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Windows Phone 8 Group Test – June 2013 (Part 3) : Nokia Lumia 820, Nokia Lumia 920

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Nokia Lumia 820

Nokia has garnered plenty of attention with its line-up of Windows Phone 8 handsets, and the Lumia 820 gets off to a great start with a typically high-quality design.

The matte, white rear helps the 820 stand out amid legions of glossy black phones, and the curved sides and black buttons lend a welcome air of originality to this particular handset - as well as making it comfortable to hold.

Build quality is excellent too, and the Lumia 820 is manageable. Its 160g weight isn't heavy enough to cause us issues, and its 9.9mm girth makes it easy to slip into a trouser pocket. That rear cover doesn't just look good too - it snaps off, which allows access to the battery, micro-SD slot and SIM card slot. As with the Lumia 620, Nokia sells replacement shells in a variety of different colors.

Nokia Lumia 820

Nokia Lumia 820

The Lumia 820 is a midrange phone, but Nokia has kitted it out with the same Snapdragon S4 used in its more expensive 920 and HTC's Windows Phone 8X. That means exceptional benchmark scores: the 820's SunSpider result of 906ms is the best in this test, and the Nokia's Peacekeeper result of 341 is also the best here - even if it's only one point ahead of the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The Lumia's battery life result of 50% is average.

The copious levels of power on offer meant that the Lumia didn't struggle with any game we could throw at it, and Windows Phone 8 was impressively slick. And, because this is a Lumia handset, it benefits from the full set of Nokia software: its superb satnav, maps and public transport apps, which are also available for other phones, as well as the exclusive Music and City Lens tools.

The rest of the specification ticks the right boxes too. 1GB of RAM is twice the amount on offer in the budget phones here, and there's Bluetooth, NFC, dual-band 802.1 1n wireless and 4G compatibility as long as you're willing to sign up to a more expensive tariff.

The Lumia 820 is a midrange phone, but Nokia has kitted it out with the same Snapdragon S4 used in its more expensive 920 and HTC's Windows Phone 8X.

The Lumia 820 is a midrange phone, but Nokia has kitted it out with the same Snapdragon S4 used in its more expensive 920 and HTC's Windows Phone 8X.

The 8GB of on-board storage is a little disappointing, even if it can be expanded with a micro-SD card. The battery isn't the best either - its 50% result is in the middle of this month's pack, so don't expect much more than a day of standard usage.

The 8MP camera is decent too, but it's unable to match the PureView technology included in the Lumia 920 or the shooter on offer in the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The 820's images are fine, with good color reproduction, but the level of detail just can't match rivals.

The screen lags behind the HTC too; while both share a 4.3in diagonal, the Lumia's 480x800 resolution pales in comparison to the HTC's 720x1280 panel. That leaves the Lumia's screen looking pixelated and lacking sharpness, even if the AMOLED technology on the inside has perfect contrast and bright, saturated colors.

The Lumia 820 impresses with its high-quality, versatile exterior and high-end power, but the HTC Windows Phone 8X is similarly good-looking and it's got a better screen and camera. The Lumia 820 is a more versatile alternative, but the HTC is our Windows Phone 8 handset of choice by a whisker.

Details

·         SIM-free supplier: www.amazon.com

·         Manufacturer site: www.nokia.com

Nokia Lumia 920

The Lumia 920 was the first Nokia device to emerge with Windows Phone 8 on-board, and it makes a stunning first impression. Its 185g weight makes it one of the heaviest smartphones of the modern era, and its 10.7mm girth also ensures it's one of the thickest. The curved shape fits nicely into the hand, but you'll certainly notice this handset in your pocket.

The 920 is constructed from a glossy polycarbonate shell that doesn't allow access to any of the internals, but build quality is unmatched. It's striking to look at too: the curved rear contrasts with squared-off ends, and the black buttons stand out on our yellow review sample.

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920

The build isn't the only headline-grabbing aspect of the 920; it's also the only phone here to boast a PureView camera. The shooter is an 8.7MP unit, and it's the first smartphone we've seen with optical image stabilization, which is designed to smooth out video and improve low-light photography.

The camera churned out stunning pictures. Colors were consistently accurate, and huge amounts of detail were captured in every shot. The Lumia's dedicated macro mode took excellent close-up shots, and low-light performance was fantastic, with brighter, sharper shots than any other phone here.

Bright conditions were handled just as well, and the optical image stabilization helped the camera deliver smooth, crisp 1080p footage.

The screen, too, is the best in this test. Its 720x1280 resolution and 4.5“ diagonal help create crisp Live Tiles and sharp images, and the 427cd/ m2 maximum brightness and 711:1 measured contrast ratio both help - the former ensures that colors are punchy, and the latter provides deep blacks as well as bright lights. The technology underneath is IPS, which we like; it's not quite as vibrant as AMOLED, but colors are more accurate.

The 920 shares its Snapdragon S4 processor with the Lumia 820 and HTC Windows Phone 8X, and that means exceptional benchmark results across the board. The 920's SunSpider score of 920ms is on a par with its rivals, and in the Peacekeeper HTML5 test the 920 scored 333 - barely behind the 341 of the 820 and 340 of the HTC Windows Phone 8X. Suffice to say, Windows Phone 8 didn't struggle to run smoothly. The rest of the specification includes dual-band 802.11 wireless, NFC and 4G compatibility, and there's 32GB of on board storage.

The camera churned out stunning pictures. Colors were consistently accurate, and huge amounts of detail were captured in every shot.

The camera churned out stunning pictures. Colors were consistently accurate, and huge amounts of detail were captured in every shot.

There are a couple of stings in this particular phone's tail, though. Its 2000mAh battery just isn't big enough, and its battery life score of 40% is the worst in this group -you'd struggle to get a full day out of the phone if it's used extensively.

Its $48 per-month contract is the most expensive here, and its $747 SIM-free price is over $160 more expensive than its nearest rival. While the camera is exceptional, that's just not enough - the HTC Windows Phone 8X matches this handset in several key areas, it's slimmer and lighter, and it's cheaper.

The Lumia 920 makes a big first impression but, out in the real world, it's not practical or affordable enough.

Details

·         Manufacturer site: www.nokia.com

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