The flagship Nokia Lumia has finally landed and it isn't the Nokia Lumia 800 released towards the end of last year, but the larger-screened, larger-sized Nokia Lumia 900. Retaining the same core design elements and specs, with a 1.4GHz processor and an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, does the Lumia 900's additional half an inch of screen and front facing snapper add enough to warrant nabbing one or would you be better served with a more cost effective 800?
Nokia Lumia 900: Design
Our favourite mobile in terms of design is still the Nokia Lumia 800, we constantly appreciate the design detail from the curved Gorilla Glass display right through to the coloured polycarbonate unibody. Many of these elements have trickled through to the Nokia Lumia 900, but the question is does this Lumia's extra bulk kill its appeal, or is it just more of a good thing?
We'd say somewhere in between the two. For starters, thanks to manufacturing constraints the Nokia Lumia 900 doesn't sport the curved Gorilla Glass found on the Lumia 800. Instead, is a flat panel that looks crisp, flush and bold, but lacks the cohesive curvature of Lumia 800. At 4.3-inches it's bigger than the Lumia 800 by a long stretch and even makes more of an impression in the hand and pocket than the HTC One X, which has a 4.7-inch screen and weighs a full 30g less than the Lumia 900.
That said, the polycarbonate unibody ensures the Nokia Lumia 900 feels rich in the hand, the screen size is manageable for one handed usage. Other highlights include the re-worked microSIM card slot and the micro USB port - no longer under breakable flaps.
If you sense mixed opinions with respect to the design of the Nokia Lumia 900, you'd be correct. These in part come from a sense of protectiveness over the Nokia N9 / Lumia 800 design, the pinnacle of mobile unibody in our opinion. Had we come to the Lumia 900 fresh like most of its users likely will, we would have hands down loved it. That said, for a post Lumia 800 / HTC One X user, the Lumia 900 falls short of touching us in that special place thanks to unnecessary heft and significantly less refinement in the hand and on the eye than its little brother.
Nokia Lumia 900: Screen
A WVGA (854x480) AMOLED with Nokia's Clear Black technology and a flat Gorilla Glass fascia makes up the screen on the Nokia Lumia 900. It's effectively identical to that of the Lumia 800, but blown up and flattened out. In turn, it delivers the same great outdoor viewing, responsive touch input and solid angles of view.
That said, it also shares the standard AMOLED blue tinge across whites that's less accurate than an LCD alternative. Thanks to Windows Phone's UI being so horizontal and vertical, the lower pixel density doesn't seem too noticeable and the PenTile polka-dotting as found on the Lumia 800 is oddly no where to be seen. All in all, this makes the screen a high point of the Lumia 900.
Nokia Lumia 900: User Interface
If you thought the design and screen of the Nokia Lumia 900 was simply a magnified Lumia 800, the Lumia 900 UI takes the "replicate >> magnify" formula to another level. Windows Phone is as prescribed an OS as you can get and all the Nokia nuances that make the Lumia 800 different are present in the Nokia Lumia 900.
This means you end up with bigger live tiles, bigger apps lists and bigger swooshy transitions between screens. Mango's bump ups from the original are all in tact, are appreciated and the Nokia apps like Nokia Music, Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps all add a huge amount of appeal to the operating system.
Nokia's Lumias are the best Windows Phones on the market in terms of value added features, and in turn if you're already a fan of the operating system, the Lumia 900 is an easy sell.
Nokia Lumia 900: Camera
On paper, the Nokia Lumia 900 shares the same 8-megapixel sensor as the Lumia 800 with its Carl Zeiss optics and wide open lens. That said, upon using the 900 it seems to perform a little bit better than the 800. This could be subjective as we're yet to put the two through a side by side, however first impressions outdoors are promising.
As evident in the images above which can be clicked through for a larger version, in good lighting, detail is great and scenes come out generally well exposed. Dynamic range could be better and we did occasionally have to force the camera into macro in order to get close-up shots in focus, but we generally found shooting to be a pleasure.
When it comes to indoor capture on the other hand, it's less rosy. Low light wreaks absolute havoc on the Lumia 900 as can be seen from the image of the couches in the bottom row, however the flash does a half-way decent job of staving off noise, evident in the image to the left of it.
Video is recorded at 720p, is smooth at 30fps and continuous focus works well. It produces good levels of detail outdoors, however indoors struggles with noise in the same way pictures do.
Nokia Lumia 900: Connectivity and storage
Thanks to the nature of Windows Phone Tango, there's no NFC on board the Lumia 900 (despite the 610 getting it), however all your other wireless options are present with HSPA+, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a GPS. With the inclusion of Nokia Drive, the Lumia 900 is turned into a fully fledged sat nav and thanks to its larger display, probably the best Windows Phone sat nav on the scene.
Web browsing is also smooth. No flash means there's less crunching for the processor to do than an Android phone and in turn the single-core 1.4GHz processor simply breezes through pages. Admittedly this is where the slightly lower pixel density comes to light with crispy bitty small text, however it's nothing a bit of pinch to to zoom won't remedy.
Call quality is good, as per the Lumia 800. Noise cancellation is present and all in all, the Lumia 900 works very well as a phone. In addition, there's 16GB of on board memory though this isn't expandable.
Nokia Lumia 900: Performance and Battery
With its 1.4GHz processor and the same resolution as found on the Lumia 800, there really is no reason for the Lumia 900 to perform any worse than its smooth sibling, and it doesn't. As we stressed in our UI section earlier, Windows phone is an efficient operating system and makes light work of pretty much anything your throw at it. The screen complements the black heavy UI and it's all in all a pleasure to use.
With a sizable cell inside, the battery life on the larger Lumia could be expected to better that of its brother but sadly, no. One day seems to be the name of the game for most smartphones these days and the Lumia 900 is no different. If you decide to get data heavy, use the camera and Nokia Drive, you can be sure your Lumia 900 will die before the evening's out, though for conservative to standard use you should be safe from 8am to 10pm.
Nokia Lumia 900:Conclusion
Do we like the Lumia 900? Yes. A lot. It's lovely. It's solid and reassuring, its screen is bold and deep, and it's usable one handed. Demure, subtle and fluid however it isn't - those are qualities of the Lumia 800. That the designs feel so different despite sharing an aesthetic is in a way a good thing, adding variance between two devices with a lot of overlap. In turn, anyone after a more masculine Windows Phone device better suited to movies and eBooks should obviously lean towards the Lumia 900. Perfect for Netflix and Kindle, it's got a pretty decent camera and will likely offer great value for money when it comes to market at the end of the month. For anyone who just wants a phone, a smart, elegant, attractive phone, try the Lumia 800 on for size.