Nokia Lumia 920 review: Nokia Lumia 920

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 188 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Stunning screen; attractive design; enjoyable Windows Phone 8 software; Great Nokia apps; wireless charging.

The Bad Desperate lack of apps in the Windows Phone 8 store; unimpressive battery life; heavy.

The Bottom Line If you want to move into the world of Windows Phone 8, the Nokia Lumia 920 is the phone to get. With a stunning screen, smart design and some great included apps, it's the best way to experience the new operating system. Windows Phone isn't for you if you like apps though, and the 920's battery life is less than impressive.

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The Nokia Lumia 920 is the first phone from the Finnish firm to run on the latest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8 , with its charming, colourful live tiles and a host of nifty new features.

Nokia has added to this with its own apps for in-car satellite navigation, music streaming, local information and photography. With a great screen and attractive design, is this the best Windows Phone 8 device around?

It's available this month on EE for 4G connectivity or Orange and T-Mobile for 3G. It's available SIM-free for around £445, so expect it to be free on contracts above £35 per month.

Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 920?

The question you should really be asking is, "Do I want to use Windows Phone 8?" It's the latest version of Microsoft's mobile software and is very different to what you might have experienced on Android or iOS.

Its homescreen is made up of resizable tiles in primary colours, showing live information. They're similar in a way to Android's live widgets, but with a much more simplistic design. It's fun and visually appealing and doesn't take much getting used to.

Nokia Lumia 920 colours
The tile-based Windows Phone home screen lets you cram the space with widgets of different sizes.

Balanced against that is the extremely sparse app store. You can get some essentials like Netflix and WhatsApp -- and Skype is on its way. But there's nothing like the offering on Android or iOS, so if you love playing the latest mobile games it won't be for you.

Nokia has taken Windows Phone 8 and thrown in some of its own software too. Nokia Drive brings turn-by-turn navigation to your car and Nokia Music lets you stream -- for free -- a huge library of music.

The phone itself is stunning to look at and has an amazing high-definition screen. Tiny text is pin-sharp and colours look great. It only houses a dual-core processor, but it's more than powerful enough for everything you'll be doing with it.

The 920 is an excellent phone with some great features, but you'll have to learn to love Windows Phone 8. If you want a mountain of apps and features such as Google Now, the Google Nexus 4 is set to be a powerhouse of a phone, and starting at only £239 it's nearly half the price of Nokia's offering. We haven't seen the Nexus 4 yet though, so don't rush out to buy it before you read our full review.

The iPhone 5 offers a similarly simplistic interface, a great screen and truckloads of apps, but with a starting price of £529, it's a wallet-busting investment.

Design and build quality

If you've ever seen one of Nokia's Lumia phones, the 920 won't offer any surprises. It hasn't fallen far from the design tree. Like the Lumia 800 and 900 before it, it has a one-piece body with a curved back and rounded edges.

The front is dominated by a single piece of glass. Like the Lumia 800, the screen slopes at the edges to smoothly meet the rounded plastic around it. Nokia replaced this with a flat glass front on the 900, which might not seem like a big change, but it managed to erase much of the premium, sleek feel that was so impressive on the 800. Thankfully, Nokia has learnt its lesson this time round.

My review model came with a high-gloss white finish, making it look like it's been dunked in a tin of Dulux' finest. It picks up finger grease pretty easily, but I still think it looks terrific. The power, camera and volume buttons are large and have a chrome coating that's offset attractively against the white case. On the back is a silver strip bearing the Nokia and Carl Zeiss lens branding.

I find it incredibly glamorous -- worlds apart from the dull hordes of black and grey mobiles out there. It will certainly appeal to the more style-conscious among you. If brilliant white doesn't float your boat, it'll also be available in red or yellow (pictured) -- both of which are bright enough to be used as SOS beacons -- or more subdued black and grey colours if you're not brave enough to try a fresh colour palette.

Nokia Lumia 920 side
It comes in a choice of bright colours as well as your standard dull shades.

The Lumia range is clearly designed with a keen eye on the fun side of style. The rounded design looks and feels great to hold, and it's much more interesting than HTC's newest Windows Phone, the 8X -- and that's far from ugly.

It might look good enough for a GQ covershoot, but it's no size zero catwalk model. Its 130mm length and 70mm width are fairly standard for a phone with a 4.5-inch display, but at 10.7mm, it's arguably on the stocky side. Compare that with the iPhone 5's 7.6mm thickness and the 920 seems a bit of a chubber.

Nokia Lumia 920 top edge
The casing is gently curved around the sides and back.

At 185g, it's much heavier than the 112g iPhone too. It takes you by surprise a little if you're used to a smaller phone and it sits very heavily in your hand. You're unlikely to forget about it for long if you slide it into a blazer pocket. If you're after the thinnest, lightest phone to slip into your sky-rocket, the 920 isn't for you.

Its build quality is extremely high. The chassis is machined from a single piece of polycarbonate (a fancy-sounding type of firm plastic), so there are no awkward creaks or clicks if you squeeze it. The power, camera and volume buttons are big, easy to hit and have a firm, satisfying click to them.

On the top you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack; a micro-USB port resides on the bottom. There's sadly no microSD card slot to expand the storage, which is disappointing. Mercifully, Nokia has pumped in 32GB of internal storage, so you shouldn't be running out of room too soon after booting it up the first time.

Screen

Thanks to Windows Phone 8's new-found ability to cope with high-definition screens, the Lumia 920 is able to pack in a resolution of 768x1,280 pixels into its 4.5-inch display. That high resolution gives the 920 a pixel density of 332ppi, making it slightly sharper than the iPhone 5's 326ppi -- although I sincerely doubt you'd be able to tell the difference.

Either way, it means fine text is kept incredibly sharp and the stark lines of the Windows Phone 8 interface look deliciously crisp. That's particularly noticeable when you fire up Amazon's Kindle app. The text in ebooks is pin-sharp, making reading for long periods particularly comfortable. It's very bright too, doing a decent job of counteracting reflections from bright lights.

Nokia Lumia 920 back
Touchscreen resolution and responsiveness have been turbocharged.

The display also puts on a great show of handling colour. Nokia boasts the screen has 'ClearBlack' technology, which basically means blacks are particularly deep. This results in higher contrast and richer colours, and it's certainly noticeable. The bright Windows Phone 8 tiles look superb against the black background and watching YouTube clips like my favourite, Art of Flight, was a delight.

Not only does it look superb, but Nokia has also made it particularly sensitive to touch. You swipe around the interface with a pointy fingernail, but it's also able to sense your input through fabric. I put on a fairly thick pair of gloves and I was still able to swipe as normal. It still didn't struggle at all when I poked my finger into my thick jumper to swipe around. That will come in handy, no doubt, this winter when you don't fancy pulling off a glove to send a quick text.

Windows Phone 8 software

The Lumia 920 is the first of Nokia's phones to sport the latest Windows Phone 8 software, rather than the older Windows Phone 7 you'll find on the Lumia 800. Instead of the multiple homescreens of Android or grids of apps of iOS, Windows Phone brings large, colourful tiles to a scrolling homescreen, each showing live information.

In terms of outward design, it doesn't immediately appear that different from the older version -- except for the ability to resize the tiles. There's a few neat tricks under the hood that are worth checking out though. I've given Windows Phone 8 a complete teardown in my review of the HTC 8X, so head on over there to read all the details. Because I'm super helpful, I'll summarise some of the key points here.

The People and Me hubs are easily my favourite aspects. They pull together all your contacts from your email, phone, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin accounts to let you see all updates in one place. In the Me app, you can post to all your social networks at once, without having to jump in and out of different apps. You can create groups of people too, allowing you to share photos, text or email everyone in the group at once.

Kid's Corner allows you to duplicate the home screen -- but only showing the apps, music and videos that you specify. It means you can let your child play around with your phone, safe in the knowledge they can't access anything unsavoury and won't be able to alter any critical settings.

Apps are still a major problem for Windows Phone 8. While there are a few bits and bobs worth having, the app store is miserably understocked. If you love checking out the latest apps and comparing high scores with your friends you'll be much better off on Android or iOS.

Microsoft has bundled in its mobile version of Office, however. It's extremely basic, so you won't want to type out long documents, but it's good for writing a few notes. It'll sync all your files across other versions of Office too, similar to the way Google Docs does, only you don't need to keep a constant Internet connection open to use it.

Nokia apps

To help make up for the lack of software in the Windows Phone 8 app store, Nokia has loaded a stack of nifty tools onto the phone.

Nokia already powers Microsoft's Bing Maps, so the map data you'll find on phones such as the HTC 8X is the same here. You can view maps in a normal representative map style or as a satellite view. The satellite pictures aren't as up to date as on the desktop version of Bing Maps -- the hotel next to our office is fully built on the desktop, but is a sparse building site on the phone -- but it's unlikely to stop you from finding your way.

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
Nokia's maps has a simple interface and plenty of information.

Nokia offers a wealth of local business information and this is immediately accessible through the maps app. Tap the Local Scout icon -- or dive into the Local Scout app -- and you can browse through nearby restaurants, points of interest and shops. Tapping on a result will bring up information like the address, opening hours and user reviews (if available).

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Nokia Lumia 920

Part Number: 6290312
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  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Service Provider AT&T
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