Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review: The Windows 10 Mobile Flagship

Lumia 950 XL Introduction and Specifications

Forget almost everything you’ve read about the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL up to this point. We know that’s a bold statement, but bear with us here. Save for the phone’s specifications, if there’s one thing we’ve learned evaluating the 950 XL over the last few weeks it’s that virtually everything from the OS to the camera app has been changed or updated very recently, and it has affected battery life, responsiveness, and browsing, among many other things. Information published about the Lumia 950 XL that's any more than a couple of weeks old is simply outdated.

It seems that Microsoft was tweaking a large number of elements and features in preparation for Windows 10 Mobile’s “official” release on a wide range of devices. Sure, Windows 10 came pre-installed on the Lumia 950 series, but there have been major changes over the phones’ relatively short lifespan.

In any case, we’ve been using the Lumia 950 XL as our daily driver for a few weeks now, in place of a Lumia 1520, which had already been updated to Windows 10. We think we’ve gotten a very good feel for the phone and how it compares to previous-gen devices, and have our thoughts detailed on the pages ahead -- along with a slew of benchmarks, of course. If you’re one of the select few contemplating a move to Windows 10 Mobile read on to find out if the Lumia 950 XL is right for you...
lumia 950 xl style

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL
Specifications & Features
  • Operating System
Software release: Windows 10
  • Processor
CPU name: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 
Number of cores: Octal core
Clock rate: 2000 MHz
  • Memory
Mass memory: 32 GB
RAM: 3 GB 
Expandable memory card type: MicroSD 
User data storage: In device, OneDrive cloud storage, App and data storage on memory card
  • Cellular connectivity
  • Size & weight
Height: 151.9 mm
Width: 78.4 mm
Thickness: 8.1 mm
Weight: 165 g

  • Main camera
Main camera: 20.0 MP
Main camera focus type: Auto focus with two-stage capture key
Camera digital zoom: Yes
Camera optics: 6-lens optics
Stabilization: Optical image stabilization
Oversampling: Yes
Sensor size: 1/2.4 inch
Main camera f-number/aperture: f/1.9
Camera focal length: 26 mm
Flash type: Natural flash
Camera minimum focus range: 10 cm
  • Front-facing camera
Front camera: Full HD 5 MP wide angle
Front camera f-number/aperture: f/2.4
Front camera video resolution: 1080p (Full HD, 1920 x 1080)
  • Display
Display size: 5.7 ''
Display resolution: WQHD (2560 x 1440)
Display colours: TrueColor (24-bit/16M)
Display technology: AMOLED, ClearBlack
Pixel density: 518 ppi
Display features: Easy to clean, Orientation sensor, Wide viewing angle, Lumia Color profile, High brightness mode, Corning Gorilla Glass 4, Automatic brightness control, Sunlight readability enhancements
Touch screen technology: Capacitive multipoint-touch

  • Battery
Replaceable battery: Yes
Battery capacity: 3340 mAh
Battery voltage: 3.85 V
Charging: Built-in wireless charging, Fast charging
Wireless charging standard: Qi, PMA
Maximum standby time: 12 days
Maximum talk time (3G): 19 h
Maximum music playback time: 75 h
Maximum Wi-Fi network browsing time: 11 h
Maximum video playback time: 11 h
  • Design
Design details: Exchangeable back cover
Other user interface features: Glance screen, Tactile feedback, Voice commands, Voice dictation in edit fields

  • Keys and Input Methods
User Input: Touch
Operating keys: Volume keys, Camera key, Power/Lock key
  • Sensors
Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Barometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, SensorCore
  • Connectivity basics
SIM card type: Nano SIM x 2
AV connectors: 3.5 mm stereo headset connector, DisplayPort over USB-C
Charging connectors: USB-C
System connectors: USB-C
USB: USB 3.1, USB Dual Role Port (Gen1)
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.1
Bluetooth profiles: Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) 1.2, Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) 1.3, Generic Attribute Profile (GATT), Hands-free profile (HFP) 1.6, Human Interface Device Profile (HID), Object Push profile (OPP) 1.1, Personal Area Network Profile (PAN) 1.0, Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP) 1.1, HID over GATT profile (HOGP) 1.0, Message Access Profile (MAP) 1.1
NFC: Pairing, Secure NFC for payment, Sharing, Tagging
Wi-Fi: WLAN IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO, Wi-Fi call
Wi-Fi hotspot: Up to 8 Wi-Fi-enabled devices
Other wireless connectivity: Screen projection

Price: $475 (single SIM) - $625 (Dual SIM)  unlocked

If you're a regular HotHardware reader, you're no doubt familiar with the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and its smaller cousin, the Lumia 950 (reviewed here). For those of you that may not be familiar with Microsoft's latest smartphones, the video above offers a good summary of their main features and design. We'll have many more details on the pages ahead, though.

The Lumia 950 XL's spec table is quite telling. This phone is packing some of the latest hardware available, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC clocked at up to 2GHz, 3GB of RAM, USB 3.1, a QHD AMOLED display, and a bevy of sensors. The particular device we'll be showing you here also has a dual-SIM setup, which could come in handy if you're a frequent traveler. With dual-SIMs, you're able to select which SIM to use on a per-call or per-text basis, presumably to prevent roaming or other charges carries are known for tacking on when outside of your designated service area.

lumia 950 xl bundle
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Accessory Bundle
Before we dig into the Lumia 950 XL, here's a look at what comes bundled with the phone. We're testing the dual-SIM variant here, but the bundle is similar for the single-SIM version. Included in the box -- along with the phone, of course -- is a basic lit pack, a USB-A to USB-C charge / sync cable, and a USB-C charger, with hard-wired cable. Unlike many other smartphones that include a a wall-wart with a USB port for charging, the charger included with the 950 XL is all one piece.

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