Nokia Lumia 900 review: Nokia Lumia 900

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 103 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Big bright display; Front-facing camera.

The Bad Not that different to the 800; Disappointing camera; Windows Phone lags behind Android and iOS for apps; No microSD card slot.

The Bottom Line The Nokia Lumia 900 looks big and bold in the hand but it's no more powerful than the Lumia 800 so Windows Phone fans are paying a premium for a larger screen and a front-facing camera. Microsoft's OS is easy to use but can feel slightly sterile and lacks apps. At this price, there are better Android and iOS phones.

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Nokia-loving Windows Phone fans hankering for a bigger screen, rejoice! The Lumia 900 lands in the UK today and is initially available exclusively via Phones 4u.

This Windows Phone whopper is the biggest Lumia yet, boasting a 4.3-inch display versus the Lumia 800's 3.7 inches. But don't be deceived by the sheer size -- the 900 is no more powerful than its curvaceous sibling.

The 900 costs from £31 month on a two-year contract, making it the most expensive Lumia to date. Expansys currently has the SIM-free flavour available for pre-order for a whopping £500.

Should I buy the Lumia 900?

Are you truly, madly, deeply in love with the Windows Phone operating system? If you're not screaming out "YES! YES! YES!" right now then this phone is not for you.

Nokia Lumia 900
The Lumia's large screen means lots of space for looking at websites -- but with only a single-core engine, the browsing experience could be faster.

The Lumia 900 is a big show pony handset for people who spend their weekends and evenings penning love sonnets to Microsoft's OS. For everyone else, your hard-earned cash would be better spent on an Android or iOS handset.

Rival smart phones in the 900's price range typically boast multi-core chips -- something Windows Phone doesn't currently support. Many also have better cameras such as the HTC One X or Apple's current super-phone, the iPhone 4S . And when it comes to apps, the Lumia is still the laggard behind iOS and Android.

While cheaper Lumias, such as the 710 , pack in a lot for the cash you're spending, here at the tippety-top of the range, Nokia and Microsoft's love-in just isn't such good value for money.

And even if you're Windows Phone's biggest fan, the Lumia 900 is still a hard sell since it's not a huge upgrade on the Lumia 800. Both phones offer essentially identical software and very similar hardware. Lumia 900 buyers are basically paying a premium for a front-facing camera and a larger display.

The 900 is certainly a nice-looking phone -- but the 800 is the most attractive of the Lumia bunch. So even on design grounds, the Lumia 900 isn't the winner.

Screen and build quality

The Lumia 900 has a 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display. The theory behind Nokia's ClearBack screen tech is it makes blacks look really black, helping surrounding colours to pop out. It gives the screen good contrasts, even in strong daylight. I was hard-pressed to find any sunshine amid the classic British spring weather during testing. But on cloudy days at least, the screen is easy to view outdoors.

The display generally looks bright and colourful, with blacks appearing velvety and deep. As is typical of AMOLED screens, colours can appear over-saturated, while the 900's whites have a slight yellowy hue.

Unlike the Lumia 800, the 900's screen is not curved at the edges -- it's stamped straight onto the face of the phone. There's also a thin raised plastic bezel dividing it from the casing plastic so the look is less fluid, even though both phones share the same basic handset shape.

Image description
The Lumia 900 has a large 4.3-inch screen stamped onto its face.

Screen resolution is 800x480 pixels -- the standard Windows Phone res. The 900's glass is slightly less pixel-dense than the Lumia 800, owing to its larger display (217 pixels per inch versus 252ppi). The 900's is definitely not the most pin-sharp screen in telecom town, so while photos looks bright and colourful, they're not super-crisp.

The touchscreen itself is nice and responsive, jumping around on cue to even light taps and swipes.

The handset feels solid and fairly weighty in the hand, thanks to its not inconsiderable heft, at 11.5mm thick. But twist and tug on it and the plastic can be made to flex and creak slightly.

The micro-SIM tray door is a definite weak point in the design. The tray is slightly smaller than the hole it slots into so the door can be made to wobble back and forth. The dedicated camera button also has some wobble in it but the power key and volume rocker are solid.

Elsewhere, the battery is sealed in so it can't be swapped out for a spare. And there's no microSD card slot for expanding storage. You'll have to make do with the 16GB of internal space, plus 25GB of free cloud storage on Microsoft's SkyDrive service.

Software and apps

The Lumia 900 runs the latest iteration of the Windows Phone OS -- 7.5 aka Mango. However, as with all current Windows Phone handsets, there is a question mark over upgrades to the next version of the OS -- Windows Phone 8 aka Apollo.

Microsoft has said all current Windows Phone apps will run on Apollo but hasn't confirmed what happens to Mango devices. It's possible the Lumia 900 will remain forever stuck on Windows Phone 7.5.

Windows Phone itself is a breath of fresh air in these Android and iOS-dominated times. It has a distinctly different look and feel -- setting it apart with a bold tiles-based home screen, panoramic menus and an addiction to typography and signpost-style symbols. If you're in the mood for something new, it should rightly catch your eye. Just don't expect it to be as fully featured as Android or iOS.

Nokia Lumia 900
Windows Phone is all about big bold tiles not cute cuddly icons.

Windows Phone is especially not suited to people who like to tinker and customise -- you can't spec out multiple home screens with apps and widgets, as you can on Android handsets, for instance. Overall, Microsoft's phone software can feel slightly sterile and even corporate.

On the plus side, Windows Phone bakes social services such as Facebook and Twitter right into the OS. Once you've hooked up all your various accounts, photos of your Facebook buddies and tweets will start popping up on the home screen tiles. These quasi-personal live tiles are as far as customisation goes with the Windows Phone experience though.

Another area that might disappoint is the lack of Adobe Flash support. This means lots of embedded online video won't play (whereas Android devices generally do have Flash support). Apple's iOS gets around its lack of Flash by having so many apps available. But on Windows Phone, you can't rely on there being 'an app for that' so the lack of Flash is more of an annoyance.

There is a YouTube app on Microsoft's app store but this is actually just a shortcut to the YouTube mobile site. So again, not all videos are playable.

Nokia Lumia 900
Don't expect all the joys of YouTube at your fingertips -- I found several videos that refused to play with the Lumia.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Talk Time Up to 420 min (2G)
    Up to 420 min (3G)
  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Combined with With digital camera / digital player / FM radio
  • Service Provider AT&T
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