Nokia Lumia 820 Review

Introduction and Design

These are tough times for Nokia. Probably the toughest ones yet. At the same time, they are very exciting, because this is pushing the manufacturer to come up with its best smartphones yet.

Powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 OS, however, Nokia's new Lumia handsets aren't expected to make that much of a splash in today's industry landscape, which is densely populated by iPhones and all kinds of Android devices. Considering Windows Phone 8's unproven status, could it really be the tool that Nokia needs to regain its lost positions?

In our opinion, this is still up in the air, because no one knows if there's going to be a sudden increase of WP8 device sales now that Microsoft has finally launched its Windows 8 OS. Love it or hate it, Nokia has bet the house on the Windows ecosystem, and the chances right now seem to be 50/50.

With all that in mind, we're quite excited to be reviewing the Nokia Lumia 820 – the mid-range model in the manufacturer's starting WP8 line-up. Almost as important as its beefier sibling, the Lumia 920, the 820 can give us a relatively good idea of where Nokia is going nowadays.


Picking up the Lumia 820 for the first time, it immediately becomes obvious that this is 100% Nokia. What we mean is that the manufacturer is known for its extremely well-made phones that can withstand all kinds of harsh treatment, and this phone is definitely not an exception. Well, we can't guarantee that the screen won't break if you drop this device on something hard, but the Lumia 820 does feel very solid and well-built. The handset is not super-slim, though is still has an athletic profile, and it's also relatively heavy at 5.64oz (160g). To put this into perspective, the HTC Windows Phone 8X weighs 4.59oz (130g), and the Apple iPhone 5 weighs 3.95oz (112g). We thoroughly enjoy holding and using the Lumia 820. We can't say that it's as awesome as the aluminum casing of the iPhone 5, but it's better than the soft-touch coating of the Windows Phone 8X. The Lumia 820 is made of polycarbonate, so it's still just plastic, but it feels very well in the hand. The handset is built like a tank, so to speak.

You can compare the Nokia Lumia 820 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Reaffirming our positive impressions are the physical keys situated on the right side of the device: the volume rocker, power/lock key and two-step camera shutter. All of them have a very good travel leave you with absolutely no hesitations as to whether or not you've pressed the key.

The back side of the Lumia 820 is home to the 8MP Carl Zeiss camera with dual LED flash. Other than that, it's completely clean, save for the subtle Nokia logo at the bottom. Speaking of the logo, we really like how Nokia has aligned the front logo to the right, instead of positioning it in the center. It gives the phone a unique and recognizable look.

We'd like to congratulate Nokia for building such a sturdy device. It's a breath of fresh air in these days of skinny and featherlight smartphones. The Nokia Lumia 820 has an appealing and polished design that's pleasant to look at and hold.


The Lumia 820 is armed with a 4.3” display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. This translates into a pixel density of 217 ppi, which is far from today's “Retina” standards, but you shouldn't be worried about the screen's resolution. We can safely say that everything is still fine and easy to read. If you look closely, you'll be able to notice some fuzziness in the smaller text, but it's nothing distracting and can in no way ruin the experience.

Nokia has used its ClearBlack AMOLED tech for the screen of the Lumia 820, and the result is quite pleasing. The display is very bright, brighter than most other AMOLEDs, and even the color temperature is decent. It's still an AMOLED screen, though, meaning that it gravitates towards the colder side, but is more accurate than what you'll get from a quality AMOLED screen like the one of the Galaxy S III, for example.

An interesting feature of the Lumia 820's display is its ability to become super-sensitive. With this option activated, you can easily use your handset even when wearing gloves. We tested it and it works flawlessly. It is such kind of attention to detail that defines the quality of the user experience with a smartphone.


The Nokia Lumia 820 doesn't have anything new to offer compared to the other Windows Phone 8 devices, at least in terms of user interface. Live Tiles are presenting you with valuable information right from the homescreen, while instead of jumping from an app to app as with other operating systems, you're jumping from hub to hub.

Since this is a Nokia Windows Phone, however, you get a ton of added programs that you won't get on other WP-powered devices. This includes the awesome Nokia Drive+ navigation app, as well as Nokia Maps (this should become available to other Windows Phones at some point), both of which allow you to download the maps you want for offline usage – something that you won't get with other stock map applications. We found the two programs to be very well-made, with intuitive interfaces and good performance. The Nokia Drive+ app, for example, comes with big on-screen buttons that are easy to press, which is very appropriate for use while driving. It's evident that Nokia is offering these apps with the idea that someone might actually use them, and not just as a check-box feature.

Nokia is also providing some other goodies that are exclusive to its own Lumia range, including Nokia Music, App Highlights, City Lens, Smart Shoot and more. Not all of Nokia's exclusive apps are must-haves, but most are fine tools.


Typing on the virtual QWERTY keyboard of the Nokia Lumia 820 is a satisfying experience. The portrait option is very good, especially considering the aspect ration of the screen, which makes it a bit wider than the standard 16:9 displays that we have nowadays. As we've said in our other Windows Phone 8 reviews, we aren't really fans of the landscape layout, because it doesn't make use of all the available screen real estate, because there are some menu keys to the right of the keyboard, and some empty space to its left. Oh well, such is the reality of the Windows Phone 8 operating system. To tell you the truth, typing on the landscape QWERTY is still a likable experience.

Processor and Memory

Like every other Windows Phone 8 device thus far, the Nokia Lumia 820 features the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus dual-core chipset with Adreno 225 GPU. The CPU is clocked at 1.5 GHz, and all of this is complemented by a healthy 1 gigabyte of RAM. As you can imagine, this guarantees a very fluid system interface. We noticed no lag or other kinds of delay while using the handset.

The Lumia 820 comes with 8GB of internal memory, but Nokia has wisely added a microSD card slot, allowing you to add a memory card of up to 32GB more.


Windows Phone 8's Internet Explorer 10 is a great mobile browser. Not only does it deliver fluid scrolling and zooming, but it also has a wonderful tab implementation and very accurate double-tap zooming. Microsoft may still have a lot of work to do on its mobile OS, but it is such details that reveal the platform's potential.

Sadly, Flash content will be out of your reach with any WP8 phone, but at least everything else will function very, very well.

As far as cellular connectivity goes, the Lumia 820 has a radio that supports LTE, as well as HSPA+ 42.2 Mbit/s down, which means it's well-armed against the other offerings in its class.


Software-wise, there's nothing to differentiate the Lumia 820's 8MP camera, as it simply uses the standard WP8 UI (which all WP8 phones do). Still, it's an easy to use interface that allows you to tweak a good number of settings.

Unfortunately, the 820's camera is a disappointment, as the images that it produces are very washed out. Colors lack saturation to make them lively, while details are mediocre.

The same observations remain true for the photos taken indoors as well. Once again, we're treated to some washed out colors and general lack of detail even in good lighting conditions. Relatively high levels of noise are also visible, as the handset tries to compensate the incompetence of its sensor by boosting the sharpness, but, of course, nothing good comes out of that.

Video can be recorded at a maximum resolution of 1080p, but the results are equally unsatisfying. Aside from some problems with the continuous autofocus that we encountered (it can take too long for the handset to adjust it), the overall image quality is low, with insufficient details and plenty of noise. The problem with the autofocus can be seen in the embedded video sample below (the camera manages to adjust the focus around 0:15).

Nokia Lumia 820 Sample Video:

Nokia Lumia 820 Indoor Sample Video:


With Windows Phone 8 supporting mass-storage mode, it's now very easy to transfer media files to the handset. And it goes without saying that the bright and vibrant ClearBlack AMOLED screen of the Lumia 820 is great for watching video.

The earphones that Nokia has bundled with the Lumia 820 are nothing to write home about. They are OK, but if you are a connoisseur, you might want to use something fancier.

Your multimedia-centric hub is Music+Video, where you'll find your content as well as access to Microsoft's Xbox Music Store and Nokia Music. Nokia Music gives you yet another music store, a gig finder tool, and Mix Radio. The latter allows you to listen to predefined music mixes for free, or even create your own, by choosing up to three artists you want to listen to. What's more, you can even download your mix for offline use, which is a cool service. It's possible to skip songs, but there's a limitation of up to 6 skipped songs per hour.

Call quality:

After the camera, the next most noticeable compromise made by Nokia is the sound quality during calls with the Nokia Lumia 820. Both the earpiece and microphone sound below average, to the point that you might even struggle to comprehend what's being said by your callers.

The loudspeaker is nothing special. It's quite distorted on the highest volume setting, but thankfully, you don't have to listen to it on highest since it's powerful enough. It's not really better than the average speaker, though.


The 1650 mAh battery of the Nokia Lumia 820 is a very good performer. The handset can achieve up to 8 hours of talk time and 13.8 days of stand-by on a single charge, while connected to a 3G network. The 820 can also offer 55 hours of continuous music playback or 5 hours of video playback on a single charge, though the latter will greatly depend on your brightness setting. During our testing, we didn't notice any suspicious battery drains.


The Nokia Lumia 820 is an interesting smartphone – it does well in some things, but falters in others. To be more specific, we like its solid build quality and its overall size and feel. The hardware is also good, while the Nokia-branded apps, especially Maps and Drive+ are major differentiators.

However, the weak camera and poor call quality are major flaws, which cannot be understated. If these aren't that much of deal-breakers for you, then we see no reason not to recommend the 820, but if you're looking for a well-balanced and all-round solid performer, better start thinking about something better, like the Lumia 920.

Software version of the reviewed unit: OS 8.0.9903.10, Firmware 1232.2109.1242.1001

Nokia Lumia 820 Video Review:

Video Thumbnail


  • Built like a tank
  • Great Nokia apps


  • Poor camera
  • Sub-par call quality

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