Our readers know that I love the Windows Phone operating system. I have had the chance to test quite a few phones so far and I was very keen to get my hands on the Nokia Lumia 920. Finally, I got my chance to use it for a couple of weeks and now I am ready to share my conclusions. Is this phone as good as some reviewers said? Is it worth the title of the best Windows Phone 8 device on the market? Let’s find out from this review.
Hardware Specifications & Packaging
If you look at the spec-sheet of the Nokia Lumia 920, you will notice how similar it is to HTC 8X and Samsung ATIV S: it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHz dual core processor (just like the HTC and the Samsung), 1 GB of RAM (the same as the HTC 8x and Samsung Ativ S) , 32 GB of storage (like the Samsung Ativ S but double than the HTC 8X), a 4.5'' display with a resolution of 1280 × 768 (the HTC 8X has 4.3" and the Samsung Ativ S 4.8"), a Nokia PureView 8.7 megapixels rear camera and a front camera with 1.3 megapixels. The complete list of specifications can be found here: Nokia Lumia 920 specifications. Although the specifications make it sound like it’s not that different from the others, the Nokia Lumia 920 stands out from the moment you touch it for the first time, because of its weight and thickness. At 185 grams, it is by far the heaviest smartphone launched in recent months and one the thickest - 10.7 mm. In comparison, the HTC 8X weighs 130 grams and it is 10.12 mm thick. The Samsung ATIV S weighs 135 grams and it is 8.7 mm thick. When both my girlfriend and my sister held the phone in their hands and used it for a while, they were really surprised by how heavy and massive it feels. They felt that this phone was built only for men. :) The packaging looks a bit different from country to country. However, its contents is almost the same everywhere in the world. The box of the Nokia Lumia 920 includes: a quick start guide, product & safety information documentation, the SIM door key, a USB charger and a USB cable. Unfortunately, there are no headphones bundled with the AT&T version available in the US. Headphones are bundled with European versions of the phone though. I found this very surprising. We’re talking about a high end phone here and not having a pair of headphones bundled with it is rather unpleasant. If you are curious to learn more about the unboxing experience and what you will find inside, don’t hesitate to watch this video:
Next, let’s take a look at its design and build quality.
Design & Build Quality
In the picture below, you can see the Nokia Lumia 920 on the right, near an HTC 8X (in the middle) and a Nokia Lumia 800 (on the left). It looks massive and it feels massive.
After using it for a couple of days, any other phone I touched felt lighter and less bulky. I was not pleased and I found myself having a hard time in adapting to this phone’s weight. It was harder to carry around and rather unpleasant to use because of these factors. On the positive side, the way buttons are placed is very well thought out. I never had any issues unlocking the phone with just one finger, nor when taking screenshots, as I did with the HTC 8X. The screen is very responsive even when using gloves. The phone has its touch sensitivity set to high by default and this helps a lot in those special scenarios when you must carry gloves or your hands are dirty and you must use the phone. :)
The display uses Gorilla Glass 2 and, just like the rest of the phone, it is very durable. I dropped the phone by accident on the stairs and it simply had no problem. Everything worked as if nothing happened. There were no scratches, nothing. If there’s a positive about this phone’s size and weight, is that it is very durable. It might just be the most durable smartphone out there, able to cope with shocks and falls no other smartphone can.
The Phone Experience on the Nokia Lumia 920
After using the HTC 8X for a month, when I used the Nokia Lumia 920, I was not pleased by the signal strength being provided nor by the quality of my phone conversations. Later, when I also got to use the Samsung Ativ S I was even more displeased. When it comes to being just a phone, the Nokia Lumia 920 delivers an average experience. Both its competitors outperform it in providing good signal strength and clear voice conversations. From this perspective, I had the impression I was using a mid-level smartphone, not a high end one. This has also been a problem with previous generations of Nokia Lumia. I really hope the company will do something about it in future phones with Windows Phone 8. The audio quality when listening to music or watching video is good though. I really did not miss the Beats Audio technology from the HTC 8X and, subjectively speaking, the Nokia Lumia 920 delivers similar audio quality. The quality of the display is good - definitely comparable to that of the HTC 8X. However, the black levels are not great, just like on the HTC 8X. On the edges, the black is not really black, but a form of dark gray. However, using the phone in natural light is quite ok. Definitely better than in the previous generation of Nokia Lumia phones. The rear Nokia PureView 8.7 megapixels camera is great. The quality of your photos and videos will definitely beat any other Windows Phone out there. Some even said that this phone has the best camera, period and I tend to agree. For example, the colors are more natural than those obtained with an HTC 8X. There is less noise present even in low light conditions. You will obtain good quality photos even when using the Auto settings in the Camera app. The same cannot be said about the front camera. It has only 1.3 megapixels and it is a cheap camera you can use during video conversations. It quality is low and its only purpose is to save bandwidth and provide some video capabilities during Skype calls or video conferences.
Nokia Apps for Windows Phone 8
Everybody knows by now that I am a big fan of the Nokia apps for Windows Phone. And for good reason: out of all smartphone manufacturers, Nokia invested a lot of effort into developing a suite of apps that adds value to the Windows Phone ecosystem. Nokia Lumia 920 users will benefit a lot from using apps like Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive or Nokia City Lens.
They will find even more Nokia exclusives on the Windows Phone Store. I especially enjoyed using the Ringtone Maker that makes it really easy to create custom ringtones for your phone.
Looking at how the Nokia Lumia 920 compares in terms of specs with its competitors - HTC 8X and Samsung Ativ S, I would say that, except the PureView camera, the only other big differentiator is the suite of Nokia apps. There are more Nokia apps than HTC or Samsung apps, more are being developed right now and they are a lot more useful. Without these apps, the Nokia Lumia 920 would have a harder time standing out from the crowd.
Performance in Benchmarks
When using the Nokia Lumia 920, everything runs fast and fluid. I have not experienced any slowness, not even when I had many apps running. In order to compare its performance with that of other phones, I have run MultiBench 2 and WP Bench. MultiBench 2 revealed what I was expecting - the performance differences between Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X are minor (overall less than 1%). In the CPU and graphics tests, the HTC 8X was slightly faster while in the data transfer and memory tests, the Nokia Lumia 920 was slightly faster.
The CPU test in WP Bench shows the Nokia Lumia 920 as being slightly faster than the HTC 8X (by 2.62%).
WP Bench also confirms that the Nokia Lumia 920 is slightly better than HTC 8X when performing data transfers (3.42% faster) and when using the RAM memory (4.40% faster). In the graphics tests both phones have obtained the same result.
Next, I tested the phone’s performance when browsing the web - I have used the Sunspider benchmark for this task. This benchmark revealed only a 2% difference in the favor of the HTC 8X.
My tests confirmed that the similar hardware configuration of the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X deliver the same performance levels to users. When using both phones in parallel, I could not feel any difference. Both were just as fast. The only area where you notice an important difference is how much time it takes to start up the phone. The Nokia Lumia 920 is much faster than the HTC 8X. It boots in about 40 seconds, compared to 51 seconds on the HTC 8X.
The Nokia Lumia 920 packs a 2000 mAh battery which, at least in theory, it is better than the 1800 mAh battery included on the HTC 8X. In daily use, I did not notice any meaningful difference between the two phones. The battery on the Nokia Lumia 920 lasts about a day in normal use scenarios. It will last up to a day and a half only in light usage scenarios. However, the battery test included in WP Bench has shown the Nokia Lumia 920 lasting slightly longer than the HTC 8X.
Nokia Lumia 920 has many positives as well as negatives. I could not help feel that this is a very unbalanced phone that is definitely not for everyone. It might just be the most unbalanced phone I have ever used. First of all, its size and weight will be a major turn off to some users and especially to women. I am not trying to be misogynistic here but I have not encountered a woman who liked this phone. All of my lady friends were not pleased by these factors. And neither was I. This phone is just too heavy, it doesn’t feel comfortable to hold in your hand or in your pocket. There are positives too - the rear camera is the best smartphone camera I have ever tested. Also, the Nokia apps are better than ever and more diverse than ever. They are a key differentiator for the entire Nokia Lumia lineup. Also, the boot time and the battery time are slightly better than those of the HTC 8X. In the end, I recommend the Nokia Lumia 920 only to knowledgeable users who appreciate its upsides and are OK with its downsides.