Nokia Lumia 920 User Review

*This device is a review unit from Nokia Malaysia

I’ve had the Nokia Lumia 920 for almost 3 weeks now. This was an exciting review for me. I have previously played around with a Windows Phone before, but have never used it for anything longer than an hour. Swapping my SIM card from my  trusty Android smartphone, I was ready to take on Windows Phone OS since my last Windows Mobile 6.5 phone years ago.

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Nokia Lumia 920 (Credit : Nokia.com)

Nokia dubs the Nokia Lumia 920 as “The World’s Most Innovative Smartphone” in their marketing materials. It’s even highlighted that the Lumia  920 won Engadget Awards 2012 “Smartphone of the Year” based on 280,000 “Reader’s Choice” votes. In case you are curious, also check out the Engadget’s review of the Nokia Lumia 920 here.

I was a long time Windows Mobile user. Way back when I was a stylus toting, PDA using, Windows Mobile evangelist. It works so seamlessly with my laptop Windows OS for work – Outlook emails, calendar and contacts sync, Microsoft Office document viewing and editing. As Windows Mobile market share and device availability starts shrinking, I swapped over to Android smartphone OS and my accounts and services to Google.

So, as an Android user with my life (personal and work both) tied to Google’s services, how did this flagship Windows Phone fared with me as my primary device?

 

Hardware Overview

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Packaging of Nokia Lumia 920

Here’s a quick overview of the specification of the Nokia Lumia 920:-

  • 4.5″ WXGA “ClearBlack” display (1280 x 768)
  • 1.5 GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor
  • 32 GB internal storage (no expandable microSD slot) + 1 GB RAM
  • Powered by Windows Phone 8
  • 8.7 megapixel “PureView”  rear camera with Carl Zeiss lens (1080p video), 1.2 megapixel front facing camera (720p video)
  • 10.7 mm thin, weighing 185 grams
  • 2,000 mAH non-removable battery (10.8 hours 3G talktime)
  • Connectivity : 4G LTE/HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC
  • Available in Black, White, Red and Yellow colours

For more information, do check out the Nokia Lumia 920 Product Page at http://www.nokia.com/my-en/products/phone/lumia920/

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Unboxing the Nokia Lumia 920

Inside the box, you’ll get your standards – the Luma 920 device itself (I got the matte black one), a 3-pin power adapter, USB to microUSB charge/sync cable, standard earbud headphones (with more extra earbuds) and user manuals and warranty cards.

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Hardware overview of the front and back of the Nokia Lumia 920

The phone is not exactly slim or light. At 185 grams, it’s quite a hefty phone. For a minute there, I felt uncomfortable with the weight compared to a much thinner and lighter Samsung Galaxy S4 at 130 grams.

The screen size of 4.5″ display is perfect. The size fits nicely in my hands, especially with the rounded edges at the sides of the device. No sharp corners, except at the top and bottom. Think flatten cylinder. Hah!

The device is made with a polycarbonate (read:plastic) body, but doesn’t feel plasticky or flimsy like a Samsung phone. In fact, the matte back gives off a rubbery grip when you hold the phone in your hands. The black colour device I have is gorgeous, too. Certainly no need for you to wrap this one up in phone cases here.

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Looking around the hardware of the phone

The top of the phone, you’ll see the 3.5mm headphone jack right in the middle, with a port (accessible via a pinhole) for your microSIM card. On the right is the volume rocker at the top, Power On/Off button in the middle and (the best part) a dedicated camera button. On the left, there’s no buttons or ports. At the bottom, you’ll see the speaker grills and the microUSB charging/syncing port in the middle.

See the rounded corners on the side? Me likey.

Dedicated camera button? Me likey some more.

 

Software Overview

Since this is my first time reviewing a Windows Phone 8. It took awhile for me to get used to the navigation, the tile menu and getting all the apps I need to keep my smartphone usage flow going.

 

Windows Phone 8 – Menu, Navigation, Keyboard, Browser

Windows Phone 8, in case you didn’t know, is a tile based menu, previously known as the “Metro” user interface. Your homescreen is a series of  tiles which serves as shortcut apps as well as notifications for new messages or updates.

Nokia Lumia 920 - Navigation (Home, Tiles, Apps
Windows Phone 8 menu and navigation

For those like me who’s new to Windows Phone 8 OS, here”s a quick rundown on navigation. (Left) Your lock screen shows date and time and any upcoming calendar appointments. Swipe up to unlock and you’ll get to your tile based homescreen (second from left). Swipe to the right and you’ll get to the App Drawer (third from left) in a scrolling list format. Press and hold on any apps and you’ll see menu options to pin that app to the Start (homescreen) menu, rate / share / uninstall the app.

Windows Phone 8 navigation is amazing. The animation when you swipe between screens is subtle yet beautiful. All menu, navigation and apps has the same sideway scroll actions and the same tab-like screens and big fonts.

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Emails & account support

Without a doubt, you tie your Windows Phone with your Microsoft account. This can be your Hotmail, Outlook.com or any other MSN or Microsoft emails. As with any smartphones these days, you can easily add other email accounts like Gmail, Yahoo, etc and have it sync not just your email, but also Calendar and Contacts as well. Of course, you also have the ability to add and sync your social media ccounts like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

What I like is the email app. Other than the sideway scroll navigation style in the OS, you can link multiple email accounts into one inbox view. This is Windows Phone’s version of unified inbox. You also get threaded conversation view. Quick actions are available in bottom icons, and tapping the 3 dot opens up additional menu settings.

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Everything in Windows Phone 8 OS is “People” centric

People. People. People.

Microsoft thinks that you don’t need to open multiple social media apps to keep connected and updated with your friends and connections. It’s all unified in your “People” (aka Contacts) app. Other than the traditional list of your phonebook contacts, swiping sideways reveal a “What’s New” section with highlights of social media updates, or “Recent” section of latest updates, ala HTC One’s BlinkFeed.

Clicking on a contact card reveals not only contact info, it includes their linked email and social media accounts, AND their latest social media update. This is similar to what I get with HTC’s Sense UI. I’m feeling right at home here.

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Multi calendar view with colour coding

The Calendar app, like on Android supports multi calendars (from your Microsoft, Gmail, Yahoo or work emails) that you can customise and colour code accordingly. As usual, you get the day, month, agenda and a To-Do list view.

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Default on-screen keyboard

I have to say that I really like the on-screen keyboard. You can choose to add multiple keyboards support. This means it maintains a good dictionary and text prediction of these languages on one keyboard!

The auto-correct is almost always correct – I’ve not had embarrassing auto-correct typos or having to go back to correct my rapid thumb typing. The word prediction is super intelligent – after a good 2 alphabets, it’s already predicting correctly what I intend to type. As far as default on screen keyboards go, this has got to be the best I’ve ever used.

PS. On Android phones, I ALWAYS immediately switch to my purchased third party keyboard, SwiftKey for better “learning” auto correct and word prediction. I’m never a fan of default keyboards.

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Internet Explorer 10 on board as default browser

On our desktop, I don’t know anyone who still uses Internet Explorer, really. On a Microsoft device here, running Windows Phone 8 OS, you know you’d get IE on board as your default browser. Internet Explorer 10 is only good enough here, in my opinion. There’s the standard support for tab browsing, bookmark management, share functions and address bar at the bottom that auto hides after the webpage loads to give you full screen browsing.

Maybe I’m too used to Chrome browser on my laptop as well as on my smartphone. I could be biased here.

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Search capacitive soft button launches Bing search

With a capacitive soft “Search” button at the bottom front of the device, you tap to launch Bing search. Of course. This launches fast (unlike the painfully slow Google Now on my Android smartphone) and shows a simple space-y wallpaper and search bar up top.

Bottom is a sole icon of an eye that helps with visual search and scanning of QR codes. Yup – built-in QR code reader, no need to download a separate QR code reader.

Tapping the microphone icon, or pressing and holding the Start capacitive soft button on the device, will launch voice search and voice activated functions like “Call mum”, “Text hubby” and more. Unfortunately though, voice recognition was not great. In my tests of searching for my own site, in natural speaking language, it went horribly wrong and returned some rather vulgar deciphers. I’ll spare you the screenshot.

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Full and proper Microsoft Office support. Woo hoo!

The greatest thing about Windows Phones will have to be the full and proper support for Microsoft Office. For a working professional, this is the biggest selling point. I can view, create and edit Microsoft Office Word documents, Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations.

As with Microsoft’s latest cloud computing efforts, you get to browse through files stored on your phone, from your email attachments, SkyDrive cloud storage or Office 365 cloud computing support. In terms of mobile working, this has the best experience from a smartphone!

 

App Choices in Windows Phone 8

It had to be said. Just like BlackBerry who’s also fighting for the No. 2 smartphone OS market share, many are concerned about the choices of apps in Windows Phone’s Store.

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Windows Phone Store with apps, games and music

When you open the Windows Phone Store, you see a category of “Nokia collection” with some recommended apps from Nokia. Standard with Windows Phone Store, you get a healthy selection of apps, games and music.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a mobile gamer or music listener (other than the occasional Spotify on my desktop while I’m cranking out some paperwork), so I didn’t get to browse through much of that category”s selection.

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Facebook for Windows Phone

You get the standard official apps for Windows Phone like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. There’s WeChat, Line and WhatsApp for your mobile data messaging needs. There”s Angry Birds games, if that’s your thing. There’s Viber and Skype (of course, coz it’s now bought by Microsoft) for VOIP calling. I get my official Evernote but no official Dropbox.

Unfortunately though, there’s no official Instagram app. My search for “Instagram” on the Store lead me to find a third party app called “Instance”.

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Instance for Windows Phone is a 3rd party Instagram app equivalent

Instance is quite an interesting app. It has the basics of an official Instagram app, limited to pictures only for now. It allows you to login to your Instagram account, browse you feeds of followed accounts, LIKE and comment. There’s no Instagram video support, @ mention username auto complete, profile edit and other added features of an official app.

Oh – and you can only post pictures by browsing through your phone’s gallery of photos and not from a camera within the app, and comes with an assortment of (not too good) filters. For basic Instagram use, it’s good enough.

 

Killer Features

Nokia Lumia 920 touts some amazing killer features to make it one of the best Windows Phone smartphones you can get.

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Nokia Lumia 920 comes with 4G LTE capability

Yes, the phone comes with 4G LTE capabilities.

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NFC, Find My Phone, Auto backup to SkyDrive

There’s NFC called “Tap + Send”, “Find My Phone” feature to locate your lost phone, remotely wipe / erase your phone’s data and more, and auto backup of apps, SMS and photos to your connected SkyDrive cloud storage.

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Nokia HERE Maps, HERE Drive+ Beta, HERE City Lens,

Nokia HERE is Nokia’s proprietary Maps services. Not only is it quite capable, Nokia HERE Maps is rather impressive with POI (Points of Interest) recommendations, directions for turn-by-turn navigation, satellite views, public transport and traffic info. HERE Drive+ is a beta app, with turn-by-turn driving directions, while HERE City Lens is a good guide app for POIs around your location for food, shopping and more.

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Clear and beautiful screen display

The Lumia 920 comes with a gorgeous PureMotion HD+ display is what Nokia calls the “World’s brightest, fastest and most sensitve touchscreen”. It works well even with gloves, the display is bright and colours pop!

 

Camera

Speaking of killer features, there other awesome feature on the Lumia 920 would have to be the rear 8.7 megapixel PureView camera, with Carl Zeiss lens.

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8.7 megapixel “Pure View” rear camera with Carl Zeiss lens

The camera comes with OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) which helps you take clear pictures even with shaky hands.

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Camera app with minimalistic controls

The Camera app has rather minimalistic controls. You can choose to toggle between snapping a picture or shooting a video. If you remember from the Hardware Overview earlier, the device comes with a dedicated camera hardware button. You can use that hardware button, or tap anywhere on the screen to shoot. Tap and hold to focus.

Photo quality are great with this 8.7 megapixel camera. Autofocus is quick and even macro shots looks amazing. The front facing 1.2 megapixel, on the other hand, was very disappointing. Low megapixel count aside, the quality of images was blurry and weak. If you’re a cam-whoring selfie type of person, this would be a big negative.

Here are some sample pictures with the Nokia Lumia 920, unedited and not resized. Click to enlarge:-

Low light performance on the camera is PHENOMENAL. That’s one big selling point for the Nokia Lumia 920. I was seriously impressed!!! Check out the below picture taken in low light condition (left), compared to the HTC One (right) which also has excellent low light photography. Pictures unedited, not resized, click to enlarge.

Video recording are in Full HD 1080p and has a handy feature where you can turn on the rear LED flash as a lamp to brighten up your low light video recording. Yes, this can be a bit too harsh, but sometimes, it can be a really handy function.

Check out the sample video below of my puppy, first in the low light condition, followed by a clip using the flash as a lamp.

Super impressed with this one major “Killer Feature” of the camera on the Nokia Lumia 920.

 

Battery Life

Here’s where I’m disappointed.

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Battery life for the Lumia 920 is disappointing

I’m a light to moderate user on my smartphone these days – emails, social media checking and updates, a handful of phone calls, occasional browsing, nothing heavy on my phone, really. In other flagship smartphones, I get a decent 14 – 18 hours  of juice for the day.

With only 2,000 mAH of battery on the Lumia 920, I knew not to expect too much, but at least 14 hours is not too much to ask for, I think.

Day 1 – battery died on me after a little over 12 hours before I got to snap a screenshot. Day 2 – I captured the above screenshot and it was a majorly disappointing 9 hours + until I got to 4% of battery life. From this point on, even with “Battery Saver” mode on and (alleged) “Less than 1 hour” indication, it died in a couple of minutes after the screenshot.

After using the phone with such limiting battery life as a primary phone, I was scared to use it as a primary phone where I need my phone for work calls and emails, so it retired as a secondary phone very soon.

As an experiment, I had it running for a week on standby and it was surprisingly good, lasting close to 8 days of battery power. So, how can it drain my battery so fast when in use? Anyone out there with a different experience? Is it my unit?

You’d think that with such a big (10.7 mm thick) and hefty phone, Nokia would be able to pack a bigger than 2,000 mAH battery in here. Make sure you turn on your “Battery Saver” mode on, people. Or scour the Windows Phone Store to find some good battery management apps.

 

Pricing and Availability

Nokia Lumia 920 have been available on sale since December 2012, for the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 1,699. You can also purchase the smartphone at a discount if you sign up any of these telco plans:-

  • Maxis from RM 1,099; plans HERE
  • DiGi from RM 1,309; plans HERE

Unfortunately, there are no telco plans for this device with Celcom or U Mobile.

 

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 920 doesn’t win Engadget Award 2012 Reader’s Choice “Smartphone of the Year” for nothing. It is an impressive phone.

The build quality is solid, although the device itself can be a bit bulky and hefty. The camera is amazing, unlike any smartphone cameras I’ve seen in the recent years, as Nokia always makes good smartphone cameras. The OS certainly has more room for improvement, but you can’t fault Nokia for that, as they do, and will continue to, build great phones.

My next gadget to review. #nokia #lumia920 #smartphone

A photo posted by Winnie Chen-Head (@winniekepala) on

Here’s my list of “Pros” and “Cons” on the Nokia Lumia 920:-

Things I Like

  • AWESOME-SAUCE camera – Image stabilisation, excellent low light photography
  • Dedicated camera button – all flagship smartphones should have this. Seriously.
  • Great build quality & display – overall good hardware, solid phone, matte rubbery back don’t need extra case

Things I Dislike

  • Weak front facing camera – hey, I do the occasional selfies
  • Battery Life – better battery management needed, or just pack a bigger battery, please?
  • Bulky and heavy – come on, Nokia. You’re reminding me of the “brick” phones back in your heyday

Buy it? Don’t buy it? Certainly keep this in mind if you’re a working professional who takes some pictures, especially of kids, pets, parties. The lack of apps might tick you off a little. Look at the Windows Phone Store first to see if you can find the apps, or alternative 3rd party equivalent of the apps you need before you make the decision.

Based on the impressive “Nokia” build quality and Windows Phone OS and navigation, you should have no worries here.

What’s my verdict?

Nokia Lumia 920 is a sturdy and reliable workhorse of a smartphone. At play, you’re guaranteed to take awesome pictures that puts other smartphones to shame!

Are you looking at getting this Lumia 920? Are you an existing user of the Lumia 920? Let me know what you think of the Windows Phone 8 OS and the Lumia phones in general, in the comments below.

Extra note – There’s a newer version of Nokia Lumia 925 about to hit the local market soon. The newer Lumia 925 has a nicer design, build quality and an improved (if that’s even possible) and smarter camera with EVEN BETTER low light photography. I can’t wait. 

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