Nokia Lumia 920 review
The design of the Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone is so similar to its predecessor, the Nokia Lumia 900, that you'd be forgiven for confusing the two. It still has the rounded shapely curves, but there are a few subtle differences. While 900 was once the biggest Windows Phonewe'd seen, it's now been trumped. See Windows 8 review.
Nokia has increased the screen size to a nominal 4.5in, and it now measures 71 x 130mm - about the same size as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X. Nokia advertises a thickness of 10.7mm but we measured the Lumia 920 at 12mm at its thickest point. More of an issue for us is a relatively brick-like weight of 185g. Some people like the reassurance of a weighty device but this is pushing it. See also: Lumia 820 review.
At this size, the 920 does feel quite unwieldy, but we did, eventually, get used to the sheer size of it. Pick up almost any other smartphone, and you're reminded of just how cumbersome it is. Those set on a more manageable Windows phone may want to look at the Lumia 820, or the HTC 8X and HTC Windows Phone 8S, for smaller alternatives.
Our review model came in white, and in this reviewer's opinion is the nicest white phone ever. The white chassis frames the screen perfectly while the black buttons and dark silver camera surround finish things off nicely. The Lumia 920 is also available in black, red or yellow.
We were slightly disappointed that Nokia has swapped the nice matt finish of the Lumia 900 and Nokia Lumia 800for a glossy coating. While this doesn't look worse, just different, it does make the handset much more slippery – worryingly so if you're wearing woolly gloves. See also: Group test: what's the best Windows phone?
Nokia Lumia 920: Build quality
The Lumia 920 feels every bit a high-quality and well-made piece of kit when you pick it up. The handset feels strong, albeit still a little plastic to the touch, with its one-piece polycarbonate body which sits neatly flush to the Corning Gorilla Glass front.
The uni-body design means there's no removable rear cover - and therefore no access to the battery. The only moving part is the top loading micro-SIM card tray which feels distinctly cheap and plastic. The three side-mounted buttons feel nice thanks to a smooth action.
Nokia Lumia 920: Hardware
Processor and memory
For a high-end smartphone we expect a decent array of hardware and the Lumia 920 delivers it. Inside the shiny exterior is a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of memory. This may seem under par compared to some recent Android smartphones boasting quad-core processors and 2GB of RAM, but it's sufficient to run Microsoft's mobile OS well.
Windows Phone 8 does not have much support from software developers, a theme recognised in our test centre. Unfortunately the benchmarking apps we typically use to test Android and iOS devices aren't available for Windows Phone 8.
From a user perspective Windows Phone 8 feels just as slick as it was in 7.5 Mango form. Navigation around the system happens effortlessly without lag although menus and lists tend to judder somewhat if you scroll slowly. A select few apps, however, such as Nokia Maps and Cinemagraph take a few seconds to load.
Although Windows Phone 8 now supports removable microSD cards, Nokia has decided not to bother with this feature. Luckily the only 920 offered has 32GB of built-in storage to for apps, music, video and other content.
If this doesn't sound like enough there's also cloud storage, accessed via the pre-loaded SkyDrive app. This gives you 7GB of online space for free, with more space available to rent. A useful feature with SkyDrive on the Lumia 920 is the automatic upload of content - photos and also a backup of settings, apps, Internet Explorer favourites and text messages; all rather like Apple's free iCloud service.
Considering the large physical size of the Lumia 920, it's slightly odd that it only has a 4.5in screen. Despite this being smaller than the Android competition, we were extremely impressed with the PureView HD+ display – it's one of the top features of this smartphone.
Nokia has gone for the maximum resolution supported by Windows Phone 8, which is 768 x 1280 pixels. This gives the Lumia 920 an impressive pixel density of 332ppi (even higher than the iPhone's 326ppi) so everything looks pin sharp.
The screen boasts excellent contrast and eye-popping colours. The touchscreen is very responsive, so much so that you can sometimes use it with non-smartphone gloves. The only issue with this is a potential disastrous combination: woolly gloves and the slippery gloss finish of the body.
The Lumia 920 includes a range of connectivity options. Physical ports consist of just a headphone jack and microUSB port, but there's much more on the wireless side of things. There is, as you would expect, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n with channel bonding) and Bluetooth (3.0).
The 920 has an NFC (near-field communications) chip, DLNA (digital living network alliance) certification, but most exciting is Qi wireless charging. The Lumia 920 is said to support LTE 4G services in the UK too, although we weren't able to see how well.
Nokia Lumia 920: Software
The Lumia 920 runs Microsoft's new mobile operating system – Windows Phone 8. If you're using Windows 8 you'll recognise the brightly coloured tiled interface. The two operating systems now share the same structure but Windows Phone 8 doesn't have all of Windows 8's features. For example there's no charms bar and you can't use a gesture to switch between apps.
Windows Phone 8 interface
The most prominent feature of the software is the new Start Screen made up of 'live tiles'. You can fit more on the screen compared to version 7.5 Mango because most tiles can be one of three sizes. The bigger you make a tile, the more information it can display. The Start Screen is highly customisable by rearranging and resizing tiles however you want them.
Further customisation comes in the form of colour themes. These set the colour of the tiles on the Start Screen. There are, however, only 20 themes and certain tiles, like Games and Office, remain a fixed colour. The Start Screen can look brilliant but you can also end up with quite an ugly mix of colours.
A swipe away from the Start Screen is the vertical list of installed applications. Beyond this you're stuck with the way Microsoft has laid the OS out. There are beautiful animations which escort you round the OS but it's not an especially intuitive mobile operating systems to navigate.
It can be easy to get lost in the system - the back button and recent apps don't always take you where you expect. It's worth trying out before you commit to see if you can get on with it.
Xbox SmartGlass is a cool app for those with an Xbox. It provides a 'second screen' experience where you can control the console from the handset and interact with certain games during play. Since Window Phone 8 is Microsoft's mobile OS it's no surprise that there's integration with Office too. Rather than a lengthy rundown of Windows Phone 8 we'll focus on the new features and those exclusive to the Lumia 920. (see also: Windows Phone 8 review.)
Within the People Hub (your contacts) there's a new feature called Rooms. This provides you with an area to share private content including messages, calendars and photos with whomever you chose. This could come in handy in various situations but only makes sense if your friends have a Windows Phone 8 device.
You can still invite non-Windows Phone users but the process is much more complicated and requires the user to open a Microsoft account and log into Windows Live to see certain content.
Those with children will find the Kid's Corner feature a boon. This essentially puts the device into a separate and customisable mode specifically for kids. You choose what your child can do on the phone without having to worry about them wiping it or accessing inappropriate content.
Exclusive Nokia apps
To set the Lumia 920 apart from the competition, such as the HTC 8X, Nokia has a range of exclusive apps and features. Aside from photography ones, which we'll come to in the next section, there's things like Nokia Music. This is a free non-subscription music streaming service with no adverts which we're told offers 20+ million tracks and offline caching.
Nokia City Lens provides local attraction information in a fun, somewhat gimmicky, augmented reality view via the camera app. Open the app, pan around the spot where you're standing and it will tell you what shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions you're looking at.
Nokia Drive provides turn-by-turn navigation and while Nokia Maps is present and now supports offline mapping, this feature will come pre-loaded on every Windows Phone 8 device.
While there are plenty of pre-loaded apps, the selection on offer in the Windows Store is sub-par to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. At the time of writing key big name apps missing from the Store include Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Instagram and games like Bad Piggies and Temple Run.
A lack of apps like the iPlayer might not be so bad if Widows Phone 8 had Adobe Flash support - but it doesn't. Consequently, you can't simply open Internet Explorer 10 and view Flash-based content like video.
Microsoft is confident things will get better, stating that soon there will be 46 out of the top 50 apps available in the Store. The problem is there's no guarantee and future 'top apps' will most likely be launched on iOS and Android first so you'll need to be patient.
Nokia Lumia 920: Cameras
We weren't entirely convinced by the camera on the Lumia 900 but Nokia is touting the 920's as the best thing since sliced bread. There's a dedicated camera button which is a good start, meaning you can launch the camera app quickly and easily when you need it and avoids having to hit an onscreen shutter button.
On the most part we found still photos from the 8.7Mp PureView rear facing camera with its Carl Zeiss lens very good. Colour balance, saturation and exposure were all of a good standard but some photos weren't quite as sharp as we'd hoped. We also found a lot of noise reduction leading to a loss of detail.
The most outstanding feature of the 920's camera is its optical image stabilisation. It's the first smartphone to have a floating lens which means video footage, which can be recorded in full-HD, is extremely smooth.
Nokia says the camera is excellent in low light conditions and we certainly found this to be the case. Where most phones would struggle to cope we managed to get usable, but not remarkable, results. There's a built-in flash for those moments where it's just too dark.
The front facing 1.2Mp camera also provides a good quality image although there is some obviously graining.
If you like having a laugh with your camera then Cinemagraph is a fun and creative, if a bit gimmicky, app. It essentially takes a short video clip and allows you to choose which parts you want to animate. For example, we took a Cinemagraph of someone flipping a coin and only animated the shadow of their hand and the coin falling on the floor.
Another bundled camera app is Smart Shoot. It takes five photos in quick succession and automatically picks the best one, or you can choose yourself. What's more impressive is the ability to erase sections you don't want - like someone walking into the shot unexpectedly. If the photo is of an individual or a group of people you can choose the best face for each person from the five photos taken, helping you to eliminate things like frowns and shut eyes etc.
Creative Studio allows you to do some nifty editing on any of your photos. You can make adjustments like colour balance and brightness or make fixes such as cropping, rotating and red eye removal.
Cinemagraph, Smart Shoot and Creative Studio are all exclusive Nokia apps which you won't find on rival Windows Phone 8 handsets.
Nokia Lumia 920: Battery life
Nokia has fitted the Lumia 920 with an above-average sized 7.4Wh battery pack. As we mentioned earlier, this is non-removable. The Motorola Razr i, which has the same capacity battery, lasted us two days so we were hoping for a similar result from the Lumia 920. Unfortunately the 920 didn't last as long.
We got comfortably through a full day of use with the Lumia 920 and at the end of the day we had nearly 25 percent of the battery remaining. While this is typical of today's Android handsets, we were expecting more.
Luckily the wireless charging feature should help you to easily keep the Lumia 920 topped up. A Nokia wireless charging dock will set you back around £40 so keep one on your bedside table or at work and you shouldn't find yourself running out of battery.