Nokia Lumia 820 Review: Windows Phone 8 Shines On

Nokia is continuing what is proving to be quite a long-term collaboration with Microsoft as the software giant launches its new Windows Phone 8 platform. After joining up with the Redmond-based company and creating some excellent devices with the Lumia range for Windows Phone 7, Nokia is sticking with the new platform even as Microsoft extends a hand to other manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC.

Along with the larger, high-end Luma 920, Nokia is now launching the Lumia 820, a mid-range WP8 device which brings some excellent features to  the fore. We’ve taken a look at the new handset to see how it performs and find out whether the joint Nokia/Microsoft venture is continuing to bear fruit.

Key Features

  • Dual-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor
  • 4.3-inch AMOLED display with Nokia ClearBlack technology
  • 8GB internal storage
  • 1080p video recording at 30fps
  • 9.9mm thick
  • 160g weight
  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 1650mAh battery

Design and Build

On first impressions, the Lumia 820’s bold colours are the first things that catch the eye. Nokia has re-introduced a very old mobile phone feature to its range by equipping the 820 with an interchangeable shell casing which is available in a variety of colourways.

Many years ago a great many devices featured casing such as this and both mobile phone retailers and market stalls were crammed with shells. Whilst the design idea has slipped from the forefront of the smartphone world it was once very popular and could well prove to be once again.

The casing itself has rounded edges and is satisfyingly chunky, with the device as a whole feeling solid and sturdy. Weighing 160g, the new Lumia is noticeably heavier than many other handsets but its weight comes to be reassuring and doesn’t present a problem at all.

A slim, black plastic bevel surrounds the device’s display with lock, volume rocker and the power button being mounted on the right hand side of the handset, only just protruding from its frame. With the unibody chassis as seen on other Lumia devices featuring here the SIM card slot is tucked away inside the handset, nestling under the battery.

Screen Performance

Whilst the 4.3-inch AMOLED display only has a resolution of 480×800 pixels, and quite a low ppi of 217, it performs better than the specs may suggest. Nokia’s ClearBlack technology is present and makes the dark colours that exist around Windows Phone’s Live Tiles especially black, with everything else on the screen appearing to be brighter in contrast.

Considering that the Lumia 820 is a mid-range device it has an excellent display that does a much better job than some similarly-positioned Android devices and photos and videos, along with the beautiful Windows Phone 8 user interface, look very good indeed.

Under the Hood

Featuring a dual-core, 1.5GHz Krait CPU with Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, supported by 1GB of RAM, the Lumia 820 is well-equipped to deal with what the operating system can throw at it. However, performance does seem slightly slower than with the Lumia 920, but this isn’t anything that proves  to be a real problem in the general scheme of things.

Earlier iterations of Windows Phone didn’t give the impression of being too processor intensive and the latest version appears to continue in the same vein. Whilst Microsoft’s introduction of support for multi-core devices could suggest that the new OS is more demanding, the Lumia 820 is capable of handling the strain and performs well overall.

Battery Performance

Earlier Lumia handsets, such as the Lumia 800 and Lumia 900, suffered from being under-powered, with regular charging becoming commonplace for users. Nokia has addressed this somewhat and while the 820’s battery is still lower in power than that of the Lumia 900, the 1650mAh power cell seems to keep the device running well.

We didn’t experience a noticeably fast drain on power during a day of regular use (including web browsing, taking photos and playing games along with downloading several apps), all with the display turned up to its brightest setting. Although regular charging looks to be a necessity for the Lumia 820, once a day should suffice.

Nokia has also brought wireless charging to its new device, with the Lumia 820 supporting a separate charging pad which will power-up the handset when it is placed upon it. Featuring a convenient and aesthetically pleasing design, the pad can easily be placed on a desk or coffee table with the only drawback being that it limits the way in which the phone can be used whilst charging as the handset has to remain flat upon the pad.

Operating System and User Interface

Windows Phone 8 brings some excellent features to Microsoft’s mobile platform, both on the surface and deep within the operating system’s workings.

Most evident of these improvements is the evolution of the user interface so that Live Tiles can now be resized, allowing even more of them to be pinned to the homescreen. Displaying varying degrees of information depending on their size, WP8 devices can now be customised even more so than before and personalisation has been taken to another level.

Aside from this, the handset’s lockscreen can be configured to show a greater breadth of information, with calendar entries and text message notifications appearing along with information from particular apps.

Beyond the user interface, Microsoft has completely rebuilt its mobile platform from the ground up, employing C++ for the majority of the software. This move aims to overcome one of the biggest problems from which the OS has suffered – the difficulty experienced by developers in porting apps to Windows Phone from other platforms, often proving to be difficult, time-consuming and costly.

This has slowed the rate at which apps are introduced to Windows Phone, if they are introduced at all, and has dogged Microsoft’s mobile OS for some time. Now, developers should find it much easier to create WP8 versions of their apps and big names such as Instagram and Flipboard could well come to the platform in due course.

Additional Features

Microsoft doesn’t allow manufacturers of Windows Phone devices to customise the OS to anywhere near the same extent as Android but Nokia has still managed to put its own spin on the Lumia 820’s software by including several of its own apps.

Nokia Drive is an excellent sat nav app which rivals the best currently on the market, providing detailed turn-by-turn navigation and featuring a minimalist interface which is very easy to read. Meanwhile, Nokia Maps, which uses the same NavTech mapping data as Nokia Drive, is also pleasing to use and whilst not having the same level of detail Google Maps, works well in conjunction with the sat nav software and performs basic mapping functions well.

Camera and Video

Nokia’s mid-range Lumia features an 8 megapixel camera which is capable of producing images of a more than reasonable quality. Likely due to the 820’s positioning as a mid-ranger, the firm’s PureView technology which features on the high-end Lumia 920 does not appear here but the lesser-positioned handset still has some excellent specs including a Carl Zeiss lens.

In particular, the close-up mode which can be selected in the camera app does an excellent job of producing macro shots and the resulting images are detailed and clear. Considering that the Lumia 820 is aimed at a more budget-conscious market than the 920,  it has very good imaging capabilities which are not far behind that of the flagship handset.

Video recording in 1080p at 30fps is also smooth and free from lag and although colour balance and exposure jumps a little when the device is moved around, this doesn’t really detract from its overall performance.

Connectivity and Multimedia

Taking advantage of the new LTE networks currently being introduced to the UK, the Lumia 820 will be available in both 3G and 4G versions, with users being able to enjoy to the faster mobile data speeds promised.

A range of multimedia options also come along for the ride, with Nokia’s Music app providing an excellent hub for tracks stored on the device as well as those streamed from the manufacturer’s own music service. The app has a built-in equalizer and several presets which tailor sound performance to particular genres of music and the device produces deep, strong frequencies even through a cheap pair of headphones.

Performance and Verdict

Nokia’s Lumia 820 is a powerful handset which features brilliant operating system. Even though the handset does not appear to run quite as quickly as its high-end cousin it is still smooth and fluid, making for an excellent user experience.

Considering that this device is being positioned as a mid-ranger, its capabilities are outstanding, with the powerful camera and great software making for a better smartphone than many comparably-positioned handsets. Nokia has also taken the unusual step of bringing back the concept of removable cases, something that will no-doubt appeal to younger consumers.

As one part of Nokia’s two-pronged assault on its Windows Phone 8 competition, the Lumia 820 is a great handset which bring Microsoft’s refreshed OS to a wider audience than it has ever enjoyed before.

6 thoughts on “Nokia Lumia 820 Review: Windows Phone 8 Shines On

    • Hi Chemico

      We haven’t tested the Lumia 720 so we can’t do a full review of it yet. However, if that’s the sort of handset you’re looking for it may be worth having a think about the Lumia 620 as well; we’ve reviewed it and found it to be an excellent smartphone.

      Do you have any other questions about Nokia’s handsets, or any other devices? Let us know if you do.

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

  1. One question, regarding the OS. Does the handset have a built in text to speech feature for those like myself with poor eyesight? I am looking for an alternative to an iPhone. I know WP8 has a zoom function but speech would be helpful also.

    Thanks :-)

    • Hi, Colin

      The Windows Phone 8 software does have text-to-speech capabilities built into it which allows developers to utilise this in their apps. However, this isn’t available in all apps.

      Do you have any other questions about the handset?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

    • Hi, Seb

      While the actual number of apps that can be stored on the Lumia 820 is difficult to determine it is certainly capable of holding enough for everyday use. While questions have been raised about the storage capacity of HTC’s 8S, which has only 4GB of internal memory and sees 2.38GB of this eaten up by the phone’s operating system,the Lumia 820 can boast 8GB of memory and should not have any problems storing a reasonable number of apps.

      Do you have any other questions about the handset?

      Thanks

      Chris, Dialaphone

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