Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review: The Windows 10 Mobile Flagship

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Closing Thoughts On The Lumia 950 XL

Our time with the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL has been interesting to say the least. The initial out of box experience wasn’t great. When we switched over to the 950 XL from the Lumia 1520, the sheer number of updates and data that needed to be installed or downloaded marred the user experience. If you’ve already got a Microsoft account and are using a Windows Phone, when you initially set up a new device like the Lumia 950 XL anything you have on your OneDrive (like images, SMS backups, etc.) will be transferred to the new device. In addition, the OS itself, and virtually all of the pre-installed apps on the phone – including Office – will most likely need to be updated.

The end result is that multiple gigabytes of data need to be transferred to the phone and it doesn’t do a good job of clearly detailing the process. On top of that, we found that the phone didn’t behave as expected while all of the updates were happening. If there was a clear indicator that something was happening in the background (short of the pending download list in the store app) and that the phone needed X amount of time to finish that would be fine. But as it stood, the 950 XL was somewhat unpredictable for a day or so, while it did its thing.
lumia 950 xl style 2
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL - Find It At Amazon

Once all of the updates and download were completed, the phone itself behaved very well. And after a couple of charge / discharge cycles, we began to really notice the overall improvements to battery life and the platform in general. The updated hardware, excellent screen, and enhancements to Windows 10 Mobile clearly push the Lumia 950 XL into flagship smartphone territory. The device is as smooth and fluid as any other you’re likely to use.

As has been the case since Windows Phone’s inception, however, the app situation will require some adjustment. The fact remains there just aren’t as many available for Windows 10 Mobile as there are for iOS and Android. On top of that, we’re finding that as some apps are updated for Microsoft’s universal app vision, quality has taken a step backward. The Facebook app, for example, was updated with a modernized look that’s optimized for high resolution displays. Over the course of the first couple of updates though, the app was essentially useless. It was slow as molasses and constantly showed outdated posts. It was as if the app couldn’t parse its cache properly, so you’d be scrolling though posts that were a few minutes, and then posts from a week earlier would start showing up. The situation has improved, though the app is still somewhat slow. We understand a Facebook app isn’t an absolute necessity, but we point this out just an example of what’s happening as developers work to update their wares for Windows 10 Mobile. With that said, there are some apps that are superior on Windows 10 Mobile versus other platforms, like Skype, the MS Health App, TeamViewer and a handful of others.

In regards to some of the most important aspect of a smartphone, however, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL really shines. The 950 XL offered excellent battery life, its camera is absolutely fantastic, the screen is among the best available, and the overall speed and responsiveness of the platform is great. If you’re a road warrior and place a high value on productivity, the Office integration on the device (especially if you leverage OneDrive on your desktop / laptop) will be a godsend, and support for Continuum – which makes the phone behave like a desktop when connected to a display and input devices – could change the way you work.

Ultimately, we believe the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL -- in its current state -- is an excellent device and is the Windows 10 Mobile fans of the platform have been waiting for. Although it is a touch smaller and the composite backing doesn’t feel as premium in comparison to a device like the Nokia Lumia 1520, the 950 XL is an upgrade by almost every other measure. The phone is fast, fluid, takes great pictures, offers excellent battery life, and is great for e-mail, Office work, and browsing. The app situation leaves something to be desired, but that won’t be a deal breaker for many users, and is incrementally improving. If you’re OK with purchasing an unsubsidized smartphone, the Lumia 950 XL can be had for roughly $500 - $620 depending on the SIM configuration (dual or single SIM). That’s a significant outlay, but if you’re one of the few that’s been looking for a Windows 10 Mobile flagship device that offers everything from a big screen to proper Continuum support, the Lumia 950 XL is it.

  • Fast and Fluid
  • Great Screen
  • Excellent Camera
  • Good Battery Life
  • Lacks A Premium Feel
  • App Gap Still Exists On The Platform

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