Nokia Lumia 800 Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Nokia, wow, it's been a journey and a half tracking all the highs and lows Nokia have encountered over the past few couple of years. Losing a monumental amount of smartphone market share and abandoning their prized Symbian in favor of Microsoft's new OS. On the plus, their decisiveness to move forward and even the strengths of their now abandoned MeeGo platform have to be commended. But we're not here to lament, no, lamenting is what we did when reviewing the Nokia N9. Now we are embracing change, embracing Windows Phone 7.5, embracing Stephen Elop's vision and embracing the Nokia Lumia 800. A unibody plastic device with a beveled Gorilla Glass display, a 1.4GHz processor and f2.2 8MP camera put the Lumia 800 at the top of Windows Phone technology on paper, but the question on everyone's lips seems to be: have Nokia done enough?

The Lumia 800 is currently not expected from any US carrier. It is somehow usable with AT&T's 3G network, supporting the 1900 MHz band but lacking the 850 MHz one.

Design:

With little in way of variance between the Nokia N9 and the Nokia Lumia 800, it's fair to say our over-riding impressions of both device aesthetics are similar, however if this was a competition, on physicality alone, the Nokia N9 would be the winner. Let us explain.



You can compare the Nokia Lumia 800 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Starting with the screen, unlike the Nokia N9's Full WVGA480x854 display, the lower end of the Nokia Lumia 800 is re-tasked to function as three capacitive buttons, sacrificing on resolution (now WVGA480x800) and making the display roughly 7% smaller at 3.7 inches. What you do still get is the bevel edged Gorilla Glass fascia atop Nokia's Clear Black AMOLED display. It looks beautiful, as if AMOLED displays were made with Windows Phone in mind, with Live Tiles gliding vertically below the bevels and above the deep black beneath. This is emphasized by how responsive the Lumia 800 is, coupled with the glass offering a rich, cool sensation to the touch. If we never saw the Nokia N9, we would have been none the wiser. The Nokia Lumia 800 has a beautiful display. As we have seen it however, we also know it's not the best that Nokia can do.


Moving away from the screen and the same, high-grade polycarbonate (plastic) unibody design graces the Nokia Lumia 800 as the Nokia N9, except for two key differences. The first - the flash is repositioned, the second - there is a physical camera button. Which is better? Well that depends, form or function, which is your preference. There's no denying the camera button clutters up the right hand side of this lithe, slick bit of kit, however, we like taking photos and taking them quickly, so can embrace the advantages of the camera button. Otherwise, the physicalities surrounding the handset is the same with a microSIM card and microUSB port up top aside the 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side is laden with silver buttons: a volume rocker, lock / power button and two stage camera button while below is the loud speaker. The reverse of the Nokia Lumia 800 is the 8MP f2.2 camera with Carl Zeiss optics as well as the accompanying dual LED flash.


Overall, the hardware works beautifully with Windows Phone 7.5, from the AMOLED screen with its Clear Black technology, through to the flat bottom sitting atop your little finger for one handed use. We can't wait to see what Nokia brings us when they make a piece of hardware with Windows Phone in mind from conception. Nokia N9 comparisons aside however and the Nokia Lumia 800 is a standalone triumph.



Interface:

What Nokia lacked with Symbian it hopes to gain with the adoption of Windows Phone 7.5, with the OS's key strengths being a modern, unified aesthetic, easily navigable smartphone functionality and an affordable ecosystem. With the latest update, Windows Phone 7.5 retains all the visual flare of its launch build and bestows the Nokia Lumia 800 with some much needed function, including elements such as copy/paste, multi-tasking and deeper social-networking integration amongst others. Couple this with Nokia specific inclusions and there's every possibility the Nokia Windows Phones could stand out after all.

At the core of the OS are still your two primary screens: homescreen and applications. The homescreen consists of live tiles which act as both shortcuts to apps and app specific notifications. Slide the homescreen out of the way to reveal a list of applications on the right. All these can be pinned to the start menu with a long press, or just opened from the list. In Windows Phone 7.5, a long press of the back button activates a multi-tasking pane with cards that can be swiped through, each representing an open app frozen in its most recent state.



Functionality:

Nokia has also included its own key apps to make it's Lumias stand out from a sea of Mangos: Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and Nokia Music, as well as App Highlights. Unfortunately, in our pre-release version, Nokia Maps isn't available and the functionality of all these is subject to change.

Kicking things off with Nokia Drive, this is a voice guided turn by turn GPS app. Offering functionality you could pay hundreds of bucks for standalone, Nokia even give you the ability to cache your maps, downloading entire countries before you even set out on a trip. To say the world is your oyster is no understatement, as we simply opened the app, went into settings, found our country and clicked download. 195MB later and hey presto, no sense of direction? No problem. As far as using Nokia Drive goes, it's a harmony of simplicity and function. Large finger friendly icons, no faffing, just a simple ' set destination' and away you go with downloadable voices to guide you with an accent of your choosing. Bravo. The GPS locked onto our location in seconds when outside and performed extremely well upon every test.


When we first heard Nokia Music would be present, we thought to ourselves 'Zune does a pretty good job, lets hope it offers something unique'. Good news, it does. While at the heart of Nokia music, you have a predictable music marketplace that is effectively in direct competition with Zune's marketplace on your phone, you also have a feature called Mix Radio, AKA where things get exciting. Upon entering Mix Radio, you are presented with a range of 10 genres, each containing 11 playlists. These open you up to a range of tracks to discover. What really sets this service apart however is the ability to cache entire playlists for up to 4 weeks for offline listening, even pinning your favorite mixes to your start menu.


Finally, Nokia App Highlights is a selection of locally relevant apps agreed upon by both Nokia and your service provider, ensuring that wherever you are, the recommendations are as relevant as possible.

Organizer features include alarms, calculator, calendar and notes. The calendar is finger friendly, looking very clean and feeling really intuitive, especially coupled with the Nokia Lumia 800's Clear Black AMOLED. Adding appointments is simple, with the whole experience delivering a visual pleasure. There is also deeper Twitter integration in Mango, making sharing photos and keeping on top of tweets even easier.





Internet and Connectivity:

The Nokia Lumia is a quad-band GSM, tri-band 3G phone loaded with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS on board. Connections include a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microUSB port and there’s 16GB of memory as well. There is unfortunately no NFC or front-facing camera as found on the Nokia N9. The N9 is a quad-band GSM and penti-band UMTS 3G phone, usable with any carrier in the world, including T-Mobile USA. The Lumia 800 however, is a tri-band only UMTS phone, so it features the European bands and 1900 MHz. This makes it usable with AT&T (although the 850MHz band is not supported) but 2G only for T-Mo.

The Internet Explorer delivers fast loading times and silky smooth scrolling. The same goes for zooming, which you can do by either double-tapping or using pinch-to-zoom. Both options work flawlessly. In addition, the Nokia Lumia 800's 3.7-inch screen offers a great trade-off between pocketability and web browsability. Naturally, it being a Windows Phone, there's no Flash support to speak of and the YouTube application leaves a lot to be desired, so if streaming vids is your bag, try before you buy.



Camera:

The Nokia Lumia 800 comes equipped with the same resolution 8MP autofocus camera as found on the Nokia N9, however performance seems to differ somewhat.



While on the Nokia N9, focus was our biggest gripe, with performance being generally positive, with the Nokia Lumia 800, it's performance, especially noise handling that appears to let down the hardware. Detail is a little light at 100%, but both landscape and macro shots photos taken on the handset offer a printable 6x4 quality for the most part. Color reproduction is mostly accurate with danger of under saturating at times. Contrast levels are alright too, with the camera producing the occasional perfect picture. Our main fault with the Nokia Lumia 800 is its noise handling. While there's every chance the photo processing could be updated before launch, in the state we have the device, the Nokia Lumia 800 produces grainy dark colors, much more so than the HTC Titan or the Nokia N9. Fire up the dual LED flash and the phone gets a little boost, however still delivers far more grain than we'd hope for.



720p HD video performs well overall. Videos captured on the Nokia Lumia 800 also play back pretty smoothly and should suffice for most day to day needs. Unfortunately, continuous focus isn't always great, sticking every now and then.

Nokia Lumia 800 Sample Video:



Multimedia:

With Zune on board, the music experience is tightly integrated by a slick, simple to get to grips with system. Audio quality is good, though we do prefer the sound out of HTC's SRS devices. There is also the Nokia Music App which includes Nokia Mix Radio which we mentioned earlier in the interface section - a definite jewel in Nokia's Windows Phone Crown.



When it comes to videos, the Zune software integration lends to compensate for the lack of codec support on the Nokia Lumia 800. The phone will play MPEG-4 and WMV files, and the Zune software will convert other video formats automatically which is handy. That said, it will leave you waiting a while for your video files to sync. Watching these on the Nokia Lumia 800 is pretty good. While not as visually immersive as on on a larger screen, with the Clear Black AMOLED, beautiful form factor and decent resolution, we still managed to get into the experience.



Performance:

Call quality on the Nokia Lumia 800 is pretty good overall. Unfortunately, when we were on the Lumia, callers sounded slightly less clear than we would have hoped. Listeners on the other end however reported we sounded crisp, so while not perfect overall, nothing drastic to report. The loudspeaker delivers good, clear sound both for voice and media and we really like the fact that it's placed at the bottom of the unit so when the Nokia Lumia 800 is lying down, we can still hear the music or conversation as nothing is covering the speaker.

Mango is an efficient OS, with handsets like the HTC Radar performing stunningly well with mere 1GHz processors. In turn it comes as little surprise that the Nokia Lumia's 1.4Ghz Snapdragon processor flies through tasks. After four days with the device we're yet to experience any slowdown or stutter despite having installed in excess of 15 apps and used the handset day in day out.

In terms of performance, the chink in the Nokia Lumia 800's armor is definitely its battery life. No, this isn't going to die by 4pm, but neither is it going to live strong for two days. Nokia handsets, N9 included are generally renowned for lasting forever and Windows Phone devices also tend to do well in this department. We'd expected the combination of both to deliver easily over a days worth of juice but sadly no. Juice is well and truly depleted come 10pm after a full days use. Not terrible, but not what we were expecting either.

Conclusion:

And so it begins, Nokia's partnership with Microsoft has reached fruition and the first taste is in our hands. Bearing in mind how quickly Nokia got this to market, the custom Nokia Apps they pulled out of the bag and the reformatting of MeeGo hardware to fit a Windows Phone platform, we can do little but commend. The Nokia Lumia 800 sports a beautiful screen, slick design and promising OS only made more attractive by the inclusion of Nokia Maps, Drive and Music. While it does have its weak points, with the AMOLED delivering a blue hue when viewed at an angle and lackluster noise handling in the images, not to mention less than stellar battery life, we still find it very easy to recommend Nokia's new flagship as the pros outweigh the cons ten to one.

Looking at the current landscape of the Windows Phone market, the Nokia Lumia 800 is obviously one of the better options, although it's hardly usable in the U.S. However, a pretty decent alternative could be the HTC Radar, which comes in slightly cheaper, or, if you want more screen and a better camera, you can turn your attention to the HTC Titan.

When it comes to alternative OSs, the Nokia N9 with its MeeGo platform comes to mind first. It's worth checking out if you happen to enjoy the Lumia 800 hardware, but want a different kind of OS. Of course, with its vague future, everything MeeGo-related can't really be considered future-proof. That's why we believe it's worth exploring the high-end Android handsets out there, like the Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC Sensation XE or EVO 3D, which are all great smartphones, offered at similar or lower prices than the one of the Lumia 800, which is another reason to consider these as possible alternatives.

Nokia Lumia 800 Video Review:




Pros

  • Solid, stylized design
  • Nokia apps add real value to WP
  • Smooth, fast operation

Cons

  • Smaller screen than N9
  • High price
  • Battery life could be better
  • No front facing camera

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

User Rating:

9.5
16 Reviews

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