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 800x400 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

Comments

    silent is in the top right of the screen when you tap the volume once, where it says "ring" and has a bell, press the bell and it gets a line through it.

    i don't recall getting a blank XBL gametag either, i'm pretty sure i got mine when i linked my account

      Actually, this highlights WinPhone 7's biggest problem - Microsoft's pathological aversion to providing detailed manuals. AFAIK, there is nowhere to learn how to put the phone on silent. I discovered it by accident one day, having spent months doing it the way Luke describes in the review (through settings). The problem isn't that it is not intuitive, the problem is that it is so intuitive no-one would expect it to be so ample, easy and elegant. It is exactly the same with Zune - half the negative reviews of ZuneHD at amazon. com (there are more than 1200 of them, roughly the same as for iPod Touch) are based on users not realising how ridiculously easy Zune is to use. They assume that it must be like most software, requiring you to jump through a few hoops to get anything done, and get annoyed that it doesn't work the way they expect. Its almost as if you need to unlearn all the bad habits software has forced you into over the years and start afresh, as a child discovering it all for the first time.

        It's not just Microsoft/Nokia that provide little details with the manual. Apples manual is just as bad if you ask me.

        "The problem isn’t that it is not intuitive, the problem is that it is so intuitive no-one would expect it to be so ample, easy and elegant"

        Actually from how you're describing it that exactly true problem. And it's a problem throughout all of WP7 - if we can't work it out on our own, what hope does a non-tech enthusiast have?

        I'm pretty sure my Lumia 800 came with a little folded quick-start manual that told me how to put it on silent.. I don't recall having any rage moments finding out how to do it. I did need to google how to switch apps when multitasking though, so there's that.

      The XBL gamer tag issue happens if you link a live ID to windows phone (and possibly windows 8?) without first linking it to your XBL account.

      If you do this it will create a generic gamertag for you, and you have to wait 30 days to be able to transfer the new junk gamertag to a junk email address, and then transfer your real gamertag to your ID you wanted to use on the phone.

      The worst part? You can only change XBL gamertag email addresses on an Xbox.

    Crazy, it is even more expensive than Samsung Galaxy S3 with such a low spec.

      No, both phones have a recommended retail price of $899. However, you can by the Lumia 900 outright on eBay for less than $400 but you won't find a Galaxy SIII under $700. i.e. The Lumia 900 is barely half the price in the real world.

    RRP is incorrect, and you accidently mentioned microsim tray in the second paragraph of "what we liked". Not the most positive review, but I think I like the things you did say about it and might get myself one tomorrow. Cheers

    [quote]More apps, higher resolution screens and better cameras and we’ll have a ballgame on our hands. [/quote]

    I won't argue with the higher resolution screen or the better camera, although I would personally prefer a highly customizable camera to one that has no options and just takes decent shots. I will argue with the more apps thing however:

    I put it to you gizmoders: that straight out of the box, without any extra downloads or installations, this phone would be much more capable and usable than a similarly spec'd phone running Andriod or iOS. That is to say: WP7, and particularly the Nokia variants, don't tend to rely on "apps" for basic functionality. No extra downloads, no extra purchases, just take it out of the box and turn it on and the Lumia 900 can connect straight to your facebook/twitter/gmail/hotmail/exchange account and pull down all the contacts from them, provide turn by turn navigation, access the internet with a sensible browser, and a myriad of other functions that the competition require you to download an app for.

    To sum up:
    Lumia: apps, limited. functionality out of the box, high.
    Competition: apps, high. functionality out of the box, limited.

    Hardly a review. I rather like the silent icon on top right which is very innovative and not sheeple minded. Gamertag - no issues. More of a hate troll.

    If you want to associate your (old) XBOX gamertag with a new Windows live ID, you can move it to the new account through using an xbox 360.

    The screen is the one reason I'd want this over my 800. The 800's PenTile screen is great, but having seen the difference that RGB makes on my sister's SGSII I can only imagine how nice that screen looks. The handset's just a bit big for me though.

    Clearly the review hasn't used windows phone much! The silent button is easy to activate! Press the volume up or down button then touch the ring button in the right hand corner and bazzam it will be silent!

    I'll wait for a bigger screen.. WP8.. and yer.. hopefully next year sometime.

      I'm waiting for a smaller screen - something the size of my ZuneHD (3.3") would be perfect. My Zune HD is a quarter the size of my Lumia 800, and waaayyyy sexier, but it holds 4 times as much. Of course, it doesn't make phone calls and it doesn't have a speaker but that's beside the point, dammit! I want a phone the size of my ZuneHD!!

      The only smartphone I've owned is a WP7. That being said, I'm not going to upgrade until I've had a look at WP8 and whatever improved handsets become available. I think the Lumias have come along too late in the cycle, they're good phones, but the specs don't stack up now with the OneXLs and SIIIs of this world, along with whatever Apple manage with the iPhone 5 (probably). If you're staring down the barrel of a new two year contract, you're going to end up with an outdated phone very quickly. Windows' unclear signals on whether existing phones will get Apollo doesn't help either.

        Who cares about specs? Its the experience that matters and a low-spec WP7 phone performs at least a slickly as higher spec Android phones or iPhone. In fact, I'd suggest the most important spec in any phone is the antenna. Certainly in my experience the thing that still hampers my phone use is reception. It doesn't matter how quickly or slickly my weather app loads, for example, if it takes two minutes to download the forecast. That's what has been by far the biggest improvement with my Lumia 800 over my old phone - it offers measurably better reception.

    ...."save Nokia and Microsoft from the smartphone backwater"...
    Nope, it'll be part of the line of phones that sinks Nokia (some light reading for anyone interested: http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/06/the-final-reckoning-of-burning-platforms-memo-damaged-nokia-by-wiping-out-13b-in-revenues-and-destro.html). As for MS? If they want to remain relevant they'd better step it up a gear for WP8.

    This article is full of wrong.

    "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."

    OR you could just tap on the "ring + vibrate" icon that shows up in the top right hand corner of the lock screen when you press the volume button once...

    "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."

    You did it wrong, I can't explain more than that really because I've never heard of this. I've configured a Windows phone twice... and it's worked 2 for 2.

      The problem is that if your Windows Live account is not linked to your Xbox Live account, then you'll get a blank account. The first Live ID you link to the phone is the 'primary' ID and is what it uses to pull up your XBL profile as well. I ran into the exact same problem, my XBL is linked to an incredibly old Hotmail account which was not my primary Live account. I especially liked the way it sucked in all my contacts from Hotmail, which were people I knew a decade or so earlier.

      Additionally once you link a Live profile to Windows Phone, it's stuck there. There's no way to remove it, you have to factory reset. Any other account is removable, the primary account is not.

        You can fix it by transferring the junk gamertag to a junk email, and your main gamertag to your main email.

        Downside is you have to wait 30 days to do this, as you can only transfer a gamertag once every 30 days and having a new one created counts. You also have to do this in the settings of your Xbox console.

      +1 Also why is the non removable battery in the 'what we didn't' like section? Would you have put an iPhone in the same category?

    Most of the "Things we like" in this article are about the phone, but when it comes to "Things we don't like" you seem to be talking more about the OS. Is it just me or does this seem a little unfair? Yes there are a fe points about the phone but you seem to be talking more about the OS.

    To switch to silent, press the volume rocker and then tap the icon on the top right of the screen - even when locked. Same to go back. Quick and easy.

    So where's the rest of the review?

    Also, you must have done something wrong because with the 3 windows phone I've reviewed this year (including the 900), my gamertag's have automatically transferred over to my phone. Did you try letting it load, or were you trying to get this article rushed out?

    I really wanted a Lumia 900, but playing with one in the store the animations and scrolling weren't as smooth as my Lumia 800, the flat glass really takes away from the design of it.

    It also feels "too light", which makes me worry about quality. The 800 feels genuinely heavier in your hand.

      Because it's actually thicker than the Lumia 900.

    The silent mode thing couldn't have been easier it shows the volume & profile on the screen so I touched it & cycle through the modes, I don't see how it could possibly be more intuitive.

    I can only imagine that you have a different live id that you use day to day compared to the live id you use on your xbox. only way I can imagine your gamertag would be blank.

    This article should really be updated. Sure, mention the problems you ran into but you should also note the solutions which others have posted in the comments. To say you can't switch to silent easily is just incorrect

    Next time, please get someone who actually uses the phone to write the review! 'Silent" is very obviously a soft button when you press either one of the volume buttons. Setting up the gamertag is very easy.

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