Nokia Lumia 800 Review: A Tale of Two Phones
The Lumia 800 is Nokia's first foray into Windows. It sold well in the U.K., but it's not the best Lumia on the market -- that award goes to the 900, which in itself is a problematic phone. Nokia touted both devices as improvements over earlier models, the flaws overshadow the positives. In short, it a below-average device.
The Lumia 800 isn't without its charms. It shares several elegant design details as the N9 -- like a sturdy yet lightweight polycarbonate body and a minimalist look and feel. If you want a sleek phone, you'll like the svelte profile: it's very slim. Slightly rounded edges make it comfortable to hold -- easier than the iPhone, in fact. But since it runs on Windows, there are a few more buttons besmirch the shell. Overall, though, it's a still a good-looking phone.
The 3.7-inch screen looks tiny compared to the 4-inch and up behemoths, but don't underestimate its quality -- the "Clear Black" AMOLED technology produces extremely deep, dark blacks, and a range of vibrant colors cuts through even in bright daylight. As with most Windows devices, the 800-by-480 resolution has a 252 ppi pixel density, for a substantially blurrier quality than the iPhone.
You can also thank a PenTile pixel arrangement for that. The technology produces text that looks a bit fuzzy, so if you plan to browse a lot of Web, this isn't the phone for you. From afar, the screen looks great, but it's just not good up close. It's a mixed bag, really. On one hand, the color saturation is great, but the lack of sharpness keeps knocks it a notch down. Just keep that in mind.
Meanwhile, the 8-megapixel camera uses Carl Zeiss Tessar optics. I had high hopes for it, but when it came down to testing, the photos were subpar. The f/2.2 lens let in a lot of light, so photos will be sharp, even in low-light, but it's slow to focus -- and mis-focuses often -- so snapshots often come out blurry. I found the dynamic range to be glitchy too, with the bright colors often overblown -- a sign of a sensor problem, and not the lens. Colors are pretty accurate, but the powerful flash tends to wash out everything. So use it sparingly. Oh, and if you want to video chat, too bad -- there's no front-facing camera.
Earlier versions of Windows, frankly, was a mess. But Microsoft redesigned and improved Mango's interface, building it around "hubs." Want to know what your friends are doing? The "people" hub not only pulls your contact details, but also updates from Facebook, Twitter, among others. If you're on different platforms, it's a very convenient feature that pulls feeds and puts it all in one place.
Meanwhile, mail and messaging titles alert you when you have incoming e-mails and texts, and thread conversations from the same contact into one convenient view. For work, Mango connects with Microsoft Office. So if you're stuck on the road, and you need to edit documents, you can just pull up the virtual keyboard and work away.
There are also tiles for photos, contacts and other shortcuts. You can swipe to the right to show a list of apps you can pin -- there are more than 40. Instead of lots of tiny icons leading to apps you never use, you'll get large, user-friendly tiles that you can move around as you wish. It's intuitive and free from the clutter that can plague Android.
But there are a few drawbacks. Bing Maps is a poor substitute for Google Maps -- it's just not accurate. In addition, Flash is missing, so you'll have the same experience as the iPhone, without the benefits of iOS.
Like the Lumia 900, the 800 comes with Zune music app. You load up songs from a PC, or buy more from the online store, but other than that, it's fairly lackluster. It gets the job done without the bells and whistles of iTunes. One nice feature is Mix Radio. If you have an Internet connect, you can stream hours of music for free -- no subscription fees, no sign-ups. Just play.
With a sparse 16-gigabytes of memory, you can't store much on the device, but you'll get 25-gigabytes on Microsoft's SkyDrive. You'll want to keep all your media in the cloud, if possible.
As for apps, the choices are far limited compared to the hundreds of thousands for Android and iOS. The mainstays, like Angry Birds, are there, but you'll have a hard time finding lesser-known titles. Instagram is missing, but you can download knock-offs, which are frustrating to use.
The 1,450 mAh battery is average compared to most rivals out there. You'll have to charge it each night, but it'll get you through day. One note: the indicator makes it seem like you'll run out of juice mid-evening, before it actually runs dry. Don't be fooled. Hopefully Nokia fixes it, but don't worry. The battery is non-removable, so you won't be able to swap it out. That means there's no microSD slot either.
The 1.4-gigahertz processor doesn't pack much of a processing punch. You don't have to deal with lagging, but compared to rivals, like the iPhone, and the chip is underwhelming.
Overall, the screen has great colors, but poor sharpness. The camera has great optics, but a poor sensor. And the software has a great interface, but a poor choice of third-party apps. If you can afford it, the Lumia 900 is a better choice. But if you're on a budget, and you're tired of Android, the 800 is, overall, an okay, but flawed, choice. ♦
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AMOLED (ClearBlack / Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
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