Windows Phone 8 is lovely, and the Lumia 920 is supposed to be the Ultimate Windows Phone. Sadly, the handset we've been excited about for so long is just too fat to love.
AU Editor's Note: I hate that I have to keep saying this. I wouldn't if tech companies understood that Australia was actually a thing worth paying attention to. /rant. We'll have a local review up of this as soon as we get a Lumia 920 in the office.
What Is It?
Nokia's best possible Windows Phone, with a much-hyped PureView camera and a big, luxurious screen.
Who's It For?
Anyone who has been praying, weeping and hoping for a Windows Phone that's every bit as powerful and terrific as the iPhone 5 and top Android handsets. On paper at least.
Gigantic. Glistening. Sturdy to the point that I'd worry about dropping it on something. Ferrari paint job. This is a phone tooled to make you go "Oh, look at that thing!" rather than just blending in to the sea of black brick rectangles — though it is essentially just an inflated Lumia 900, which itself was an inflated Lumia 800. There is a pattern here.
The 920 looks and feels like an Italian space mothership, with everything rounded, polished, weighty, and conspicuous. A lovely object. A 1957 Thunderbird. It's so, so smooth — I slept with it one night, and it felt great against my skin. It is a beautiful thing to look at.
Are you pretty much familiar with Windows Phone 8? No? Read this. Yes? Then you're pretty much familiar with the Lumia 920. Almost all WP handsets are smooth and responsive, and the 920 follows suit. In terms of interacting with the pixels on your screen, you'll be in warm, familiar waters. The software is as fine as you'll find it elsewhere, with the added perks of Nokia's mostly-stellar exclusive app suite. What few physical buttons there are along its sides — volume rocker, power, camera — are crisp and functional.
The Best Part
The software. Windows Phone 8 is the best version of an already graceful, beautiful, and outright daring phone OS. Those are words you don't get to use justly in reference to phone software. But it's true here. Add in Nokia's apps — the fantastic Maps, the best cinemagraph-maker I've ever used, the free streaming music — and you've got the best version of an already very good OS.
The Lumia 920 is so heavy that nobody should own it. It's 185 grams for those playing at home. It weighs more than the Galaxy Note II and the HTC Titan. No, really.
It's just too heavy. Inexcusably heavy. Way, way too heavy to recommend to anyone. The 920 isn't just big — the HTC Titan was big, and it was pretty great. The 920 is bloated, cumbersome. Anyone's first response will be "Ugh, God, this thing is heavy." It's a visceral, instant repulsion, and it doesn't get any less heavy, as if through some polycarbonate osmosis. It's just as galling every time you take it out of your pocket — stretched within a micron of its life — and that isn't the kind of feeling you want to have with an object you're going to be using all day every day.
Our gadgets should be comfortable. They should be made for our hands and fingers. The 920 was perhaps made for hands and fingers, but not of any mortal. Not any of us. Maybe Nokia figured that bigger means better means more things sold means Windows Phone 8 succeeds. Maybe Nokia just couldn't figure out a way to make it skinny. But we haven't just been spoiled by the impossibly slight iPhone 5 — the 920 is a design failure all by itself. Everything good about it is nullified by its obesity.
This Is Weird...
The camera is very good — up there with some of the best you can find on a phone. But for all the hoopla and controversy we went through about the vaunted "PureView" capabilities of this thing, its lens isn't floating on a bed of springs and diamond lashes. It doesn't beat the hype.
In very low light (or even at night), it spanks the iPhone 5.
Far less noise.
In cloudy conditions, it's about on par with the iPhone, although the latter captures more detail.
But when snapping a well-lit shot on the move — you know, touristy stuff — the iPhone wins, beating the 920 even with all the hot talk about image stabilisation.
The 920 has a very, very good camera. But PureView, like Nokia said itself, is just a word, not photographic magic. And in this phone, it sure as hell doesn't justify bulkiness and stupid overweight excess.
- Nokia built a terrific display — it's significantly larger than the iPhone 5's, but just as sharp (332 ppi on the Lumia versus 326 on the iPhone). It's highly readable even in bright sunlight — like Nokia claimed it would be — and both photos and video sing, popping on screen with fine colour accuracy. You'll like reading and watching things on this screen.
- Wireless charging works, but isn't a big deal at all. I tested out a Fatboy charging pillow, which does indeed charge your 920 sans wires, but also is a big pillow instead of a wire. Not a very good tradeoff. More like a gimmick.
- This thing is slow to turn on. Like, half a minute boot slow. Bummer.
- Battery life is fantastic, even with both 4G and Wi-Fi enabled — more than enough to last you for an entire day.
- It can't be stated enough how annoyingly heavy and bloated the Lumia 920 is.
Should You Buy It?
It kills me to say this, because I wanted to own this instead of an iPhone 5, but no. No you shouldn't. It's too big and heavy. It's not fun to own. It's not enjoyable to use. If you want a Windows Phone, check out the very good HTC 8X. But this? No, not this.
Nokia Lumia 920
• OS: Windows Phone 8 • CPU: 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro • Screen: 4.5-inch 1280x768 IPS • RAM: 1GB • Storage: 32GB internal • Camera: 8MP Rear • Battery: 2000mAh Li-Ion