Camera, Performance, Battery & Conclusion
The Belle OS-driven Nokia 808 PureView created a huge stir thanks to its 41-megapixel camera sensor. The Lumia 920 also had the PureView branding, but the camera used an 8.7MP sensor, which was also much smaller (1/3-inch vs. 1/1.2-inch). The new Lumia 925 retains the backside-illuminated sensor of the 920, along with the Carl Zeiss-branded optics, F2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, and support for 1080p video capture at 30 frames per second (the 1.2MP front-facing camera is capable of 720p). What’s changed though is the addition of a sixth lens element, which in theory should help in sharpness. (By the way, most top-end phones (such as Lumia 920, HTC One, iPhone 5) sport a 5-element construction.) And as mentioned earlier, maximum ISO sensitivity is now rated at 3,200, and there are algorithm tweaks to improve detail resolution, color, and noise performance.
|Nokia Lumia 925||Nokia Lumia 920||Samsung Galaxy S4|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,600||ISO 3,200|
|*Click image for original version.|
Versus the Lumia 920, pictures from the 925 look slightly duller. Put another way, the 925 produces slightly more natural and accurate colors, though not always the most eye-pleasing at first glance. In the first row of pictures (taken around sunset), you'll also notice that both cameras treat white balance a bit differently. On the other hand, the Galaxy S4 has more details, which is expected since it has a 13MP camera, but its field of view is also narrower (in other words, the Lumia 925 and 920 have a wider lens). Sharpness-wise, it's a tough call between the Lumia 925 and 920. For the most part, they look very similar. In daylight, the 925 probably just edges slightly ahead of the 920; because of the tens of pictures we've taken, we got more sharp and properly focused images with the former.
The Lumia 925 is also capable of going all the way up to ISO 3,200, which the 920 and Galaxy S4 can't. By keeping shutter speed and aperture the same, the picture gets brighter as you turn up the ISO sensitivity. Sure, there's quite a bit of noise at ISO 3,200, but there's no denying that you at least get a useable picture (especially if you downsize it), versus no picture at all. Coupled with an effective optical image stabilization system (where the entire optical assembly moves to counter shakes), the Lumia 925 makes for one excellent low-light snapper. All that said, compared to the Lumia 920, low-light shots from the 925 appear noisier (gasp!). It looks like Nokia has made the noise reduction algorithm less aggressive in order to preserve more details.
The Lumia 925 also includes the new Nokia Smart Cam app, which shoots 10 frames in succession, and provides users with a selection of processing modes. There’s Best Shot that selects the best picture out of the 10 to save; Action Shot that superimposes the 10 pictures (you can select which to exclude) on top of another to create a final composite that conveys motion; Motion Focus that lets you introduce motion blur into the background; Change Faces that lets you choose your favorite facial expressions in the series and combine them to get the perfect shot; and Remove Moving Object that lets you remove unwanted objects (say, a passerby) in the picture. Take note though, to apply all these effects, Smart Cam downsizes the pictures to five megapixels.
To reiterate, the Smart Cam app is part of the Lumia Amber update for Windows Phone 8 devices. The Lumia 920 and 820 will also capture 10 frames at five megapixels each, but the Lumia 720, 620, and 520 will be shooting at 7 frames at one megapixel each. Smart Cam will not be available for older Lumia devices running Windows Phone 7.8 and 7.5.
Like the Lumia 920, the Lumia 925 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC (MSM8960), with the dual-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz. Graphics-wise, it runs the Adreno 225 GPU. It also has 1GB of RAM.
|Nokia Lumia 925||Nokia Lumia 920||Apple iPhone 5||Samsung Galaxy S4|
(Lower Is Better)
(Higher Is Better)
Moving on, it's important to point out that despite the Lumia 925's lowly dual-core CPU, it still offers a butter-smooth user experience on Windows Phone 8. On Android, even the highest-end phone suffers from the occasional lag (case in point: the Galaxy S4). To be fair, since Android 4.1, we've witnessed big UI rendering improvements on Google's mobile OS; coupled with crazy-fast hardware, it's fast approaching iOS and Windows Phone's level of UI fluidity.
Like its predecessor, the Lumia 925 uses a non-removable 2,000mAh battery. As always, we subject the phone to our video playback battery test, which includes looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume cranked up to 100%. Bluetooth is turned on, so too is Wi-Fi. The latter is connected to a network for constant data streaming through email and Twitter.
For video playback, the Lumia 925 posted 255 minutes, about a quarter of an hour shorter than the Lumia 920, which is an average showing. For a device that has shed off components like the Qi wireless charging component and its IPS LCD screen for an AMOLED display, the battery life outcome is somewhat disappointing. Are the requirements of the Windows Phone 8 OS more demanding as resolution increases? Or has the Lumia Amber update actually made the device more power hungry? We can't say for sure yet but the vast difference in battery life between this device and the Lumia 820 is frankly staggering. We'll keep close tabs as we review more Windows phones progressively.
Interestingly, while Nokia rates its 2G talk time a tad lower than the 920 (18.3 hours vs. 18.6 hours), it rates the 3G talk time to be higher (12.8 hours vs. 10.8 hours). Browsing endurance over Wi-Fi is also down from 9 hours to 7.2 hours. Clearly, Nokia acknowledges the higher power draw indirectly via these official figures, but we haven't been able to pinpoint the direct cause yet. To give you an idea how the phone performed for this reviewer, with moderate usage on a typical work day, the 925 usually lasted from morning 7 AM to just before midnight the same day. With the same usage pattern, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was able to endure until lunch time the next day. So while it's average for its class and it will suffice for the masses, we expected better due to the changes made to the Lumia 925. Just like the old adage that one can never have enough storage space, the same applies to battery life - especially when people increasingly rely on their mobile phone as an integral part of their lives.
Conclusion: Buy or Wait?
Here comes the most important question: Should you buy the Lumia 925? If you own the Lumia 920, we’ll say save the money. The changes, while good, aren’t sufficiently great enough for you to ditch an 8-month old ex-flagship. Moreover, most of the new software features like Smart Cam, Data Sense, and Glance Screen will also come to the 920 via the Lumia Amber update. The 920 even has more storage (32GB vs. 16GB). Along with the fact that the still-very-good 920 is now going for around S$600 (street price), the value proposition of the 925 seems somewhat weaker.
Of course, we don’t deny that for some, the changes that the Lumia 925 brings are significant. If you’ve always hated the 920’s thick and heavy body or the feel of glossy polycarbonate, then the 925 is for you, with its much thinner chassis and aluminum frame. Many people were also drawn to the 920 for its excellent camera; on the 925, this is improved (in both hardware and software), which can only be good news. Overall handling is arguably better for this reviewer's hands, but users with large hands may have a different opinion.
Naturally, hardware is only part of a smartphone-buying equation. The other part is the app ecosystem. It’s okay if you’ve invested in Windows Phone apps and are happy with the selection available in the Windows Phone Store; but for new users, it’s our duty to remind you to do your share of research. Are the apps you rely on available on this platform; and if not, are there alternatives? While many big-name apps have already come (or committed to come) to the Windows Phone platform (for example, Whatsapp, Twitter, Vine, Flipboard), there are still some who shun it (read: Instagram).
The Lumia 1020 Dilemma
For those who want the best camera in a Lumia phone, you can also wait for the recently announced Lumia 1020, which is the true successor to the 808 PureView - only this time, it runs on Windows Phone 8. It too has a 41MP camera sensor, Carl Zeiss optics with six physical lenses, and optical image stabilization. Unlike the Lumia 925 and 920, it uses a Xenon flash. The 1020 comes with a Nokia Pro Cam app, which thankfully, will also come to the Lumia 925 and 920 at a later date. The camera unit aside, the Lumia 1020’s other hardware is similar to the 925. And its size is now back to the level of the old 920.
The GDR3 Dilemma
If you’re looking for a Windows Phone with a 5-inch screen that does 1080p, and runs on a quad-core processor, then you’ll be disappointed to know that at this moment, such a device doesn’t exist. Rumor has it that a GDR3 update would arrive towards the end of the year, and along with it, new devices with bigger screens and quad-core chips. The question is: Can you wait?
Pricing & Availability
The Nokia Lumia 925 is now selling at all three local telcos for S$799. Street price though is about S$680 to S$700 at the time of publishing.