Nokia Lumia 920 - Putting Photography in WP8

Launch SRP: S$899

Performance, Multimedia/Imaging & Battery

Performance

With its dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz processor and 1GB RAM, the Lumia 920 lived to expectations, proving that quad-core processors aren't all that necessary. Weaving through the interface, we were pleased to report that everything run smoothly and seamlessly, be it navigating around in the device, pinning live tiles to the home screen or even switching from task to task. Yes, screen transitions were very fluid with no visible lags. The same is observed for the scrolling, with the interface reacting responsively to our touch as we scanned through a list of apps within the menu. 1GB of RAM is good enough for multi-tasking, and as we mentioned earlier, task switching proved to be snappy and we saw no lags in performance even when we activated several applications (including more intensive game apps) in the background. 

Thanks to the new IE10 in place, web browsing is extremely speedy. To give you an indication of how blazingly speedy it is, the Nokia Lumia 920 scored a 909.2 on the SunSpider Javascript benchmark test. As a point of reference, the test measures JavaScript performance on tasks relevant to the use of JavaScript such as encryption and text manipulation; a lower score is a better score. In comparison, the Galaxy S III LTE scored a higher 1216.4 while the iPhone 5 fared better at 917.3. Traditionally, the iOS devices have usually come up tops on the test on Safari but not this time.

With support for both 1800MHz and 2600MHz LTE bands, Lumia 920 users are ensured with better LTE connectivity. We faced no problems with LTE connectivity on the phone, and had blazing fast speeds for most part of our usage.


Multimedia & Imaging

The Nokia 808 PureView was no doubt a sharpshooter due to its astounding 41-megapixel camera with a backside illuminated sensor and definitely one of the best on the market. However, several things bogged down its usability, including a Symbian Belle OS that paled in comparison to more full-fledged platforms like Android and iOS. Now is the chance for Nokia to right the wrong with the Nokia 920 - while it does not boast of a 41-megapixel sensor like its cousin, it does come with what Nokia terms as "PureView camera technology with Optical Image Stablization and Carl Zeiss optics". So how did the 8.7-megapixel shooter fare? Let's find out.

On entering the camera app, one might be fazed by how sparse and simple the interface looks in comparison to other devices as well as the Nokia 808 Pureview. As phone reviewers, we are pretty much used to the complexity and layers of customization (scene modes, basic photo filters/effects)  we can do, even with the default camera app. The more technical aspects like white balance modes, aspect ratio and ISO values are tucked under Photo Settings.

Thankfully, the solution lies in Microsoft's Lens option. Think of Lenses as a selection of photo apps that adds extra functionality to your photo-taking process on the WP8 device. You can add more apps via the Windows Phone marketplace, including Nokia's own Cinemagraph (creates GIF files), Panorama and Smart Shot apps. While the selection appears to be pretty limited at the moment, we are certain that more camera-friendly apps will be on its way.

The Lumia 920 might not be the fastest shooter in town but it does perform remarkably under low light conditions. To get as accurate focusing and metering as possible, the camera comes with a function called Focus Assist Light (this is switched on by default) which turns on the flash, meters, turns off the flash before taking the picture. It is a small price to pay for accuracy and in a situation where you don't find it particular necessary, at least there's the option to turn it off. To snap a photo, you either lightly tap on the touch screen on the area you want focused or press and release the shutter button located on the phone's right profile.

Based on photos taken of our indoor set-up, the Lumia 920 sets out to impress. While colors appear to be slightly muted, details are crisp with noise levels kept to a minimum. We spot slight smudging at this level due to perhaps more aggressive noise reduction on the 920 but otherwise, the phone performed superbly in all consideration.

Of course, we're sure you would be interested to know how it fared against other high-end smartphones in the market today. Here, we take a close look at the Lumia 920's performance alongside four other phones, Nokia 808 PureView, Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X and iPhone 5:

 Nokia Lumia 920

  • 8.7-megapixel camera

 

 Nokia 808 PureView

  • 41-megapixel camera

 

Samsung Galaxy S III

  • 8-megapixel camera 

HTC One X

  • 8-megapixel camera

 

iPhone 5

  • 8-megapixel camera

The Nokia 808 PureView once again is the clear winner here, with the Lumia 920 and iPhone 5 head-to-head for the second position. There are slightly more details caught by the 920's lens with higher level of clarity but the effects of aggressive noise reduction seems to be more prominent here. On the other hand, the iPhone 5 gets a thumbs up for  better color representation; colors on the Lumia 920 comes across as slightly whitewashed and muted. It might be unfair to use the iPhone 5 as a benchmark of sorts for mobile photography, but the iOS devices have traditionally come up tops in that particular area so these observations bode very well for the Lumia 920. While it might not be as impressive as its 41-megapixel cousin, its performance still lands it in one of the prime spots in comparison to the rest of the existing devices. 

As a point of reference, these phones are all sufficiently well-equipped for day-to-day photography needs, such as posting on social media and so forth. To prove that point, we've a gallery of photos taken with the Lumia 920.


Of course, the other point of interest in the Lumia 920 is in its swanky PureMotion HD+ IPS display, which comes with a higher 332 PPI than Apple's Retina Display on the iPhone 5 and promises fast refresh rates. The namesake spells it out just right but in layman terms, Nokia has managed to increase the display's refresh rate to match the rate that Windows Phone 8 is designed to generate. In a nutshell, this ensures no lags in updated screen content and reduces motion blur. We can't say the same for the other screens, but with the PureMotion HD+ display does provide fast transitions and rendering at 60fps without losing quality, especially important with Live Tiles constantly refreshing and changing. The screen is also designed to provide above average and intuitive daylight viewing capabilities via an ambient light sensor that automatically adapts depending on different lighting conditions. Under direct sunlight, the phone is still perfectly legible as observed so we have no complaints here.

The Lumia 920 also comes with Synaptics' ClearPad Series 3 sensor which allows the capacitive screen to recognize inputs even through gloves, or those with longer-than-average fingernails. While this isn't that applicable in the hot ASEAN climate, most would be happy to know that this feature is functional lest they require it. With gloves on, swiping, tapping (even on an intensive tapping game) and scrolling responded just as well on the screen without gloves but tapping on the touch buttons required a tad more effort on our part.

All in all, the device's 4.5-inch IPS 1280 x 768 pixels display performed remarkably, showcasing crisp and sharp text and images, with the latter exhibiting optimal levels of color reproduction and very deep blacks (thanks to Nokia’s ClearBlack technology).

 

Battery Mileage

We put the Lumia 920 against the high-end devices from the other camps, iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III LTE, while using Nokia's first Windows Phone device, Nokia Lumia 800, as a benchmark. Using the same 480 x 800 pixels resolution video that we use across all our mobile device battery tests, we set the same test parameters which includes having the video looped under the following conditions:

  • Brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
     
Test Phones Compared
Specifications/Device Nokia Lumia 920 iPhone 5 Samsung Galaxy S III LTE Nokia Lumia 800
Processor
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Quad-core 1.4GHz
  • Single-core 1.4GHz
Display Size
  • 4.5-inch
  • 4.0-inch
  • 4.8-inch
  • 3.9-inch
Display Type
  • IPS LCD
  • IPS LCD
  • Super AMOLED
  • AMOLED
Display Resolution
  • 1280 x 768 pixels
  • 1136 x 640 pixels
  • 1280 x 720 pixels
  • 480 x 800 pixels
Dimensions
  • 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7mm
  • 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm
  • 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm
  • 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
Weight
  • 185g
  • 112g
  • 133g
  • 130g
Battery
  • 2000mAh
  • 1440mAh
  • 2100mAh
  • 2150mAh

 

Windows Phone devices, both old and new, haven't managed to impress us with its battery mileage, and we are hoping it would be different in this case. Unfortunately, the Lumia 920 didn't do too well in this aspect. Like its Lumia 800 sibling, it falters between the range of 200 to 300 minutes, lasting only about 4 and a half hours for our battery test and placing third after the Apple iPhone 5. While both devices come with IPS LCD screens (which are traditionally not as energy saving as their AMOLED counterpart), it is important to note that the Lumia 920 comes with a bigger 4.5-inch screen and runs on an entirely different operating system (Live Tiles = battery sapping) despite featuring a larger 2000mAh battery. It is no wonder that the device rounds off with a very high 1.64W power consumption.

The results are likewise replicated in the portability index (battery to volume ratio). Given that the Lumia 920's dimensions towers over the rest of the competition, it is unsurprising that it came in last.

Other than the above formal video-based battery test, we observed that the phone could last through a working day, with emails and Twitter feeds pushed constantly to it when using the phone in a casual manner for day-to-day needs. Other activities included occasional web surfing and phone calls.

It is highly advisable to charge the device twice, once before leaving the office and another when you are back at home. To conserve battery, do keep the brightness to a minimal level and switch off LTE when you find it unnecessary. We find that that does help prolong the battery life by a substantial amount. Of course, if you are planning on taking the Lumia 920 for a spin (aka photo-taking, heavy GPS usage), be prepared to bring a portable charger along. Take for instance, we shot on the Nokia Lumia 920 for slightly over an hour (about 150 shots), with data pulling in for Twitter, email and Facebook and it dropped from 100% to 65%.

8.5
Design
7.5
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
8
Performance
9
Value
8.5
The Good
Sturdy and classy build
Gorgeous PureMotion HD+ display
Superior camera performance
Nokia app additions and wireless charging accessories
The Bad
Bulky and heavy at 185g
WP8 platform lacking enough apps
Battery life not on par with competition