Nokia Lumia 920 Review, Part 1: Hardware

As soon as the App Store became available, I purchased an iPhone 3G, then eventually upgraded to an iPhone 4. I really enjoyed both of them, but wanted to try something different. About a year ago, I bought the Nokia Lumia 920 when it became available on AT&T. Here are my thoughts after living with it for a year. This review concentrates only on the hardware — my experience with the Windows Phone 8 operating system is an entirely separate matter, as are the Nokia exclusive apps that round out the package.

Design –

Overall, the design is pretty sleek. All of the corners are rounded, and the front glass has a subtle rolloff at the edges that makes it seem high-quality. It sits in my hand really well and all of the buttons are ergonomically placed, with the lock and volume buttons exactly where my thumb falls. The weight is noticeable but not too much for heavy use. The main casing of the device is plastic though, which seems to scuff up really easy. My main complaint is that the sealing between the case and the screen could be improved — I already have several specs of dust under the screen and in the front camera cover area.

Screen –

The screen is the most amazing screen I've seen in a mobile device. The size at 4.5" is good, though for my hand size it's about 0.25" too wide — holding it naturally in my hand, I can barely reach the far side of the screen with my thumb. Pixel density is 332 ppi, making it just a little bit higher than the iPhone retina displays. The black level is excellent, even at high brightness, which really makes apps and tiles pop. There is even a special mode for sunlight viewing that is activated automatically. It enhances edges and makes things look a little strange, but it doesn't wash out and is actually useable. For people who live in cold places, you can turn on a high-sensitivity mode on the touchscreen that allows you to use it even while wearing normal gloves. I haven't needed this feature much, but it does come in handy.

Camera –

The hardware button for the camera is a nice feature. It's even a two-stage button where a half press runs the autofocus, then the full press takes the image. There's optical image stabilization and the low-light performance is great for a tiny phone sensor. However, I've not really been satisfied with the quality of the images. They always seem to be a touch out of focus or over softened. I don't think this is entirely a hardware issue as the last software update seems to have improved it a lot, but I still feel it could be a little better.

Other Features –

There are a few other hardware features that are worth mentioning: NFC and wireless charging. The NFC antenna is well-placed and seems to have a decent range. Read time is acceptable as well. Unfortunately the software side of things really limits how useful this is on this phone, but the hardware itself is fine. The wireless charging is based on the Qi standard, which means there are plenty of third-party charging devices available. The Nokia-branded charging plate works fine but it's a bit finicky about positioning sometimes. They also have a charging stand which has an NFC tag built in as well that can trigger a specific app when the phone is placed on the charger.

Performance –

In standby, the phone seems to have plenty of battery life. With my typical usage I have to charge it each night, but that's what I'd expect from just about any current smartphone. General web activities don't seem to drag it down too much, but graphics-intense uses like gaming can pull on it pretty hard. One side gets pretty warm, but seems on par with other devices under that kind of load. I have never experienced any kind of lag going between apps or going back to the main screen, or really in any of the apps, so the processor seems to be quite capable and have plenty of memory for most tasks.

Recap –

Overall, the hardware on the Lumia 920 is excellent. The screen is outstanding and there are several other features I enjoy like NFC and wireless charging. I can't really think of anything I'd add or remove.




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