Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL
MICROSOFT LIMIA 950
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 10 Mobile
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (Dualcore 1.82 GHz Cortex-A57 & quadcore 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53)
DISPLAY: 5.2-inch 2,560 x 1,440 x pixels (564ppi) AMOLED
DIMENSIONS 145 x 73.2 x 8.2 mm
MICROSOFT LIMIA 950 XL
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 10 Mobile
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57)
DISPLAY: 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 x pixels (515ppi) AMOLED
DIMENSIONS: 151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm
There hasn’t been a flagship Windows Mobile device in Singapore since the Lumia 930 way back in 2014. Back then, Lumia was still under Nokia, and the phone ran on Windows Phone 8. Flash forward nearly two years and we have the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL, two new flagship-level phones running on Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile platform. Both phones have a pretty boring removable one-piece plastic shell that feels a lot cheaper and thinner than Nokia’s old Lumia builds. Other than a metal ring surrounding the rear camera, the blocky, rectangular phones have no real design characteristics to set them apart from the low- and mid-range phones Microsoft has been releasing for the past couple of years. The bright Lumia colors are gone too. Your only options now are black or white. The power button, volume rocker and camera shutter button can all be found on the right-side. Most phones with all the buttons on the same side have the power button above the volume rocker - after all, it’s the button you hit the most, so putting it right under your thumb is logical. For some reason, Microsoft has opted to do it the other way round on the 950, and has put the volume rocker on top, with the power button beneath it. Worse yet, the 950 XL has an even more bizarre layout where the power button is in the middle, flanked by two tiny volume buttons on the top and bottom, making it really easy to hit the wrong button. While physical design leaves a lot to be desired, the displays are second to none. Microsoft is using Samsung’s AMOLED QHD screens, with a 5.2-inch 2,560 x 1,440 (564ppi) pixels resolution display in the 950 and a 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 (515ppi) pixels resolution display in the 950 XL. Both are top notch, with excellent brightness, wide viewing angles, deep contrast and accurate colors. Both phones use the same 20-megapixel PureView rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics, a 1/2.4-inch sensor, f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization. There’s also a triple LED natural flash. On the front, you get a 5-megapixel f/2.4 camera. The cameras on Nokia’s Lumia phones were always fantastic, and the 950 and 950 XL live up to that reputation. Photos are sharp across the image, with lots of detail, and excellent contrast and color reproduction. Thanks to the optical image stabilization, the camera remains usable even in low light. The camera app itself is also good, with easy to access manual controls including ISO, white balance and exposure. While most flagship smartphones now come with a fingerprint scanner, Microsoft has gone a different route, incorporating an iris scanner, which uses the front-facing camera to scan your eyes to unlock your phone. The scanner works most of the time, and it’s secure enough that you can’t fool it with a picture of your eyes. Having said that, it’s a fair bit slower than fingerprint unlocking. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are the first phones to run on the mobile version of Microsoft’s Windows 10 platform. The new OS has some under the hood improvements and several new features but basically looks and feels the same as Windows Phone 8 with its Live Tiles home screen.
Continuum lets you turn your smartphone into a Windows 10 PC.
The 20-megapixel PureView cameras are as good as ever.
The most interesting new feature is Continuum, which lets you turn your smartphone into a pseudo-Windows 10 PC. It’s best used with Microsoft’s Display Dock accessory (sold separately for $158), which lets you easily connect to a monitor. Once connected, you’ll see a Windows 10 desktop on your screen. Any compatible apps you have installed on your phone will show up and can be used full screen. Download anything using the Microsft Edge browser and it will be on your phone when you unplug it. There are some limitations though. There aren’t that many supported apps, and you won’t be able to install desktop apps (.exe files) like you would with a regular PC. You can’t put shortcuts on the Continuum desktop either, everything has to be launched from the Start menu. The Lumia 950 is armed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexacore processor while the 950 XL has an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor. Both of these processors are a bit dated now, and as expected, benchmark performance wasn’t up to par with current flagship smartphones like the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7. The 950 is armed with a 3,000mAh battery, while the 950 XL has a larger 3,340mAh battery. Battery life was fairly average, with the 950 lasting just under eight hours and the 950 XL lasting just over nine hours. On the plus side, the battery charges quite fast thanks to the USB 3.1 Type-C port. It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge the 950, and about two hours to fully charge the 950 XL. While the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL are unlikely to convert any iOS or Android users to Windows 10 Mobile, long time Windows phone fans will be pleased to finally get an upgrade from the 930 or 1020 they’ve been using for the past two years. Additionally, Microsoft has definitely made some steps in the right direction. The displays are fantastic and the PureView cameras are just as good as ever. Continuum is a really nice unique feature that will appeal to power users and if Microsoft can work out a way to get it to function more like an actual Windows 10 PC (letting it run PC apps would be huge) it will be able to offer something that iOS and Android will never be able to do.
CONCLUSION: Still a ways to go but there’s definitely promise. Not the rebirth Microsoft was hoping for, but it’s not the final nail in the coffin for Windows Phone either.