The Nokia Lumia 920 takes its role as Windows Phone's "flagship" seriously: It feels like it's the size of an aircraft carrier. If you're willing to put up with a huge chunk of smartphone in your pocket, though, you'll get the best performance Windows Phone 8 has to offer, along with important, exclusive apps that really enhance the phone's experience. The handset is priced at $450 off-contract with AT&T in the US, with the UK price still to be confirmed. Given a direct conversion, $450 would be £280 in our money, but needless to say the Lumia 920 won't be anything like that cheap over here, with it likely to weigh in around the £450 mark in fact.
Whether you like big phones is a personal choice, and while the Lumia 920 is too big for me, it might not be too big for you. At any rate, the Lumia 920 is built like a tank. Its main body is a thick block of polycarbonate with rolled edges and a 4.5in Gorilla Glass screen on the front.
The headphone jack is at the top centre of the phone; the micro USB jack is at the bottom centre. There's no memory card slot, and the battery is sealed in. The right side hosts the Volume, Power, and Camera buttons. They're all prominent and easy to press, although I kept confusing the Power and Camera buttons.
Nokia offers plenty of colour options, namely red, white, blue, yellow, grey and black. The red and yellow are both very aggressive and glossy, like an Italian sports car. The blue is bright, but less exclamatory. The black is matte, as is the grey, and the white is glossy and sleek. Of the bunch, I like the white and blue best. Too many phones are black, and the red and yellow are just bright enough to be divisive.
At 70 x 10 x 130mm (WxDxH), and weighing 185 grams, the Lumia 920 is the biggest, heaviest phone in its class. It's even heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note II "phablet." While the Lumia 920 feels solid as a rock, it also weighs your pocket down like a stone.
You get a smaller screen here than on competing Android phones of the same size (4.5 versus 4.7in), but the 920's display is absolutely gorgeous. Nokia has loaded it down with meaningless buzz-words like "PureMotion" and "ClearBlack," but what we have here is a 1,280 x 768-pixel, IPS LCD panel with intensely deep blacks and super-saturated colours. It's higher density than the Apple iPhone 5's screen, at 331 pixels per inch to the iPhone's 325, and it's very bright.
Sit the Lumia 920 next to the 4.3in HTC 8X, and the 8X looks a little dim and washed out. The bigger screen also makes Windows Phone's somewhat picky touch keyboard a lot more usable; I experienced noticeably fewer typos on the Lumia 920 than I did when reviewing the HTC 8X (look out for the finished review of HTC's Windows Phone 8 handset tomorrow).
With seemingly no concerns about weight, Nokia threw a 2000mAh battery into the 920's sealed case. I got 9 hours and 56 minutes of 3G talk time, which is very good, and just under four hours of streaming YouTube video on high screen brightness, which is average for high-end smartphones. In comparison, the HTC 8X had less talk time, but more streaming video time thanks to its smaller screen.
One of the Lumia's stand-out features is wireless charging, which Nokia talks about with great enthusiasm, but which various manufacturers have been trying to promote for years with little success. Wireless charging isn't completely wireless, of course: A charging pad still needs to be plugged into an outlet, but you don't need to plug anything into the actual phone itself.
Although the Lumia 920 doesn't have a memory card slot, it does have 32GB of built-in storage, more than any of the competing first-round Windows Phone 8 models.
Phone calls and Internet
The Lumia 920's voice call quality here is good, and better than I found with the HTC 8X. The earpiece and speakerphone are louder, and there's a ton of side-tone, preventing you from yelling into the phone.
The phone had no problem pairing with a Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth headset and triggering Microsoft's voice commands from the headset. The voice command software, however, isn't great. It dials the phone just fine, but freeform queries like "how's the weather?" generate web searches rather than direct answers.
The Lumia 920 supports an insane number of frequency bands, making it able to connect to global HSPA+ and LTE networks – and it's compatible with EE's new 4G LTE network, with EE poised to start selling the 920 imminently. That will see some pretty nippy surfing speeds for Lumia owners on LTE, certainly if Riyad's experience with the Samsung Galaxy Note II is anything to go by.
The Lumia 920 also supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and NFC. It can also be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices.
Apps and maps
For the ins and outs of the platform itself, read our Windows Phone 8 review. The difference in performance between Windows Phone devices is more about the included apps, and here Nokia has an edge. Nokia Maps, Drive, and Transport are a very big deal. Microsoft's Bing Maps isn't nearly up to the quality of Google Maps on Android. It has no turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation, no transit directions, and a limited points of interest database with, in my neighbourhood, a lot of inaccuracies.
Nokia Maps is more attractive than Bing Maps, integrates TripAdvisor reviews, and has both spoken turn-by-turn and transit directions. Unfortunately, the transit directions are buggy, and once I triggered the driving directions, I couldn't figure out how to quit them – resulting in the phone telling me randomly to "turn right" at various other points in the evening.
Nokia has a deep roster of other exclusive apps, too. City Lens is an entertaining augmented-reality gimmick that superimposes map points of interest over your camera's view. Nokia offers exclusive sports apps, as well as random items like the classic action-adventure game Mirror's Edge. With Windows Phone well behind Apple and Android in the app race, your phone needs all the apps it can get, and Nokia has them.
Multimedia and camera
Nokia oversold the Lumia 920's good but not extraordinary 8.7-megapixel still camera, but the video camera here is an industry leader. The company also adds some genuinely interesting proprietary software to improve the camera experience.
The 8.7-megapixel shooter captures 3,552 x 2,000 images. In my tests, in good light, colours were very saturated and warm. Images were a little softer than on the HTC 8X, but appealingly so; the 8X's pictures look like they've been through a sharpen filter. However, the Lumia 920 doesn't live up to its PureView branding because of its low-light performance. When I took a range of shots outside at dusk and inside during a party, the camera kicked shutter speeds down far enough to make all moving objects blurry. Yes, it does a very good job in low light if you're taking pictures of something that's absolutely still, but this camera isn't a panacea if you need decent shutter speeds.
The 1-megapixel front camera takes shots with a slightly bluish cast, but the images have better dynamic range than phones like the HTC 8X, which tend to blow out bright backgrounds.
The video camera, on the other hand, managed to record smooth 1080p videos even when used in a dark-ish room, and the optical image stabilisation removed jitter very effectively. Interestingly, videos taken with the HTC 8X – while stuck at a lower frame rate – were noticeably brighter, but I'll take frame rate over brightness; you can fix brightness while editing. Nokia also offers some exclusive "lens" apps, including a basic photo editor and Cinemagraph, which turns still images into half-video things that look like animated GIFs.
Music and video performance is par for the course with Windows Phone; again, read our Windows Phone 8 review for the playback and syncing options. Nokia adds Nokia Music, an exclusive set of intelligent, streaming radio channels (either DJ-created or automatically spawned from a favourite artist) including the ability to cache mixes offline. This is a nice touch indeed.
Video looks especially good on the Lumia 920's screen, thanks to those very, very deep blacks. Audio works fine over wired or Bluetooth headsets, and there are custom EQ and Dolby options which improve an at-times-thin sound. Nothing generates the powerful bass of HTC's Beats Audio, but some people don't care for bass that thumping. The Lumia's speakerphone, on the other hand, boasts a decent level of volume. There is no apparent way to hook the Lumia 920 up to a TV for video out.
Windows Phone is an elegant, attractive OS which integrates very well with Windows 8 and is positively terrific for social networking. The major downside is that while you'll be able to find apps you like, you probably won't be able to find the same apps your friends with iOS or Android phones have.
As the flagship WP8 handset, Nokia’s Lumia 920 has many things going for it, and only one deal breaking issue: It's both huge and heavy. Whether you like big phones is a personal choice. I don't, but all of the people who routinely abuse me in the comments section when I talk about this do, so there you have it.
Compared with other Windows Phone 8 devices (such as the HTC 8X/8S, the Lumia 820, Samsung Ativ) this will likely be the most capable. It'll probably have the best camera, the most built-in storage, the loudest built-in speaker, and the best screen. And Nokia's software exclusives aren't bloat: They're much needed.
But what about the competition outside of the Windows Phone platform? The Lumia 920 competes well with the likes of the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III on hardware. But with only 60 per cent of the 95 top Android and Apple apps available on the Windows Phone platform, you have to be comfortable with being something of a maverick to choose a Windows Phone device.
Until we see the third-party developer community rallying behind Windows Phone to the same extent it's behind iOS and Android, buying a WP smartphone is still something of a recommendation with caveats. There’s also the personal aspect of the Lumia 920 being just too big and heavy for my liking. That said, there is a lot to like about the handset, and if size and weight aren't a concern, the Lumia 920 is a great Windows Phone choice.
Manufacturer and Device
Nokia Lumia 920
1280 x 768 IPS LCD "PureMotion HD+"
Windows Phone 8
GSM, UMTS, LTE
LTE, HSPA+ 42
Battery Life (As Tested)
9 hours 56 minutes
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
Storage Capacity (as Tested)