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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL 7

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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review


Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review
After Windows Phone 8.1's release in April last year, the Lumia brand went undercover, as Microsoft released very few handsets and pondered what comes next for the operating system and its smartphone business. Fast forward to September 2015, though, and the Windows universe has been shaken by yet another Big Bang, for MS released the new Windows 10 on practically everything that has a computer and display in its assembly, from fitness-tracking wristbands all the way to smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

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.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL
5.98 x 3.09 x 0.32 inches
151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm
5.82 oz (165 g)

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Google Nexus 6P
6.27 x 3.06 x 0.29 inches
159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm
6.28 oz (178 g)

Google Nexus 6P

Samsung Galaxy Note 5
6.03 x 3 x 0.3 inches
153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm
6.03 oz (171 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Apple iPhone 6s Plus
6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
6.77 oz (192 g)

Apple iPhone 6s Plus

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review


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
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL 297
Google Nexus 6P 356
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 470
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 593
View all

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posted on 31 Dec 2015, 06:57 15

6. SYSTEM_LORD (Posts: 1008; 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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:55 5

17. SenorThrottles (Posts: 284; Member since: 23 Dec 2015)

Well actually most other reviews agree with PA... If you want a harsh review, watch pocketnow's.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 09:31 11

29. TyrionLannister (unregistered)

The camera is great, but it doesn't excuse the buggy software.

posted on 10 Jan 2016, 23:51 1

88. Furbal (unregistered)

Indeed, the camera was about the only thing good about my XL.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 10:01 4

40. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 1001; 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.

posted on 10 Jan 2016, 23:52

89. Furbal (unregistered)

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)

posted on 01 Jan 2016, 21:35 2

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

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:01 7

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

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:02 2

9. Intrepid_wiz (Posts: 28; Member since: 30 Dec 2015)


posted on 31 Dec 2015, 10:03 3

41. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 1001; Member since: 28 Aug 2015)

Boo to you. Bcoz you are blind to reality. Wow to PA for presenting very accurate review

posted on 01 Jan 2016, 10:27

64. jontaylor07 (Posts: 169; 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.

posted on 02 Jan 2016, 12:31

78. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 1001; 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.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 12:06 1

83. jontaylor07 (Posts: 169; 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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:04 3

10. GreenMan (Posts: 1802; 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...

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:34 8

11. Rydsmith (unregistered)

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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:48 2

16. GreenMan (Posts: 1802; 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'...


posted on 31 Dec 2015, 12:13 2

51. Napalm_3nema (Posts: 2236; 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.

posted on 01 Jan 2016, 10:28 1

65. jontaylor07 (Posts: 169; 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.

posted on 01 Jan 2016, 05:02 2

62. BaffledTruffle (Posts: 516; 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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 10:12 2

46. DoggyDangerous (Posts: 1001; 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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 17:31 1

56. Plutonium239 (Posts: 1079; 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.

posted on 02 Jan 2016, 09:56 1

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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:40 2

13. T-rex (unregistered)

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

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:57 5

18. Commentator (Posts: 3722; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)

Probably because the cutoff is at 5?

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 09:30 8

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.

posted on 01 Jan 2016, 10:30

66. jontaylor07 (Posts: 169; 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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 07:44 4

15. cdm283813 (Posts: 424; 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.

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 08:01 1

19. GreenMan (Posts: 1802; 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...

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 12:09

84. jontaylor07 (Posts: 169; 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...

posted on 31 Dec 2015, 08:22 3

21. Switch00 (Posts: 525; Member since: 04 Sep 2013)

Very average phone. Very dissapointed. Prefer 1520.

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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

OS: Windows 10 Mobile
view full specs
Display5.7 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels (515 ppi) AMOLED
Camera20 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Octa-core, 2000 MHz, ARM Cortex-A57 and ARM Cortex-A53 processor
Size5.98 x 3.09 x 0.32 inches
(151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm)
5.82 oz  (165 g)
Battery3340 mAh, 25 hours talk time

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