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Nokia Lumia 820 review

MobileReviews
8/10
by Sandra Vogel, 26 Nov 2012Reviews
Nokia Lumia 820 review

Nokia’s Lumia range of Windows Phone devices can be said to be truly rounded with the appearance of the Lumia 820. As its name suggests it isn’t at the top-of-the-range - that accolade goes to the Lumia 920.

Although the Lumia 820 lacks some of the 920’s features - notably its 8.7-megapixel PureView camera, lost here in favour of an 8-megapixel non-PureView shooter - it is smaller. The 920’s 4.5in, 1,280 x 768 pixel display is replaced here with a 4.3in, 800 x 480 pixel screen.

The screen size difference doesn’t sound like much on paper and nor does it look like much when you place the two phones side by side, but the feel in the hand is significant. Frankly, I’d rather live with the smaller Lumia 820 and even that feels a bit of a beast to hold.

It’s not actually odd that the 4.8in-screened Samsung Galaxy S3 feels more comfortable to me. I can’t use any of these three handsets comfortably one-handed because I can’t reach across their screens. But the Samsung monster feels less brick-like because of its chassis design. At 70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6mm it is considerably thinner than the 70.8 x 130.3 x 10.7mm of the Lumia 920 and the 68.5 x 123.8 x 9.9mm of the Lumia 820, and it is that thinness which makes all the difference.

The monolith-like case of the Lumia 820 is characteristic of the Lumia line and I just don’t like it. Nor do I like the way you remove the backplate. At least you can do this, I suppose, and so the battery is accessible (unlike the sealed 920). But the backplate wraps around the phone’s edges and needs to be prized off. So worried is Nokia that you might use something like a knife to do this and gouge the relatively soft chassis material, that there are special instructions provided.

Nokia is right to be worried. The backplate is a tight fit, and if you lack fingernails you are going to find removing it tricky. But you’ll need to, because your micro SIM and microSD card (yes you can expand the built in storage here unlike with the Nokia 920), both fit into slots beneath the battery.

The reason for the wraparound is so that you can easily change the colour of the handset by applying new backplates. Clove.co.uk is selling these for £16.66 each in red, yellow, white, blue and black.

I’ve mentioned the screen already and it’s lovely. The pixel count might be low by some standards, but it’s perfectly fine on this phone, and the AMOLED is sharp and bright. Nokia’s Lumia displays always impress me, and this one is no exception.

Call me a luddite but I’m still not sold on the tile based display and general Windows Phone 8 user interface, though I do like the live tiles concept and the ability to place things like Bing Maps locations right on the home screen. There’s no doubt that the design is popular in some quarters though, or that Microsoft is completely committed to it (ref Windows 8, of course).

So, Windows Phone 8 is recognisably from the same stable as versions 7 and 7.5, and I do like the introduction of new quarter-sized tiles as these allow you to cram more shortcuts into the Start screen before you need to start the tedious task of vertically scrolling.

The Lumia 820 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, helped by 1GB of RAM. I had no complaints at all in terms of handset performance. Nokia has perhaps been ungenerous in supplying only 8GB of internal memory but the fact that you can add to this with microSD cards is a giant leap forwards for Microsoft’s phone OS, though you can’t save apps to microSD. You also get 7GB of SkyDrive storage.

Nokia has packed in the usual range of connectivity options with Bluetooth 3.0 and HSPA+ just there for starters. There’s also NFC and wireless charging. You’ll need to fork out for a wireless pillow, as it’s just standard USB charging that’s provided in the box. Fortunately the Lumia 820 supports the Qi wireless charging standard, which means you can buy a Nokia branded pillow (colour coded to match your chosen backplate) or shop around.

The camera isn’t as good as that in the Lumia 920 as I’ve already noted, but it is still pretty good and you can get photos and videos to auto upload to your SkyDrive storage for backup. Best quality images and videos use Wi-Fi rather than the network so you don’t need to worry about data charges.

Windows Phone 8 supports what it calls ‘lenses’. These are software-based enhancements to the camera’s basic functions. There’s lots of potential here and I’d expect a lot of fun and games to be possible in the future.

For now, Bing Vision is pre-installed, letting you scan barcodes for a standard product search, and you can download a panorama lens, one called Cinemagraph which lets you add animation effects to a still image, and one called Smart Shoot that lets you remove selected elements of a photo. Both those latter two are Nokia exclusives.

Nokia beefs up Windows Phone 8 with a number of its own add-on apps, and Nokia Music remains a firm favourite for me. Its streaming pre-configured mixes are superb and this app on its own would be enough to draw me to Nokia if I were looking for a Windows Phone.

Other Nokia-specific apps include Nokia Drive for navigation and Nokia City Lens for local services. The latter uses the built-in GPS and camera to provide a Layar-like rendering of services near you. Tap one and you can get directions to the place you’ve tapped. It’s jolly clever and could be especially useful if you are in an unfamiliar place, but not all the information categories offer up practical info.

Verdict

If you like Windows Phone, then the new Windows Phone 8 offers the familiarity of an OS you’ll be comfortable with, but with some interesting new tweaks. Nokia’s bespoke software additions are very enticing, and I particularly like Nokia Music. I find the Lumia 820 easier to pocket and use than the 920 and it’s therefore my preferred choice of the two. On the downside, the app store is still small compared with that of iOS and Android and the Lumia 820 is physically a bit too brick-like for me.

Manufacturer and model

Nokia Lumia 820

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900

HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100

LTE 800/900/1800/2100/2600

Processor

1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4

Memory

8GB

Memory expansion

microSD

Display

4.3in, 800 x 480 pixels

Main camera

8-megapixel

Front camera

640 x 480 pixels

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

No

Battery

1,650mAh

Size

123.8 x 68.5 x 9.9 mm

Weight

160g

OS

Windows Phone 8

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