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Nokia Lumia 900 Review: Can The Lumia 800's Big Brother Deliver?

The Nokia Lumia 900 is here, but is it worth the hype? Can it, as our US counterparts say, save Nokia and Microsoft from the smartphone backwater to which they have been relegated?

The Phone:


The Lumia 900 is the latest addition to Microsoft and Nokia’s happy family of smartphones, and the short version is that it’s the bigger brother (literally) of the Lumia 800 that we went hands-on with a little while ago. The only other difference is that it has a front-facing camera.

It runs Windows Phone 7.5 and sports a 4.3-inch AMOLED screen (as opposed to the 3.7-incher on the Lumia 800), complete with an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. Meanwhile, under the hood, the phone runs a 1.4Ghz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM with 16GB of on-board storage (sadly, not expandable).

What We Liked:

The screen on this thing is amazing. Such deep blacks viewed through a great slab of glass with a subtle curve. Makes the already great-looking Windows Phone 7 operating system really shine through.

Overall, the design of the handset is really something to behold. This handset might have been regarded as a knock-off of Nokia’s old N9 handset, and to be honest, that’s ok. It’s still great looking. The phone itself is matte black plastic interrupted only by a vertical sliver of silver on the back for the camera to unobtrusively poke out. The ports (microSIM tray, microUSB port and headphone jack) are all nestled nicely into the top of the unit, too.

It’s nice and fast thanks to that Snapdragon processor and the sound clarity that comes from those speakers (nestled in the bottom of the handset) is clear and crisp. I played some tunes with it at a party and it could be heard nicely over the general chatter.

What We Didn’t:

Don’t get me wrong, Windows Phone 7.5 is really easy to use, well laid out and it’s beautiful — something that’s only enhanced by that deep black display. One of the big problems is with the customisability of handset itself.

If you want to turn the handset onto silent, for example, it either requires you turning the volume switch all the way down which might not be obvious for some users, or going into the settings page to turn all the sound settings off. If it were an Android handset, it’d be one soft button, or if this were an iPhone, it’d be one switch.

Another issue is with account management. I’m a rabid Xbox Live gamer and I justify all of those hours in front of my console by my Gamerscore. So to pair my Windows Live account with the handset, only to be shoved onto a default, blank Gamertag is really annoying. What’s worse is that (to my knowledge) you can’t remove that Gamertag from the handset without doing a factory reset.

Also, an integrated battery isn’t an issue for me, but it’s been known to upset some people before. If you want to be able to remove your battery just by popping off the back case, this one isn’t for you.

The camera isn’t awful, but it’s not stellar.. Highly customisable though, which means you can try and salvage an image if you find the automatic settings screw up your image which are often either too over- or under-exposed and never that happy medium you should be getting. It’s good enough to use for a night on the town with friends if you forget your point-and-shoot, but it’s no camera replacement as you can see from our test shots below.


Should You Buy One?

This one’s for the bigger-handed folk among us. If you like a big screen to watch content, view photos and browse with, you’re in for a treat, but having said that, the Lumia 900 isn’t without fault. I’d love to recommend it wholeheartedly, but what we have here is the war between style and substance, it’d be nice if the Lumia 900 had both, but it’s still found wanting in the substance department. More apps, higher resolution screens and better cameras and we’ll have a ballgame on our hands. Sure, buy it if your contract is up and you’re looking for a decent Windows Phone, but it’s not something that has me calling my carrier to cancel my contract.

Specifications

Screen 4.3 inch 800×400 AMOLED
CPU 1.4GHz Qualcomm APQ8055
RAM 512MB
Camera 8MP rear-facing, 1MP front-facing
Storage 16GB; No expandable storage
3G Either 850MHz or 900Mhz
Weight 160g
Price $899 or on contract