Nokia Lumia 920 review

When Nokia decided that they were going to start pushing out Windows Phones, it was a big deal. They didn’t do it half-heartedly either – the Lumia 800 was a beautifully designed phone and was generally well-received.

The Lumia 920 follows in the footsteps of the 800, but it takes some big leaps forward in key areas. The question is: is it good enough?

Design and build quality

With the N9 and the Lumia 800, Nokia showed that they had what it takes to compete with the top dogs in terms of design. The Lumia 920 continues with that aesthetic, attempting to perfect an already great design.

On top, smack in the middle, is the 3.5mm jack. To the left of it is the pop-out microSIM tray.

The left side is left bare, while the right side holds the volume rocker, power/wake button, and camera button. As with previous Lumia devices, the right side feels a little cramped and the unmarked buttons are a little confusing for new users.

On the bottom is the microUSB port wedged between two speaker grilles.

Around back in the middle is a metal plate with the name of the company responsible for the thing of beauty in your hand, along with the name responsible for the optics in the 8 megapixel camera at the top of that plate (Carl Zeiss). To the left of the camera is the dual-LED flash (for interest – the Lumia 800 flash was positioned above the camera).

Up front is the ample 4.5-inch screen, with the three required buttons below – back, home, and search (all capacitive). At the top is the earpiece with the front-facing camera and Nokia logo to the right of it.

As with the Lumia 800, the case and the screen almost seem to merge, which makes for a very pleasant experience when navigating around the UI. The sides and back are curved, allowing the Lumia 920 to rest comfortably in your hand. The one complaint we have about the case is that it’s made of a glossy plastic (we had the white version), which picks up fingerprints quite easily and isn’t as “grippy’ as we would like.

Nokia Lumia 920 colour range
Nokia Lumia 920 colour range

The Lumia 920 measures 130.3mm x 70.8mm x 10.7mm and weighs 185g, which is quite beefy considering that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 weighs 183g.

The Lumia 920’s design is a good refinement on a great design, though there are still some quirks that need to be ironed out. However, it is one of the best-designed phones available. It seems that Windows Phone devices are running far ahead of the competition when it comes to design. Clearly, there is an understanding here that first impressions do count.

Internals and performance

The Lumia 920 features a Qualcomm MSM8960 SoC, with a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU and an Adreno 225 GPU. There’s 1GB of RAM inside along with 32GB of non-expandable storage.

Connecting it is HSPA+, up to 42.2Mbps down and 5.76 up, and Bluetooth 3.1. There’s also NFC (labelled Tap & Go in the settings menu), and LTE is present and might perhaps someday be available for general use in South Africa (at the time of writing it did appear to be available on Vodacom, though we weren’t able to test it).

We were happy to discover that AnTuTu supports Windows Phone (our benchmarking app of choice on Android). However, the developers do note that there are algorithmic differences between the platforms. We also had some issues when including GPU testing on the Lumia 920, so we excluded it for these test runs.

In the end, the Lumia got an overall average score of 11086.6. It showed excellent CPU scores (which rival top Android phones), though RAM performance seemed to be rather average.

As we’ve come to expect from Windows Phone, navigation and general use was snappy. There were one or two hiccoughs, but nothing to be overly concerned about.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920

Screen and responsiveness

One thing that Windows Phones have been lacking, are high-resolution displays. Windows Phone 8 brings support for these, and the Lumia brings a gorgeous 4.5-inch, 1280×768 panel to the fore.

Images were sharp, with vibrant colours throughout. Text was wonderfully crisp, which is very important for an OS where typography plays such a big role.

The only complaint we can level against the Lumia 920’s screen is that blacks weren’t as deep as on previous Lumias. It’s hardly a fair complaint, though, as this is true of every other IPS panel we’ve tested thus far.

There isn’t much to say about responsiveness on the Lumia 920 – it was generally good. There were a small number of occasions – most notably in the gallery app – where some swipes wouldn’t register. Whether this is app-specific or just a fluke is up for debate, but it’s still worth noting.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920

Sound and call quality

Call quality on the Lumia 920 was good. Neither party reported any issues in hearing or being heard.

The loudspeaker was, well, loud – though it did tend to distort at higher volumes. For the most part, you’ll want to keep volumes below 2/3’s of the maximum.

The bundled headphones were average at best, featuring little bass and screeching trebles. If audio is your thing, then the Lumia’s bundled headphones certainly are not.

Cameras

In daylight, photos from the Lumia 920’s 8-megapixel rear camera were good, but not as good as we’d hoped. The better photos were comparable to phones like the Samsung Galaxy S3, with the problem being that taking such quality photos is not necessarily within your control.

In particular, it appeared as though the noise reduction was slightly over-active, often causing certain details to smudge (foliage was usually first in the line of fire).

Colour and white balance also seemed a little off, with some photos coming out oversaturated and slightly yellow, and others muted. It appears that Nokia are aware of such issues and a fix is in the works.

Low-light photos were a different story though. The Lumia produced clearer, brighter, and less noisy photos in low light than pretty much anything else we’ve tested. Worth noting is that, even though the Lumia 920 has a wide aperture lens (f/2.0) and some amazing low-light tech, you still need to have a steady hand when shooting in low-light, or risk that much hated blurry shot.

On the other end, is a 1.3 megapixel camera that’s capable of 720p video and should do just fine for the odd video call.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920

Battery life

Battery life on the Lumia 920 was disappointing to say the least. Listening to a podcast, downloading and listening to 2 albums, and browsing the web for maybe 10 minutes had the battery finished in five hours. Other similar tests yielded similar results, and in general we could barely get a day of minimal use from the Lumia 920.

This appears to be a known issue with a fix in the works, though at the time of writing it wasn’t available yet. Some international users have had some success by disabling NFC (Tap & Go) and fiddling with background apps, but doing so didn’t yield any good results for us.

Software and accessories

If it hasn’t been clear, the Nokia Lumia 920 is a Windows Phone 8 phone. We’ll be doing a comprehensive review of Windows Phone 8 in the near future, so we felt it rather silly to do part of it here as well.

However, Nokia does bundle its own set of apps: Nokia Music, Maps, Drive+ Beta, and Mix Radio have all been mentioned before in our Nokia Lumia 800 review, and remain largely the same (which is to say, good useful apps).

The other app worth mentioning is Nokia City Lens – an augmented reality app that lets you view interesting places around you (restaurants, shops, sights, etc.) as bubbles over a live camera feed.

The Lumia 920 also features wireless charging made possible by the Fatboy charging pillow.

The Fatboy makes use of the Qi inductive power standard, which means that other Qi-compatible phones should be able to use it without problems.

Now, the Fatboy still needs to get power, so it has a cable that needs to be plugged in somewhere. However, charging your phone is as easy as placing it on the mat. If you need to get going, just grab your phone and go, without accidentally pulling out every other appliance in your multiplug.

However, the Fatboy wasn’t entirely flawless. Placing the Lumia 920 slightly off centre had it jumping between “charging” and “not charging” states every few seconds, and it was similarly finicky if the phone was placed across the pad. Still, using it felt like a glimpse into the future of device charging as a whole (even though this tech has been around for a few years already).

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920

Conclusion

The options for Windows Phone 8 phones aren’t exactly plentiful. However, the Lumia 920 is generally a good device, though the battery life is a big concern.

If Windows Phone 8 is your thing, the Lumia 920 is worth checking out. Though, until the battery issue gets sorted out, we’d be more inclined to recommend the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

The Good

●    Lumia 800-esque design is still good
●    Great screen
●    Excellent low-light performance with camera

The Bad

●    Thick and heavy
●    Battery life is terrible
●    Noise cancellation on the camera can be a bit aggressive

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Nokia Lumia 920 review