Nokia Lumia 900 Review: Houston, We Have a Problem
The Lumia 900 has some impressive features, and you'll like it as long as you are comfortable branching out from Android and iOS to try Windows. Nokia crafted the body in a sturdy polycarbonate shell, for a bold look that's available in an attractive array of colors. If Andy Warhol designed a phone, this might be it -- it evokes a pop-arty feel. But be careful: if you drop gadgets, this isn't the phone for you. The sculpted material scratches easily. I'm a bit hesitant to tell you to buy a case, because, while you need to treat it with kid's gloves, covering the eye-catching design ruins the point of having a beautiful device. Still, it's better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.
At 5.0-by-2.7-by-0.5-inches, it's big phone -- and heavy too at five and a half ounces. The flat surface makes it easier to slide into a pocket or purse, and once it's in, it won't feel unwieldy. When you hold it, it feels a bit flat, but not uncomfortable. But still, if you prefer a smaller version, take a look at the Lumia 800. It's a bit cheaper, with fewer features, but it's also more manageable to hold and carry around.
The 4.3-inch screen offers extremely dark blacks thanks to Nokia's "Clear Black" technology. The color range is very rich, bright and vibrant -- blacks are wonderfully dark and highlights are vivid and bold -- even in direct sunlight, the contrast is noticeably good. But at 800-by-480 pixels, the resolution a bit lower than the iPhone, for a fuzzier look that's similar to the Galaxy. You won't notice a difference unless you look closely at text -- and only then will you see faint blurriness around the edging of letters. That's, in part, due to the PenTile pixel layout. From more than a foot away, the display looks fantastic, but up-close, and the cracks begin to show. It's not the highest-caliber definition, but it'll do fine for casual Web surfing and streaming video.
The 8-megapixel camera is a mixed bag. If you're like me, you hear Carl Zeiss optics and get excited. Then you look at the specs sheet and you're impressed. But when the rubber meets the road, the photos are mediocre at best. It suffers from the same problem as the Lumia 800 -- namely the f/2.2 lens captures a lot of light, so pictures are sharp, but the focus is glitchy and slow, so photos often come out focused on the background. In addition, the sensor is poor, often miscalculating the dynamic range of colors -- so highlights tend to be blown out. If you try to use the flash, don't -- it's too powerful and washes out all color, so it's almost as problematic as not having a flash at all. But if you can hold rock-steady in broad daylight, and focus correctly, your photos will look bright with excellent color saturation.
The front-facing lens, meanwhile, produces better photos and video than rival secondary cameras, and works well in dim lighting, which is good for late-night Skype sessions. I liked the dedicated camera button. You can start the camera with the press of a button and snap photos with the feel of a traditional point-and-shoot.
As far as the music player goes, Zune is fine to sync songs from a PC and play them on the go. But you'll have problems. You can't transfer from iTunes, and you can't load MP3s with DRM protection. That means a lot of movies and TV shows are blocked. If it's any consolation, you'll get a built-in FM radio, so you can listen to free tunes from your local radio station.
As the flagship Windows phone, the Lumia 900 offers a number of unique software features. The interface uses a "live tiles" layout to easily customize, move and pin tiny icons to the home screen. You say you're a social media nerd? Pin the Facebook and Twitter tiles to view updates without sifting through a bunch of apps you never use. Too much work to do? Mail and messaging tiles alert you when you have incoming e-mails and texts, then they're all threaded into a convenient conversations view. Stuck on the road? No problem. Just pull up those Microsoft Office documents and tap away on the onscreen keyboard. With over 40 tiles to choose from, you can add shortcuts and clean up the clutter that Android often suffers from -- for a streamline layout.
Unfortunately, the strengths of the interface are offset by the weakness of the browser. Internet Explorer lags like a hung over snail -- and I'd recommend you download a third-party browser. You'll think your network is buggy, but it's not. The browser is just that slow.
Microsoft's app ecosystem pales in comparison to the choices from Android and iOS. Start-up Bluestacks offers a program that lets you to import Android apps, but relying on third-party software isn't ideal. Still, Microsoft is working hard to get developers onboard. You'll get the big apps like Angry Birds, but the obscure will be hard to find. No Instagram or Hulu here. Building an ecosystem takes time, and Windows isn't there yet.
The call quality is great, and AT&T's delivers quick LTE speeds. Meanwhile, you won't have to obsess about keeping a charger nearby -- the robust 1,830 mAh battery keeps you powered through the workday -- around seven hours. The unibody design means you can't remove the battery, and that also means there's no microSD slot. The paltry 16-gigabyte is all you get. But you can offload some multimedia to the cloud -- Microsoft gives you a life-saving 25-gigabytes on SkyDrive.
Overall, the Lumia 900 is Nokia's first attempt at a comeback. It's far from perfect, and the flaws nearly outweigh the pros. But if you want to give Windows a try, this is the best one out there. The app choices are meager, but at a reasonable price, and you could do worse. ♦
Other Reviews From Around the Web:
- New York Times
- ABC News
- USA Today
- The Telegraph
- Chicago Sun-Times
- The Verge
- PC Mag
- PC World
- Ars Technica
Categories: Windows | Fun
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AMOLED (ClearBlack / Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
April 07, 2012
I bought the Lumia 900 after some hesitation. Mostly because I wasn't sold in Windows Phone 7. But after a few weeks of using it, I have to say, you can't buy a better phone. Period. Yes, it's heavier than most phones, but that's not always a bad thing. It's a solid phone -- well-built with quality materials, which gives it a luxurious feel to it.
The 4.3-inch touch display is fantastic. I actually like typing on the virtual keyboard. It's better than any Android or iPhone screen I've used in the past. The iPhone's 3.5-inch display is a bit small for me -- I have to squint to browse the Web and read on it, and the 4.3-inch Android screens are just too big to fit in my pocket comfortably. The Lumia is just the right size, and the screen is vibrant and colorful indoor and outdoor, even in direct sunlight.
When you first turn on the phone, Windows Phone 7 asks for your email and password. Then it sets everything up -- contacts, photos, calendar, even Gmail and Hotmail. It also works seamlessly with Office, so getting email running is easy as pie. Unfortunately, the downside of Windows is that it's Windows -- meaning there are fewer apps in the marketplace. Most of the apps I needed are there, but I'd suggest you check out the store if you need some essential software.
I'm surprised how much I like Windows. In fact, I like it better than Android, and it's up there with iOS. The interface is intuitive, and everything runs smoothly. The processor is very fast as well, with little delays and stalling. I had problems with lag on my old Android phone, and the issues aren't on the Lumia. You may not like Windows, but I'd say give it a shot before you decide -- it may just surprise you like it did me.
The basic features are great too. My old HTC would drop calls left and right. In addition, it would freeze often and I'd have to take the battery out to reset it. But not with the Lumia. The phone holds a signal well, in dead zones I'd previously lose reception. Now I get three or four bars where I used to get one or two. And the call quality is better on both ends too -- friends tell me I sound clearer on the line.
The speakerphone is much louder as well, and it comes in handy when I'm driving with the windows down. I use Bluetooth to link it to my car, and Zune player blasts through my car speakers during my long work commute. Zune, of course, doesn't compare with iTunes, but it has a decent selection of songs.
Lastly, I get more than twice the battery life -- around 14 to 15 hours rather than 5 to 6. So it lasts me through the workday with some juice left over. I'll still have to recharge every night, though. They don't make them like they used to on feature phones.
Overall, I'm really surprised how far Microsoft and Nokia have come. Microsoft beefed up Windows, and Nokia did a wonderful job on the design. Would I tell someone to buy the Lumia over say... the iPhone? Maybe. The iPhone is the iPhone, so it's in a league of its own. But if you want a larger display take a look at the Lumia. And don't let Windows turn you away. You may just like it.Was this review helpful to you?
75 out of 77 people found this review helpful.
April 05, 2012
Nokia/Microsoft on the Comeback
Nokia is making a comeback. I picked up the Lumia 900 shortly after AT&T released it. And after a few weeks I must say, I really like the phone. Windows Phone 7 is quick, conveniently laid out and gets to the point. I've used Android before and WP7 has really improved.
Nokia worked closely with Microsoft to ensure the Lumia 900 works smoothly, and the 1.4-gigahertz chip is fast enough to power through all the apps. The built-in camera is great, but you'll need to fiddle with the filters to get the best photos. There are exposure settings as well as a flash, so it takes decent photos in low-light.
As for the Super AMOLED touch display, I can't say enough good things about it. It's bright, it's vivid and it works well even in direct sunlight. And the best part? The battery life is actually good. It's rare that you find a phone with a good screen that doesn't sap your power in half a day. But the Lumia manages to give you the best of both.
The call quality is exceptional -- the best I've heard in a while. I know this sounds like a small thing, but really, voices sound great. Reception is strong too.
As mentioned before, the selection of apps is a letdown. Hopefully, Microsoft starts beefing it up. But other than that, this phone is great.Was this review helpful to you?
55 out of 58 people found this review helpful.
June 01, 2012
High-Quality, Few Apps
The Windows operating system is much better than previous versions and the way it's laid out makes sense. You can customize features to your liking, and it's not as bad as I was expecting. Don't worry if you don't think you're tech savvy enough, it's pretty really intuitive.
The design of the phone is elegant. The sharp corners make it stand apart from all the other black rounded Android devices, and the build quality is top-notch. You might find it uncomfortable to hold. But it's not a big problem for me. In fact, it can even stand up by itself.
Microsoft did a great job integrating the Windows Marketplace. When you download an app and install it, it runs flawlessly. Kind of surprising for Microsoft, but it's a welcome change from Android, which has problems. As for the basics, the call quality is loud and clear, the processor is fast and the Internet is speedy. The battery life is outstanding too. Overall, I was pleasantly-surprised by the Lumia 900. You'll be too.
The number of Windows apps can't really compare with iOS and Android. But it's getting better. Also the predictive text isn't very good. It doesn't know what I'm trying to say very often.Was this review helpful to you?
43 out of 47 people found this review helpful.
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