Nokia Lumia 800 review: Nokia Lumia 800

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4 stars 42 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Windows Phone software is slick and fun to use; Free music streaming with Nokia's Mix Radio; Onboard navigation software; Stylish, sturdy design.

The Bad Camera is pretty average; No microSD card slot; Lacks a front-facing camera; Not as many apps as Android or iPhone.

The Bottom Line The Lumia 800 is a slick and engaging smart phone and its Windows Phone software has excellent social media integration. However, its camera isn't as good as we expected and we can't help but feel that there's better to come from Nokia on the Windows Phone front.

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Nokia's Lumia 800 is a big deal. Why? Because it's the first mobile phone from Nokia to run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system, the OS that Nokia is going to use on all its future high-end smart phones.

The handset boasts a fast processor, AMOLED screen and a camera with a Carl Zeiss lens. But is it good enough to revive Nokia as a serious player in a world of smart phones dominated by Apple, Samsung and HTC? Available now, it's around £470 SIM-free, £400 on pay as you go or free on contracts from around £25 per month.

Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 800?

The Lumia 800 is a stylish looking handset and its build quality is also first-rate. It's a fun phone to use, thanks to Microsoft's slick Windows Phone 7.5 software, which has excellent integration for social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Nokia Mix Radio streaming service may not be revolutionary, but the fact it's free and has a good selection of tunes and playlists makes it a welcome addition. We also like Nokia's Drive navigation software, especially as you can download maps to avoid incurring roaming charges when using it abroad.

The range of apps available for Windows Phone is growing steadily. Even so, you stilll won't find anywhere near as many in the Windows Phone Marketplace as you will in Apple's App Store or Android Market.

The phone's battery life is on a par with most other smart phones so you can expect to have to charge it at the end of each day. Call quality is excellent and it's good at maintaining a connection in weaker signal areas.

If you're not overly concerned with having a particularly high-resolution screen, and are willing to put up with a camera that's not quite as good as other similarly-priced smart phones, then the Lumia is a good option. This is especially true if you're looking for an alternative to the iPhone that still offers a very polished user experience.

Operating system

The big difference between the Lumia 800 and previous Nokia smart phones is that this handset runs on Microsoft Windows Phone software. Naturally, it uses the latest Mango version of the operating system, which includes a number of new features, not least of which is support for multi-tasking.

Microsoft's previous mobile OS, Windows Mobile, was a mess. Thankfully the company went back to the drawing board and came up with a brand new interface. The results are very impressive. Once you've used it, it's not difficult to see why Nokia's head honcho decided to dump Symbian in favour of it.

Windows Phone looks absolutely gorgeous. Thanks to some slick 3D effects and its dynamic design, it feels more modern than even Android or iOS.

The main homescreen displays a column of live tiles that dynamically update to shows you various information. For example, the People Hub flicks through photos drawn from your social networking contacts, while the messaging and mail titles show you any unread messages you might have.

You can also pin applications, pictures, contacts and other bits and bobs to this homescreen to use as shortcuts. Swiping right reveals your full list of apps as a single scrollable list.

You can tap the search button to quickly find a particular app, or if you've got more than 44 entries in the list, Windows Phone automatically divides up your apps alphabetically so you can quickly jump to groups of apps.

Nokia Lumia 800 homescreen
The homescreen displays a series of live titles.

 When you open an application, the titles tear away from the screen with a cool 3D flip-effect and the same happens when you leave an app to return to the home screen.

If you've got multiple apps running you can switch between them by holding down the back button. This calls up a deck of cards showing a thumbnail of all the apps currently loaded. You can then scroll over to quickly select the one you want to jump.

Nokia Lumia 800 multitasking
You can swap between open apps by holding down the back button.

One of the best things about the OS is that social networking is built into the operating system. The People Hub pulls together not just all your contacts, but also feeds from Facebook, Twitter and Linked-in. What's more, conversations in the messaging app can jump between text messaging and social media messaging and Windows Phone will keep them all threaded in the same conversation.

Nokia Lumia 800 People Hub
The People Hub groups together all your social networking feeds.

However, the OS does have drawbacks. The Bing Maps that are integrated into the OS are pretty poor, not because they're inaccurate -- they're not -- but simply because they don't show as many street names on the standard zoom level as you get with Google Maps on Android or the iPhone.

When you can't see the name of the street where you need to turn off, it's a huge annoyance. Unfortunately it happens all the time with Bing Maps. Also the cut and paste system can be fiddly to use as the tabs for selecting text are on the small side. Another issue is that the OS doesn't yet support Adobe Flash, so you can't view videos on websites like BBC iPlayer.

Nokia Lumia 800 Bing Maps
We're not big fans of the Bing Maps as they don't display enough street names at the standard zoom level.

Design

The Lumia's design will bring on a sense of déjà vu for anyone who has previously seen Nokia's N9 handset. The body is hewn almost entirely from polycarbonate and is available in three colours: black, cyan and magenta. The two long edges are curved like the old iPod Nano and the back is gently sloped at the top and bottom.

The result is that the phone looks slightly oblong when viewed side-on. Despite the use of plastic for the body, it has a very premium and sturdy feel. Besides, Nokia says that the plastic casing helps the handset's phone reception.

Nokia Lumia 800 side view
The body of the phone is slightly oblong in shape.

The front is almost completely taken up with the gorilla glass that covers the screen and three Windows Phone touch buttons at the bottom. This helps to give the face a smooth, seamless look. The only physical buttons are mounted on the right-hand edge.

Here you'll find a volume rocker switch, the lock button and a dedicated camera button. One thing we love about Windows Phone handsets is that they all have dedicated camera buttons; you jump directly to the camera app, even when the phone is in standby, just by pressing and holding it down.

Nokia has placed the standard 3.5mm headphone jack at the top corner; hidden behind a flap next to it is a micro USB port that's used for both charging and syncing. Further along the top edge there's a sliding cover that -- when released -- gives you access to the SIM card slot. Like the iPhone, the Lumia uses a micro SIM, so if you have a full-sized SIM that you want to use with the phone you'll have to get it cut down to size.

Nokia Lumia 800 micro sim
The Nokia Lumia 800 uses a micro SIM.

The phone fits nicely in the hand and the curved edges arguably make it more comfortable to hold than the more angular iPhone 4S. Its smaller display also means that it's narrower and shorter than Samsung's S2. As a result, it feels more pocketable.

On the downside, like the iPhone 4S, the Lumia 800 is a completely closed device. You can't remove the battery and you can't add any more memory to it, as there's no microSD card slot.

Processor, memory and speed

Nokia has built the phone around a 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon processor, which includes an Adreno 205 GPU. The OS has 512MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM to play with. There's 16GB of memory for storing music, videos, photos and apps.

Those specs may seem tame next to the dual-core processors used in the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2, but the Lumia still feels like a very quick handset. This may in some part be due to the lower demands that Microsoft's OS seems to place on a phone's hardware. Windows Phone uses hardware acceleration for its 3D menu effects, scrolling and zooming, which seems to help keep everything rollicking along at a very sprightly pace. Apps open quickly and it's speedy when jumping between them. Pages are also quickly rendered in the browser.

Nokia Lumia 800 browser
The browser is speedy when it comes to rendering pages.

The Lumia also easily outdid HTC' s Radar in the Benchmark Free application. It scored 6.3 in the CPU integrate test versus the Radar's 4.7 (a higher number is better). This is perhaps not surprising given that the Radar uses a slower 1GHz chip. However, in the Javascript SunSpider Test it scored a disappointing 6,915.7ms, compared to the iPhone 4S's score of just 2,181.6ms and the Samsung Galaxy S2's 3,445.3ms (lower is better).

Battery life and call quality

Call quality was, on the whole, very good. The ear piece delivers clean and crisp audio and is also loud enough to let you hear callers above the din of noisy bars or busy streets. The mic delivers impressive quality speech. The phone's reception is excellent -- it does a good job of holding on to a connection even in weaker signal areas.

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Where to Buy

Nokia Lumia 800

Part Number: CNETNokia Lumia 800

Typical Price: £467.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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