The Lumia 920 packs an impressive array of technology and apps to create a unique and rich experience on Windows Phone 8 that Nokia can deliver. Coupled with PureView imaging and optical image stabilization, the Lumia 920 strives to be your default camera.
The Lumia 920 is Nokia’s second attempt at a Windows Phone flagship with U.S. carrier partner AT&T, effectively succeeding and replacing the Lumia 900 that debuted earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show.
On paper, the Lumia 920 is an attractive smartphone, carrying over the award-winning Lumia 900′s industrial design, boasting greater integration with Microsoft’s Windows 8 ecosystem with Windows Phone 8 at its core, and boasting a PureView camera.
Theoretically, the Lumia 920, with its ability to capture bright images at night combined with optical image stabilization (OIS)–a first of its kind for a smartphone–should whet the appetites of dedicated Nokia loyalists, but does the smartphone deliver impressive results? Nokia knows how to deliver in the camera department with devices like the N95 and the 808 PureView, and expectations are high for the Lumia 920. Read on to find out how the device stacks up.
Nokia Lumia 920 | $100 | AT&T
Lumia 920 Review Guide
Related Lumia 920 Articles
Coming soon. Please check back later. In the interim, please enjoy the written review. Be sure to check out the PureView-captured images in this review, along with the video clips that highlight the optical image stabilization between the PureView-enabled Lumia 920 flagship and the camera of the Lumia 810, which does not feature optical image stabilization.
In the U.S., AT&T has snagged an exclusive to Nokia’s latest Windows Phone 8 flagship, the Lumia 920. Like the exclusive Lumia 900 before it, the Lumia 920 is built on the ‘fabula’ design that debuted with the MeeGo-powered Nokia N9 smartphone. The design language is a continuation and users who have seen an N9, Lumia 800, or Lumia 900 in the past will see that the Lumia 920 is a natural extension of that design language.
This year, the Lumia 920 gets even bigger with a 4.5-inch display, up from the 4.3-inch from yesteryear model. It’s a rather surprising decision for Nokia given the company’s seeming commitment to a smaller form factor when it had introduced the Lumia 800 globally late last year at Nokia World, stating that it would only continue to evaluate the market for larger displays. None the less, the Lumia 920 packs a lot of emerging and new technologies under its large display, including multi-core CPU support and 4G LTE network connectivity–a first for the Lumia series–wireless charging, NFC, a PureView 8-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash and optical image stabilization, and a display with some hidden surprises that we’ll discuss in further details in the next section.
The Lumia 920 is constructed using the same unibody polycarbonate design like its predecessor. A change from last generation’s 900 model is that this year’s model employs a curved glass display, which not only makes things a bit more elegant, but also helps with the user experience as users can swipe across the display without any obstructions. It’s a nice touch that initially debuted on the Lumia 800, but Nokia cited the larger display of the 900 as a reason on why they omitted that feature on last generation’s device. Given that the 920 is even larger, it’s quite a nice surprise to see Nokia backtrack here.
The display houses a slit at the top for the earpiece speaker along with the proximity and ambient light sensors. On the left of the earpiece speaker, you have AT&T’s logo for the U.S. model and to the right, you have a wide-angle front-facing camera and the Nokia logo.
The display itself, which Nokia calls ‘better than HD’ occupies much of the front.
Underneath you have the trio of Windows Phone navigation keys–back, Windows (home), and search.
On the left spine of the phone, you have an extremely clean curved edge that wraps to the back of the device, giving the Lumia 920 a nice ergonomic feel despite its rather large heft.
Up top, the 3.5 mm headphone jack is placed in the center. Adjacent to the jack, you have some precision laser-drilled holes for a noise cancelation microphone. On the edge is a tray where the micro SIM card is inserted; you do need a paper clip or a SIM ejector tool to pop out the tray.
The right spine houses the hardware keys that most Windows Phone devices sport, including volume up and down buttons, a power/lockscreen button, and on the bottom a dual-stage camera shutter button.
On the bottom side, you have a micro USB charge and sync port. The port can also accept an MHL adapter so users can connect the Lumia 920 to an HDMI cable. Flanking either sides are laser drilled holes that house a mono speaker and the microphone. You also have two exposed screws–the only place where screws are visible on the device.
Around back, you have a nice matte finish for the cyan blue edition (select colors are also available in a glossy finish). A polished aluminum strip houses the camera pod and comes with the Carl Zeiss inscription for the Tessar lens. Right above the camera is the dual LED flash that also serves as a video light and autofocus assist light.
An area where some users may be concerned about is the weight of the Lumia 920. Tipping the scales at over 6.5 ounces, the device is on the hefty side, outweighing the even larger 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II phablet. However, the weight is evenly distributed and the phone feels sturdy and solid. The Lumia 920 feels like a solid, well-built phone, and a lot of it has to do with how balanced the phone weighs and the substantial weight the phone wields.
The Lumia 920 is definitely a heavyweight phone in terms of size, weight, and features.
One of the big highlights of this year’s Windows Phone 8 Lumia models is the display. Now, you can use the display not just with your fingertips, as with typical capacitive touchscreens, but you can also use it with your fingernails and with gloves on.
I’ve tried swiping, tapping, and flicking and pinching at the display with some boxing gloves and with my shirt extended over my fingers and hands in cold weather outdoors and the screen works fine and is still accurate.
Tapping and using the display with fingernails also works for those who prefer to operate a touchscreen with long, manicured nails.
The downside to the hyper-sensitive touchscreen is that Nokia is effectively bringing back the pocket dialing phenomenon that was virtually eliminated with the use of capacitive touchscreen technology. It’s not a big deal and if you don’t need to wear gloves while operating the display, you can turn off the sensitivity. Just be sure to always lock your phone before placing it in your pocket, else the display may get inadvertently activated in your pockets as your phone is sliding around if you place the phone display-side towards your body.
And like typical Nokia smartphones, the PureMotion HD+ display works brilliantly outdoors, even under direct sunlight. Whereas some other displays would get washed out, the Nokia PureMotion HD+ display shines through and the screen was still readable under bright sunlight. It seems that Nokia has the weather covered, whether you live in cold climates that mandate the use of gloves or under the warm California sun, you can see, operate, and use your Lumia. And unlike the ClearBlack Display technology that Nokia had employed on older generations of OLED display, the AMOLED panel of the Lumia 920 doesn’t have a metallic sheen when viewed under direct sunlight.
As the screen has a resolution of 1280 X 768 pixels, Nokia is calling it an HD+ display. It’s the same resolution that Google is using on the Nexus 4 by LG and gives a bit more pixels horizontally when you hold the phone in portrait mode. It’s a nice touch, though it does make the phone a little bit wider.
Windows Phone has always been a conservative OS and doesn’t require the same amount of power that competing modern smartphone OSes do. Windows Phone 7 felt fast and fluid even with its single-core CPU. Now, with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor clocked at 1.5 GHz combined with AT&T’s 4G LTE network, the phone feels fast. It’s unclear if Nokia had optimized the Windows Phone code on the Lumia 920 as the phone feels a lot more fluid and did not stutter as much as the competing flagship Windows Phone 8X by HTC–on the HTC model, sometimes typing quickly on the touchscreen keyboard caused the key presses to stall.
Transitions are effortless and there really is not much to complain about in terms of performance. Still, Windows Phone 8 seems to be a step behind the latest Android smartphones, which are beginning to launch now with quad-core CPUs. Does Windows Phone 8 need quad-core? Not as far as I can tell, but on paper, quad-core may sway the unaware consumer.
4G LTE, a carryover from the Lumia 900, does help Internet Explorer render things more quickly. On Windows Phone 8, users are presented with Internet Explorer 10 and performance is fast, though not quite as fast as some other browsers. IE 10 on Windows Phone 8 does an impressive job with rendering pages accurately.
And even though pages may not fully load in an instant, pages are usable while various elements continue loading. IE 10 is an HTML 5 experience, meaning you won’t find Flash or Silverlight compatibility on Windows Phone 8.
Additionally, besting the maximum available storage on the rival high-end Windows Phone 8X by HTC, the Lumia 920 comes with 32 GB of on-board storage. Users cannot add more memory as there is no removable memory card slot and the unibody construction ensures that the battery is not user-serviceable.
Battery life on the Lumia 920 is acceptable and is on par with the battery life of the Lumia 900. Symbian fans will probably be disappointed in having to charge their phones every day or two, depending on usage, but the Lumia 920′s large display and capable features probably will make you use the device more frequent than you intend, causing faster dips in the battery.
With the PureView camera, Nokia’s location apps (GPS), 4G LTE connectivity, and a bright display all contributing to big drops in the battery meter as you use these features, the Lumia 920 will probably last most users a day with email checking, some navigation, occasional picture taking, web surfing, and some video watching and music streaming.
In summary, battery life is competitive with other phones in this class.
Audio volumes on the Lumia 920, both through the earpiece speaker while in a call and through the loud speaker were surprisingly loud. Though the volume level was plenty loud, audio quality was a bit hollow and not quite as rich as competing devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S III or Note II.
Volume levels are higher than on most competing smartphones. At the highest volume settings, audio quality was a little distorted, but given the high volume output, users generally don’t need to crank up the volume that high using the mono loud speaker.
When you turn up the volume, a popup toast notification appears, warning that hearing damage can occur if you’re using high volumes with earphones or Bluetooth headsets, which is a nice caution.
Overall call quality was pleasant. The Lumia 920 is able to remove much of the background noise thanks to a secondary noise cancelation microphone up top while delivering good call quality and reception. Reception was good, though that’s to be expected of a Nokia handset.
Additionally, if you plug in speakers or headphones via the 3.5 mm audio jack, you can access equalizer settings and have access to Dolby settings as well to fine your music listening experience if you’re an audiophile.
In the U.S., the Lumia 920 is a quad-band GSM phone that’s compatible with AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Where LTE isn’t available, the 920 will default back to 4G HSPA+.
In terms of browsing speed, I was able to get between 15-30 Mbps downloads and 3-15 Mbps uploads on AT&T’s network in the U.S.
The aspect that’s probably most heavily marketed about the Lumia 920 is the PureView imaging technology. PureView first debuted on the Symbian-powered Nokia 808 PureView, with a large sensor that’s capable of delivering 41 megapixels. With the Lumia 920, Nokia is taking a different approach and is calling this technology PureView 2.0.
PureView 2.0 highlights two different things: capturing images in low light and stabilized pictures and videos.
Essentially, what this means to the consumer is that you can take gorgeous shots with little ambient lighting and without having to use the flash. This is great for capturing the ambience or mood of the environment as using the flash, you don’t quite capture the essence of the mood and the resulting images would be over-exposed or washed out.
PureView technology enables this by allowing the shutter to be kept opened longer, which leads to more light being captured by the backside illuminated sensor. Usually, when the shutter is kept opened longer, images captured would become blurry as any motion or shake would be picked up. This is called motion blur, and Nokia does a good job eliminating this thanks to optical image stabilization. On the PureView, the camera’s optics is mounted on springs to counteract for the photographer’s shaky hands.
So how well does all this work and does it work as advertised? In my casual tests of the camera strolling through town at night, results were more mixed than I’d like. Under the right conditions when the technology works, the images are brilliant and it would seem that the camera lights up the images with far more light than my eyes would pick up. A dinner image captured at dark looks to be like one captured just at sunset, it seems as viewed from the Lumia 920.
However, that’s when the conditions are right. When conditions aren’t right, images do capture a bit of motion blur or aren’t illuminated properly. Likely, advanced users will want to go into the camera’s settings and play with the exposure compensation settings or the ISO settings.
And at cursory glances, images captured with the iPhone 5′s backside illuminated sensor may appear to be lit brighter, despite being captured under similar dark conditions. However, the Lumia 920 really shines in the way it captures the image. With the iPhone 5, in dark and tricky lighting, you’ll often get a lot of noise whereas there is less noise on the Lumia 920′s captured images.
Unless you’re willing to experiment and play with the settings, or have the patience to re-capture shots, the Lumia 920′s still images camera is a bit tricky.
And you still have many of the gripes with Windows Phone’s camera software. Though tap to focus is present on the software, doing so would get the camera to attempt to focus and automatically capture an image. You don’t get to preview the scene before the image is captured.
Another gripe is that though the image does get illuminated thanks to the additional light that’s being delivered as a result of keeping the shutter opened longer, you don’t get to preview the shot with the added light and it’s only after you’ve taken the photo do you realize that the Lumia’s camera does its job. On the iPhone 5, you get a live preview and see how much light is on your subject before you capture your image. That feels more natural than the Lumia 920 where it seems like a test and see approach where it comes to lighting.
Compared to the highly marketed camera on the rival Windows Phone 8X by HTC, the Lumia 920′s camera does a far better job with white balance detection as well as eliminating light flares when capturing images at night. If you are a camera fan and need a Windows Phone smartphone, the Lumia 920 should be at the top of your list.
There are also a number of downloadable lenses for the camera. These aren’t just typical filters or Instagram knock-offs, but allows the camera purpose to be the hub of various apps that may integrate with the camera. CNN’s citizen journalist program via the CNN app, for instance, can have a lens that’s found in the camera where normal people can tip CNN’s news staff with breaking news footage.
Additionally, Nokia has created some lenses of its own to compensate for Microsoft’s overly simplified camera UI, such as a lens for panoramic images, a Cinemgraph lens that helps users animate images and create GIFs, and a Smart Shoot lens.
The Cinemegraph lens is cool, but is more of a novelty. Smart Shoot, on the other hand, is rather useful. In group shots where someone is bound to blink when the shutter goes off, Smart Shoot captures a series of images and then chooses the best faces in each image and compiles them into a final image. This eliminates the need for photoshopping if someone isn’t smiling on cue.
Where the Lumia 920 really shines is with video. With optical image stabilization, you can walk about town with the video going–videos are captured in up to 1080p HD resolution–and not have to worry about shakiness. It’s definitely a killer feature of the phone, more so than the finicky low light image capture.
Video 1: Captured on Nokia Lumia 920 with Optical Image Stabilization; video captured while walking at night
Video 2: Captured on Nokia Lumia 810 (T-Mobile USA) without OIS; video captured while walking at night
Sample Images. Daytime shots were on par with other high-end cameras and showed a lot of detail and clarity. We weren’t as much concerned with daytime shots taken with good lighting. We wanted to put the camera through challenging lighting conditions at night, and you’ll see the Lumia 920 outperform rivals in its class.
The Lumia 920 runs Microsoft’s latest Window Phone 8 operating system, and many of the features and concerns of the OS remain present on Nokia’s flagship hardware. We’ve taken a pretty extensive look at the Windows Phone 8 operating system while reviewing the Windows Phone 8X by HTC, and you should visit that review if you want to look at the OS.
In addition to the OS, Nokia has made some enhancements that make the Lumia 920 and other Lumia products stand out. This definitely adds value for consumers and make the user experience more competitive against offerings running Android or iOS.
Nokia’s location services suite is an impressive collection of apps, that include Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive+, Nokia Transit, and Nokia City Lens. Nokia Maps is akin to Bing Maps or your typical Google Maps experience on Android. If you search for a point of interest and find out you want to get there, fire up Nokia Drive+ and you can get voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation with spoken street names.
If you’re more eco-friendly and wish to take public transportation, you can get walking and public transit directions via Nokia Transit. The best part about Nokia Transit is that it shows you what time you have to leave by to get to a certain destination by.
Nokia City Lens is an augmented reality app that is great for discovering what’s nearby and what’s around you. It also takes away some of the awkwardness of trying to get somewhere new while navigating with your smartphone and realizing you’re headed in the opposite direction and need to backtrack. The app allows you to pan around and see the world around you by collecting your surroundings via the camera. An overlay is placed on top, showing nearby places, restaurants, and points of interest. See a listing for a Starbucks ahead? Well, you can walk towards it rather than figure out that there’s a Starbucks on Market Street and not know if you should walk up or down Market. Now, you just walk towards Starbucks on City Lens as it’s up ahead.
Best part is that you get two different types of views for City Lens. Hold the phone in portrait mode and you’ll see a list of nearby places, and you can choose from various categories, like food, hotels, etc. Hold the phone in landscape and you get the augmented reality view.
There are also limited-time Nokia exclusive apps as well, such as ESPN and Angry Birds Rooster, which is a video tutorial of how to pass some of the hardest levels on the Angry Birds game.
The Lumia 920 is Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone 8 smartphone and is by far the best Windows Phone device on the market right now. Nokia has used its expertise to couple innovative hardware with software that adds to the user experience. However, the Lumia 920 isn’t just competing against other Windows Phone devices; it has to compete with Android devices, which offers more flexibility and power, as well as Apple’s iPhone, which goes for a sleeker design and a more robust ecosystem. At this time, the thing that makes the Lumia 920 great–the Live Tiles, panoramic menus, and simplicity of Windows Phone–is also the thing that’s holding Nokia back. Windows Phone is still relatively young and still has a lot of maturing to do–the OS still lacks a unified notification system, Xbox music still lacks the ability to purchase videos and TV shows on the go, and the app selection still trails behind Android and iOS. Still, the Lumia 920′s competitive $100 price with a two-year contract and innovative features, such as bundled wireless charging, is worthy of a second look. If you’re on the fence about Apple’s iPhone, HTC’s One X series, or Samsung’s Galaxy S III, the Lumia 920 is definitely worth checking out, and you simply cant beat the price for what you’re getting.