Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
The Nokia Lumia 800 is one of this year's important handset releases. It is the first result of the collaboration between Microsoft and Nokia and it is also the first major release to run on the latest version of Windows Phone 7.5 codenamed Mango.
The Lumia 800, exclusive to Telus for $24 on a three year plan, is a flagship device that showcases Nokia's vast experience in making compelling smartphones and also shows off a more mature Windows Phone OS.
I believe that the genesis of the Lumia 800 began with the Nokia N8, a superb ode to the mobile phone which, while mired by an ageing Symbian OS, was a precision-crafted smartphone with some stunning specs and features for its time including a sensational 12 megapixel camera, full HDMI out and a fresh new unibody design.
A slightly modified variant of that design, sans HDMI and 12MP camera, made it to the N9 which many think is identical to the Lumia 800 except it the N9 less RAM and sports the Anna variant of the Symbian OS. Check out the video about the design of the Lumia 800 below.
Out of the box, the Lumia 800 is a wonder to behold and touch.
This is a premium smartphone that just makes some of shiny plastic smartphones in the market today feel cheap and inferior.
The Lumia 800 feels light but with a nicely balanced feel. It has no sharp edges or aggressive angles, the texture is smooth like a polished rock and the matte finish doesn't attract fingerprints as much as a shiny plastic case would
The care, throughtfulness and precision that went into the making of the Lumia 800 speaks volumes, it is just so rare to see this level of craftsmanship in a mass produced mobile device today.
The chalky matte surface is made from the same type of hard polymer used on hockey helmets (tougher than the aluminum used on the N8) and the screen is a glorious slab of Gorilla Glass coated with 3.7-inch 800×480 pixel ClearBlack AMOLED display that keeps blacks black, boosts saturation yet enhances outdoor viewing. The screen looks like it was poured on to the surface of the phone.
Most AMOLED displays seem extremely saturated to me, Nokia's however looks vivid without feeling artificial. The result is an easy to read screen thanks in part to the 252ppi (pixels per inch) pixel density.
The Lumia 800 is also snappy thanks to Windows Phone being inherently zippy but also because it is powered by a 1.4Ghz single-core processor of the Snapdragon variety and backed by 512MB or RAM. I found that it handled multitasking admirably and loaded applications, even more complex games, quite quickly.
The 3.7 inch screen size may be small by today's excessive standards but it is just fine for one handed operation. I did find the Lumia 800 to be on the slippery side and found that because of its design, it is a bit hard to hold. I was delighted to discover that Nokia includes a body coloured rubber case which gives the Lumia 800 ample grip and protection without addind much bulk.
A free case! I mean who does that these days?
Phone call quality on the Lumia 800 is superb even if the volume is relatively low. But thanks to a dual microphone setup, voices sound human and not like congested cylons. The handsfree speaker could be louder but is sufficiently clear and not at all tinny.
The 1450mAh internal battery is designed to churn out 7 or more hours and we experienced a good 6.5 hours with heavy use with the screen brightness turned down. An upcoming update is supposed to improve this further so its good to know that is on its way.
In terms of storage, users get 16GB and that's it. This should be sufficient, although I wonder why no concession was made for a microSD expansion card. Perhaps this is more of a Microsoft thing than a Nokia thing.
The Lumia 800 seems targeted to attract iPhone 4S users, the two phones share very similar dimensions even if their shapes are quite different.
Both are solidly constructed quality devices with sealed batteries sporting screens that are almost the same size (the iPhone 4S is smaller at 3.5 inches and it sports that luscious Retina Display.
I was quite pleased to find out that the Lumia 800 uses a MicroSIM, which allowed me to pop in my iPhone 4S SIM card for the duration of the testing period. We were ablet to cruise HSDPA speeds on Telus's networks. LTE would have been nice but the beauty of Windows Phone is that you don't really feel anything is taking too much time to load.
The only other ports on the Lumia 800 are a well concealed microUSB port for charging and connecting to a PC and the headphone port.
The navigation buttons for Windows Phone are soft-touch buttons that light up only when the phone is woken from sleep. The volume keys, the power and wake button as well as the dedicated camera button (yes!).
Camera performance is fast and easily accessible anytime through the dedicated camera button on the lower right side.
While not as impressive as the 12 megapixel camera on the N8 which had a larger sensor to begin with, the Lumia 800 can take decent photos in well lit conditions and thanks to the way Windows Phone is designed getting to the camera is fairly fast.
The Lumia 800 features a Carl Zeiss Tessar 28mm lens with a f/2.2 aperture. I read somewhere that it had a 5 element lens.
I found the camera to be quick to deploy and picture to picture performance was fast which is what you want for a snapshot camera.
Image quality was generally good although some tweaking of the settings was required to get the right saturation.
Thankfully, Windows Phone offers a good range of control with its camera settings so the options are there.
The 720p HD video is above average (see below) and surprisingly crisp. We did find that it took a while to get focused but that could very well be a user-end issue on my part.
Definitely usable for YouTube or even for playback on an HDTV. There is no front facing camera on this smartphone which is fine for most users but those with a huge desire to video chat might want to wait for the larger Lumia 900 coming in a month or so.
The Lumia 800's camera is one of the better cameras in a smartphone that we've tested this year and beats our previous Windows Phone favourite from last year - Samsung's Focus in terms of quality and overall performance.
I was happy to find out that Nokia also curates its own apps within the Windows Marketplace called the Nokia Collection. Some of the gems found here include Nokia Drive (navigation with turn by turn voice). Nokia Maps, TuneIn Radio, Contacts Transfer, Network Setup are all useful and free.
Some of the notable apps that came with the Lumia 800 include Local Scout which is similar to Yelp as a navigation based tool to discover nearby events, restaurants and destinations which should be useful for tourists and people who are clueless about the goings on in their own backyard.
All-in-all, the Nokia Lumia 800 is the best option for a Windows Phone handset in the market today. No point looking at anything else in Canada right now.
The Lumia 800 is just so well put together and it is very capable, it will satisfy most smartphone user's needs and in the most delightful manner.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5