Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review: The Windows 10 Mobile Flagship

Checking Out The Lumia 950 XL

At first glance, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL doesn't look quite like a flagship device. It's not packing any exotic materials, chamfered edges, or a glass backside. The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL has an understated, typical candy-bar design, which looks good in our opinion, but doesn't stand out like some competing devices.
lumia 950 xl side by side

The front of the Lumia 950 XL is a flat, sheet of glass with holes cut out for the speaker (top) and microphone (bottom). There is a Microsoft logo at the top, beneath the speaker cutout, and to the left of the cut out is the device’s front-facing 5MP, wide-angle camera. The back, Windows, and search “buttons” are not separate from the main screen as they are on older Windows Phone-based products like the Lumia 1520. Instead, the buttons slide down off the screen when not in use, much as your task bar would when set to auto-hide on a desktop edition of Windows. To bring the buttons back onto the screen, a user simply needs to swipe up from the bottom.

lumia 950 xl all sides

The back of the Lumia 950 XL is removable to give users access to the user-replaceable battery, nano-SIM card slot (or slots, as is the case with this dual-SIM phone), and microSD expansion slot. A removable back and expansion are features many users crave, but in the case of the Lumia 950 XL, the matte polycarbonate backing gives the phone a less-than-premium feel. It’s a smooth, lightweight back cover that, unfortunately, feels kind of cheap.There are, however, replacement backs available, including some wrapped in leather, which should help.

However, the on the plus side, the Lumia 950 XL's backing is completely removable and gives user access to the phone's battery as well, which is also user serviceable and replaceable. This is a rarity now among smartphones these days.

On the back of the device, the 20MP rear-facing camera and triple-LED flash reside in circular protrusion at the top, with a speaker grill just off to the left. And at the top and bottom there are a subtle perforations for microphones. “PureView Zeiss” is emblazoned just below the camera and a reflective Windows logo sits just below that.

lumia 950 xl back cover removed
The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL's Battery Is User Replaceable

On the top of the Lumia 950 XL rests a single 3.5mm headphone / microphone jack smack dab in the center, and at the bottom is the device’s USB-C connector, which is used for charging, syncing, and for connecting to the phone to a display dock to leverage Windows 10 Mobile’s Continuum functionality.

lumia 950 xl buttons

The left side of the Lumia 950 XL is completely bare, while the right side houses all of the physical buttons, which are in a bit of funky arrangement.  The volume up and down buttons flank the power / wake button right about in the middle of the phone, and towards the bottom of the right side is the camera button. The actual buttons themselves though feel good and are clearly better then the lightweight plastic used on the Lumia 1520, though there is a bit of play in them because they're part of the removable cover and not actually attached to the phone itself.

lumia 950 xl screen

The 5.7” AMOLED ClearBlack screen on the Lumia 950 XL is definitely one of the device’s best features. The display is excellent in our opinion. The 2560x1440 resolution and 518ppi density result in excellent crispness. Brightness, contrast, and saturation are top-notch, as are the viewing angles. The screen is also very responsive to touch. Overall, the viewing and touch experiences are excellent and on-par with the best smartphone screens we have experienced up to this point.

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