Nokia Lumia 800 review:

Nokia Lumia 800

The Carl Zeiss Tessar 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash should give other phones a run for their money, but it falls short.

The Lumia 800 has 16GB of internal memory and an extra 25GB with Microsoft's free online SkyDrive storage.

For more details on Windows Phone 7.5 OS, read the full review.

Camera performance is a big question mark hanging over the Lumia 800. Nokia has a good reputation for high camera quality, notable on the Nokia Astound and the unlocked Nokia N8. With a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, dual-LED flash, and support for the wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio, the Lumia 800's got a promising shooter. Unfortunately, in my tests it fell flat with a resounding smack.

The Lumia 800 cast a pink glow in the center of this standard studio shot.

I took a variety of indoor and outdoor photos using various lighting (see them all in this slideshow). On their own, many of the Lumia 800's photos lacked the sharp, defined edges of the top phone cameras, and seemed duller and more muted than I'd like. Comparing several shots to those I took with the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S II, both 8-megapixel cameras, confirmed it. Those two cameras took photos that were sometimes either a little darker or brighter, but almost always more saturated and in sharper focus.

Here are some comparison shots, with more in this gallery:

A patch of weather-ravaged flowers taken outdoors in even lighting with the Nokia Lumia 800.

From the Galaxy S II, a slightly different patch of the same flower bed, taken in the same conditions.

The iPhone 4S' take.

It was about the same story with the 720p HD video capture. The videos I took looked a tad blurry and unfocused, and the subjects of the video were harder to hear. Volume was strong on my voice, however, and there was no jerkiness or stuttering on playback.

Indoor shot taken in artificial lighting, away from natural lighting, with the Nokia Lumia 800.

The same thing again, taken with the Galaxy S II.

Taken with the iPhone 4S.

I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) unlocked Nokia Lumia 800 using AT&T's network in San Francisco. Call quality was passable, but had some low points. On my end, voices sounded shaky and muffled throughout, with waves of ups and downs, and some blips here and there; it was a little distracting. I also heard a hollow quality whenever I spoke into the mouthpiece (my main test caller, who used to work for a landline telecom, referred to this as "side tone," the noise you hear when you speak). There wasn't any background noise, though.

On their end, my callers heard me loud and clear, though mentioned I sounded a little hollow. There was no background noise, but it didn't sound the best they'd heard on a phone before.

Nokia Lumia 800 (unlocked) call quality sample Listen now:

The speakerphone was an interesting case because it sounded almost identical to the at-ear experience (as usual, I held the Lumia 800 at waist level). On my end, volume was uncomfortably low, and on the low side of just right when I pumped it up to full volume. It would be difficult to hear outdoors or in a busy room. The vocal wobbling persisted as well.

On their end, callers said I was barely audible, and agreed there wasn't much change in the voice quality from standard phone mode to speakerphone.

The usual data speed tests need to be taken with a grain of salt, since the phone is unlocked and not optimized for any network. I was able to get AT&T's 3G speeds, but depending on the network and location, it's possible the phone could slide to a 2G EDGE connection. That said, I was able to load CNET's mobile-optimized site in about 18 seconds, and load the full site in 38 seconds. The New York Times desktop site loaded in about 20 seconds, and the ESPN mobile site finished up in 4.7 seconds.

The 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm MSM8255 processor produced speedy internal performance, with fast navigation and app-loading responsiveness, with the exception of Nokia Music.

The Lumia 800 has a rated talk time of 9.5 hours and almost 14 days talk time on its 1,450mAh battery.

All eyes were on the Nokia Lumia 800 as an augur of what's to come for Windows Phone in general, and for Nokia in particular. As it stands now, this phone isn't the home run that Nokia needs to compete in the big leagues with the likes of the Android superphones. However, the bold, fresh design is a welcome change, and proof that Nokia still has the design chops that can make Windows phones stand out. The camera situation is the phone's single weakest point, and Nokia absolutely needs sharper rendering on the 8-megapixel camera, plus a front-facing camera of some sort, in order to compete. Still, there's hope, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the announcement of the U.S. version of this unlocked phone.

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