A return of sorts: Microsoft’s Lumia 950 reviewed

The phone is available in Australia, with the 5.2 inch device hitting store shelves either on a plan or carrying a price of $999, and for that moolah, you’ll find 32GB of storage and a microSD slot to expand things.

You’ll also find one of the more lovely screens in the business, with Microsoft adopting a Quad HD 2560×1440 screen at a 5.2 inch screen size, putting it not far off where Samsung’s Galaxy S6 sits in terms of pixel quality, revealing a screen quality of roughly 565 pixels per inch, making it razor sharp.

Windows also helps this screen look as good as it does, with windows 10 taking what worked from Windows 8 on both the phone and the desktop and applying it across each.

That means live tiles are here for the ride, as is an emphasis on contrast, as white text sits on coloured icons, or the inverse depending on the theme you’re using.


We stick to the darker themes for a specific reason, and that’s because previously we’ve found the black background and white text helps to make the prior Nokia screens pop, and when viewed under direct sunlight you can actually see what’s happening on screen, something many devices still struggle with today.

With the light theme, it’s not quite as pretty an image under the bright sun, but it’s still a lovely screen all the same.

Windows is also fairly pleasing to the eye, though the direct colour blocks on black or white have changed as Windows now supports images. This change means Windows on the phone has a look more in line with what Windows on a laptop or desktop offers, but it also means that wonderful reason for why you could get so much battery life on the device is also probably going to go out with it.

In fact, back when Microsoft was only showing a little bit of colour in large blocks, the emphasis on black seemed to help in our battery tests, resulting in a life that often reached well into a second day without any problems.

Like the iPhone 6, you can hold the Windows home button to pull the screen down for one-handed mode.
Like the iPhone 6, you can hold the Windows home button to pull the screen down for one-handed mode.

Outside of this change, Windows on the phone feels like it’s an improved edition of Windows Phone 8, with the live tile screen that can be easily customised to match your sense of style and design, an app menu to the right side revealing all of your apps and a search bar, and the regular Windows Phone icons for back, home, and search (now Cortana) able to disappear and be brought back in with a swipe up on the bottom of the screen.

On the whole, Windows doesn’t look a lot different, just a lot clearer and more modern, which is probably the push Microsoft needed for its mobile operating system.


Design-wise, you get the feeling that Microsoft didn’t quite push hard enough, with a plastic casing that manages to feel positively mid-range in comparison to the hockey-puck-plastic of the previous Lumia range, back when Nokia was in control.

We like the replaceable battery, and people obsessed with that as a feature likely will too, but there’s something a little too ho-hum about the plastic back that you can remove, even if it arrives with neato features like wireless charging built into this section.

At least you have something that feels premium at the bottom of the phone, with the combined blessing and curse that is USB Type C being used on this device, a blessing because it’s so new and future-proof, but a curse because spare cables are super hard to find (at the time of publishing, anyway).


Move past the look and you’ll find the performance, and this is a bit of a two way street.

On the positive side, the overall system performance is actually not too shabby, with the Snapdragon 808 six-core chip handling its own and never really letting up.

Despite being the first time we’ve seen a final build of Windows 10 for mobiles, it feels relatively polished, though the odd bug can rear its head from time to time, though we’ll get to that momentarily.

At least 4G performance manages to show that Microsoft knows what phones need today, revealing some fairly quick speeds.


In fact, download speeds ranged from 11Mbps all the way up to 114Mbps in our tests, while uploads struggled to get up to half of where we expect it to hit. Typically, we’ll see upload speeds of around 25 to 40Mbps, but on the Lumia 950, we found upload speeds maxing out at 11Mbps, and they were generally much, much lower, clocking in at around 2 to 8Mbps.

That might just be an issue with our version, or it might be endemic of the entire Lumia 950 release amount. We hope it’s just our model, because outside of this glitch, the performance from the Lumia 950’s modem is certainly capable enough.


At least the camera is a decent piece of hardware, though this is something we’ve come to expect out of the Lumia phones, even if this isn’t the same amazeballs camera tech Nokia once used.

Back in the days of the 40 megapixel Lumia 1020 and the 20 megapixel Lumia 1520, it wasn’t hard to see that Nokia was on a roll as to how it was pushing forward in camera technology.

Ok, sure, the rest of its hardware and software wasn’t really coming together and convincing people to jump ship, but on the camera side of things, Nokia was nailing it.

The Lumia 1020 and its massive 40-odd megapixel PureView camera.