Nokia Lumia 928 review: Verizon's most powerful Windows Phone to date

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MSRP: $499.99

The Good Nokia's Lumia 928 introduces a slimmer body and straight, grippable sides. Low light camera performance is top-notch.

The Bad Verizon's typically blazing speeds stumbled on the Lumia 928, and call quality sounded harsher than Nokia's usual standard. Those looking for Nokia's bright statement hues won't find them here.

The Bottom Line Windows Phone fans on Verizon should buy the $100 Nokia Lumia 928 for its strong feature set, but watch out for slower-than-usual data speeds.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

For everyone who thought that Nokia's Lumia phones are too heavy and thick comes the start of an antidote: Verizon's notably slimmer Nokia Lumia 928, which sells for a decidedly wallet-friendly $99.99.

Flat sides and a slimmer profile give the 928 a cleaner, sharper look than its chunkier Lumia 920 counterpart for AT&T, though it lacks the even slimmer silhouette and metal allure of T-Mobile's new T-Mobile's new Lumia 925.

Under the hood, the 928's specs mostly match up to its AT&T and T-Mobile cousins. The 4G LTE devices feature the same Windows Phone 8 operating system, 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, fast 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, and 8.7-megapixel camera with image stabilization and PureView image processing. One notable difference is the 928's xenon flash in addition to the LED, which Nokia claims will boost image performance.

Nokia's Lumia 928 features a slimmer unibody design with sharp, flat edges. Josh Miller/CNET

A higher-end Verizon device that sells for less than $200, or even $150, is a rare find. With its $99 on-contract starting price and slimmer-than-usual Lumia frame, the 928 sets up Nokia for a boost among those looking for a powerful, affordable Verizon smartphone. Those on a budget, though, will find even more wallet-friendly Windows phones.

Design and build
The second you see the Lumia 928, you know two things: first, that it's absolutely a Nokia Lumia 900-series device, and also, that it's much slimmer and sharper than AT&T's cheerfully rounded Lumia 920. At 5.2 inches tall, 2.7 inches wide, and 0.44-inch thick, the 928 is no scrawny stallion, but it's also 0.2 inch thinner than the 920, and notably lighter -- a still-solid 5.7 ounces, compared with the 920's 6.5-ounce heft.

With flat sides, 90-degree corners, and a slick, lightly curved back, Nokia's white 928 still feels good in the palm while giving your fingers a solid, grippable edge. It's good to see Nokia's deep black, glossy 4.5-inch display make a return with its slightly bubbled-out surface. In this design, the black bezel meets the phone's spines; this makes for a cutting-edge look compared with earlier Lumia designs that frame the display within the chassis.

Nokia Lumia 928
I like a phone that can stand on its own. Josh Miller/CNET

Speaking of that screen, it's interesting that Nokia switched from LCD in the 920 back to AMOLED for the 928. The 4.5-incher delivers rich, saturated color with a 768x1,280-pixel resolution (and a 334ppi pixel density). A common problem on many AMOLED screens, the greens tend to look a little candied on the display. Luckily, Nokia's still-fantastic ClearBlack filter cuts down on outdoor glare, making the phone more legible than others outdoors. A supersensitive display lets you operate the phone while decked in gloves.

Above the display you'll find the 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. Below are the usual touch-sensitive controls for going back, home, and launching a search, in addition to calling up secondary actions to switch tasks and set a voice command in motion. Nokia left the bottom and left sides bare, but you'll locate the Micro-SIM card slot and Micro-USB charging port on the top surface of this otherwise completely sealed device.

As usual, the volume rocker, power/lock button, and camera shutter button rise out of the right spine. Pass a finger over the physical camera button (or peer really intently) and you feel (or see!) that it sticks out slightly further than the other two keys, for easier button-pushing.

Look away! The Lumia 928's xenon flash is plenty bright. Josh Miller/CNET

Nokia gave Verizon a little something different in its otherwise similar camera components: a xenon flash in addition to a much smaller LED bulb. You'll find that long, eye-wateringly bright light-bearer on the 928's rear side, along with the 8.7-megapixel camera that's also draped with the 920's descriptors: image stabilization, Carl Zeiss optics, and the PureView image-processing algorithms. (Skip ahead to the camera and video section if you can't wait to see the 928's image quality so far.)

Interestingly, Nokia strays from its bright pops of color to sell the phone in basic black or white.

OS and apps
Naturally, the Lumia 928 carries on the Windows Phone 8 tradition and corrals in Nokia's hoard of specialized apps besides.

In addition to Nokia Music and Nokia Drive, there's the newly rebranded Here City Lens augmented reality app and Maps app. Several photo "lenses" are added by default, including panorama, Smart Shoot, creative studio, and Cinemagraph, which combines still photos and video in a frame.

From left to right, the Nokia Lumia 928, Lumia 920, and original Lumia 900. Josh Miller/CNET

CNN, NFL Mobile, and ESPN also come loaded on, as well as the Weather Channel app and Verizon's subscription-based VZ Navigator app. A data-tracking app lets you keep tabs on your bandwidth usage to complement Microsoft apps like Microsoft Office, OneNote, the Internet Explorer browser, and the mobile wallet. If you've got a hankering for more apps, they download quickly through the Marketplace.

As with AT&T's 920, Verizon's 928 bundles wireless charging into the chassis.

Cameras and video
Nokia's Lumia 928 has an 8.7-megapixel camera (with the aforementioned xenon and LED flashes), smooth 1080p HD video capture, and a fair 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. There's autofocus, image stabilization for the rear camera, and some extra apps you can integrate through the Windows Phone "lens" downloads, like the panorama mode I described above.

Why xenon, by the way? Nokia says that the xenon flash is used for images and the LED light kicks in to help focus and to give low-light video recordings a boost.

The 928 produces fairly high image quality overall. Outdoor photos were better than indoor, but colors were mostly true and detailed, and images were mostly sharp.

Here's a tour of some common scenes. Note that all photos in this group were taken using automatic settings unless otherwise specified.

Nokia Lumia 928 camera test
Clump of flowers taken outdoors in even lighting. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Nokia Lumia 928 camera test
Here's a full-resolution crop of the blooms. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Nokia Lumia 928 camera test
A San Francisco cable car, also taken in even lighting on a dull, gray morning. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Nokia Lumia 928 camera test
My coworker snapped this indoor conference room shot, which has been cropped at full resolution. Notice the red-eye and softer detail than in the outdoor scenes. Emily Dreyfuss/CNET
Exposure was even and crisp in our standard studio test, which is taken with flash. Click to enlarge. Josh Miller/CNET

And now for a mini low-light comparison shootout:

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