|Introduction And Specifications|
Microsoft and its partners were pushing Windows Phone 8-based smartphones hard this holiday season. In a market that's already crowded with plenty of great Android and iOS options, Microsoft and its partners definitely have their work cut out for them. Given its touch-friendly features, unique UI, and personalization options though, Windows Phone 8 is getting a second look from a lot of people.
If you're in the market for a new smartphone in the post-holiday season, you'll have a few Windows Phone 8 smartphone options to consider, including the new Lumia 810 which is exclusive to T-Mobile and the Lumia 820 which is exclusive to AT&T. These new Windows Phone 8 smartphones come with all of the Windows Phone 8 features you'd expect as well as some additional software from Nokia that is designed to bolster the capabilities of the phones. We'll discuss these features more in the coming pages of this review. Both of these phones have similar specifications with only minor differences. The majority of our hands-on look in this review is with the Lumia 810, but keep in mind that most of what we say will apply to the Lumia 820 as well.
The Lumia 810 has a 4.3-inch OLED WVGA Clear Black display as well as an 8-megapixel camera that utilizes Carl Zeiss optics. The phone also has a 1.2-megapixel Skype HD certified front-facing camera for video chat. One of the unique features of the Lumia 810 is the fact that it supports wireless charging when used with an exchangeable shell that's sold separately. These shells are available in cyan and black.
First, let's give you a quick walk-around of the device in action here in our video showcase...
Next, let's take a closer look at the hardware specifications of the Lumia 810 and Lumia 820 before we move on:
|Design and Build Quality|
The Lumia 810 has a boxy design with ever-so-slightly rounded corners and a slightly curved back. The back cover has a soft rubber feel that resists fingerprints. This cover is removable and can be swapped out with a shell (sold separately) that enables wireless charging. Removing the back cover isn't easy, however, so it's not something you'll want to do often.
Like many smartphones today, the majority of the front of the Lumia 810 is consumed by the 4.3-inch OLED WVGA ClearBlack display with a resolution of 480 x 800. The Lumia 810's display doesn’t offer the same resolution as other high-end smartphones. As a result, text and graphics aren't quite as crisp as they could be, but overall, the display is still easy on the eyes. This display also features scratchproof Corning Gorilla Glass. Viewing the screen outdoors under direct sunlight was no worse than on other phones.
When holding the Lumia 810, you'll notice a small lip where the phone transitions to the casing near the edges of the device. Below the display, you'll find the Back, Start, and Search capacitive touch buttons that don't encroach on the screen real estate. Above the display, you'll find the proximity sensor, front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera, and earpiece.
The top edge of the phone houses the 3.5mm headset jack. On the bottom edge of the phone, you'll find the microUSB port as well as a speaker and microphone. The left edge of the phone is void of any hardware buttons. On the right edge, you'll find the volume rocker, power button, and a dedicated camera button. The camera button can act as a shutter when you're in the camera application or be used to fire up the camera app. On the back of the camera, you'll find the 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash.
The Lumia 810 isn't quite as big as the Nokia Lumia 920 we reviewed recently, but it's still a hefty phone. Although the Lumia 810 has a slightly smaller footprint than the Samsung Galaxy S III, for example, the Lumia 810 is thicker and weighs more than the Galaxy S III which makes the phone feel bigger. In comparison to the iPhone 5 which weighs 3.95 ounces, you'll definitely notice the extra heft of the Lumia 810 which weighs 5.11 ounces.
Nokia put a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor as well as 1GB of RAM in the Lumia 810. This combination makes for a zippy, responsive phone, especially when compared to previous generation Windows Phone 7.5 devices. Although the phone comes with only 8GB of onboard storage, you're welcome to add up to 64GB using a microSD card.
Nokia's Lumia 820 is available for AT&T. This smartphone features many of the same specifications and features as the Lumia 810 for T-Mobile. As you can see, the Lumia 820 also has similar styling as the Lumia 810.
|Software and User Experience|
Microsoft is working hard to ensure uniformity in Windows Phone 8. As a result, you won't see OS skins as you will with Android devices. With the exception of manufacturer- and carrier-specific apps, a lot of the features and functions on Windows Phone 8 will be the same. We'll discuss some of these additional apps here in a minute, but first we want to point out how simple it is to uninstall any of the apps you find bothersome or annoying. To remove an app (including preloaded Nokia and T-Mobile apps), simply press and hold from the app screen and select uninstall. We appreciate how easy this process really is, especially in comparison to some phones which must be jailbroken or rooted in order to remove carrier- and manufacturer-specific apps.
Taking a look at the list of apps on the Lumia 810, you'll see the standard Windows Phone 8 apps such as Alarms, Calculator, Calendar, Games, and more. You'll also find Cinemagraph, Creative Studio, ESPN, Office, T-Mobile TV, Slacker Radio, SkyDrive, and others. Overall, we didn't feel there were a lot of nuisance apps on the Lumia 810, which we definitely appreciate.
One of the new navigation features included on the Lumia 810 is known as Nokia City Lens. This feature overlays information about restaurants, shops, hotels, and other businesses to provide an augmented reality experience. It's a really cool feature that shows nearby businesses relative to where you are. As you turn and move the phone, the phone adjusts accordingly. We were impressed by Nokia City Lens, but text doesn't do it justice. Check out the video below for a better idea of how Nokia City Lens works and what it can do:
Nokia Drive provides turn-by-turn navigation and comes with free maps that can be downloaded for 166 countries and 50 languages. When you first fire up Nokia Drive, you'll need to download a voice for audible turn-by-turn directions. You'll also need to download maps. You can download all regions of the US which is 2,515.8 MB or you can choose to download individual states. Nokia Transit will help you navigate public transportation. Overall, Nokia's mapping system is definitely a great system that deserves a lot of credit, especially since its free.
You'll also find Nokia Music on the Lumia 810. The music is advertisement-free and doesn't require registration or a subscription. You can choose mixes to listen to offline and you can also create your own channels. While listening to music, you can access Nokia's MP3 store to buy and download tracks you like as well. If you allow it, Nokia Music can also use your location to find live music events near you.
Many of the features on the Lumia 810, including Nokia Drive, Nokia Transit, Cinemagraph, Smart Shoot, and others must be downloaded and/or updated in order to use for the first time. We would have preferred to skip this step, but it's a minor quibble in the scope of it all since it's generally a one-time hassle.
Like the Nokia Lumia 920, the Lumia 810 has features such as Kid's Corner, cloud backup, and Wallet. Kid's Corner lets you share apps, videos, games, and music with your child while blocking them out of unsafe areas of the phone.
The Windows Phone 8 Marketplace is still lacking in comparison to iOS and Android. While you'll find some of today's most popular apps in the store, others are lacking. Users of Google products will especially feel left out when using a Windows Phone 8 device. As of right now, Google does not offer dedicated apps for Google Drive, Gmail, Voice, or Latitude on Windows Phone 8.
|Performance, Camera, And Battery Life|
During our testing of the Lumia 810, the phone ran very smoothly. The 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM give the phone the hardware it needs to quickly respond to your demands. We'll take a closer look at some benchmarks in the coming pages, but in real-world use with multiple apps open in rotation, the phone felt zippy and responsive, which is all we can ask for.
On the back of the Lumia 810, you'll find the 8-megapixel camera that features Carl Zeiss optics. When using the camera, you'll notice Nokia has included some custom features such as Cinemagraph which lets you create animated GIFs. The camera also has additional "lenses" for panoramic shots, Smart Shoot, and more. Smart Shoot lets you choose the best faces and smiles from a burst of photos and stitch them together to get the best shot.
Overall, we were really impressed with the camera found on the Lumia 810. The Carl Zeiss optics and included software features are definitely a nice touch, and we were able to capture some very good photos and video with the Lumia 810, as you can see below.
You'll find an 1800 mAh battery in the Lumia 810. According to Nokia, this battery should last for up to 10.2 hours of 3G talk time and up to 360 hours when in 3G standby mode. Of course, we wanted to compare the Lumia 810 to other phones we've tested recently, so we also ran WP Bench's battery benchmark to get a better feel for how the Lumia 810 compares. In this test, the Lumia 810 lasted for two hours and 11 minutes, which is just slightly longer than the Nokia Lumia 920. Both of these phones have dual-core processors, so you should expect they're going to demand more power than some of the previous generation single-core Windows Phone 7 devices also shown in the chat.
In real-world use, the Lumia 810 made it through an average day (12+ hours) while surfing the Web, making a few calls, sending texts, checking email, etc. periodically throughout the day. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on how you use the phone.
|Performance: Web Browsing|
Browsing the Web is certainly a key feature of any smartphone, so we also conducted some formal speed tests to see how well the Lumia 810 compares to some of today's hottest smartphones.
BrowserMark recently moved to a newer generation of benchmarks, using a new scoring scale as well.
Even though BrowserMark claims the Lumia 810's score of 1930 was superior to 65% of all phone browsers, it still drops in at the bottom, compared to other phones we tested. It will be interesting to see how the scores compare as we get even more WP8 devices in for benchmarking in the coming months and as Nokia's devices mature in terms of software and drivers.
In addition to using the Lumia 810 in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the handset compares to other smartphones. WP Bench is a performance-oriented benchmarking application within the Windows Phone Marketplace. We've compared CPU, Data and GPU benchmarks below with a handful of Windows Phone smartphones.
As you can see, the Lumia 810 outperformed the majority of handsets in our comparison. In all of the benchmarks, the Lumia 810 and Lumia 920 scored similarly, with both handsets taking the top spot a number of times. Since the Lumia 810 has a lower screen resolution than the Lumia 920, it makes sense that it will outscore the Lumia 920 in the GPU test. After all, WP Bench is an onscreen benchmark and the Lumia 810 has to push fewer pixels at a much lower resolution. Also, keep in mind many of the lower-scoring phones are Windows Phone 7 devices with single-core processors.
As a platform, Windows Phone has come a long way. Overall, we found Windows Phone 8 to offer a stable, smooth experience. The 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM found in Nokia's Lumia 810 gives the phone the power it needs to respond to your demands.
We were very impressed by the Lumia 810's camera. With Carl Zeiss optics and a number of cool and unique software features we haven't seen on other phones to date, the Lumia 810 definitely has a competitive edge here.
In a world where high-speed browsing is a key feature, the fact that the Lumia 810 is tied to T-Mobile's network will be a disadvantage in some people's eyes, especially if you live in one of AT&T or Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE coverage areas. That said, Nokia also offers the Lumia 820 for AT&T and the Lumia 822 for Verizon Wireless. These phones may be worth your consideration as well.
Windows Phone 8's relatively small app store and the fact that some apps (such as Google-branded apps) are noticeably missing from the Marketplace will also be a drawback to some. Regardless of how great a phone's hardware and implementation is, if you can't get the apps you want and need, the phone won't be quite as useful as other smartphones.
Although the Marketplace may seem limited, Nokia's exclusive suite of apps is world class. These apps are sure to be a hit especially among travelers. Nokia Drive is an excellent navigation app and Nokia City Lens provides for a fun and easy way to find nearby restaurants, businesses, and much more.
Overall, we feel the Lumia 810 is a solid handset that has a lot to offer. It's zippy and responsive, and Windows Phone 8 has some cool new features that should catch your eye. In addition, the Lumia 810 has a price tag ($49 - $99 on contract) that's friendlier to your wallet than the top-of-the-line Android and iOS handsets which are also vying for your attention. If you can live with the size and weight of the Lumia 810 and the limited Marketplace offerings don't deter you, perhaps you should consider the Lumia 810.