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Nokia Lumia 800 Review

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Highs

  • Vivid AMOLED screen
  • Solid design and curved glass
  • Good custom apps
  • Windows Phone 7.5 UI is easy to use

Rating

Our Score 7.5
User Score 5

Lows

  • No front-facing camera
  • No microSD
  • Single-core processor
  • Poor video quality
  • No HSPA+ or 4G support
  • Unlocked in the US
There are some downsides, like a lack of a front-facing camera, blurry video recording, and a camera that doesn't impress as much as Nokia boasts, but overall it's one of the best Windows Phones around.

The Lumia 800 was Nokia’s first Windows Phone and it’s a nice one. Borrowing its design from the ill-fated N9, it’s the first phase of Nokia’s attempt to modernize itself and revive its dying smartphone market share in the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the United States, except as an expensive unlocked phone. None of the US carriers have decided to subsidize it, instead waiting for the similar, larger Lumia 900, which is likely coming out in April. But if you have the means, the 800 is an option. Here’s what we thought of the first of many non-Symbian smartphones from Nokia.

Feel

The Lumia 800 both looks and feels like a classic Nokia device, and I mean that in a good way. Nokia has made mistake after mistake, but at its best, it delivered solid devices with a subtle, but signature flair to them and the 800 continues this trend. It’s a good looking phone, but is made with better materials than most other devices in its class as well. It has a rounded, metal unibody shell (no battery access) with a flat top and bottom. Like many Nokia devices, the ports have also been covered up for aesthetics, though we’re not quite sure it’s really necessary to cover up a Micro USB port these days, especially since most people end up charging their phones as often as they’re using them. The placement of the power button below the volume button (starboard side of the phone) is also odd, though it isn’t any harder to press.

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We’ll save too much description, as you can clearly see the phone in the pictures above. We found that it handles fairly well, though we’re looking forward to the larger 4.7-inch Lumia 900. The 800 is a bit small for a touch-only device with a 3.7-inch screen (though still larger than the 3.5-inch iPhone). For its size though, it works and operates quite well. The placement of the main speaker on the bottom of the phone is also nice. Most smartphones seem to place their main speakers on the back, leading to muffling or muting every time you set your phone on a pillow or soft object. Samsung is especially guilty in this area.

(Note: We had a very difficult time getting our Lumia 800 to charge on multiple occasions. It didn’t like chargers that weren’t Nokia branded and remained fickle under all circumstances. We believe this was a glitch with our unit, but if you experience similar issues, return your device immediately.)

Screen

The Lumia 800’s screen is one of its best qualities. It’s made out of Gorilla Glass and actually bends over the edges of the phone a bit. Better than that though, Nokia has opted for a Super AMOLED screen, which is far more vivid and colorful than LCD. One of AMOLED’s best qualities is that when displaying black, the screen pixels actually turn off, meaning it can also display much deeper blacks than LCD. The big blocks and solid colors of Windows Phone are well suited to AMOLED. The resolution is a bit lower than some devices at 480×800 pixels, but it works alright considering the smaller 3.7-inch size of the phone.

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Operating System

Like all new Nokia smartphones, the Lumia 800 runs on Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and is not modified. Though Google allows Android manufacturers to toy with the look and feel of its interface, Microsoft has locked down Windows Phones so that they all operate the same. The Nokia phones have some custom apps and a nice Nokia blue color to their tiles, but the experience is mostly the same.

Pre-installed apps

As usual, there are a few Microsoft apps like Internet Explorer 9, Xbox Live, Bing Maps, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, but Nokia is also developing a number of custom apps for its Windows Phones. Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport, and Nokia Drive, leverage the company’s solid mapping technology, which was one of the major reasons Microsoft made the partnership with Nokia in the first place. The Apple Iphone still doesn’t have a free turn-by-turn navigation app, putting Nokia phones right under Android when it comes to mapping (Google’s turn-by-turn is free and arguably the best). A free music streaming app, and an app that recommends other…apps are also included with others likely already available. Nokia is the only Windows Phone manufacturer that is aggressively providing custom software for its phones.

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Specs

Don’t expect to be impressed with the specifications. Microsoft has locked down Windows Phone specs, so they’re all very similar. The Lumia 800 has a 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm MSM8255 processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (no microSD), Bluetooth 2.1, an audio jack, GPS, common features like an accelerometer, and an 8MP rear camera.

Camera

Nokia is known for its cameras, and the Lumia 800 is no different. Though it isn’t better than the iPhone 4S camera or some of the best HTC cameras, the 800 stands out as one of the better devices to snap a photo with. It can take 8-megapixel images and record 720p video and Nokia boasts that it features dual-LED flash, Carl Zeiss optics, and an F 2.2 aperture. Basically, that means it snaps faster photos than some cameras. We tested it against the Galaxy Nexus and found it kept up in most situations, but not all. In low light and indoor photos, it falls a bit short. We also could not get the camera to focus while taking video, making all of our videos extremely blurry. Hopefully this was another glitch in our unit, or else most of your videos will look like Barbara Walters special reports.

Also, if you’re in need of a front-facing camera, however, steer clear. The Lumia 800 doesn’t have one.

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Voice and data

We tested the 800 on T-Mobile’s network, but since it’s an unlocked GSM device here in the United States, it will run on networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. However, to buy it you’ll have to go to Nokia.com or other retailers of unlocked devices and pay full price (currently $500). No carrier is subsidizing the phone at this time. Voice calls came through just fine on the phone and those we spoke with sounded as clear as cell phones get on the other end of the line as well. Data speeds will depend on your carrier, but this device cannot attain high-speed HSPA+ 3G or 4G LTE, so it won’t be cruising.

Battery Life

A 1450mAh battery powers the 800 and is inaccessible, much like the iPhone. Nokia claims the phone will get 9.5 hours of talk time and 6.5 hours of video playback. This is a little higher than what we were experiencing, but we didn’t have trouble making it through a day without a charge. This is partially due to Windows Phone, which is kind on batteries. Overall, the battery life should neither offend nor impress you.

Conclusion

The Lumia 800 is one of the best Windows Phones available. It’s a charmer to look at and feels good to hold as well. It also comes with a nice suite of useful Nokia apps, which help it bridge the gap with Android when it comes to turn-by-turn directions and mapping. There are some downsides, like a lack of a front-facing camera, blurry video recording, and a camera that doesn’t impress as much as Nokia boasts, but overall it’s one of the best Windows Phones around. That is, if you count it as around at all. The Lumia 800 is only available as an unlocked phone for $500 in the US. Sadly, that may be it’s biggest weakness.

Highs

  • Vivid AMOLED screen
  • Solid design and curved glass
  • Good custom apps
  • Windows Phone 7.5 UI is easy to use

Lows

  • No front-facing camera
  • No microSD
  • Single-core processor
  • Poor video quality
  • No HSPA+ or 4G support
  • Unlocked in the US