Seven days with Nokia's Lumia 920: The good

Seven days with Nokia's Lumia 920: The good

Summary: Nokia has pinned its hopes on Windows Phone 8 and its new flagship handsets, the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. I spent a week using the Lumia 920 as my only phone - read on to find out where it shines.

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I've made no secret of the fact that I've liked Windows Phone since it reached its milestone 7.5 (Mango) release, so I was keen to see what Microsoft would deliver with Windows Phone 8. Plus, whatever the root of Nokia's recent struggles, its hardware design and feature set have always been a plus point for the company.

With these in mind, I spent a week using the Lumia 920 as my sole phone, to see what Microsoft and Nokia together could come up with.

Lumia 920
Does the Nokia Lumia 920 impress? Image: Josh Miller/CNET

Here's what I found. But rather than cover every single feature of the phone, I want to highlight the best and the worst parts. Let's start with the good.

I've used a Lumia 900 before, so the general design of the 920 was already familiar. It's a little larger and a little heavier than its predecessor, but uses slightly rounded screen edges (more similar to those on the Lumia 800 rather than the square-edged 900). These make the handset easier to hold, even though it's a bit bigger.

I like its hardware, in spite of the overall size and weight (186 grams/0.41lbs). It feels solid and well made, like a premium device should. I'm also a fan of hardware controls, so I like having a volume rocker and dedicated camera shutter button on the side of the chassis.

One of the things that Nokia has made a fuss about on the Lumia 920 is the camera, and there's a good reason for that: it's easily the best camera I've seen on a smartphone, particularly for low-light conditions. There's a lot been said about this feature already, so I'll keep it brief, but it really is impressive.

Check out the two photos below for a side-by-side comparison. They were taken at the same time, on the same day, in the same place, without using flash. The image on the left is from the Lumia 920 and on the right, the 900.

Lumia_920_vs_900_test

The camera also has a 'lenses' option for things like taking a panoramic picture or creating an animated GIF (using the Cinemagraph option). These are a bit of a novelty for me and would only get occasional use.

The Smart Shoot mode, however, is more useful. It takes a rapid series of photos - burst mode - then lets you edit in a face from any of the images into the final chosen shot. It's pretty neat, and similar to third-party apps found on other mobile OSes. And like those other OSes, Windows Phone 8 has replaced the zoom bar with pinch-to-zoom.

Call quality is often overlooked nowadays in favour of processor specs, screen resolution and other more easily comparable metrics. On the Lumia 920, it's actually pretty good, with relatively crisp and loud audio. It also gets one bar of reception more than any other phone I use in my (basement) flat.

On a side note, Nokia Music puts its rivals to shame. There's no sign-up, no subscription charge and no limit to how long you can listen. In fact, the only real limitation is you can only store four rather limited playlists of 20 songs for offline playback.

Wireless charging and syncing

Given that I spend most of my time playing music through the phone, I'd have expected the battery life to take more of a battering than it did. At no point have I been left stranded with it totally dead, but then I have remembered to charge it every night. The phone also arrived with Nokia's wireless charging pad, which made it easier to remember to do.

Nokia's idea is that you own a few of these wireless charging pads and leave them in obvious places, like the office and bedroom. It's a nice idea, but at £45 ($71.60) to £55 a shot, it's not going to happen.

The syncing options on the Lumia 920 are very convenient, particularly with photos and Microsoft Office documents. More than once, I found myself showing photos to friends on my Windows 8 tablet that I took 30 minutes earlier on the Lumia. While it's not revolutionary, it's a nice little touch that gives you one less thing to think about. 

What else is good? I like the Live Tiles on Windows Phone 8 - even more so, now they are resizable - and the interface in general. The integration of social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is nicely done, letting you avoid dedicated apps (though it does make you post and read Tweets in different places).

So there you have it: the Lumia 920 shines when it comes to its hardware, camera features, call quality and battery life. But it does have a dark side: if you want to know where I think it falls down, read on to part two.

Part 2 - Seven days with the Nokia Lumia 920: The bad

Topics: Smartphones, Microsoft, Mobility, Nokia, Reviews, Windows

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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29 comments
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  • Great phone for a specific type of user

    The Lumia 920 seems like a really solid phone and I’m curious to try it out, but it seems like there's some definite pros and cons with it, depending on your needs. If you're a heavy camera user, the camera this thing is sporting may be enough to push you to buy it, regardless of its other features. If having a big phone is a no for you, this this may be a little too beastly for you. I compared it to the LG Nexus 4 that came out last week to see how the two phones compare: http://sortable.com/phones/Nokia-Lumia-920-vs-LG-Nexus-4#differences The Lumia 920 comes out on top when it comes to having 4G, and has an FM radio, which is kind of cool. Plus, again the camera is a clear winner with a pretty sharp screen. On the flip side, it seems like the Nexus 4 might be a faster phone, plus it’s a bit smaller, thinner, and lighter, which I personally like. But maybe some people want that extra screen real estate. I definitely do like the extra battery capacity and Android OS on the Nexus - i'm still a bit hesitant to jump ship to Windows 8 from either iOS or Android.
    Jude Fiorillo
    • No 4G

      No 4G should be kind of a dealbreaker if you are buying a flagship phone that wil last you for two more years. 4G availability is rapidly expanding and next years all decent smartphones will be on 4G.
      IE11
      • Does have 4g

        The Lumia 920 does have 4G it is a LTE device....
        hafenbrack
      • Nexus 4

        Must be commenting in some Nexus 4 thread, right ???
        Vish2801
      • Deal Breaker?

        Last you for more than 2 years? So...you will use 4G as a deal breaker for a service that you MIGHT see in years? That's assuming your carrier will offer you the service at a decent cost; that the carrier will not have troubles with the network because of the "new technology", and that the service will be available in your city...I'm against consumerism but c'mon...cellphones are not designed to last much more than 3 years and you know why? Because of the "planned obsolescence" That means that they fabricate the product to live not that long so they will sell you another one in a few years; that's how economy goes pal.
        Adding to the ecuation that you will probably want another cellphone in 2 or 3 years (because you will fin a "cooler one") It's pretty obvious to conclude that:

        You will NOT really use the 4G during the time that you'd this cellphone...as simple as that.
        Fer A.
    • i doubt

      i doubt the nexus 4 is faster, it has a faster processor, but i tihnk windows phone is built better than android so you get more for less.....

      Thats why my windows 7.5 phone is buttery smooth and my mates Android of same age / price is laggy as anything.
      danjames2012
      • I would have agreed with you a year ago

        but Jelly Bean is a different animal for Android. I have owned WP7 and Android devices.. WP7 was awesome but it was hard to switch from Android because I was so used to real multitasking, which is both the blessing and curse of Android and I also already owned a ton of apps for Android.

        That said, I usually recommend WP7 and now WP8 to new smartphone users. They work great. I really really miss my Dell Venue Pro WP7 phone which was one of the best phones I have ever owned. That keyboard was legendary.
        redhaven
  • Have you tried rich audio recording ?

    One of the stand out features on the Nokia Pureview 808 phone was the sound recording in places with a lot of sound like concerts or parties.
    This rich audio recording feature should also be present on this Nokia Lumia 920.

    Most phones have terrible sound recording on video's when the surrounding sound is very heavy.

    Could you test this feature on the Nokia Lumia 920 also and write about it ?


    Hmmm, you also did not write about the screen quality which has been praised in many reviews, is it not part of the good... ???
    IE11
  • Seven days with Nokia's Lumia 920: The good

    This review makes me want to buy it that much more but its too bad they have an exclusive with AT&T. It pretty much covers everything I need in a phone.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • AT&T

      People love to bash AT&T and I suppose some of that depends upon their local system and past experiences. I've been an AT&T wireless customer since 1998 and have had few, if any, problems. I really loved them compared to Sprint (my old work phone), because Sprint's coverage at my former house was almost non-existent. When I've called with questions or concerns, they've always gone out of their way for me. YMMV.
      NMBill
      • I've had AT&T since the release of the iPhone 3G

        And had Sprint before that and Nextel prior to the merger. The only issue I've had with AT&T was the lack of service at the house we moved into 2 years ago... when we recently upgraded our phones 3 weeks ago (3 lines all 3 got iPhone 4S devices) we brought that up as a deciding factor as to staying with AT&T or going to VZW or even Sprint - they gave us a free microcell tower that has eliminated any home reception issues. I find AT&T in my area to be better than Sprint and VZW (I use VZW with my work phone).
        athynz
    • My only issue with At&T...

      Is that the new plans separate data and messaging. Currently, I'm grandfathered in on a Media Net account which has unlimited data with 200 messages. When I get the 920 I'll have limited data and messaging is $20(USD) extra.

      Other than that I've been really happy with AT&T. I've been with them since they bought Cingular and I've carried their land line + DSL. Now... if they'd only get Uverse to my neighborhood...
      khunter
  • If this phone...

    was on Verizon I would definitely pick one up. I'd rather pay a few extra bucks to get a great camera.
    dtdono0
  • Is there a difference....

    between the ATT and the International version? What the price for an unlocked one? Anyone?
    pepe-el-Toro
  • Optimism about WinPho 8

    As a happy Windows Phone 7 user, I am hoping to see improvements in Windows Phone 8 that bring it on par with other mobile OSes.

    I hope that WP8 has a better notification system, allows more than five background apps, works with more Bluetooth devices (like keyboards), allows copying from anywhere (not just text entry fields), and allows voice dictation into any text field (not just text messages). These are just a few of the "fit and finish" things that I was missing when I used WP7.
    the.ksmm
  • excited much

    Most of these features have been long available on other smartphone brands. I wish Nokia stayed with and perfected Symbian, but.. c'est la vie.

    The music service, does it store the music on your phone or streams is? If it streams music, with the scarce unlimited plans available, that "great feature" is going to cost you some serious cash.

    About the only unique thing about the Lumia 920 is the wireless charging and we have yet to learn what the side effects are (you definitely don't want to live in high strength magnetic fields).
    danbi
    • symbian ?

      You must be joking !

      Symbian is even more dated than IOS, I know hard to comprehend.
      sjaak327
      • Symbian

        Symbian was the best OS for years and when Nokia stopped selling phones in the US people got used to the look of iOS. I guess Nokia decided to let someone else deal with the OS because the industry has been changing features so much lately. From my first 5150 in 2000 to my current N97, all Nokia's in-between, I have never been without a hardware feature more than it took me to upgrade the phone, and software/firmware upgrades were never far apart or behind anyone else. It was and still is a very capable OS that many outside and some inside the US loved. With the US market being a much larger source of money than it is a percentage of the world population caused decisions to be made to get back into that market in what is hoped to be a less expensive way than going alone, ie. Microsoft helps to pay for much needed advertising.
        techrepublic@...
  • Other +s

    My wife's pre-ordered phone should be here by the first of the week. (My upgrade is due next month.) Think she will actually like the size, after dealing with one of the smaller Android phones around. I will probably be able to decipher her texts on first read. I think her (not as good as it once was) eyesight will be happier with the larger display. I find the WP OS very intuitive and think she will, too, and, if she has questions, I will have answers, rather than playing around with her phone, until I figure it out.

    It has a great camera and an operating system, based on WP 7.5 experience, that I believe I'll really like, and there are a couple other features that appeal to me. I'm a desert dweller and on-/off-road motorcyclist. Looking forward to a display that is reputed to stand up to bright sunlight and a touchscreen that will let me operate the phone in lightweight gloves. Yes!
    NMBill
  • Disqualified Windows Phones

    I don't care if its Lumia 920, HTC or other phone. As long as they have Windows Mobile OS on board , for me personally are useless. Big lack of key-applications make them again....useless. No software for PalTalk, MagicJack and tens of others apps make them complitly useless again.
    If I want a phone I can buy it for $ 40.- but if I want to buy a pocket computer with phone option for $900.- , then I'd like to spend my money for device I will be satisfied.
    Microsoft...you can blame only yourself !!!
    For me personally every Windows OS Phone is a piece of junk, dispite that I love this OS.
    Kriskret