Nokia Lumia 800 review

With big fanfare, the Nokia Lumia 800 was introduced as “the first real Windows Phone“. Nokia has said that “Plan B is to focus on Plan A“.

Is the Lumia 800 worth the hype? Is Windows Phone the smart bet? Read on to find out!

Design and build quality

I’m not the first, and I certainly won’t be the last to remark that the Nokia Lumia 800 takes most of its design from the Nokia N9, and that’s not a bad thing.

The casing is a single piece of polycarbonate which looks good, feels great, and gives the sense that it’s ready to best the bumps and scrapes of the world. As an added bonus, it comes in a variety of colours (black, cyan, magenta). For those wondering, we had the vivid cyan model.

On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, a flap covering the microUSB port, and a micro SIM tray that can only be ejected when the microUSB port is uncovered. While the flap for the microUSB port does a great job at evening out the top, it does feel like a strong gust of wind can break it off when open. Perhaps a sliding door would have been a better option here.

On the bottom, you’ll find just the external speaker.

The left side is completely bare, while the right side holds the volume rocker, power/wake button, and two-phase camera button. The right actually feels a little cramped and I can’t think of a reason why the volume rocker couldn’t have been placed on the opposite side.

What’s more, the buttons are completely unmarked, which means that the only way to discover which does what, is to press it and find out, and in the case of the camera button, it only does something if you long press it (in which case it goes to the camera app) or if you press it while in the camera app.

These are, of course, fairly minor niggles that will only frustrate the most nit-picky of users.

On the back is an 8 megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash above it.

On the front is the 3.7″ screen with the three standard Windows Phone 7 buttons at the bottom (Back, Home, Search).

Overall, it’s an excellent design. I have no shame in saying that it’s one of the best (if not the best) smartphone design currently on the market.

Nokia Lumia 800
The Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone 7

Internals

Below the superficial beauty, the Nokia Lumia 800 packs a Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon SoC, which brings a 1.4GHz Scorpion CPU and an Adreno 205 GPU.

There’s 512MB of RAM along with 16GB of internal storage, but no microSD expansion slot.

To keep you connected, the Lumia 800 offers WiFi b/g/n, HSPA (14.4Mb/s down, 5.76Mb/s up), and Bluetooth 2.1.

Screen and responsiveness

The 3.7″ screen offers a decent 800×480 resolution. It’s not the best resolution, but it’s still good enough (until we’re utterly spoiled by 720p displays everywhere).

Of course, it’s a Nokia ClearBlack display which means that blacks are deep and colours are bright and vivid. In fact, Windows Phone 7 in general looks great on an AMOLED screen – almost like it was designed for it.

Responsiveness was mostly good, but there were more missed touches and gestures than I would have liked to experience.

Nokia Lumia 800
Nokia Lumia 800

Sound and call quality

Sound through the external speaker was quite good and was able to churn out a fairly good amount of volume without sounding like it was playing through a steel bucket.

The earphones were more than adequate in terms of quality, but they could have done with a bit more volume.

Call quality was good – neither side had any complaints.

Camera

The rear-facing 8 megapixel camera is capable of taking 3264×2448 still shots and 720p video.

Nokia’s cameras are generally excellent, and while the Lumia 800 doesn’t disappoint, it’s not the best.

In normal lighting conditions, shots were excellent. Colours looked natural and pictures were highly detailed.

Unfortunately, when the lights faded, so did the quality of the pictures. Pictures were grainy, sometimes unfocused, and pretty much lacking all the good qualities of pictures under normal lighting conditions.

Video capture exhibited similar good and bad qualities to still shots, though it is worth noting that recordings were smooth.

Nokia Lumia 800 right side
Nokia Lumia 800 right side

Battery life

Battery life was a complete muddled mess.

On some days, the Lumia 800 would do fantastically. After a hard day’s use, it would still have enough juice left to go through a second equally heavy day.

On other days, it wouldn’t do so well, and would be completely dry after 10 hours of doing almost nothing.

Honestly, I’d prefer consistently bad battery life over something like this. At least then I know that I need to charge it whenever I have the opportunity.

Nokia has said that the latest firmware fixes the battery, but on our device (which had firmware version 1600.2483.8107.11501), this wasn’t the case.

Nokia Lumia 800 top
Nokia Lumia 800 top

Software

There’s not much to say on the software front. The Lumia 800 has a fairly standard build of Windows Phone 7 on it, though there are some bundled apps worth mentioning.

First off is Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive. The former more or less speaks for itself – it’s Nokia Maps, complete with road-, satellite-, and public transportation layers (though the public transport view doesn’t seem to be all that recent).

Nokia Drive is Nokia’s turn-by-turn navigation application. You can download any country’s map to the device and you can select one of many voices to guide you to your destination. The map itself can be presented in 2-D or 3-D. In use, Nokia Drive worked wonderfully. Don’t get me wrong, a dedicated GPS is still better, but if you don’t want all the bells and whistles then Nokia Drive will do the job just fine.

The other preloaded app is Nokia Music. This can plug directly into your Ovi Music account, which then allows you to purchase music from the device and download it to the device without the need for a cable. It’s possible to download previously purchased tracks/albums, though this feature seems to be somewhat temperamental – I was unable to get it working, but another MyBroadband staff member managed it on the first try with certain albums while others simply refused to download.

Another cool feature of Nokia Music is Mix Radio. This allows you to stream music to your device. You don’t need to make an account, or jump through fiery hoops – just tap and play.

Worth noting, however, is that Nokia Music and Nokia Maps are installed alongside the regular Music and Maps apps, which can be slightly confusing. You also can’t remove the usual Music and Maps, but you can remove the Nokia apps.

Nokia Lumia 800
Nokia Lumia 800

Conclusion

Nokia has said that their plan is to make a success of Windows Phone – making it sound like they are all-in in an all-or-nothing game.

After reviewing a few other Windows Phone devices (the Samsung Omnia 7 and the HTC 7 Pro); after all the hype behind Nokia’s deal with Microsoft and the Lumia 800 being the first real Windows Phone, I honestly expected more.

There was talk of Nokia being able to differentiate themselves, of being able to integrate deeply into Windows Phone. I just don’t see it.

HTC and Samsung loaded their own apps on their Windows Phone devices, granted they weren’t nearly as good or as useful as Nokia Drive or Nokia Music, but that hardly classifies as “deep integration”.

What I can say about the Nokia Lumia 800 in the end is that it is a Windows Phone in an attractive outer shell.

With that said, the Nokia Lumia 800 is still a good device. Nokia loyalists and Windows Phone enthusiasts won’t be disappointed with it, and those looking to switch to Windows Phone should also consider the Lumia 800.

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Nokia Lumia 800 review