology ensures off-angle viewing is excellent.

Nokia’s crammed the screen with useful tech,  you can read it comfortably in sunlight and even operate it using gloves – termed ‘super sensitive touch.’ It’s also made of tough Corning Gorilla Glass.

Nokia Lumia 920: User interface

The Nokia Lumia 920 runs Windows Phone 8. At first glance it’s virtually identical to the older version – tiles snake down the homescreen in a vertical line, some (such as People and Mail) updating automatically. The interface is fully customisable, so you can pin features, apps, shortcuts and contacts wherever you like.

WP8 brings some notable features to the party. Tiles can be resized, either small, medium and large, enabling you to fit more features on the homescreen, so you can reduce the size of your favourite contacts fitting four in the space of a standard sized tile.

Selected apps like Facebook are Live Apps which update automatically when pinned to the start screen, so you can instantly see your status updates and third-party developers will now be able to create live apps, so the quantity available should increase.

The lockscreen can be customised with Facebook, calendar or messages and Wallet will enable you to make mobile payments using the Lumia 920’s NFC chip. 

One of the most interesting features of WP8 is Kids Corner. Children are more smartphone savvy than ever, but handing over your phone means they can access features and tools they shouldn’t. Kids Corner lets you create a kid-friendly homescreen accessible by swiping right, purely populated by Games, Music, Videos and Apps of your choice, without accessing the rest of the phone. So you can give you child your Nokia Lumia 920 safe in the knowledge they’ll only be able to access the content of your choosing.

Microsoft features aside, the Lumia 920 is stuffed with Nokia specific apps – some pre-installed and some downloadable. Alongside Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive + is in beta, as well as offering turn-by-turn directions and downloadable maps, routing options are improved. Nokia City Lens is an augmented reality app that lets you find restaurants, transport, hotels and sights nearby, displaying their proximity along with directions (via Nokia Maps) and contact details.

Nokia Lumia 920: Camera and multimedia

The Nokia 808 PureView set new heights for smartphone cameras, it might not offer the 41-megapixel sensor, but the Lumia 920’s 8.7-megapixel camera shares some PureView technology.

Along with a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens with a bright f/2.0 aperture, the Nokia Lumia 920 has an optical image stabiliser created using ‘floating lens technology’ which it claims lets in five times more light than rivals without using the flash. The two photos below were taken using the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 5, the Lumia 920 photos are sharper and although noise is evident there when you magnify the shot, but it’s much less noticeable. (Click to expand them, but because of CMS constraints we are unable to upload them at full size.)

Take photos either using the hardware shutter or by tapping the screen. Focus the same way, either by pressing halfway to activate the central focus point or manually tapping anywhere on the screen, whichever focus method you choose, it responds quickly.

The camera includes a fairly average selection of adjustable features, including: ISO, EV, White Balance and six pre-optimised scene modes and it’s worth exploring and experimenting with these modes. In conditions where the light can vary (indoor or outdoor) we found results more accurate if you use a preset, rather than auto white balance. Otherwise photographs are good, it copes well with a variety of different lighting conditions, although fine detail can be a little soft.

Serious photographers might be disappointed that (unlike the 808 PureView) there’s no exposure bracketing, time lapse or manual white balance. Nokia has however also included some photo centric apps – or ‘lenses’ that work independently to the camera, but add functionality. 

Smart Shoot is particularly useful when taking group shots. Capturing a series of photos in quick succession, which can be combined in camera, so if someone blinks the Change Face feature lets you replace the face from that particular frame. Cinemagraph turns still photos into animated movies and while it’s a fun feature to have and it’s a gimmick.  Panorama does what it says, but it isn’t as user friendly as the iPhone 5 – you have to line up individual shots rather than just sweep in one direction.

The Lumia 920 captures excellent full HD 1080p movies which are sharp, well exposed and smooth.  The optical image stabiliser comes into its own here too – helping reduce camera shake.

Video playback is excellent and it supports a range of codecs, and you can even use the Smart Glass app to control your Xbox remotely. Xbox Music replaces Zune music as the new music app. Like iTunes, it works across multiple devices – so you can share playlists between the Lumia 920, Windows 8 laptop or tablet. Nokia Music is on-board too,  giving you two music options.

Nokia Lumia 920: Connectivity and Storage

The Nokia Lumia 920 has an impressive 32GB internal memory, unfortunately unlike the Nokia Lumia 820 – there’s no removable storage option, you however get 7GB free Cloud Storage with Sky Drive. This might not seen like very much, but you can upload your photographs automatically to Sky Drive and then download them to your computer freeing up space.

Connectivity includes Bluetooth and an NFC chip for making contactless payments. The Lumia 920 also supports 4G, but unlike the Apple iPhone 5, it’s compatible with multiple 4G bands (800/900/1800/2600), so it will work on future 4G networks from O2 and Vodafone when they are confirmed, as well as on EE. We haven’t been able to test the 4G capability of the Lumia 920, but will update this piece when we have.

Nokia Lumia 920: Performance

The Nokia Lumia 920 includes a 1.5GHz Dual-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB RAM, it feels quick we didn’t notice any sluggishness swapping between apps and games.

The 2000mAh battery is the largest Nokia has ever used on a smartphone, but in reality we found its performance to be fairly typical of a modern smartphone. With moderate browsing, email, photographs and listening to music, you’ll need to charge it at the end of the day.

We need to mention the Lumia 920’s wireless charging capability, which is a cool feature. Nokia has released a selection of wireless charging accessories, including a Wireless Charging Plate (£54.99), Charging Stand (£69.99), Fatboy Wireless Charging Pillow (£79.99) and JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker. 

Nokia Lumia 920: Verdict

Currently the Nokia Lumia 920 is available to pre-order exclusively on EE priced £19.99 for the phone, £46 a month for unlimited minutes and texts and 3GB of data. Phones4U is also selling it on EE. If you’re planning on using 4G opt for at least 3GB of data a month. At £500 SIM free it’s expensive – comparable to the iPhone 5, but £100 more than the HTC 8X.

The Nokia Lumia 920 excels in many areas. Not only is it well built, with some lovely design flourishes, bright colour choices, a fantastically responsive screen and that PureView camera.  Windows Phone 8 brings some notable improvements – such as being able to sync your content across Windows 8 tablets and PCs, but lacks the flexibility of Android and app support can’t match the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.  The Lumia 920 is not perfect. It’s heavy, a fact that doesn’t really bother us, but will undoubtedly put some people off, who might prefer the HTC 8X.

Is the Nokia Lumia 920 our phone of the year? Probably not, but it’s still a great phone and Nokia fans won’t be disappointed.

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