Look and feel
The Nokia Lumia 920 is one of the heaviest smartphones we’ve handled, but the solid, simple design is both colourful and attractive.
Ease of Use
The Lumia 920’s 4.5-inch touchscreen is perfectly responsive and can even be used when wearing gloves. The likes of Nokia Maps and Drive will make your life even easier.
The 8.7MP PureView camera with Carl Zeiss lens comes packed with excellent features and takes pleasingly sharp photos. Add in NFC support, wireless charging and a free Music service, and the Lumia 920 is a value-packed smartphone.
A 1.5GHz dual-core processor backed up with 1GB of RAM keeps everything running smoothly, whether you’re enjoying your media or playing games.
The Lumia 920 suffers from poor battery life, and we had to charge at least twice a day even when we weren’t taking loads of photos or constantly streaming music. Just three hours of video streaming means 4G users will likely have to pack a portable charging kit.
When Nokia showed off its long-awaited Lumia 920 mobile phone, the first Nokia smartphone to run Windows Phone 8, modesty had clearly been left at home. Welcoming the sudden competition from the Windows Phone 8X by HTC and Samsung’s Ativ S, Nokia stood proud and stated the Lumia 920 had the “best camera” (an 8.7MP PureView lens with Carl Zeiss optics), the “best display” (a bright 4.5-inch panel boasting Pure HD Motion+ technology) and even the “best design”. No pressure, then.
Stating that one phone has a better design than another is obviously a matter of taste, but we can’t help but love the Lumia 920’s simple, rounded finish. It’s very reminiscent of the Lumia 900, with the same flat-edged top and bottom. However, your first thoughts upon picking it up probably won’t be “ooh, I love the glossy colour,” or “the plastic frame feels so smooth and solid”. You’re likely to think, “bloody hell it’s heavy”. In fact, at 185g this is possibly the heaviest smartphone we’ve tested. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it, but coming from any other mobile, the Lumia 920 feels like you’ve shoved a brick in your pocket.
Once we got over the heft, we started to appreciate the phone’s aesthetics. The front of the device is one large glass panel, complete with three touch-sensitive buttons (Back, Windows and Search) beneath the screen. That rounded finish on the edges and rear means the Lumia 920 sits comfortably in your palm, while the weight helps to hold it there in the absence of a textured back. It sure does look smart, even though our white model picked up fingerprints and grime quite easily – thankfully you can also get it in black, red and yellow.
On the right edge you’ll find volume toggles, the power button, and a dedicated camera button, leaving the left edge bare. The Micro SIM card slot is again positioned on top (you can’t crack open the Lumia 920’s case to access the innards), using the increasingly-popular ‘pin hole’ design. Make sure you have a paper clip on hand if you need to pop it open to reclaim your card.
On the inside
Tucked away inside the Nokia Lumia 920 is a dual-core Qualcomm processor running at 1.5GHz. Backed up by 1GB of RAM, this makes it just as beefy as the Windows Phone 8X by HTC, and capable of running every last app and game you throw at it.
You also get an impressive 32GB of storage space, twice the amount found in the HTC 8X, although once again there’s no memory card slot. You’ll have to make do with the 7GB of cloud storage space if you need to store more files.
The Lumia 920’s 4.5-inch screen sits neatly between the compact 4.3-inch Windows Phone 8X by HTC and the beastly 4.8-inch Samsung Ativ S, giving a nicely spacious display that’s a great size for browsing the web and taking in a TV show. We were immediately impressed by how bright the screen is, proving more than equal to both sun glare and harsh interior lighting. Colours are boldly reproduced, from the live tiles to your photos and video. We also appreciated the wide viewing angles, which makes it easy to share a movie with a friend without having to cram your heads together.
The 1280 x 768 pixel resolution makes images supremely crisp, and 720p HD movies look stunning. Nokia’s Pure HD Motion+ technology will be your best friend if you love action films or sports, as it prevents motion blur – a common problem when viewing fast-moving sports like football or snooker (we’re talking balls, of course) on some lesser-quality displays. We watched plenty of sports clips, all in the name of science, and certainly saw no kind of blurring, so looks like it’s mission successful.
In terms of responsiveness, the Lumia 920’s touchscreen reacts instantly to every poke and swipe. Impressively, you can even use the touchscreen and touch-sensitive buttons when you’re wearing gloves, so you won’t have to rip off your mitts in the winter and suffer frozen fingers. We were wowed by the screen’s sensitivity, rarely missing our prods even with our super-thick finger padders on.
The last smartphone to sport a ‘PureView’ camera (Nokia’s own term for a snapper that’s a bit special) was the Nokia 808 PureView, a mobile that took great photos but was a little unwieldy and unfriendly. With high expectations we took to the streets to snap away with the Lumia 920’s 8.7MP camera.
Holding down the shutter button from hibernation brings up the camera app in around three seconds, ready for action. Pushing the shutter button again then takes a photo almost instantly. Quality in a well-lit environment is excellent, but the real difference from other smartphone cameras is most apparent at dusk. Our low-light snaps appear brighter than most rivals, taking in more detail and giving a better representation of colours, and it’s all because of the floating lens, which can stay open longer thanks to its blur reduction. That said, we still had more than our fair share of blurry shots when pushing down the shutter button. We’d recommend tapping the screen to focus and take a shot, just to play safe.
You can also shoot Full HD video, and once again the image stabilisation comes into play. Our videos looked great viewed back on a monitor, and the floating lens technology really does help to cut down on hand jiggles and other shaky moments, so you don’t feel seasick watching it back.
It doesn’t just end with photos and video, though. On top of the usual editing tools, the Lumia 920 comes with some excellent little features that really drag the most from your kit.
Cinemagraph is a funky tool that captures a scene over a few seconds, and then allows you to keep any movement from that time as an animation within a still image. For instance, take a shot of your dog running around in a busy park, and you can freeze the other people while keeping your dog moving, so it looks as though time as stopped. The results are saved as a GIF file which you can view on your computer. It’s a very cool effect that we never get tired of experimenting with, and freaking people out with.
Another app called SmartShoot allows you to take a series of shots with one push of the shutter button, like a burst shot mode in phones such as the HTC One X. You can then choose your favourite and discard the others. Our only complaint is that you have to specifically load the SmartShoot app through the camera app to use it – you can’t simply hold down the shutter button like you can on the likes of the One X and the Motorola Razr i.
One of the Lumia 920’s other unique features is its wireless charging plate, which can be bought separately for £45 or comes bundled with the phone from some retailers. Simply plug in the charging plate and then lie your Lumia on top, and it’ll automatically start pulling in juice. It’s less fiddly than plugging the phone in every time, and you can get a full charge in around four hours. The true advantage of wireless charging will be if businesses around the UK adopt it, so you can charge your mobile by resting it on a cafe table while you sip your cappuccino, for instance. Only time will tell if this actually becomes reality.
The Lumia 920 also comes with built-in NFC, which will one day be used to pay for goods with your smartphone, but for now is limited mostly to sharing files with other NFC phones. However, Nokia is marketing its NFC from a musical angle instead. You can buy a special JCB speaker which the Lumia 920 sits on top of, which not only streams music from your phone but also charges it at the same time. You can also buy wireless Monster headphones which sync up with the Lumia, so you can enjoy your tunes in private without dangling cables everywhere.
One of our only issues with the Windows Phone 8X by HTC was the less-than-stellar battery life, and unfortunately the same problem plagues the Nokia Lumia 920. From a full charge, we streamed an hour of music, browsed the web for fifteen minutes, took a few snaps, played around with some apps and sent some emails and texts. Just eight hours later, the battery was already dead.
To try and wring some more life from it, we turned the screen brightness right down, turned off Wi-Fi and dispensed with the music streaming. This helped us to get 24 hours of life, further aided by the ‘battery saver’ mode which turns off auto-syncing and shuts down apps when not in use. Still, making big compromises to get a day of life is a massively disappointing result. We’re wondering if Nokia will bring out a series of updates to try and improve battery life, as it did with the Lumia 800.
Try streaming video, and the Lumia 920 has a shorter life expectancy than a lemming on the M1, strapped to an angry tiger and ten tons of TNT. We managed just a tad over three hours before the battery died, almost half the length we usually expect from a smartphone. This is particularly worrying if you’re hoping to sign up for 4G and stream video on a regular basis. We recommend investing in a portable battery charger.
In addition to Microsoft’s mobile Office app and all the usual Windows Phone 8 goodies that come pre-installed, Nokia has included its usual excellent Maps and Drive apps. Both are as excellent as ever, and we’re especially impressed by Maps, which does a much better job of searching the local area for shops, restaurants, pubs and other services than the standard Windows Phone 8 maps app. You can search for a place of interest or street name and call up walking or driving directions from your current position, so you’ve got no excuse for ever being lost.
Nokia City Lens is another interesting app that highlights the best restaurants, hotels, shops and attractions in your local city. We didn’t manage to get it working sadly, so can’t give you a review – we’re assuming this was simply a pre-release glitch and it’ll be up and running when the Lumia 920 hits stores.
Nokia Music is a cool little music service for anyone too skint to stump up for Spotify every month. You can stream specially-created mixes to your Lumia 920 for free, without the hassle of signing up for accounts first, and even download up to four of your favourites onto your phone (around 12 hours of music in all), so you can listen when you’re out of reception. Each track is accompanied by cover art and info, and you can pay to download a song for keeps if you find something that really gets you going.
It’s a shame that you can’t seem to view a track listing for a mix before you play it, especially since you can only skip six tracks every hour, but it’s a small gripe considering this is a fully-featured free music service. Except for when you hit your skip limit and JLS or One Direction come on. Then it’s just a nightmare. Still, we’ve already discovered some excellent new tracks we never knew existed, while the ability to download mixes is a fantastic feature we never expected.
One little quirk we noticed when playing music concerned the audio jack. Occasionally we’d stick a pair of earphones in the Lumia 920, but the audio wouldn’t reroute to them, continuing to play through the phone’s speakers. It was a sporadic issue, and we usually failed to recreate when we actually tried to.
Nokia’s Lumia 920 comes packed with special features you won’t find on other Windows Phone 8 mobiles, including an excellent PureView floating lens camera, the slick Maps, Drive and Music apps, wireless charging and some cool NFC accessories. The curved, colourful body may weigh a ton but it’s solidly built, and only the horrible battery life detracts from an otherwise appealing package.