Lumia 920: Rise of the underdog

pranav0091

I am not an Owl
I bought this phone a couple of weeks ago, when it was pricier than it is now (37.2k vs 36k on FK). And I have no regrets. Absolutely none. That’s already saying quite a bit about this phone. Okay, now let me get a proper review in. And oh, BTW, if you are expecting me to talk about benchmarks and stuff you might as well stop reading now. I subscribe to the family of thought that believes that the specs don’t matter as much as the real-world performance of a phone, so if you expect me to argue about adrenos and bash the tegras you'll be disappointed.


Elegant design and wonderful screen
The beautifully soft-to-touch matte black polycarbonate on the 920 screams quality. Yes, I had to say that. Here is a phone (apart from the 8X, One X and the Iphone) that finally looked and felt the price you paid for it. No cheap-plasticky-hyperglaze **** here, just a classy, understated matte black polycarbonate shell and Corning Gorilla glass 2 for protection
The biggest gripe most people have about the 920 is that its heavy. Well, let me get this straight - Its heavier than your run of the mill smartphone, but not "heavy" when in isolation. In fact, I hardly notice the weight now, after a couple of weeks of use. And if thats still not convincing enough for you, then hear this - its almost exactly as heavy as a Note 2. Now make your own decision.

IMG_2060 by pranav0091, on Flickr

IMG_2056 by pranav0091, on Flickr

IMG_2065 by pranav0091, on Flickr

IMG_2074 by pranav0091, on Flickr

IMG_2073 by pranav0091, on Flickr
Its such a beautiful, premium looking phone that you end up spending a disproportionately large time just feeling the surface or ogling at the very-natural-no-eye-popping-colors screen. I personally found not much of a difference due to Nokia's much touted Puremotion+ screen between the 920's screen as compared to that of the 8X, but the Nokia did feel a wee bit smoother than the 8X. Colors are natural, just the right amount of saturation. Daylight visibility is very good. You dont get much control over the LCD brightness (just auto,low,medium and high modes) but to my pleasant surprise the auto mode works surprisingly well. So well, that even a very picky guy like me has been satisfied with the automatic mode. The curved edges to the screen also make it very pleasant to swipe form the edges of the screen. A little but often overlooked fact is that the screen-lock/power button is on the side of the phone and not on the top which makes a world of difference to one handed operation. The 3.5mm jack is at the centre of the top of the phone, while the dual speakers line the bottom on either side of the micro-USB/charging slot. And lastly it comes with built in wireless charging capability compatible with the open Qi standard, even if presently just for bragging rights.


Fluid WP8 UI is a refreshing change from static icons
I wont harp about the Wp8's UI because any prospective buyer must have surely known about it by now. Its the "smoothest" OS out there in the market right now, period. Its not exactly lightning quick, but MS has made clever use of fluid animations to mask the delay in launching apps so that the user gets a sense of something always "happening" and its a very well implemented trick. Nokia drive takes about a couple of seconds to launch, but never feels like it lags or is slow. Testimony to the clever design of this OS. The tiles are a love or hate affair - I, for one, adore them. They make the homescreen look alive, there is something always moving about at some part of the screen making up for a very lively experience. Its a refreshing departure from the static icons reminiscent of the PC. I have seen isolated app-crashes but the phone always recovers gracefully from any such untoward event, not something that can be said about Android.

The keyboard though lacking in haptic-feedback has a nice feature that almost every reviewer forgets to mention - next word prediction. In addition to the usual autocorrect, the keyboard predicts the next word depending upon your current word and if you type in proper English, its very accurate. Say you type I and press space, then you immediately notice that "am" "was", "think", "have", "dont" etc are already on the prediction line on top of the keyboard. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated and for people like me who text a lot its a god-send. has a special section to store recently used emoticons separately from the mass of other smileys, a nice touch. All these combined mean that I am having to actually punch in much lesser to type the same message on my 920 as compared to my Xperia ray. also find it much much easier to edit single mis-spelled characters thanks to the "floating" cursor (activated by a tap and hold on the text area). A very nice touch indeed. Notifications appearing on the top can be swiped away to the right. I dont miss the notification centre personally, though its heavily personal (I dont use any IM or FB or whatsapp on my phone).

IMG_2069 by pranav0091, on Flickr


A little bit of camera magic
I have to divide this into two parts - day and night : In bright daylight the camera performs decently well but certainly not any better than the others. I for one found that the One X had slightly sharper pics but not by much. In any case the 920's photos are more than acceptable at this elevated price point as well. Then there is the night time photos (no I am not talking about the dedicated night mode) when the 920 really gets on. I'll make this short. In a random, handheld, full-auto-settings shot test of dimly lit streets the pics from the 920 matched the ones from my Canon EOS 600D with the stock 18-55 lens (with optical image stabilisation) for detail and actually beat it in terms of color reproduction and flash effectiveness and more importantly - usabilty. Yes, I know that sounds incredible and I do not make that statement lightly. All that optical-image-stabilisation mumbo jumbo conjures up every trick in its bag to give some incredible images with very less noise, and thats without even the flash being used.

Lumia 920 by pranav0091, on Flickr


Canon EOS 600D by pranav0091, on Flickr

Once you actually use the flash be prepared for even more surprises. I have verified that the 920 fires its flash multiple times if needed to make sure that the flash doesnt blow-out any object. And flash blow-out is something nearly ever camera out in the market suffers from. It may sound hard to believe and I can fully understand it if you dont believe it. The images actually looked dark and as if the flash hadnt been used at all.

No blow-out 1 by pranav0091, on Flickr


No blow-out 2 by pranav0091, on Flickr


The image above, without flash this time by pranav0091, on Flickr

But if you do get a chance, do use the camera at night and see for yourself. Video recording too, benefits immensely from the image stabilization producing really smooth videos.
Another less noted fact is that the microphone does not distort the sound when recording elevated volumes. To test this I recorded a video in a car with the windows rolled up and the speakers blasting at full volume. The 920 captured the sound well and with no distortion as claimed. Further it dd capture a good amount of bass which the other high end phones struggle to capture when recording voice/video


Apps and ecosystem :
Its smaller than both android and IOS but I am not a heavy app user, so I cant really comment on this. I found decent apps for everything I needed to look for. IE is a good browser, in fact among the fastest ones out there right now.

Nokia maps and Drive are really good for what they do, though I miss the ability to rotate maps a la Google maps. As good as the maps are I still feel Google maps are slightly superior in a couple of areas - Detail/accuracy and eye-candy. Dont get me wrong, the Nokia maps is very detailed atleast for the part of India I live in, but I have noticed that it shows a road where no roads exist. Google maps doesnt have this mistake. Secondly the colors on Google maps are very optimised, so much that you tend to find everything a fraction of a second quicker on it - I'd mark it down to better use of colors, the details just stand out better. The other thing I miss is a scale. There is no scale on the Nokia maps and for someone like me who walks around a lot, a map is sometimes annoyingly useless without a scale. Also I'd much prefer to have the zoom buttons on the side than at the bottom-centre within Nokia maps.

Also, when you walk towards an intersection, there is a non-zero chance that Nokia drive will think that you are taking a left/right when you are just following the straight path. It takes a few seconds (anywhere from 3-7 seconds) to get it back right about your direction. The change in direction as perceived by the app (wrongly, of course) is followed with a rotation of the "view" making this new direction the "upside". And a few seconds later it switches the view again as it finally realises its folly. This quick rotation of the maps is so acutely dis-orientating that its almost a deal breaker for me. If I had the choice of using Google maps here, I'd gladly do so. I wish to clarify that this happens only rarely and only when walking.

On the brighter side, the Nokia navigation apps are simple to use without being any simpler than they should be. I have found the GPS locks to be very good and quick , though on a couple of isolated occasions (in the first week) I had seen false locks reporting I was about 10km away from where I actually was. Fortunately I haven't had this issue recurring. Another nice feature is that the GPS lock can be maintained even under the lockscreen if you dont manually quit the app by pressing the back-key. Bottom line is that though there is definitely room for improvement, I am satisfied with the mapping experience on the Lumia 920.

The other Nokia apps like the lenses on the camera (Smart shoot, that enables you to select the best pic from a series and also remove any distracting moving people, Panorama, Cinemascope - I havent used this one) and the fun-useful apps like Photobeamer (has to be downloaded separately) surely add value to the experience. They are simple, sweet and do exactly what they are supposed to do with minimum fuss - just the way I like them. There is also a local version of Nokia transport - not very useful right now in Bangalore though.


Its got enough juice to last a day but not as good as other flagships
Lasts one day with decently heavy usage that involves approximately 70-80 SMSes and a couple of phone calls each about 4 min long, Wi-Fi on (set to disconnect on lock) and the screen turned on for a good amount of time (~1 hour in addition to the activities described above)doing nothing more than just exploring the phone with brightness set to auto and music through headphones for about 2 hours and about 30 minutes of GPS navigation (location services are turned on all the time though). Surprisingly the battery life seems to improve with a few use cycles and now comfortably lasts a day with good usage. No problems in the battery life department.


Pleasant music experience and free downloads
I cant quite understand whats the big fuss about the music output of this phone is. I honestly prefer to tweak the equalizer myself than relying on some software to enhance bass. FYI, I fount that the much touted Beats in HTC phones makes the bass muddy, the 920 is much better in that regard. And yeah it comes with one year's worth of unlimited free music.


The things that make you go WTF ?!
The delivery reports appear as messages and have to be "seen" to be removed from the list of unread messages. The camera is good in sunlight, but you expect more from a superb hardware like this. Bing search cant be replaced with google or be remapped to perform some other function. Dont like the new windows logo at the centre, the one on the Lumia 800 is cooler. Also the new logo lights up a tiny bit too bright for my liking (No-one else had any such opinion though). Yeah I am nit-picking now ;)
I do miss the notificaction lights, although its rumored that a future update will fix that particular niggle.


Closure
Nokia finally has a phone that's worthy of being called a flagship - one that can stand in the crowd of multi-core giants from the likes of Samsung and HTC and the svelte beauties from Apple and not feel overwhelmed. In fact the lumia 920 is the first phone from the Finnish manufacturer that can actually gives these others an inferiority complex in more areas than one.

But its a fickle market out there and the questions that a potential buyer in this segment will have on his mind are primarily two - Is this the best smartphone out there? Does the Lumia 920 justify its price tag?

The answer to the first one depends on the user. If you are the kind that wants to tweak every last setting on your phone, flash it with every beta-ROM, then you wont like WP8 or this phone. But if you are the kind of user who has money to spend and wants a phone that just works, doing everything you want it to do with style forgoing a bit of nitty-gritty control in the process, then you'll love this phone. And for the second question the answer is an unequivocal YES. Yes this phone more than justifies the price tag. Its arguably the best-looking, best built, one with the best camera and the most lag free phone that money can buy right now. If that is not enough to satisfy a person and you still cringe for quad core this and multi-core that, then maybe you are missing the point. A phone was supposed to make our life easier, make it convenient, make it more pleasant and I cant see how the quad-core monsters do it any better than the 920. On the other hand the 920 does a lot of things that no other phone on the market does. It has the ability to genuinely surprise you on more than one occasion.

Maybe you should stop hating the underdog, maybe you should give the Lumia 920 a chance. Its just too special to be ignored. Despite going years without a proper flagship Nokia hasn't forgotten how to make desirable hardware. The Lumia 920 isnt perfect. But its a flawed genius, and for quite a few people out there - the best phone money can buy, irrespective of price.

UPDATE:
I need to update the camera comparison images as one my friends rightly pointed out that I am not using the same focal length on both of those shots, so the 600D is currently at a slight handicap as compared to the 920.

More details on the way ;)
None of the images posted here have been altered in anyway except being compressed further to save space.
 
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dashing.sujay

Moving
Staff member
Nice :)

Now I'd like to see 600D complimenting 920 ;)

Btw delivery reports as stand alone messages is really irritating which started from archaic samsung's legacy java based OS.

One more thing, my SE Hazel has got one hell of a msg prediction system learning from your typing pattern. ;)

PS: two slip of pen spelling mistakes, which I'm not gonna find again. :p
 
OP
pranav0091

pranav0091

I am not an Owl
Updated the review, added photos. Some more slight updates on the way :)
Feel free to ask for any clarifications if needed :)
 

Anorion

Sith Lord
Staff member
Admin
the pic of the phone was sharper than the dslr, and more suitable for quick sharing
the distortion feature sounds cool, prolly useful for recording live audio or concerts
that nokia music app is a perfect internet radio, it's an incredible service for free, you can search and play by tags and genres

think the maps thing was an orientation switch, more than a change in direction, this happens randomly even while driving... it is rare yeah, prolly the compass recalibrating itself
 

Gauravs90

geek........
can you tell me the size of other storage? I have currently lumia 820 and it's. a great phone but my other storage is taking 4GB of space.
 
OP
pranav0091

pranav0091

I am not an Owl
Whoa! Thats big, I have installed and uninstalled quite a few apps, but my others storage is still only at 1.53G. It was about 1.23 G when I first heard of this and checked.
 

Thunder

Journeyman
I read your review with a smile on my face :)
Very well written and I hope this product brings back Nokia right into the game.
Cheers mate.
 

Gauravs90

geek........
Download maps data and browse some internet on it and the size will grow over 5GB in a month. Try Guns 4 hire game.. It's too good... But will drain your battery in a hour...
 
OP
pranav0091

pranav0091

I am not an Owl
the pic of the phone was sharper than the dslr, and more suitable for quick sharing
the distortion feature sounds cool, prolly useful for recording live audio or concerts
that nokia music app is a perfect internet radio, it's an incredible service for free, you can search and play by tags and genres

think the maps thing was an orientation switch, more than a change in direction, this happens randomly even while driving... it is rare yeah, prolly the compass recalibrating itself

Unfortunately, no. Its not an orientation issue. It sees a false-lock and *then* updates the view. I have verified this by making sure that I am not holding the phone in a manner that can prompt the phone to think that it needs to switch orientation.

Download maps data and browse some internet on it and the size will grow over 5GB in a month. Try Guns 4 hire game.. It's too good... But will drain your battery in a hour...

I actually have maps of two states downloaded since day 1 and have browsed on IE once in a while...
Anyways I'll keep this mind and update if I see anything unusual.

Update: Viewing videos online did cause an increase in others usage, so did downloading feeds via reader. Still not worried as I have plenty of space left.
 
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Pancul

Broken In
Hey, nice review really!!

Do you often play games on your lumia 920? And if yes, then does Windows Phone store has any alternate available for the games like Temple Run, Subway Surfer etc? Also, I heard that 90% general apps and games are paid on Windows Store, is it true?
 
OP
pranav0091

pranav0091

I am not an Owl
@ Pancul : I dont game much on hones so I dont really know. I'll check and post if I come across something similar to those games.

Also, I have all apps I need (general purpose ones like RSS readers, flashlight, news, sensor checks, settings-shortcuts, local bus search, photo editors/filters, GPS alarms etc ) without having to buy any of them. All free and most of the ones dont even have ads. So personally, I'm satisfied.
 
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