Nokia's bold new phone: the Lumia 920 reviewed
4.4Overall Score
Price (RRP): $829 Manufacturer: Nokia

When Nokia re-entered the market late last year with its first Windows Phone 7.5 devices, we were intrigued, with the company bringing some beautiful designs to the clean look of Microsoft’s mobile OS. Now with the next version of Windows Phone here, it’s time to look at a new breed, with the launch of the first Lumia with Windows Phone 8, the 920.

Features

The first of Nokia’s new line-up of handsets, the Lumia 920 evolves the design made famous by the Finnish giant from barely a year ago in the 800 and 900 series phones.

In that generation, Nokia had slightly evolved a phone from a few months prior, the Nokia N9, the first and only device with the MeeGo operating system. Now, we’re pushing on to a new device, with refinements to the polycarbonate brick with toughened glass shell that Nokia uses.

The inside is different too, with the new Lumia running on similar hardware to many Android phones, including a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, Adreno 225 graphics chip, and 1GB RAM.

Storage inside the Lumia 920 is limited to 32GB, and much like the past generation, there is no microSD slot, so what you have here is what you have. No memory upgrades.

There is, however, an update to the operating system, which comes in the form of Windows Phone 8, the next generation of Microsoft’s mobile version of Windows. In this version, you’ll find more live tiles, homescreen customisation, a better web browser, support for wallet and payment options, group communication, and a special “Kids Corner” that acts as a safer option for you and your bank account when you inevitably give your handset to the kids.

One of the new things about Windows Phone 8 is that manufacturers can provide higher definition resolutions, and that’s included in the Lumia 920, with this smartphone featuring a 4.5 inch screen support 1280×768, making it HD.

The screen is protected by Corning’s second-generation Gorilla Glass technology, while the actual display supports Nokia’s ClearBlack for better colour and contrast in sunlight.

Nokia is including quite a bit of connectivity here, with Near Field Communication available, as well as Bluetooth 3.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port at the bottom, the standard GPS, dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, and even 4G LTE, resulting in some uber fast speeds when you’re outside of work or home.

There’s also a camera here, provided in the form of an eight (8) megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, LED flash, and a degree of image stabilisation for both images and video. You’ll find a front-facing camera on the front, unsurprisingly, able to be used in 720p HD video conferencing or snapping 1.3 megapixel stills.

As is typical with smartphones these days, most of the operation is handled through a touchscreen, with the 4.5 inch display taking up most of the device, and three soft buttons – back, home (Windows icon), and search – available as soft buttons below the screen.

On the right side of the phone, you’ll find the only three buttons on the device, with a volume rocker, power button, and a camera shutter, which not only fire off shots, but also activates the camera.

Up top, there’s the microSIM tray and ejector hole, next to the 3.5mm headset jack in the middle, while the bottom features speakers with a microUSB port in the middle.

Performance

A continuation from the work Nokia laid down in its 800 and 900 models, the Lumia 920 takes that colourful polycarbonate brick and upgrades the insides to support the very latest Windows Phone operating system.

Now in its eighth version, Nokia has had to increase the processor from a single to a dual-core processor, upgrade the RAM, and now has the opportunity to move the screen resolution to at 1280×768, slightly higher than HD and a little more relevant than the Windows Phone 7 maximum of 800×480.

The display is nice and bright with good colours, and is also reasonably sharp, thanks to a pixel per inch count that’s as high as Apple’s Retina screen, with 331ppi. It’s also readable in sunlight, although there’s a small amount of fringing where the edges of colours glow white upon first glance in direct sunlight. Your eyes will adjust, but you will see it.

Unsurprisingly, Windows Phone 8 continues on from the framework Microsoft set up in Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, with lots of contrasty colours and moveable square and rectangular icons, allowing you to make your own screen look like however you choose.

With Microsoft’s new Windows 8 desktop operating system available, this icon-based look has never been more relevant, as it relays a similar design. If you have a computer with this operating system, it’s an easy transition, but even if you don’t, it’s still very easy to adapt to, with square icons and live information streamed to them.

For instance, your unread email counter is shown in the icon for each account, a weather tile will update itself with the right temperature and forecast, the resizeable calendar tile can show what’s coming up next in your schedule, recent photos slide in and out of its dedicated tile, what’s playing in your music is shown in the music square or rectangle, and more.

Contacts are called people, and you can throw your family and friends into groups, with the news from their respective social networking feeds – pictures, status updates, etc – being listed in the latest information for each group, as well as the ability to quickly text or call people in said groups.

We made a group for the workers at GadgetGuy, which not only gave us easy access for making phone calls and sending messages, but also showed us what everyone was doing.

Your information is shown on the “me” icon, which allows you to post updates to social networks, see your notifications, and check in to locations.

Windows Phone 8's people, setup for our work colleagues.

All up, it’s probably one of the better integrations of social media on a platform, and probably goes beyond what both Android and iOS do for linking social lives with the mobile phone.

Microsoft has also included “Kid’s Corner,” which helps to serve up controlled sections of your phone – such as music, a game or two, and videos – to your kids, so they don’t inadvertently check through your email, and charge your mobile or credit bill a fortune by accident.

Like on the past Lumia handsets, Nokia is including some software additions that will please many, including the augmented reality based “City Lens” which helps you to find restaurants, hotels, attractions, shopping, and transport around you.

Also included is free turn-by-turn navigation software “Nokia Drive,” Nokia’s online music service with offline caching, a photo editing app called “Creative Studio,” and a few camera additions that only work on Nokia’s Lumia phones, including the animated GIF maker “Cinemagraph,” the obviously titled “Panorama,” and the five-for-the-price-of-one snapper “Smart Shoot.”

The camera's metering isn't always dead on.

Nokia’s inclusions are useful on the whole, and the additions to the camera make its 8 megapixel shooter a decent little snapper, though the light metre could be a touch better, as it often analyses things with too much darkness.

The Cinemagraph is one of the more unique features, created animated pictures with various sections that you can increase or decrease the amount of activity in the frame. This is one of those styles of photos that the internet and its memes helps to flesh out.

Sadly, the images are often well over a megabyte, so they don’t hold a lot of use outside of showing your friends, and are practically impossible to edit easily. Getting them off the phone is also difficult, as a wireless send or backup to the web always results in a still image, and you’ll need to plug the phone into a computer in order to take the massive animated images off.

Sometimes, though, the camera's light metre just nails it.

Battery life is about average, especially for a 4G phone. We managed roughly a day of activity on a 4G LTE connection, which seems to be par for the course when it comes to this technology, though our bandwidth wasn’t shabby at all, resulting in speeds of just over 46Mbit.

System performance seems to be relatively high, though because we can’t really test the difference between Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, you can’t really be sure which is the overall faster device. Given that this is Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone, you can pretty much rest assured that any app or game you buy for WP8 will run on this without fail, at least until Windows Phone 8.5 or 9 drops on by.

Speedy 4G performance on the Lumia 920

Beyond the software and speed, there’s the look and feel of the handset, and if you’ve seen or played with the Lumia 800 or 900 and liked them, chances are that you’ll appreciate this handset.

The last generation of Lumia handsets were praised for their sturdiness, and here in the 920, it’s no different. The big body of the 920 is, well, big, with a solid heft to it that we haven’t seen in phones for a while.

We’re no stranger to sizeable devices, not since HTC, Samsung, and every other manufacturer decided that the 4.7 and 4.8 inch sizes were the new smartphone flagship size for 2012, and we are absolutely ok with that.

But the Lumia 920 has a 4.5 inch screen and yet manages to not only to be as big as the 4.8 inch Galaxy S3, but heavier than the 5.5 inch Galaxy Note II. That’s impressive, but not in a good way.

Yes, the Lumia 920 is thicker than the Galaxy S3, and heavier than the second-generation Galaxy Note, a handset with a one inch bigger screen.

It’s also very thick, and that’s something you’ll notice the moment you throw it in a pocket. Make no mistake, you do not want to be wearing skin-tight pants or jeans with this phone, as it really stands out, almost in the same way as Samsung’s super-sized tablet-based Galaxy Note smartphone.

Different to the Lumias we played with in Windows Phone 7, however, is the finish on this phone: it’s glossy, and very slippery. To say it’s a fingerprint magnet would be an understatement. Even with the red finish, it looked as if we had the greasiest and grubbiest fingers on the planet.

From left to right: Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S3

Despite these issues, it’s still reasonably comfortable, though is obviously geared at people who like bigger phones.

There is one thing that bugs us about Windows Phone 8: the lack of apps, although that’s something which is changing. We’re missing a copy of Instagram and Dropbox, though we’re sure there are others that we’re not even considering.

From what we know, Microsoft is working on making the Windows Phone ecosystem a little better, though this will take time to improve, understandably.

Conclusion

For its first attempt at a Windows Phone 8 device, Nokia has reflected on its history and made an interesting product in the Lumia 920.

Like its older brothers, the 920 is a sexy little beast that exudes personality, thanks to its colourful exterior, and the extra functionality Nokia has included here – Nokia Music, Nokia Drive GPS navigation, Nokia City Lens augmented reality tourism app, camera “lenses” – as well as the awesome Windows Phone 8 staples make this a really nice phone to use.

The physical size can be a bit of an obstacle to overcome, as can Windows Phone 8’s lack of apps, but if you’re looking for solid integration with the Microsoft Office range, Windows, and Exchange, and don’t mind a device that has some heft to it, the Lumia 920 is an easy recommendation.

Nokia's bold new phone: the Lumia 920 reviewed
Price (RRP): $829 Manufacturer: Nokia
Very sturdy; Beautiful IPS screen; Nokia's extra apps make the package more interesting; Easy to use;
Heavy; Fingerprint magnet; Windows Phone 8 needs more apps; Cinemagraph images can't sent wirelessly;
Overall
Features
Value for money
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Ease of Use
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4.4Overall Score
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