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Nokia Lumia 920 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £450.00
  • 4.5in HD IPS LCD screen
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 8.7MP camera with 1080p video and optical stabilisation

What is the Nokia Lumia 920?

The Nokia Lumia 920 is technically one of the most exciting phones available but it has been supersceded by the Nokia Lumia 1020. Not only does it have features like an optically stabilised camera for blur-free night time shots and inbuilt wireless charging to do away with pesky cables but it also has the growing in capability Microsoft Windows Phone 8 operating system that’s been imbued with a host of Nokia extras. However a smartphone isn’t about any single feature but the device as a whole, so how does the Lumia 920 fare?

Nokia Lumia 920 – Design

Nokia has always had a pretty good eye for design and that was no more in evidence than on the company’s last flagship phone the Nokia Lumia 800, which we thought the best looking phone of its time. Here then the company has simply taken that same design and made it a bit bigger.

The whole phone is hewn from one piece of polycarbonate plastic into which is set the slightly curved screen. To keep the whole thing looking as seamless as possible all the ports and slots are kept in the flat ends, with just the buttons ranged up the right edge. The unbroken effect it creates gives the phone a wonderfully premium feel, particularly thanks to the quality of plastic used – the colour is in the plastic so doesn’t scratch off like paint does.

However, what’s less impressive is Nokia’s choice of finishes. On the Lumia 800, all the colour options were available in a matt finish which looked and felt great. Here, though, all but the black model use a glossy finish. Not only will this look worse when it inevitably begins to pick up scratches but it’s also more slippery, sliding off laps and the arms of sofas almost as readily as the glass backed iPhone 4S. Plus, it doesn’t half show up fingerprints. Thankfully Nokia is still offering the Lumia 920 in a matt black version which looks superb and isn’t as slippery.

Then there’s the weight of the thing. Somehow Nokia has managed to make what is far from the largest phone on the market one of the heaviest. Coming in at 185g, this 4.5in phone is heavier than the enormous 5.5in Samsung Galaxy Note 2. We’ve asked Nokia just why it is the phone weighs so much but the company hasn’t yet come back with anything specific, saying it’s a combination of factors. It seems likely that it’s the optically stabilised camera that is the main culprit, though.

With dimensions of 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm, it’s not exactly the slimmest handset either.

All that said, we don’t find the size or weight too much of a problem and actually like the overall feel of the device. The curved sides and back mean the phone fits snugly in the hand and it’s far from so heavy that it’s uncomfortable.

The arrangement of buttons is also excellent. As the phone uses Windows Phone 8 the function of the buttons is identical to all other Windows Phone 8 handsets but here they’re well positioned and easy to operate. Down the right edge are the volume, power and camera buttons while under the screen are touch sensitive buttons for Back, Start and Search.

The touch sensitive buttons are nice and responsive but it’s the side mounted ones that really make it. They’re well defined so are easy to tell apart by feel alone, they’re easy to press and the low positioning of the power button makes it easy to unlock the phone without having to use two hands or shuffle your grip around.

Taking a quick tour of the rest of the phone, up top is the microSIM tray – which pops out at the push of a pinhole button – and the headphone jack along with the second microphone for noise cancelling when making a call. Meanwhile on the bottom is the primary microphone, the speaker and the microUSB socket for conventional charging and connecting to a computer. Plus, of course there’s the main camera on the back and a front facing one above the screen. All pretty standard stuff.

However, what is missing is a microSD slot, meaning there’s no way to upgrade the phone’s storage. Thankfully you can get this handset with up to 32GB of built in storage, which should be enough for most people.

Also, without a readily removable backplate, you can’t easily swap out the battery. Again, it’s probably not an issue for most people day to day but both the latter points are key reasons why the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains such a popular handset – many would rather have the option than not.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Wireless charging

One of the coolest features of the Nokia Lumia 920 is its wireless charging. If you pony up an extra £50 or so for the Wireless Charging Plate or around £60 for the Wireless Charging Pillow by Fatboy (or a whole host of other accessories are available) you can charge the phone by simply placing it on these accessories. You have to put the phone the right way up but aside from that it doesn’t have to be correctly aligned or anything – just plonk it on.

Charging takes a little longer than it would using a normal cable but it should still charge overnight without issue, plus it’s just so darn convenient not to have to scrabble around for a cable or fumble with getting the plug the right way round. We really can’t overstate how nice a feature it is.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Screen

A good screen is a hugely important feature for a modern smartphone so it’s good to see Nokia hasn’t slipped up one bit. At 4.5in from corner to corner, it is a little on the large side but that does seem to be the popular way these days. We at TR – a group of fairly average-sized individuals – found it large enough that it’s too much of a stretch to reach the full expanse of the screen without shuffling around your grip or bringing in a second hand, but your mileage will vary and those used to large phones won’t find issue here.

Plus, the quality of the screen is superb. With a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, it has among the highest pixel densities of any phone currently on the market. The result is that everything looks really sharp and smooth. The LCD panel also produces strong colours yet doesn’t look at all washed out when showing black, creating a really engaging, punchy image. All that and viewing angles are excellent too. In fact, we’d go so far as to say this screen is right up there with the iPhone 5 and HTC 8X for best smartphone screen at the moment.

Nokia is also keen to point out how tough the screen is, with company representatives bashing it on the corners of tables and hitting it with rubber mallets at demonstrations. However, it hasn’t made any specific claims as to why it’s any tougher than any other phone that also uses toughened Gorilla Glass, which is most of them. Drop tests we’ve seen also suggest the polycarbonate chassis is pretty resilient too, so if you’re the clumsy type it may be a good option.

Finally there’s the fact that the screen is super sensitive. It’ll work when wearing even thick gloves – perfect for these winter months – and you can even use a pen or a fingernail to interact with the screen.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Interface

The Nokia Lumia 920 runs the new Microsoft Windows Phone 8 operating system (OS) which unlike Google’s Android OS cannot be tinkered with by phone manufacturers. As such the experience you get here is essentially exactly the same as that on any other Windows Phone 8 handset. So, if you want the full low down on all the software features we’d suggest you head over to our full Windows Phone 8 review.

The brief version, though, is that Windows Phone 8 offers a slick, very stylised interface that’s centred around a couple of key ideas. The first is the Live Tile. These feature on the homescreen and are a cross between an icon and a widget. Like an icon they simply provide a link to whatever app they represent but then like a widget they also show live information from the app on the icon itself. For instance the People (contacts) Live Tile shows constantly changing pictures pulled from your contacts’ linkedin or Facebook pages or the Calendar Live Tile will show today’s agenda.

Live Tiles can be made one of three sizes: a small square icon which shows very limited live information, a large square or a full screen-width spanning rectangle which can show lots of information. They can be arranged in whatever order you like and it’s a simple task to ‘pin’ or ‘unpin’ apps from the main app list onto the homescreen.

The Live Tiles concept is quite neat though we find that, as with widgets on Android, we seldom use the larger versions and instead steer towards simple filling the screen with as many small icons as possible. Also, the fact that the homescreen is simply one long list, rather than pages of apps, can feel a little limiting as it’s not quite as quick to scroll to the bottom of the list as it is to flick through a couple of pages.

The other key overall feature are the hubs. These are essentially apps but given their highly integrated nature they can do much more than one task. So, for instance, the People hub integrates information from your social networks, providing a feed of new status and picture updates. It also has Rooms and Groups, which offer places for groups of Windows Phone users to ‘hangout’ and chat, share photos and schedule events as a group.

Other hubs include the Offices hub which not only has links to the three mobile office apps – Word, Excel and Powerpoint – but also integrates access to Microsoft’s cloud storage service, SkyDrive. This comes free with any Microsoft account and provides up to 7GB of storage space that can be seamlessly synced between phone, laptop and tablet as well as accessed from any PC via a web browser.

The overall experience takes a bit of getting used to if you’re used to iOS or Android but for the most part it offers as many unique positives as negatives, so is still a great option.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Windows Phone 8 Apps

Where the Windows Phone 8 interface is currently let down is its availability of apps. While the headline grabbing numbers touted by Apple are somewhat meaningless – after all, it’s not about how many overall but how many that you want or need – it is nonetheless the case that most ‘must have’ apps tend to debut on Apple devices, with Android next in line and Windows Phone 8 bringing up the rear.

Looking for a selection of some of our favourites this is how we fared:

Could find:

Dropbox (unofficial)
Angry birds star wars
National rail (unofficial)
Youtube
Vevo
The Times

Couldn’t find:
Spotify
Producteev
Photosynth
Cover orange
Profanisaurus
Comixology
iTV player
iPlayer

The general rule of thumb is that it’s not so much the biggest companies that don’t support all platforms as the smaller ones that can’t afford to develop for multiple versions. That said, even some seriously big corporations aren’t yet onboard with the iTV Player and BBC iPlayer notable absentees.

Nonetheless, we fully expect this situation to improve over the coming months so as long as all your essentials are covered for now, you should be set for all your more esoteric favourites in the future.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Nokia Maps, Drive and Music

If you can’t find some of your favourite apps supported on Windows Phone 8 you may still be persuaded by Nokia’s excellent and exclusive offerings included with the Lumia 920.

Nokia Maps

The first and most prominent, given Apple’s calamitous Apple Maps launch, is Nokia Maps. This fully fledged mapping app provides map and satellite views as well as public transport and traffic views information. The map view isn’t quite as slick as Apple Maps but the coverage and labelling is far superior putting it on par with GoogleMaps. Likewise the satellite view is detailed and accurate. However, you do miss out on the rather clever 3D satellite view of Apple Maps and Street View in GoogleMaps, plus there isn’t a way to orient the maps to the direction you’re facing using the phone’s inbuilt compass – a bizarre and simple omission.

Nokia Lumie 920 1Nokia Lumie 920 2

Perhaps the biggest boon of Nokia Maps, though, is that you can download the maps for use when you’re away from a data connection, i.e. when abroad. The maps are inevitably quite large – the UK map is 278MB – and coverage detail varies but you could easily load up your phone with enough maps for a fairly long trip before running out. Worldwide coverage is also excellent with the vast majority of regular destinations covered.

Nokia MapsNokia Drive
Nokia Maps also offers a public transport view including the London Underground, while Nokia Drive provides an easy driving navigation service.

Nokia Drive

Another great Nokia feature is Nokia Drive which uses the same maps as Nokia Maps but presents them in a drive-friendly manner, providing big, easy-to-press buttons, quick access to destination input and readouts of estimated speed and distance to destination.

Nokia City Lens

Nokia City Lens

Finishing the trio of navigation apps, Nokia also has City Lens. This is an intriguing addition that we suspect will seldom actually get used but is clever nonetheless. As you pan round looking through the phone’s camera it shows nearby points of interest on the screen. This augmented reality trick is quite clever but is much less useful than finding the place on a map. That said, for when you’re getting close to your destination it does serve as something of an alternative to Google Street View for pinpointing your destination.

Nokia Music

Nokia Lumie 920 3Nokia Lumie 920 4

Nokia’s final big software feature is Nokia Music. Not only does this offer a music download service like every other phone but there’s also the unique Mix Radio feature. This offers free 1 hour themed mixes that can be downloaded to your phone for playing whenever and wherever you like. You can keep them as long as you like and download up to three at a time, with a pretty varied selection on offer. As a one stop shop for quickly filling your phone with new music, it’s a nice extra.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Camera

So we come to the piece de resistance of the Nokia Lumia 920, its PureView branded optically stabilised camera. Packing in 8.7megapixels, it’s slightly higher resolution than most but doesn’t quite take the crown thanks to the 12mp boasting Sony Xperia S and 13mp Sony Xperia T.

Nokia Lumie 920 camera app

No, the big draw here is the stabilisation. This has the whole camera assembly mounted on a movable platform which works to counteract the shake of your hand and the wobble of your body, allowing the camera to use slower shutter speeds for better low light image quality without resulting in blurry photos. At least that’s the theory.

iPhone 5 camera night time test
Left: Nokia Lumia 920. Right: iPhone 5

In practice the Nokia Lumia 920 does deliver impressively noise-free images, with far more natural looking lighting and colours. However, there is a fairly major downside: the Lumia 920 only counteracts movement of the camera, not of what you’re shooting. The result is that if you’re shooting your mates larking about in a dingy pub, while the background and table may be nice and blur-free, your mates will very much not be. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could control how the camera shoots with options to turn off the stabilisation or set the shutter speed but no setting we tried seemed to actually force the camera to prioritise speed over ‘quality’. As such, nearly every low light shot we took had a degree of blurriness to it.


Left: Nokia Lumia 920. Right: iPhone 5

All that said, the dual-LED flash does a better job than most so closeup shots will at least be bright and blur-free. Plus, the Lumia 920 really does wipe the floor with the competition when it comes to low-light still life and landscape shots (or portraits where everyone’s sitting still).


Exposure and dynamic range is excellent but detail and sharpness are only mediocre.

There is another problem too. In well-lit scenarios the Nokia Lumia 920 simply doesn’t produce all that impressive a shot, that is there’s a softness to its images, almost like they’re slightly out of focus. They don’t look awful by any stretch but they lack the crispness of many rivals. A bit of sharpening in Photoshop slightly alleviates the issue but by no means completely fixes it. Nokia is set to roll out a fix for this but it hasn’t arrived yet so it’s impossible to say how much things will improve.


Left: Nokia Lumia 920. Right: iPhone 5

Our final complaint is that we found it next to impossible to focus the camera on the flower in our usual macro shot test. The phone can focus very close up but it didn’t seem quite as able to cope with a moving object.


The left image showed the results attempting to focus up close on the left flower. The right image shows as close as we could get and keep the flowers in shot.

To be clear, though, the Lumia 920’s camera isn’t awful but it doesn’t live up to its billing, yet.

Nokia Lumia 920 – Video

Where the camera does rather better is with recording video. Here, where absolute sharpness is less of an issue, the stabilisation works well to smooth out any wobble. Inevitably it can’t completely eliminate larger movements that result from you walking along while recording but it noticeably takes away the finer shake to make for a much more watchable video.

Nokia Lumia 920

VI Video was already generated for this page.

iPhone 5

The footage is a little oversharpened and colours over egged but not enough to really diminish the overall effect.

Audio quality is exceptional, though, picking up both a wide range of frequencies and coping with high volume. Just check out the quality of audio in the below clips.

VI Video was already generated for this page.

Nokia Lumia 920

VI Video was already generated for this page.

iPhone 5

Nokia Lumia 920 – Battery Life

We weren’t exactly wowed by the Nokia Lumia 920’s battery life, making it more regrettable that you can’t access the battery to swap it out, but it should still suffice for most users. As with most smartphones around today, it’ll last about a day on one charge so a nightly recharge will be a must.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 920 almost a barnstormer but is ultimately let down by a few too many niggling issues. Its optically stabilised camera does trounce the competition for night time shots but is let down by mediocre performance in good lighting. The phone’s design is also very nice but then it’s a very heavy handset and all but the black model have slippery, fingerprint-attracting shiny finishes. And, extras like wireless charging and NFC are great but then there’s no memory card slot and you can’t swap out the battery. Meanwhile Windows Phone 8 is mostly very nice but lacks apps.

Some of these issues such as the camera performance and apps should be fixable but others like the weight won’t be. It’s certainly a solid effort from Nokia and one that will keep most users very happy but priced as it currently is and with competition like the Galaxy S3 around, it comes up just a little short.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Camera 8
  • Design 8
  • Usability 8
  • Value 8
  • Features 9
  • Screen Quality 9

General

Operating System Windows Phone
Height (Millimeter) 130.3mm
Width (Millimeter) 10.7mm
Depth (Millimeter) 10.7mm
Weight (Gram) 185g
Available Colours Black, Grey, White, Red, Yellow

Display

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 4.5in
Screen Resolution 800 x 1280
Touchscreen Yes, with super sensitive glove mode

Battery

Talk Time (Minute) 1020m
Standby Time (Hour) 400hr

Storage

Internal Storage (Gigabyte) 32GB
Expandable memory No
Camera (Megapixel) 8.7 Megapixel
Front Facing Camera (Megapixel) 1.2 Megapixel
Camera Flash dual LED

Connectivity

Bluetooth Yes
WiFi Yes
3G/4G Yes
3.5mm Headphone Jack Yes
Charging/Computer Connection microUSB

Processor and Internal Specs

CPU 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4

Misc

App Store Yes
GPS Yes

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