Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review: The Windows 10 Mobile Flagship

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Lumia 950 XL Camera and Battery Life

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL features 5MP front and 20MP rear facing cameras. The front facing-camera can be used for still image captures or video recording (full HD 1080P) and it features an f/2.4 aperture. The quality of the front facing camera isn't stellar, but it is better than most others we have used. The rear facing 20MP camera on the phone is something special, though. The rear facing camera features a 1/2.4" sensor, with 6-lens Zeiss optics, optical image stabilization, and an f/1.9 aperture.

lumia 950 xl camera
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Camera

The Lumia 950 XL also features a triple-LED natural flash. The LEDs are all different colors, and when taking pictures with the flash enabled, the overall image is analyzed and the flash is automatically tuned to light the subject in such a way that it produces more accurate, realistic colors. The physical shutter button on the 950 XL also behaves like a regular camera, where a half press auto-focuses and a full-press captures the image. If your main concern with a smartphone is camera quality, the Lumia 950 XL is a fantastic option.

950 xl camera app

We should also mention that the camera app allows for a wide array of manual controls including ISO, white balance, HDR / rich capture, and the like. And additional "lenses" are also available in the Windows Store, which essentially act like filters. The camera app can capture "live" images as well, which provide a short animation of the events leading up to the shot.

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Unedited photos from the Lumia 950 XL - click for high res.

We took a number of photos with the Lumia 950 XL in a wide array of lighting conditions (dark, bright, lit from the front or back, with and without flash) and in all circumstances we think the images captured with the phone are among the best we've seen. Colors are vibrant without being overly saturated. Images are sharp, crisp, and clear. And even in less-than-optimal lighting, there is minimal noise and good balance throughout the image. The camera is definitely one of the Lumia 950 XL's strong suits. Notice the bottom shots of the wine glass. Those shots were snapped with an without flash. As you can see, the triple-LED natural flash does a good job of lighting the scene, without blowing out the colors.


1080p30 Lumia 950 XL Video Sample



1080p60 Lumia 950 XL Video Sample



4K30 Lumia 950 XL Video Sample

The Lumia 950 XL is capable of capturing video in a variety of formats as well, including 4K. In well-lit environments, video capture is also very good with the device and we found the digital image stabilization to work well. In sub-optimal lighting situations, however, there can be some noise in the video capture, though the auto-focus is still pretty good.  Above are three video samples captured at 1080p30, 1080p60 and 4K30. We found the 1080p60 videos to almost always be somewhat darker, but still acceptable.

Battery Life Testing
How Long Will It Last?

At its launch event in NYC , Microsoft claimed that the Lumia 950 and 950 XL would do "great things for battery life".  The Lumia 950 XL tested here features a 3340mAh user-replaceable battery, that Microsoft claims can handle 12 days of standby time, 19 hours of talk time, and 11 hours of browsing over Wi-Fi. Our testing proved out Microsoft's claims, for web browsing at least...

battery test

In our web browsing run-down test, the Lumia 950 XL took the pole position and beat out all of the other phones by a decent margin. For this test, we set the screen brightness to 50%, connect via Wi-Fi, open the browser, and load a page that auto-refreshes, and then we monitor battery life until the phone dies. The Lumia 950 XL did exceptionally well and didn't peter out until it passed the 12 hour mark.

bat life

We also got a week of standby time without a problem (the screen capture above was taken half-way through the test). Generally speaking, even with moderate use, getting a full day of use out of the Lumia 950 XL should not be a problem at all. We have actually gone two full days with this phone as our daily driver, without recharging it. Even if you are the type of user that can kill the 950 XL before the day is out, the USB-C fast charger can charge the device relatively quickly and the battery is user-replaceable as well. Unlike many of today's flagship phones, you have options with the Lumia 950 XL.

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