Nokia Lumia 900 review

Pros

  • Good Nokia software extras
  • Sharp, clear screen
  • Good battery life
  • Has a front camera (Lumia 800 does not)

Cons

  • Not many plusses over cheaper Lumia 800
  • Unwieldy for some users

Nokia has bet the farm on Windows Phone and the company's range of handsets includes four models at present from the lowest cost Lumia 610, which I'll be reviewing shortly, right up to the flagship model the Lumia 900. The Nokia Lumia 900 has a flagship handset price, too. Clove, who sent me my review sample, is currently selling it for £468 inc VAT, SIM-free.

A big handset means a big screen of course, and this is one of the key attractions of the Lumia 900. At 4.3in, it feels vast and it lends itself well to web browsing and video watching. The AMOLED technology coupled with Nokia's own ClearBlack system delivers great viewing angles and good, solid colour rendition. Most particularly blacks really do look black.

However, the screen resolution is a bugbear. Yes, I know pixels aren't everything, but more here would have been better. At 800 x 480 pixels, the 900 matches the Lumia 800's and indeed the low-cost Lumia 610's resolution, and both have smaller 3.7in screens. The current iPhone model does 960 x 640 in 3.5in, and the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III manage 1,280 x 720 in 4.7 and 4.8in respectively. Microsoft sets the screen resolution limit, as it does many of the technical specifications for Windows Phone, and the result in the case of the Lumia 900 is a good screen, but not a great one.

The comparison with the Lumia 800 is the most obvious one to make. Clove is currently selling the Lumia 800 in black, magenta and cyan for £366 inc VAT. Both models run Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango). Both handsets sport an 8-megapixel camera and the Lumia 900 also has a 1-megapixel front camera, which the 800 lacks. Both have 16GB of internal memory with no microSD card support. Both take microSIMs, which live in a little caddy on the top of the handset. Both handsets have a 1.4GHz processor from Qualcomm. So there are a lot of technical similarities between the two phones.

Physical design is similar too. The polycarbonate chassis wraps around the edges of the phone making the battery inaccessible - just like the Lumia 800. A stylish speaker grille sits on the bottom edge, whereas the flat top and bottom edges, and curved sides mimic the originality of the Lumia 800. Three shortcut buttons beneath the screen give you Start screen, Back and Search functions, while right side buttons cater for camera shortcut, main power and volume control.

The main differences between the physical design of the Lumia 800 and 900, apart from size and weight, are the SIM card tray access and screen design. The complex two-stage SIM access system of the Lumia 800 has been replaced by a simple pop-out tray, but you need a small key to eject the tray (the key is supplied). As for the screen, this sits flat on the Lumia 900 whereas it is slightly curved at the edges on the 800.

The Lumia 900 is quite a large phone for the hand and pocket. At 160g, its weight is certainly noticeable, and at 127.8 x 68.5 x 11.5mm it is going to be too big for some pockets. I found it very difficult to reach right across the screen one handed - and this made using the phone, while standing on crowded trains, a challenge as one hand is often occupied keeping yourself upright.

Performance was very good. The touchscreen is extremely responsive, HSDPA tops out at 21Mbps and I found it to be speedy when out and about in London and the South East. Wi-Fi performance was fine too. You might argue that a single core processor with just 512MB of RAM support is not appropriate for a flagship handset, but I found that it worked fast enough for me. It rendered information such as web pages pretty quickly, for example, though I can't abide Window Phone's refusal to support Flash.

That 16GB of internal storage ought to be enough for most people, and there is 7GB of SkyDrive storage available to new users (25GB if you are already signed up and a regular user). Photos can be configured to upload to SkyDrive automatically, and that side button I mentioned earlier launches the camera even when the handset is locked down. That's not a feature unique to this phone - it is a feature of Windows Phone itself.

Windows Phone looks here as it does on other handsets that carry it, because Microsoft insists on an unskinnable user interface. The tiles on the Start screen can contain live information, and you have access to a range of apps in the marketplace - though not as many as you get via Android or the Apple store.

Nokia is working hard to help its Windows Phone handsets stand out from the crowd by adding apps unique to its phones. That means Nokia Maps for location based services, Nokia Drive for navigation and the absolutely superb Nokia Music. Free streaming tunes and music purchase work a treat - though make sure you stream over Wi-Fi.

Nokia Reading is also newly available free (take a look at Rob's pics and video), as is Nokia Transport for transport information, and a range of other free apps. I see no reason for Nokia to stop expanding its freebie offerings and if the standard stays high then they'll be key differentiators. But as things currently stand, all the apps are available on all the handsets, with nothing being specific to the Lumia 900.

Battery life is crucial and Nokia quotes that the 1,830mAh battery can deliver seven hours of 3G talk, 300 hours standby, 60 hours music playback, eight hours video play. I found it was no problem getting through a day on a full charge and that's not something I say about many smartphones.

In the end, though, I found the Lumia 900 to be just that bit too unwieldy. The key differences between the Lumia 900 and 800 are the overall size and the presence of a front-facing camera. The size isn't necessarily a plus. With a matched screen resolution, you don't get to see more, just to see things larger, and many people will share my difficulties in using the phone one handed. If I were choosing between the two, I might actually opt for the smaller model.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 900 is a big handset with a large screen, and I found it a little too large for my hands and pockets to cope with easily. There are few things that differentiate it from the Lumia 800; its smaller, less expensive sibling - a front camera and bigger screen are the key points. It is up to you whether you think they are worth the extra money.

Specifications:

Manufacturer and Model

Nokia Lumia 900

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900 HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100

Processor

Qualcomm 1.4GHz

Memory

16GB

Memory expansion

None

Display

4.3in, 800 x 480 pixels

Main camera

8-megapixel

Front camera

1-megapixel

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

1,830mAh

Size

127.8 x 68.5 x 11.5 mm

Weight

160g

OS

Windows 7.5 (mango)