We compare Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL to see which Windows 10 phone is best for you, with a full comparison of the screens, specs, cameras, battery life, performance and more.
Windows 10 is still in its infancy and has a few teething troubles, but if you’re dead set on a Windows 10 phone for 2016, Microsoft’s new flagship Lumias are a good bet. Of course, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are pretty similar in terms of specs, which can make choosing tricky.
So, what’s the difference between the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and which is best for you? Here’s our full comparison review.
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: At a glance
|Phone||Lumia 950||Lumia 950 XL|
|Processor||Snapdragon 808||Snapdragon 810|
|Storage||32GB + microSD||32GB + microSD|
|Cameras||20MP + 5MP||20MP + 5MP|
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: Design
One of the most obvious differences between these two phones, as hinted at by the ‘XL’ monicker, is their size. The Lumia 950 is already a sizeable smartphone, with a 5.2-inch screen packed inside a reasonably weighty 150g frame, but the Lumia 950 XL goes one step beyond with a beefy 165g build and mighty 5.7-inch display.
The standard Lumia 950 can just about be used one-handed, but the Lumia 950 XL’s increased dimensions mean you really need to use both mitts for a comfortable experience. Thankfully Microsoft has implemented a nifty half-screen mode for those emergency situations where you only have one hand free. This basically blacks out the top half of the display, cramming everything into the bottom half instead. It’s not perfect, as some functionality is lost within apps, but it works okay in a pinch.
When it comes to the actual design, these phones are near identical. Both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL sport a plastic polycarbonate frame which looks rather businessy, with none of the premium finish of other flagship phones like the Sony Xperia Z5, Samsung Galaxy S6 or HTC One M9.
That said, the Lumia 950 and its XL brother are at least rugged enough to survive a few knocks. They aren’t water resistant, however, so keep them tucked away when you jump in the bath.
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: Screen and media
Both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL boast a Quad HD display, packing a mighty 2560×1440 pixel resolution. That gives 564 pixels-per-inch (ppi) in the Lumia 950 and 518 ppi in the Lumia 950 XL (as it’s a bigger display).
Read next: Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL tips and tricks
What does that mean in normal speak? Well, both phones produce gorgeously crisp images, whether you’re kicking back with an HD movie, playing a game or simply browsing the web.
The quality of those AMOLED screens is also excellent, boasting strong contrast levels and a powerful enough maximum brightness to counter irritating glare. And the good news is, you can adjust the colour settings to a warm or cool palette in the Windows 10 display menu, to suit your personal tastes.
Both phones feature a rear-facing speaker, which is kind of annoying as audio is directed away from your face and the grilles can be easily smothered by accident. Sound quality is rather tinny too, so we’d definitely recommend using headphones with either handset.
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: Features
If you want to carry around a large collection of apps or media, either phone will suffice. Both the Lumia 950 and its bigger brother come with 32GB of built-in storage, which can be expanded via a microSD memory card slot.
There isn’t any real difference when it comes to the other features either. Both phones run the same version of Windows 10, complete with the same apps and full access to Microsoft’s online store. You’ll find support for Continuum, which allows you to convert your phone into an impromptu Windows 10 desktop machine, while both phones also support the Windows Hello feature, for unlocking the handset with your eyeballs.
However, there is a difference when it comes to the processor and batteries tucked away inside.
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: Battery life
The Lumia 950 XL boasts a mighty 3340mAh battery, compared with the Lumia 950’s smaller 3000mAh cell. Still, after plenty of testing, we saw very little difference as far as battery life goes. Both phones will last you the day and not much more between charges, or roughly five to six hours of non-stop media playback.
Meanwhile, both Lumias feature Type-C USB charging ports but they also support wireless charging, so you can ditch the cables as long as you stump up for a compatible charging pad.
Read next: Lumia 950 and 950 XL unboxing and first look
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: Performance
There’s also no real difference in terms of everyday performance, even though the Lumias use different processors; a Snapdragon 808 for the Lumia 950, and a more powerful Snapdragon 810 for the Lumia 950 XL. Both phones will happily play the latest games and we saw no stuttering or lag during standard use.
Microsoft Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950 XL: Cameras
Likewise, there’s no difference when it comes to the cameras. Both phones come with a 20-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens on the rear, plus a 5-megapixel camera just above the screen for selfies and video chats. And we’re highly impressed with the resulting picture quality, although the Lumias’ video recording functionality could be better.
Check out our in-depth Lumia 950 and 950 XL camera review for more info.