Nokia Lumia 920 review: Nokia Lumia 920

Particularly helpfully, Nokia allows you to download maps to your phone, so you don't need a data connection to see where you are. It can download the entire of England at once (it's only a 4MB file). It only shows the standard map view, not the satellite, but even when you have no connection at all, you can still see all the road details.

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
It gives handy directions in case you ever fancy walking across the whole of London.

If you find yourself travelling into the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District or Bodmin Moor and don't want to risk getting lost with no data connection, it's well worth downloading your map before you go.

Although it can give you driving directions between two points, standard Windows Phone 8 doesn't allow for turn by turn navigation. Thankfully though, Nokia has included the latest version of its Drive app, which adds just such functionality.

Pop in your destination and the app will give you driving instructions from your current location. It shows the map in a 3D, car-level view and tracks along the road in real time as you go. Like other GPS sat-navs, it will also give voice directions about turnings and warns you if you begin to creep over the speed limit.

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
Nokia Drive provides turn-by-turn directions when you're driving.

The interface is clean and simple and, if you've downloaded the maps to your phone, you won't need to keep a constant data connection to see the roads. If you do have a connection, you'll also be able to see nearby landmarks such as the Tate Modern or London Eye.

Sat-navs from companies such as TomTom can be quite costly -- especially as they only serve one purpose -- so to have such a comprehensive driving navigation tool as standard is a great bonus. If you're not a driver, the directions tool in maps can give you walking directions and public transport information (which is missing from Apple's Maps app in iOS 6 .)

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
It'll follow you as you're driving along, speaking instructions aloud so you don't get lost.

Confused in a new town and want to grab a bite? Nokia's City Lens is here to lend a hand. It pulls the information from its maps apps and, using augmented reality, displays the locations of restaurants and shops on screen, using the camera.

As you turn on the spot and move the camera around, you see details of what's nearby. You can use it to see which direction to walk without having to work it out on a map -- a lifesaver for those of us with no sense of direction.

You can view restaurants, shops, hotels and sites of interest, all of which are displayed all around you. Oddly, when I set it to display 'Famous' sites, it showed up locations such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Yellowstone National Park and Adventure Island in Australia, all of which were at least 7,000km away from me. I don't imagine I'll ever be using City Lens to walk to these destinations, but you never know.

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
Hold your phone up and look around, City Lens will show you what's nearby.

It's undeniably a fun way of discovering things to see and do around you, but it's not perfect. The GPS takes a few moments to work out exactly where you are and I found the icons will sometimes start to shift in a certain direction, so their exact locations aren't precise. If I was on my way to a restaurant in a hurry, I certainly wouldn't trust it to take me straight to the door.

You'll need some good music to keep you company as you find your way to dinner. Nokia has you covered here too. The Nokia Music app lets you listen to a variety of playlists featuring a wide selection of music. Better yet, these playlists are completely free to use, aren't ad-supported and you can sync up to 14.5 hours of music offline to your phone.

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
Nokia Music lets you listen to and sync playlists for free or buy tracks to save forever.

That might sound too good to be true and in a way, it is. The playlists feature a variety of songs from differing artists, so you get something of a mixtape. If you love listening to new music and don't care about having entire albums from artists, it's ideal. If you're like me, however, and have a wide taste -- that often includes things not in the charts -- you might not be too keen on some of the choices.

Still, there's over 100 channels to browse through and you can make your own channel based on a particular artist. If you want to expand your personal collection, you can search through any of the 17 million tracks to download and keep. Tracks cost 99p each though, so if you hope to build up a vast collection you should start saving now.

Battery life and inductive charging

The Lumia 920 has been kitted out with the ability to charge inductively. This means it's able to receive power by touching a charging pad, rather than being directly connected to a plug. We've already seen this idea before with PowerMat, but the technology is built right into the phone, rather than needing to add an extra case onto it.

The 920 comes with a charging pad -- a plastic disk that connects to the mains and sits on your desk. To charge your phone, you simply put it on the disk. You don't need to attach any cables or hit any switches -- it will immediately start to draw power. It's extremely handy to be able to just put your phone down and not need to untangle any cables before plugging it in.

Nokia Lumia 920 charger
It features wireless charging wizardry to re-juice without having to plug in, like this gadget it's sitting on.

The idea is that you can have numerous pads all round your house -- your bedside table, your coffee table, your kitchen -- and a bunch more in your office. While I really like the idea, the pads are sold individually. Nokia hasn't been able to tell me exactly how much they cost, but I doubt they'll come under £20. Buy five or six of these, as Nokia suggests, and you'll suddenly find you can't afford those sharp new shoes.

Still, it's a neat way of tackling the age-old problem of stretching your smart phone's battery life throughout the day. Sadly, that's quite a problem with the 920 -- I didn't find its battery life impressive at all.

Although it packs in a capacious 2,000mAh cell, I found with pretty heavy use (downloading apps, using maps and tracking, sending numerous texts and emails) for around 4 hours it had gone from fully charged to around 25 per cent remaining. It certainly won't last an entire working day.

That's extremely disappointing, especially given its rather chunky size. There's plenty of room to slap in a huge battery and squeeze a couple of days juice out of it. Nokia's Lumia 800 put in a similarly poor effort when it first launched, but became considerably better after a software update. Fingers crossed Nokia does the same here -- and soon.

Power and performance

The Lumia 920 is running on a 1.5GHz dual core processor, backed up by 1GB of RAM. By top-end smart phone standards, that's not a lot. By comparison, the newly announced Google Nexus 4 boasts a 1.5GHz quad-core chip and a mighty 2GB of RAM. Given that Windows Phone 8 software finally allows for multi-core processing (up to a ridiculous 64 cores), it's a shame not to see the first quad-core Windows Phone 8 handset.

The fact remains it's only worth having four cores if you have software that can take advantage of them, and even in the 700,000 apps of the Google Play store, there's hardly anything that can properly take advantage of that processing. Instead, a nippy dual-core chip can provide plenty of grunt without taxing the battery too much.

Indeed, I found the 920 to be a perfectly capable phone. Swiping through the big, colourful tiles was responsive and immediate and opening menus and apps was free of any irritating delay. There's plenty of juice for all the Windows Phone 8 services and Nokia apps.

Whether it's powerful enough to cope with demanding apps and 3D games such as Real Racing 2 remains to be seen when -- or should that be if -- those games ever become available on the Windows Phone 8 store.

Camera

On the back of the 920 you'll spy an 8-megapixel camera. It apparently uses the PureView technology seen in the ridiculous Nokia 808 , but it doesn't offer the same whopping megapixel count.

I took it for a wander with an iPhone 5 and I found the results to be satisfactory, but not mindblowing. The Lumia does a much better job with colour and toning, providing a warm, rich shot. The iPhone's effort seemed a little cold by comparison.

HTC 8X camera test
The Lumia 920 provided a warmer shot than the iPhone, but it didn't quite match it for clarity (click image to enlarge).
iPhone 5 camera test
The iPhone 5's was clearer but colder (click image to enlarge).

It didn't, however, seem to offer quite the same clarity as the iPhone, which is particularly noticeable when viewing the photos at full screen. Fine detail around the buildings is lost, resulting in a less sharp image overall. It's not a bad effort though and I've certainly seen worse, but if it was able to combine clarity and colour then we'd finally have a phone to knock the iPhone's camera off its smug podium.

It does boast a load of extra features. Smart Photo takes multiple photos, allowing you to erase moving bits. Cinemagraph lets you create fun little animated gif images. The lens itself has optical image stabilisation to smooth out your video, which I found to work very well in my tests.

Nokia Lumia 920 back
The Nokia Lumia 920, sunny side up, with a snapper that claims to capture more light than other camera phones.

I'll be doing a good deal more with the camera over the coming days, so stay tuned for a full teardown and comparisons against more of the competition.

4G connectivity

The 920 is the first phone from Nokia to ride on Britain's new super-fast 4G network . Only EE currently offers the service and it's not cheap -- and only in 11 cities at launch -- but if data speed is everything to you, it's worth checking out.

When I popped in my 4G SIM, the phone didn't seem to want to work on the 4G network. While annoying, both the service and the phone are brand new, so there are likely to be service updates pushed out to make them work together. If the same is true when the phone goes on sale, it will be a major problem.

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
With my Three SIM, I was only able to achieve 0.8Mbps download speed.
Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8
Although it's not activated on 4G, my EE SIM card achieved much faster download speeds.

On the plus side though, I did notice a distinct increase in data speeds. On my 3G SIM card from Three, I was only able to achieve download speeds of 0.8Mbps. With the EE SIM card installed, that rose dramatically to 4.1Mbps. As it's not on the 4G network, that could be just to do with having different signal strengths between networks, but it's still promising.

We'll be speed testing the 920 properly on 4G and of course seeing exactly how it affects battery life, so stay tuned for more.

Conclusion

The Windows Phone 8 experience on the 920 is the same as it is on the HTC 8X. It's fun and easy to use, but the terrible lack of apps in the store make it hard to recommend over similarly priced high-end Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Nokia's own local information, navigation and photography apps go some way to making up for the pitiful app selection. With a stunning screen, attractive design, decent camera and 4G connectivity, this is a superb phone and is rightfully the standard-bearer for Windows Phone 8. If the Windows Phone Marketplace can catch up to Android and iOS quickly, it'll be a formidable gadget.

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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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