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Microsoft Lumia 950 & 950 XL review: A second chance for Windows Phone

By James Lu - 27 Jun 2016

Benchmark Performance, Imaging, Battery Life and Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

The Lumia 950 is armed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexacore processor (dual-core 1.82 GHz Cortex-A57 & quad-core 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53) while the 950 XL has an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor (quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57). Both of these processors are a bit dated now because, while the two phones have only recently been launched in Singapore, they've been available in the US since November 2015. Both phones have 3GB RAM.

Test phones compared
  Microsoft Lumia 950 Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Huawei Nexus 6P LG G5 Samsung Galaxy S7 Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  Microsoft Lumia 950 Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Huawei Nexus 6P LG G5 Samsung Galaxy S7 Apple iPhone 6s Plus
Launch SRP
  • From S$898
  • From S$998
  • From S$949
  • From S$988
  • From S$998
Operating system
  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • iOS 9
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (Dual-core 1.82 GHz Cortex-A57 & quad-core 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57)
  • Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810 v2.1 (Quad-core 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core (dual-core 2.15GHz Kyro & dual-core 1.59GHz Kyro), 14nm process
  • Samsung Exynos 8890 octa-core (quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex- M1 & quad-core 1.6GHz Cortex-A53), 14nm process
  • Apple A9 64-bit dual-core 1.8GHz processor
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM (LPDDR4)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
Display
  • 5.2-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 x pixels (564 ppi) / AMOLED
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 x pixels (515 ppi) / AMOLED
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (518 ppi) / AMOLED
  • 5.3-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (554ppi) / IPS
  • Always-on Display
  • 5.1-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (577 ppi) / Super AMOLED
  • Always-On Display
  • 5.5-inch Retina HD / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / IPS
Camera
  • Rear: 20 MP, f/1.9, 26mm, Carl Zeiss optics, OIS, autofocus, triple-LED RGB flash
  • Front: 5 MP, f/2.4
  • Rear: 20 MP, f/1.9, 26mm, Carl Zeiss optics, OIS, autofocus, triple-LED RGB flash
  • Front: 5 MP, f/2.4
  • Rear: 12.3-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture and laser autofocus
  • Front: 8-megapixel with f/2.4 aperture
  • Rear (Standard): 16-megapixel with f/1.8, optical image stabilization, laser autofocus
  • Rear (Wide): 8-megapixel with f/2.4, laser autofocus, 135-degree Field Of View
  • Front: 8-megapixel with f/2.0
  • Rear: 12-megapixel with f/1.7 aperture and smart OIS
  • Front: 5-megapixel with f/1.7 aperture
  • Rear: 12-megapixel iSight camera with phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization and dual warm/cool LED flashes
  • Front: 5-megapixels FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, NFC, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, USB v3.1 Type-C reversible connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, NFC, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, USB v3.1 Type-C reversible connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4+5GHz), MIMO (2x2), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, USB 2.0 Type-C connector
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, A-GPS, GLONASS, LTE/3G/2G
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 + 5GHz), 4G+ LTE Cat 9 (up to 450Mbps), Bluetooth 4.1, VHT80, MIMO (2x2), GPS, GLONASS, NFC, Screen Mirroring
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, GPS, GLONASS, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
  • MicroSD up to 256 GB
  • 32GB internal storage
  • MicroSD up to 256 GB
  • 32 / 64 / 128GB internal storage
  • 32GB internal storage (UFS)
  • 2TB (MicroSD)
  • 32GB internal storage (UFS 2.0)
  • 200GB (MicroSD)
  • 16 / 64 / 128GB internal storage
Battery
  • 3,000mAh (non-removable)
  • 3,340mAh (non-removable)
  • 3,450mAh
  • 2,800mAh
  • Removable
  • 3,000mAh
  • Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
  • 2,750mAh
Dimensions
  • 145 x 73.2 x 8.2 mm
  • 151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm
  • 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm
  • 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm
  • 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm
  • 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
Weight
  • 150g
  • 165g
  • 178g
  • 159g
  • 152g
  • 192g

 

Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. 

Both the 950 and 950 XL actually performed quite well here, even beating the Snapdragon 820-equipped LG G5. We benchmarked the phones on Microsoft's own Edge browser, which was surprisingly pleasant to use, delivering a fluid and snappy browsing experience.

 

Basemark OS II

Unfortunately, our preferred benchmarks of Quadrant and 3DMark are not available for Windows 10 Mobile, so we're using Basemark OS II instead, which is a cross-platform suite of synthetic tests designed to stress the whole platform at a variety of workloads.

The 950 and 950 XL fared about the same as the Snapdragon 810-equipped Nexus 6P, but fell way behind Samsung and LG's newer flagship devices.

 

Imaging

The standout feature of many of Nokia's Lumia phones was the camera. In fact, many people are still waiting for an updated version of Nokia's fantastic Lumia 1020 with its 41-megapixel PureView camera, so I had high hopes for the Lumia 950's camera. Both phones are armed with the same 20-megapixel PureView camera with Carl Zeiss optics, a 1/2.4-inch sensor, f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization. There's also a triple LED natural flash. On the front, you get a 5-megapixel f/2.4 camera.

The camera app is a reworked version of the Lumia Camera app from Windows Phone 8, and includes easy to access manual controls including ISO, white balance and exposure.

Both phones have a dedicated camera shutter button, which is always a welcome addition.

Picture quality is fantastic, sharp and in focus across the image, with lots of detail, and excellent contrast and color reproduction. Thanks to the optical image stabilization, the camera remains usable even in low light. One minor issue is that autofocus can be a bit finicky sometimes, going back and forth between focal points.

Click for full-size image.


 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

The 950 is armed with a 3,000mAh battery, while the 950 XL has a larger 3,340mAh battery. Battery life was quite average, with the 950 lasting just under eight hours and the 950 XL lasting just over nine hours. On the plus side, the battery charges quite fast thanks to the USB 3.1 Type-C port. It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge the 950, and about two hours to fully charge the 950 XL.

 

 

Conclusion

 

To cut straight to the point, no, the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL won't be converting any longtime iOS or Android users to Windows 10 Mobile. They just doesn't offer enough, both in terms of app ecosystem and the performance, design and features of the phones themselves.

However, longtime Windows phone fans will be pleased to finally get an upgrade from the 930 or 1020 they've been using for the past two years, and Microsoft has definitely made some steps in the right direction. The displays on both phones are fantastic and the PureView cameras are just as good as ever. Continuum is a really nice unique feature that will appeal to power users and if Microsoft can work out a way to get it to function more like an actual Windows 10 PC (letting it install .exe apps would be huge) it will be able to offer something that iOS and Android will never be able to do.

Microsoft still has a way to go but there's definitely promise here. This won't be the rebirth Microsoft was hoping for, but it's not the final nail in the coffin for Windows on your phone either.

Our Final Ratings
Microsoft Lumia 950 Click for detailed results break-down
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Click for detailed results break-down
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