Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review

Lumia flagships are a rare breed, not just in terms of new models, but on the street as well. Almost four years have passed since the Lumia 900 line began, and a lot has happened in that time – not least the evaporation of Windows Phone’s already paltry market share.

The Nokia Lumia 930, nominally the last flagship-class device in the WIndows Phone era, was released back in mid 2014, but the world has moved on.

Now, a QHD screen and a powerful 64-bit processor is the bare minimum that an elite-tier handset needs in order to compete. And with quality imaging also becoming the norm rather than the exception, there’s little room for compromise at the top.

Against this, everything that once made the Lumia brand special no longer has such lustre. Optical imaging stabilisation is one such example – the thing that Nokia once did best is now commonplace.

Dreams of making smartphones for everyone and seeing Windows 10 Mobile conquer the world with coloured tiles have been replaced with a more modest ambition: making devices to reward fans who stuck with the OS through the lean times.

Enter the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, alongside the Lumia 950.

The Lumia 950 XL is, as the name suggests, the larger device of the two, and it boasts some hefty specifications too, meaning that on paper it looks to be a smartphone geek’s dream.

But with the Android and iOS competition now so incredibly strong, is it really enough to restore consumer confidence in Microsoft’s mobile vision?

Design

Over its years as a smartphone maker Nokia built up a considerable design pedigree, and the Lumia line was no exception. With the handsets defined by the use of colourful matte polycarbonate, even a punter on the street could recognise the likes of a Lumia 920 at a distance.

Things have changed under the bean counters at Microsoft, and at first glance the Lumia 950 XL is almost totally unremarkable, at least from the front. The 5.7-inch AMOLED display, covered with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 4, takes up most of the faceplate, with only a small, minimalist ‘Microsoft’ logo adorning the top.

The rear of the handset also tends towards a corporate look and feel. A vast expanse of featureless black matte polycarbonate houses just two notable landmarks – a large, silver-ringed camera ‘oreo’, and a small Windows logo.

The power button and volume keys are on the right side, as you’d expect, but their layout is odd and confusing. Whereas the power button normally stands alone, on the Lumia 950 XL it’s flanked by separate volume up and volume down keys.

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This may sound like a minor detail, but as someone who’s used Lumias on a daily basis for years I found the new button layout jarring throughout my review period. Moreover the buttons themselves, while nicely clicky, are quite sharp, making them feel unfinished.

On the same side you’ll also find the two-stage camera shutter button, always a nice inclusion.

Thankfully, one trend that began a while back – the abandoning of removable backs – has been reversed here. The rear of the Lumia 950 XL is user-removable and replaceable, giving access to the microSD card slot and to the removable battery.

As the 950 XL is a phablet, using it in one hand was always going to be something of a challenge, but thanks to the weighting of the device it’s not as bad as I feared it might be. Even at 8.1mm thick and 165g, and with my spindly little mitts, using the handset was never uncomfortable.

Overall, the design of the Lumia 950 XL is unremarkable. In a budget smartphone, I’d list that as a positive, especially given some of the weird-looking units that are occasionally trundled out; but in a 2015 flagship device that costs the best part of an iPhone, it’s a different story.

When you’re spending the sort of money on a handset that could buy you a week’s holiday for two, the experience has to reflect that, and that experience starts when you first pick up the device.

Buy an iPhone 6S and the jewel-like feel is an instant reward, and the same goes for the Samsung Galaxy S6 or even the Google Nexus 6P. These devices are distinguishable and special, whereas the Lumia 950 XL is unfortunately reminiscent of its less-upmarket brother, the 640 XL.

Earlier Lumia devices gave the user a sense of identity in the hand, something unique, and that has been lost. Whether the diehard Windows faithful will care has yet to be seen, but other potential purchasers are unlikely to be blown away.

The genesis of a new operating system that prioritises a unique and cohesive design should be honoured in the hardware carrying it, such as with the Dell XPS 13, and in this respect Microsoft has failed with the Lumia 950 XL.

Display

The screen is another story altogether, and clear signs of Nokia’s display heritage can be found in the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. Outdoor visibility is pretty good, although it would be nice if the screen could become just a tad brighter. The 2K resolution of the 5.7-inch panel equates to a 518ppi, making text lovely and crisp, and enabling the Windows Live Tiles to really stand out.

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As might be expected with an AMOLED screen, contrast is excellent. Colours have a very nice ‘pop’ to them, while blacks are pleasingly deep. Viewing angles are great, with no drop-off in either brightness or colour from any angle.

Somewhat unusually for an AMOLED display, the colour accuracy is also very good. Microsoft claims to have calibrated the panel exactly, and to my eyes I could find nothing wrong, although you have the option to change the white balance in the settings menu.

The device also supports a popular and somewhat mislaid feature in ‘Glance’, which enables the display of information when the phone is asleep. Double-tap to wake has been discarded, however.

 

Specs & Features

Whats New? Microsoft Lumia 950 XL – Bigger 4K with Wireless today!
Microsoft boosts some specs of Lumia 950 and has released new phone XL size, codenamed as Cityman. The phone features a marvelous 5.7 inch 4K full HD screen enclosed in a great design being backed up by Adreno 430 GPU as the new Microsoft Lumia 950 XL comes with 810 Snapdragon chipset. Looks like the company have learned its lessons as Quick Charge 2.0 technology and wireless charging is also embedded into the phone to provide the users with a quick comfort. Microsoft’s Lumia 950 XL is equipped with advanced LTE carrier support that makes online 3D gaming and 4K video streaming possible. With remodeled design, it has round glass that protects camera and flash whereas on its left side is a speaker grill. Microsoft Lumia 950’s internal memory is boosted by external storage support and allows users to set between application and user storage as they like. 4K display allows watching Full HD movies on its big screen and its bigger battery of 3300mAh battery allows multimedia support for longer duration. Lumia 950 XL by Microsoft comes with selfie cam shooter of 5.0 MP and rear memories capturer of 20 magapixels with OIS, HDR and phase detectionfeatures. With wireless charging support out of the box, Microsoft 950 XL also comes with C-Type USB port but has a non-removable battery. With redefined 10 OS running on 3GB RAM, the phone will feature better multitasking, ultra fast responsive touch and better UI for ease of use. Microsoft Lumia’s 950 XL is said to be flagship device and instead of fingerprint, it feature IRIS scanner that scans the retina of eyes and recognizes person in real time with much more details. Bluetooth 4.1, Gen8 GPS, 4K video recording and LP DDR4 RAM support make Lumia 950 XL ahead of most of its competitors but it still needs more power and improved UI to be considered as the best smartphone. Company has tradition of making straight phones with round edges and they’ve kept their promise as 950 XL comes in same traditional design with bumped up camera and traditional bright colors.
Dimensions 151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm
Weight 165 g
Battery Stand-by up to 288 hrs, Talk-time up to 25 hrs, Music-Play up to 75 hrs
3340 mAh
OS Microsoft Windows 10
Memory 32GB built-in, 3GB RAM, microSD Card (support up to 200GB)
Processor 1.5 GHz Quad-Core Cortex-A53, 2 GHz Quad-Core Cortex-A57, Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810
GPU: Adreno 430
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.1 with A2DP, USB (Type-C 1.0 reversible connector), WLAN (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot), GPRS, EDGE, NFC, 3G (HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps), 4G (LTE Cat6 300/50 Mbps)
Display Size 5.7 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels (~74.3% screen-to-body ratio)
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, sensor core
Display Colour AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, Multitouch, Corning Gorilla Glass 4, ClearBlack display
Operating
Frequency / Band
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Band HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100
4G Band LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 12(700), 20(800), 28(700), 38(2600), 40(2300)
Browser HTML5
Colors Black, White
Entertainment Stereo FM radio, 3.5mm audio jack, MP4/H.264/WMV player, MP3/WAV/eAAC+/WMA player, Games (built-in)
Camera 20 MP, 4992 x 3744 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, optical image stabilization, autofocus, triple-LED RGB flash, 1/2.4” sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size, PureView technology, dual capture, geo-tagging, face detection, panorama, HDR, Video ([email protected], optical stabilization, stereo sound rec), 2ndry 5 MP, 1080p
Other Features GPS + A-GPS support, Nano-Sim, Fast charging, Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic, Wireless charging (Qi-enabled) – market dependent, Document viewer, Video/photo editor, Speakerphone
Ring Tones Downloadable, Polyphonic, MP3
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM

Price

Price in Rs: 71,300    Price in USD: $684
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