When it comes to this phone's performance, the first thing to note is its single core processor. While Windows Phone is generally a quite nippy operating system that does a good job of hiding any performance deficiencies in a phone's hardware, there's no getting round the fact that this phone is slower than all the dual-core handsets out there, despite its single core running at a sprightly 1.4GHz.
For basic tasks you don't really notice much but start to flip between apps at a pace and you'll notice the several-second pauses as one closes and the other loads. In isolation you certainly wouldn't call the phone slow but in comparison to its peers, it is a step behind. Thankfully gaming performance is good enough to hold a candle to the competition.
Turning to the task of making calls, the Lumia 800 is a little disappointing. We're used to impressive sound quality from Nokia phones and only found the Lumia 800 to be average. That said there's still plenty of volume on tap and the tone is pleasing, and we had no issues with reception. The speaker is likewise reasonably loud but not the most fulsome and powerful we've heard.
We were a bit disappointed by the Lumia 800's camera too. With Nokia having pushed the boat out with its N8 handset (it features a 12 megapixel sensor and a Xenon flash), we expected this new flagship handset to at least equal its predecessor. However, Nokia has reined things in and equipped the 800 with only an 8megapixel sensor and twin LED flashes. The result is a camera that is about equal to that of all the other 8 megapixel models used on phones such as the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2. In fact, it's possibly a step below as it really struggled to properly expose the comparatively dark streets and shaded rooftops in our outdoors test shot. The camera app itself is very good, though, with plenty of options on offer, and the ability to touch the screen to focus make shots like our off-centre closeup of a flower a cinch. The proper camera button also makes taking photos really easy and the twin LED flash is decent.
HD Ready 720p video as opposed to Full HD 1080p is all you can shoot with the camcorder too. However, this is more of a spec list difference than a truly practical one as the benefits of 1080p over 720p are limited when the overall quality of phone camcorders is so mediocre. Moreover, in every other regard footage looks great with good colouring and exposure, and smooth motion.
Another aspect of Windows Phone in general and this phone in particular that annoys is that you can't just drag and drop files onto it. Instead you must install the Zune software to sync all your media for you. It is a decent piece of software that will convert many videos to the right format as it syncs them but as with iPhone, it's annoying that you can't just quickly pop/grab a file or two onto/off the phone.
One final area where you might have hoped for Nokia to push the boat out is with battery life but again we're only looking at average life here. If you're careful you'll get two solid days between charges but generally you'll want to top it up every night.
All of which adds up to the Nokia Lumia 800 being a fairly mid to high-end smartphone, and accordingly you can pick it up for a little under the going rate for the fanciest phones. Up front you can get it for around £400 and on contract you can pay as little as £20 a month with no up front cost, though this will be for a 24 month contract.
The Nokia Lumia 800 is in many ways an impressive phone, and most people are sure not to be disappointed in picking one up. It's beautifully made, has great ergonomics, is reasonably nippy in operation, has a slick, capable operating system, and Nokia has brought some interesting extras to the Windows Phone party. However, there's no denying it is technically behind the curve. The screen is bright but not very sharp, the camera is middling, its single core processor is slow compared to the dual-core competition and Windows Phone has enough limitations that it doesn't overall stand above any other operating system. We thought this phone could be the light of our lives but sadly the flame has flickered out.