Microsoft Lumia 950 XL ReviewMicrosoft Lumia 950 XL 7
The launch of W10 on mobile was spearheaded by two all-new handsets, the 5.2-inch Lumia 950 and the 5.7-inch Lumia 950 XL. The latter is a high-end phablet that's, without question, the most powerful Windows smartphone ever released. But there's an uneasy question casting its shadow over the 950 XL, despite its perceived aura of excellence emitted by a promising spec sheet, an ambitious camera setup, and the novelty of running Windows 10. Can this device gain back the mind and market share lost by the operating system during its year of restrained, sporadic activity? Find out in our review.
An uninspired look and feel that isn't fit for a high-end smartphone in this day and age.
Let's get this out of the way — the Lumia 950 XL has to be the single most nondescript hi-end phablet released in 2015. Representing pure function over form, the handset has a conservative plastic body that's about as attractive as your entry-level Windows laptop nowadays. There are no decorations of any kind, which makes for a clean, but incredibly dull look. Upon a closer examination, we notice that the removable back panel won't attach itself fully in some places, and also gives in when pressure is applied. This is a cheap build that's out of line with what one may expect from a $600 smartphone.
Still, the phablet isn't completely design-unconscious, for it presents a decent screen-to-body ratio and feels reasonably comfortable in the palm. But the volume and power keys (placed right) have sharp corners, feel mushy, and are just bad. Moreover, the Lumia 950 XL is rather top-heavy, but on the upside, there's a dedicated camera shutter key, which will come in handy for avid photographers. And, just so you know, the phablet utilizes the new USB Type-C port, which solves the age-old problem of turning the connector to its right side, but means you must always keep a Type-C cable nearby, for microUSB connectors are incompatible.
151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm
5.82 oz (165 g)
159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm
6.28 oz (178 g)
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm
6.03 oz (171 g)
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)
The 950 XL's screen is big and nicely tuned, but disappointingly dim.
The Lumia 950 XL's 5.7-inch AMOLED display sure sounds impressive on paper, and what do you know, it actually does deliver the goods, save for one glaring flaw — at just 297 nits of maximum brightness, this is one dim screen that will make you squint your eyes under bright light! Otherwise, things are great for the most part. The 1440 x 2560 resolution is more than adequate for this diagonal, while the color temperature and gamma calibration at play result in pleasant, natural tones. The display isn't pin-point color accurate, but most shades and hues are quite close to their reference values. Moreover, you can choose between different color profiles, or adjust the picture completely to your liking. If there's something about the 950 XL's display that's not to your liking, tinker away!
Display measurements and quality
|Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better||Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better||Contrast Higher is better||Color temperature (Kelvins)||Gamma||Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better||Delta E grayscale Lower is better|
|Apple iPhone 6s Plus||593
|Samsung Galaxy Note 5||470
|Google Nexus 6P||356
|Microsoft Lumia 950 XL||297
The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.
|Maximum brightness Lower is better||Minimum brightness Lower is better||Contrast Lower is better||Color temperature Lower is better||Gamma Lower is better||Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better||Delta E grayscale Lower is better|
|Google Nexus 6P||56.2%
|Samsung Galaxy Note 5||60.4%
|Microsoft Lumia 950 XL||62%
|Apple iPhone 6s Plus||84.7%
The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.
This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.
The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.
This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.
The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.
This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.
6. SYSTEM_LORD (Posts: 350; Member since: 05 Oct 2015)
I've seen this camera in action, and it trumps everything else out there, ESPECIALLY the iPhone...
PA, what's the deal? Why do so many of your reviews delineate from what the majority of other reviews find? Why is always that Apple and Samsung just happen to get it right while no one else can? It's making me lose any respect for you guys' ability to do decent, unbiased reporting.
17. SenorThrottles (Posts: 250; Member since: 23 Dec 2015)
Well actually most other reviews agree with PA... If you want a harsh review, watch pocketnow's.
29. TyrionLannister (unregistered)
The camera is great, but it doesn't excuse the buggy software.
88. Furbal (Posts: 920; Member since: 22 Sep 2012)
Indeed, the camera was about the only thing good about my XL.
40. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 762; Member since: 28 Aug 2015)
you might have seen the camera of lumia 950xl in action. But surely, you havent seen the camera of nexus 6p, note 5 and v10 in action. Otherwise, you might realize that these phones give tough time to 950.
89. Furbal (Posts: 920; Member since: 22 Sep 2012)
If you pixel peep, its not even close. The 950 is much sharper. Not that those phones dont have good cameras (love my 6p, note 5 is in the drawer although the camera is excellent)
71. TheAmazingBoj (Posts: 12; Member since: 13 Aug 2015)
since when does good camera and garbage system= something above a 7, i think 7 is pretty nice
7. Intrepid_wiz (Posts: 28; Member since: 30 Dec 2015)
Boo to PA. They hate on everything not Android. I personally think there reviews are B.S
41. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 762; Member since: 28 Aug 2015)
Boo to you. Bcoz you are blind to reality. Wow to PA for presenting very accurate review
64. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
They claimed it took "the better part of an afternoon" which I suppose means multiple hours, to create a Microsoft account? This takes 5 minutes tops, including verifying email and everything. Obviously there's a gap somewhere between what they're doing and what the normal person experiences.
78. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 762; Member since: 28 Aug 2015)
normal person experiences a frustration by setting up microsft account. Like I experienced and become microsoft hater instantly. First, it creates windows account and then microsoft account separately. Then you have to go to a lengthy wait for all the apps to get updated. Windows store is pathetically slow.
Only 5 minutes for setup? Now, I will say it again that you might have used some other OS accidentally and you are in an illusion that you have used windows 10.
83. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
Not on a phone it doesn't. I've set up my own and helped non-technical people do it. It takes literally seconds, plus you have to log into your email and click a link. It's super easy plus it lets you continue to use a third-party email address, unlike Apple or Google.
The only way one could manage to spend hours on a Windows phone creating an account is to be a moron, or purposely sabotage the situation so you can write about how terrible it is.
10. GreenMan (Posts: 913; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)
Guess it's my turn to whine now, considering I'm a hardcore WP User...
Bad P.A, Bad P.A...
Okay, seriously now... Yes, according to multiple resources; Windows 10 Mobile is awfully buggy & is full of glitches. And I couldn't agree more that The OS is undercooked... But there's a solid reason why WP10 Update is halted on previous Lumia Devices. Microsoft realizes it too, & hence they're probably busy making a patch as we speak...
Remember, Blackberry Priv had the same software related problems & it got a 7.2...?
So better wait for the update (which BTW will be out anytime now) before finalizing your judgement regarding Windows 10 Mobile platform...
11. Rydsmith (Posts: 510; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)
No. Why should they wait for an update to review it?
If I were to want to go out and buy a phone now, I want reviews pertent to the current state of the phone.
This phone is a buggy mess and should be regarded as such. The app difference has only gotten larger and the phone needs to be docked for it.
16. GreenMan (Posts: 913; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)
@Rydsmith Well, I'm not criticizing P.A as they've done a fair & unbiased critique from their end...
But don't you find it a little unjust? Reviewing a device with a half baked or as they've described themselves " an undercooked OS"? I had the same complain with The Blackberry's Priv review & the assigned score.
It's an excellent device; only marred by a glitchfull OS which will probably be rectified soon by the maker, Microsoft, and is likely their first priority...
Ah! But if you don't like Windows Phone then that's another story & demands another debate... Like how Americans describe it as: 'Another can of worms'...
51. Napalm_3nema (Posts: 2130; Member since: 14 Jun 2013)
If it is half-baked, it should have never been released in that state. It's not like other Lumias using a Preview, it's what it shipped with in the first place.
65. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
It isn't half-baked, I've used it and the experience is as good as Android on many devices. It's not as good as W8.1 yet, but it is still good. Most people haven't had the buggy experiences that this reviewer was able to create.
62. BaffledTruffle (Posts: 505; Member since: 07 Dec 2013)
I think the review is just fair. A lot of phones are reviewed on pre-release software. I'm just not sure how often PhoneArena does a revisiting.
In another site, GSMArena, they update benchmark scores whenever they get a major update. Or a final release software comes around. If this is a release-version software, then it's not PhoneArena's fault that MS screwed up their saving grace.
46. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 762; Member since: 28 Aug 2015)
if they will wait for an update which will fix windows, then they will be waiting forever. Microsoft is not able yet to fix windows although they are trying from ages.
56. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1036; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)
I did have an issue with 4 hour battery life on my 950 after Microsoft pushed out a new build by surprise. I had to do a hard reset and join the insider program to get a new build that is behaving exactly as the first build did(before the build that turned the phone into a pocket warmer that lasted for 4 hours), flawlessly.
74. DSP96 (Posts: 19; Member since: 13 Oct 2015)
It is true that the initial release is a buggy, laggy mess. It feels more like a beta version of the os than the final version. But it is unacceptable that a flagship device of this class shoud feature such a buggy os at its release. And it is even more unacceptable that a company like microsoft did this blunder; the same company that released the windows phone 7, 7.5, 8, and 8.1 that were way smoother than this. Infact, microsoft was praised for being able to run windows phone 8 that can run on a measly 1GHz dual core processor seamlessly, at a time that a few android phones were struggling with quad core processors (Windows phone 7.5 was even more of an acheivement, for it could run smoothly even on a pathetic 800MHz single core processor). But this sort of an oversight is unacceptable for a company like Microsoft. This sort of treatement would start pushing the windows fans towards android.
13. T-rex (Posts: 150; Member since: 22 May 2013)
Lol! how in the brightness section, the minimum brightness of the iPhone at 5 nits is 'excellent' but that of 950XL at 6 nits is only good :D
28. TyrionLannister (unregistered)
That's a 20% difference. It looks only 1 nit but at low brightness, 1 nit can make a huge difference.
Besides, cut off for excellent is 5 nits. iPhone barely crosses threshold.
66. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
They also failed to turn the brightness to max to record max brightness. Other reviews have recorded a max brightness of 500+ nits, this reviewer is obviously missing something.
15. cdm283813 (Posts: 313; Member since: 10 Jan 2015)
Nice way for Microsoft to kill off any hope for this platform. They can't afford releasing a average phone right now. Google and Apple shows no sign of getting weaker. Even Blackberry got the point.
19. GreenMan (Posts: 913; Member since: 09 Nov 2015)
Yes, That's what you've to deal with when you live in a highly competitive environment!
It's such a shame really... Consider it's a bloody FLAGSHIP for crying out loud...
84. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
The phone is actually really good and outpacing their sales expectations. However, PhoneArena does seem to really hate it, but they wouldn't be buying it anyway.
They hate the plastic back of the 950/XL, but the LG V10 is a great phone...
21. Switch00 (Posts: 399; Member since: 04 Sep 2013)
Very average phone. Very dissapointed. Prefer 1520.
23. drifter77 (Posts: 185; Member since: 12 Jun 2015)
Average indeed. Microsoft needs to step up its game if it wants to compete in 2016.
75. DSP96 (Posts: 19; Member since: 13 Oct 2015)
In my opinion, the best step up for a windows phone flagship was the lumia 1520. That phone was the best of everything - best camera (20 MP pureview), great display (6 inch 1080p IPS LCD), Crucial improvements to WP8 ( Proper multitasking and rotation lock), a great battery (3400 mAh), and so on. The lumia 930 reduced the size to 5 inch 1080p AMOLED display, but traded off battery life. The HTC one m8 for windows traded off the camera, while keeping the great stuff required. This sort of new microsoft flagship doesn't come close to ANY of these flagships. And that's a really sad news for microsoft. It will be bad for microsoft if the company decides to go this way. I hope it rectifies the problems of OS and design, as soon as possible.
24. DurTeeDee (Posts: 69; Member since: 05 Sep 2014)
for the past two months I dipped my android loving feet into Windows picked up a 929. and it was a slight hell, I missed all my google support along with other things that android brings (apps) right now this is my 4th day with windows 8.1 and it is quite unstable as well talking screen freezes and bugs out the ass. but no matter how much I had issues I am still using windows willingly, My Z3 collects dust, my G2 collects dust My moto X collects dust. everyday Windows. Just something about it. now for the tl;dr I like windows platform and think giving this a 7 out of 10 was too low.
but the ratings for none Samsung and apple Products have been getting strange. maybe other companies should buy more ad space?
35. joey_sfb (Posts: 5330; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
I thought windows phone 8.1 should be stable for everyday use. Strange.
43. ShadowHammer (Posts: 94; Member since: 13 Mar 2015)
I guess it might depend on the device. I have a Lumia 521 that runs WP 8.1 just fine, even with bottom of the barrel specs. Running some apps, however, it can struggle, and occasionally an app will crash. For me, the biggest issue is the app gap. The actual OS is fine. I don't have experience with WM 10 to say whether it is buggy, or a downgrade from 8.1. Sounds like it is still kind of beta, based on others comments.
45. joey_sfb (Posts: 5330; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
I don't doubt that WP10 is unstable. Even windows 10 desktop has stability issue. Just hope it gets sorted out soon, right now Windows 10 is not production worthy.
67. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
What stability issues does W10 have? Driver issues? Hardware issues? I haven't experienced or heard of any stability issues in W10, other than maybe when people upgraded at launch.
44. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 762; Member since: 28 Aug 2015)
no it inst. Specially, user experience will frustrate you very quickly if you are coming from android or ios. I did the same mistake as he has done.
57. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1036; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)
I never had issues on WP 8.1 on my Lumia 1020, it was flawless and it never lagged or stuttered.
85. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
I'm not trying to excuse any issues that Windows 8.1 Phone might have for you, but the 929 is several years old now, I can't help but imagine that might have some impact. I've used maybe 4 phones on Windows 8.1, all low-end, and I haven't had any issues with the OS, stability or the like. I am glad you like Windows, I agree that there is something that just feels nice about it, makes me want to pick up my phone, and it's not nagging notifications.
26. khaldoon (Posts: 61; Member since: 17 May 2013)
honestly the phone deserves a 7 at best. its design is really a step down from the 930 and the screen is still the same as ever, very low brightness, i tired this phone at a local store and at first i thought they lowered the brightness but then when i looked in the settings i found out this is its max brightness. the camera is really amazing, but it takes time to shoot the photo.
68. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
The screen is actually capable of pretty high brightness, you can check the GSMArena review, they recorded a max brightness of 500+ nits. It's also lighter than the 930, with better screen/body ratio.
How long did it take to shoot photos? My 950 can shoot photos one after another with no delay.
70. miketer (Posts: 126; Member since: 02 Apr 2015)
I haven't tried the 950 yet, but I'd like to point out that in Windows mobile, the auto brightness is higher than the manual setting of max brightness. If you can, please try this again at your local store.
31. lalalaman (Posts: 630; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)
hey PA,why arent some phones reviewed dont have that battery charts which tells how much its charge time is and how much battery lasts according to your benchmarks
33. Hashed (Posts: 51; Member since: 11 Dec 2015)
but Hey Phonearena,, what happened to the 'call quality' section in your reviews?!
After all, this is the core function of a phone.
36. Cslfiero (Posts: 68; Member since: 29 Jun 2015)
When user rating is so disconnected from the pa rating, one can't help but wonder about the credibility of pa..
47. Rydsmith (Posts: 510; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)
Or the rabid fanboyness of those that rate it.
48. SenorThrottles (Posts: 250; Member since: 23 Dec 2015)
But then again, pretty much all other tech websites rated the 950 XL fairly poorly as well
69. jontaylor07 (Posts: 162; Member since: 12 Oct 2015)
But then again, pretty much all other tech websites reviewers are strongly devoted to Android or iOS.
38. lalalaman (Posts: 630; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)
other than the 3 cons written at the end of review,i see nothing bad with this phone....
battery is excellent
camera is excellent(i saw the hate there when u said that it is unreliable because long exposure shots came out blurry.....im like what? are u that dumb? and oversaturation is not that bad either.....rich mode shots maybe bad)
i agree on software....i wish it fixed at earliest
screen colors are accurate if not the brightness.
iris scanner works good and u got continumm.
i say its a nice package and should score atleast 8 if iphone 6s plus is getting 9
49. SenorThrottles (Posts: 250; Member since: 23 Dec 2015)
I'd say it has the potential to get an 8, but at the moment its not quite there. Microsoft really needs to resolve the software issues. I heard that the latest update resolved most of the issues for some, but not for all.
42. UglyFrank (Posts: 1580; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)
Lenovo Vibe Shot has a triple led flash.
50. 7thspaceman (Posts: 1524; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)
Windows 10 Mobiles is a new OS and most of them have bugs. People forget that most Apple And Android software updates had BUGS. I bet Android Marsh mellow will have bugs.. There are internet rumors that the 950/950XL are OLD Nokia pipeline d esigns. i think that Microsoft has got the message load and clear to make MS Lumia flag ship look and fell like premium smart phone should. I expect that at Mobile world congress Microsoft will debut 2 or 3 new Windows 10 Mobile smart phones. I hope that the "Surface Smartphone with an intel x86 Class cpu is among them because it will run MS Universal Apps and also run some Windows win32 Desk top programs and be a true Pocket PC smart phone hybrid
52. LetThereBeLight (Posts: 80; Member since: 20 Nov 2014)
Something is definitely wrong with P.A. review's scoring system or this phone is as "good" as the Sony Z5 / premium or the LG V10?
53. Hasnz (Posts: 1; Member since: 31 Dec 2015)
After getting this phone . I find the ratings to be fair . This is my first windows phone .
The specs are good and the camera is awesome . I am in love with the window interface . The Dark theme is what I have been missing on android and ios .
The built quality however , is totally unacceptable imo . The plastic is of the quality of those demo models you see on display . It makes the build of my old galaxy S5/Note3 feel premium . The Grip is not good for my hands . Hell the much larger LGv10 was great the hold . Still I opted for 950XL as I didnt wanted to upgrade to Note5 beacuse of glass build ( although it proved to be a better fit in hands )
On the software part . Luckily I had a much smoother windows10 experience and the updates have gone smoothly . The lack of softwares do not worry me much . Battery gets me through a day which is good .
My concern is that the apps which are available are simply not as polished . I am ok with a half featured facebook beta app . But I am NOT OK if an app like watsapp goes into a resuming/loading screen when doing an app switch . Why do I need to see a splash screen for a calculator app .
Even one gives this a 9.5 being a fan boy . Deduct 1 for the built quality , -1 for the buggy relase and -.5 for lack of apps and -.5 for unpolished apps . that makes 6.5 for me .
A great camera and trying the windows10 phone was my deciding factor .
58. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1036; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)
App availability and stability has nothing to do with the hardware of the device. Do you see Samsung phones getting dinged for the lag induced by touchwiz? No. Do you see them getting dinged for having malware in apps in the app store? No. Do you see it getting dinged for apps that don't behave properly and lag or crash? No. Do you see them get dinged for GPS or signal issues? No. Are all of these real issues with Samsung phones? Yes.
54. razraptre (Posts: 168; Member since: 21 Oct 2014)
About the max brightness thing - GSMarena mentioned that it goes way higher if you set it on auto. I don't know why they restricted the max brightness of the "max" option if the phone actually can go higher, though.
72. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1036; Member since: 17 Mar 2015)
Its likely because the maximum brightness will eat battery. I do notice on my lumia 1020 and my 950 that its brighter in sunlight in automatic brightness than on manual maximum brightness.
55. tigermcm (Posts: 851; Member since: 02 Sep 2009)
im not bashing the phone but what was the point of reviewing this phone if the 950 was already reviewed???? the review shouldve been, read 950 review change chip, battery size, and screen size done
|Display||5.7 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels (515 ppi) AMOLED|
Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Octa-core, 2000 MHz, ARM Cortex-A57 and ARM Cortex-A53 processor
3072 MB RAM
|Size||5.98 x 3.09 x 0.32 inches|
(151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm)
5.82 oz (165 g)
|Battery||3340 mAh, 25 hours talk time|