Microsoft Lumia 950 hands-on


Microsoft came roaring with a vengeance today at its big press event in New York City, where they unveiled as assortment of tech goodness that’s coming in time for this holiday season. On the smartphone front, we have two notable ones that finally give Windows Phone some credible presence in the space – the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL. In this article, we’ll focus our attention on the former, which sports the more manageable size between the two, potentially making it more appealing to a wider degree of consumers.


While we’re enthused about finally experiencing Windows 10 on a smartphone level, the design of the Microsoft Lumia 950 is a bit dull and subdued. Right from the onset, its matte plastic bodied casing combined with its rounded corners, make us think about the Lumia 640 before it. True, the removable casing allows for more choice for the consumer, but its design language doesn’t scream anything premium – or even aggressive when we think about. It just lacks the substantial feel we get in other, recently announced smartphones in the space. In fact, we would’ve preferred the harder lined past Lumia smartphones like the 1520 or 930, but it is what it is.


At the very least, they’ve fashioned on a high-resolution screen to this one, making it a relevant player in the space. Its 5.2-inch 1440 x 2560 AMOLED display ushers Microsoft’s smartphones into the Quad-HD realm, making for some lovely details that allow us to cram in even more live tiles in the Start screen. Of course, it’s exceptionally sharp thanks to its resolution, but it’s tough to gauge the usability outdoors. Under the dim lighting conditions at Microsoft’s event, it exhibits enough of a potent glow to make it visible to the eyes – while still exuding the qualities we know of AMOLED technology. The decision to go with this particular display technology, as opposed to LCD, is the fact that it helps with battery consumption with its Glance feature.


Beyond the high-end specs in tow with the Lumia 950, 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

Although it’s not classified as the highest end chipset from Qualcomm, the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 SoC with 3GB gives the Lumia 950 enough pep in its performance to make it enjoyable to use during our initial run-through. Well, this is certainly expected, seeing the Microsoft’s mobile platform in general is optimized to deliver great performance – even on lower spec’d devices. As much as we’re pleased by its performance from a superficial aspect, we’re curious to see how it handles more processor intensive things, such as 3D gaming.

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.


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.


We’re told that as of right now, AT&T will be the first to get the Lumia 950, which is attached with a full outright cost of $550 when it’s released sometime in November. The price is fine and dandy, undercutting some of its competition in the process, but if it pans out being an exclusive with AT&T right from the get-go, it’s going to be a really tough time for Microsoft. Still, the phone by itself offers some intriguing prospects that we don’t get in other smartphones – like Continuum, which is undeniably the one feature that could potentially lure people into its grasp.

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