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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL hands-on

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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL hands-on

Rather than announcing just one single smartphone for the upcoming holiday season, Microsoft announced two today at its giant unveiling in New York City. The trends have shown that big phones are big business, so that’s arguably why we have the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL to supplement its smaller sibling in the standard Lumia 950. This kind of thinking isn’t new, as many companies reserve the fall holiday season to announce their phablet-esque offerings – just like what we’ve been exposed to of late with devices like the Galaxy Note5 and LG V10. Now, it’s most notable for the fact that it’s one of the first to be running Windows 10, while also being accompanied with a specs sheet to die for.

Design
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL hands-on
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL hands-on
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL hands-on


What’s there more to say than it being simply an over-sized, larger version of the Lumia 950? That’s just the undeniable reality, as the Lumia 950 XL sports the same design language of its smaller sized sibling, but on a larger scale. So yeah, in terms of holding it, we’re required to have a wider grasp in order for us to hold it properly. Even with its girth and all, its plastic construction makes it pretty lightweight for something of its size – though, it lacks that premium feel to really elevate its design to the same level as Microsoft’s Surface line.

And that’s something that sticks out like a sore thumb, just because the subdued design does little to garner attention over the other, meticulously crafted smartphones in the space. The design, in fact, reminds us of a slight alteration of the Lumia 640 XL, which as we know, is a super budget Windows Phone – so the dull design isn’t shocking. Considering the kind of price point attached to the Lumia 950 XL, we were hoping to see something a bit more daring and aggressive. Maybe along the lines of the Lumia 1520 and 930 before it?

Display


The beefy size of the handset is attributed to the 5.7-inch 1440 x 2560 OLED display, which just like its sibling, ushers Microsoft’s mobile platform into the Quad-HD world. Not surprisingly, the screen is super sharp and highly detailed – allowing for more live tiles to be packed into the screen. Going with OLED isn’t new, mainly because it helps to minimize battery loss with its Glance feature. This reduces the need to press the power button to turn on the display, ensuring that power is preserved in the process. OLED screens tend to do fare better than LCD for this purpose, seeing that the screen doesn’t look like it’s actually on whenever the color black is displayed.

From our cursory look with the handset, the OLED screen seems to embody all of the qualities of the technology – like its crisp and wide viewing angles, iridescence, and punchy looking colors. In the dimly lit condition of the showroom floor, its brightness output appears potent enough to make the screen visible to our eyes, but it’ll be interesting to see how it handles outdoors with the sun present.

Interface


Beyond the high-end specs in tow with the Lumia 950 XL, what’s most notable about the phone is that it’s one of the first to be running Windows 10 – and boy are we excited for it! Spending just a short time playing with the phone, we’re quite familiar with its layout and operation. In fact, users currently using a Windows Phone 8.1 device will transition easily to the new platform. We can see, however, that it shares many of the cues we already see in Windows 10 running on a PC.

What we’re really astounded about, though, is the new Continuum feature that’s baked into the experience. Essentially, it turns the smartphone to a fully function computer with the aid of this optional accessory dock – one that packs USB and a couple of display ports, to allow us to connect an assortment of devices and peripherals to it. Needless to say, this is pretty big news because we’re given a relatively faithful desktop experience with Continuum. Therefore, mobile apps like the Microsoft Office suite run identically to what we get with the desktop experience. It’s kind of a big thing, because we have the power of a PC in the palm of our hands.

Processor and Memory


Another main differentiator between this and the Lumia 950, is that it’s powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset – whereas the Lumia 950 sides with the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 SoC. This should prove to be enlightening for prospective owners, considering that it’s the best of the best from Qualcomm’s camp. Superficially, it handles all the fluffy and easy stuff, but we’re confident that it’s going to be a great performer as well in the graphics processing front.

Not only does Microsoft offer a generous 32GB of internal storage with the phone, but that tally can be supplemented by throwing in a card into its microSD slot. You’ll have to remove the rear casing in order to access it, but it’s nonetheless something we don’t mind doing.

Camera


Microsoft Lumia 950 XL hands-on
High-end Lumia smartphones have this reputation of being outfitted with some fantastic camera gear – this one is no exception either! In the rear, they’ve slapped on a 20-megapixel 1/2.4” camera sensor, which features an f/1.9 aperture lens. Even more surprising, they managed to accompany it with not just one, two, but three LED flashes to better illuminate the scenery, while also eliminating red eye.

Now, as much as the gear sounds delicious, we’ll save our judgment until we see actual samples from a final retail unit. Even now, however, we’re inclined to believe that it should be able to tangle with the greats. What’s great as well, we’re given the same lovable camera interface – one that mimics the styling and offering of a traditional camera. So, with that, it means that manual controls are on board with this one, including with video recording. Interestingly, we notice that we’re able to adjust parameters such as the focus and exposure adjustment on the fly; while shooting video.

Expectations


Although it’s similarly spec’d to the Lumia 950, the 950 XL does offer some notable changes in the form of its better Snapdragon 810 SoC, larger sized OLED screen, and higher 3340 mAh battery capacity. All of this, combined with the rest of its heavy handed specs sheet, incurs a cost of $649 when it’s released sometime in November. We’re told that so far it’s going to be AT&T who will be selling the handset, but we’re crossing our fingers that other carriers will also get their hands on this prized Windows 10 smartphone.

Its price point, naturally, undercuts some of the other prized phablets in the space, such as the Note5 and iPhone 6s Plus. While its specs sheet helps to keep it as a relevant player, it’s Windows 10 that might truly help this handset reach higher acclaim due to some of its unique features – namely Continuum, in how it packs the power of a PC in the size of a smartphone.




39 Comments
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posted on 06 Oct 2015, 22:21 11

1. promise7 (Posts: 891; Member since: 03 Jul 2013)


the specs and features on both the 950 and 950 XL r impressive. i won't comment on design and build because that's dependent on user preference, but imo it's very decent. the only thing that's missing is dual front facing speakers.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 00:47 5

8. RORYREVOLUTION (Posts: 3128; Member since: 12 Jan 2010)


My thoughts exact. Front facing speakers should be standard. But overall I am very impressed by this phone and how the new Windows 10 software looks and runs on a phone.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 04:15

16. Jango (Posts: 340; Member since: 24 Oct 2014)


I really love Windows 10 and continuum would be a very compelling reason to get this and ditch my Android. But it seems that microsoft or Nokia design for each generation of the lumia flagship is getting worse with every new iteration. These resemble their low end models from 2013, in the era where Samsung's ditched plastic, Sony's all glass, even LG has had glass before and stainless steel now and I don't need to mention HTC.

Come on guys. At that price bracket, it needs to be the total package and feel premium. The 930 was better before this, the 8 series before that and so on. You see, I'm not against plastic, it just needs to look and feel premium.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 06:39 1

24. DarkStar286 (Posts: 219; Member since: 18 Mar 2014)


I agree, but I think you should actually wait until you have one in your hand to pass judgement. As you say, it needs to look and feel premium, but that's impossible to judge from photos. Plus the backs are interchangeable so you can have a more luxurious material there if you want.

Personally I think they looks fine; they don't make a statement like my bright yellow 1020 does, but I like their understated look.

posted on 15 Oct 2015, 12:50

37. oldhamletman (Posts: 72; Member since: 03 Sep 2011)


go to a MS store and feel the 950s... all of the polycarbonate windows phones have a very high end look and feel and they don't dent like metal and don't shatter like Iphones.... completely superior product

posted on 09 Oct 2015, 07:32 1

36. NULUSIOS (Posts: 18; Member since: 18 Jun 2015)


I don't agree.
The device costs close to 100 less than the competition's flagships.
Microsoft was smart to let the back AND sides be replaceable.
So I don't care about premium construction (for example I DO NOT like glass back that seems to be the trend, nor love that I can't really drop it, ever), as long as I can customize and fix the phone myself.
After all with all these "premium built" phones, people go and buy a cover and never get to see this premium build (which for me is a joke). Who cares about the diamond-cut sides and glass back if you don't even see them.
For the money get a fantastic leather back (and metal sides) like from Mozo (google them - or bing them :D) and get all the premium feel you want. WITHOUT an extra cover!
The face IS premium (GG4) and that's enough for me.

I agree about stereo front facing speakers though.

posted on 06 Oct 2015, 22:28 2

2. Federated (Posts: 263; Member since: 06 Mar 2010)


2G (GSM): 850MHz, 900MHz,1800MHz,1900MHz

3G (HSPA+): Band 1 (2100MHz), Band 2 (1900MHz), Band 4 (1700/2100MHz), Band 5 (850MHz), Band 8 (900MHz)

4G (LTE): Band 1 (2100MHz), Band 17 (700MHz), Band 2 (1900MHz), Band 20 (800MHz), Band 3 (1800MHz), Band 4 (1700/2100 MHz), Band 5 (850MHz), Band 7 (2600MHz), Band 8 (900MHz), Band 28 (700MHz), Band 12 (700MHz)

^^^ Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is fully compatible with T-Mobile US out-of-the-box. Sweet! Cheers!

posted on 06 Oct 2015, 22:29 4

3. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3149; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)


This thing needs more appreciation from a lot of users.

posted on 06 Oct 2015, 23:35 3

4. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 2288; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


I'm impressed so far

posted on 06 Oct 2015, 23:42 2

5. Gemmol (Posts: 792; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)


Can't wait for November

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 00:22 5

6. miketer (Posts: 269; Member since: 02 Apr 2015)


I wish the speakers were in the front or at the bottom.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 06:16

19. DarkStar286 (Posts: 219; Member since: 18 Mar 2014)


Agreed, I hate the rear mounted speaker on my Galaxy S4 when compared to my 1020 with its speaker on the bottom. Rear speakers are pretty much useless once you put them down on a soft surface.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 00:41

7. camhiliciouz (Posts: 18; Member since: 11 Dec 2014)


now, all we need is a camera blind comparison of this one with the latest flagships from Apple, Samsung, LG, Google and others...

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 00:58 1

9. dorian827 (Posts: 160; Member since: 28 Jul 2012)


Seem like it was just bashed not a 'Hands On'

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 08:55 1

28. McLTE (Posts: 922; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


I agree! I'm so sick of these articles.

So, I guess the ONLY decent phone these days is made from "premium" aluminum or some metal. It wasn't long ago when we were obsessing over how premium the Nokia phones are.. that finish! OMG! Now, it's crap.

As for the design, it's a little on the conservative side yes.. but disappointing? no, not at all. You were expecting something crazy? That's not going to happen. It's a PHONE. I'll take a conservative, useful design over a glass backed disaster any day.

I'm VERY intrigued by the direction MS is going with their OS and phones. I just may have to take a break from Android and give MS a shot!

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 11:28

29. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


They want business users, not teens dropping their phones out of school. Already set to pre-order my 950xl

posted on 16 Oct 2015, 11:15

39. sbw44 (Posts: 433; Member since: 04 Dec 2012)


It's John V, what do you expect?

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 01:02 2

10. 99nights (Posts: 1152; Member since: 10 Mar 2015)


I'm probably going to end up buying one of these in the end.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 01:10 2

11. iusshpandeh (Posts: 250; Member since: 23 Jul 2014)


Those back panels are amazing! :D will get Lumia 950xl with brown metal back panel!

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 03:00

12. Penhoat (Posts: 20; Member since: 05 Oct 2015)


This including one of those newly announced back is going to be pretty sweet

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 03:02

13. Penhoat (Posts: 20; Member since: 05 Oct 2015)


Great stuff

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 03:13

14. Switch00 (Posts: 533; Member since: 04 Sep 2013)


Giant unveiling? There were 40 people there, most of some 200 seats were empty. A shame that what it was... not a giant unveiling.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 04:08

15. cnour (Posts: 1648; Member since: 11 Sep 2014)


I don't understand why Microsoft is always making phones!!!!!

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 05:07 1

17. promise7 (Posts: 891; Member since: 03 Jul 2013)


Because no one else will. Microsoft had to get the Windows OS momentum going, then manufacturers will be interested.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 05:56

18. Spedez (Posts: 523; Member since: 29 Aug 2014)


Others already realized its a suicide to do WPs.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 06:19 2

20. Pattyface (Posts: 1646; Member since: 20 Aug 2014)


Yes because android is so profitable.. Maybe less trolling?

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 06:25 1

21. DarkStar286 (Posts: 219; Member since: 18 Mar 2014)


What's not to understand? MS have been in the hardware business since the early 80s and built their first phone back in the late 90s. Anyway, it's normal for the company that produces a mobile OS to also build phones for it; Apple do, as does Google, BlackBerry (though perhaps no longer for their own platform) and even Jolla.

What would be hard to understand is if MS didn't build their own phones.

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 11:29

30. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


education is not cnour strong point

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 06:30

22. catt4u (Posts: 145; Member since: 09 Jul 2011)


Lots of readers have been bashing Samsung for it's plastic housing and we all know about the overheating problems with the Snapdragon 810 soc.
So sorry, but this 950XL is no more than a midrange phone with perhaps good photo results.
To be compatitive with the high-end Androids and iPhone MS has failed with this 950XL

posted on 07 Oct 2015, 06:33 3

23. Pattyface (Posts: 1646; Member since: 20 Aug 2014)


So midrange phones have 2k screens, iris scanners, wireless charging, 810 processors? Get out of here with your delusional self

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