When Microsoft introduced Windows 10, they had embarked on a One Windows strategy. It aims to converge its latest operating system across a variety of devices, no matter what screen size you’re on. So this means all Windows Phones are simply called a Windows 10 mobile device.
It has been a while since we’ve seen a flagship Lumia and the last one was the Nokia Lumia 930 back in early 2014. After Microsoft took the helm of the mobile business, they are mostly preoccupied with entry to mid-range devices running on Windows Phone 8.1.
After almost 2 years of waiting, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL have officially landed in Malaysia. Not only this is the first flagship Lumia under the Microsoft banner, but most importantly they are the first Windows 10 smartphones in the market.
Like most flagships today, Microsoft is going with a two size approach for its flagship. The Lumia 950 with a compact 5.2″ display is going for RM2,699 while its larger 5.7″ “phablet” model, the Lumia 950 XL is priced at RM2,999. That’s a significant price jump over its predecessors, and you can partly blame our foreign exchange rates for that.
The internals has the best specs you would expect from a flagship, which includes Quad HD displays, Snapdragon 808/810 processors, 3GB of RAM and a minimum of 32GB of storage. Both has an expandable microSD slot and dual-SIM slots with 4G LTE support.
Being a flagship Lumia, it comes equipped with their renowned PureView camera. It has a 20MP sensor at the rear with triple LED flash and Optical Image Stabilisation, while the front 5MP camera takes care of selfie duties. Keeping up with the times, it also shoots videos in 4K resolution. There’s fast charge that does 0-50% in 30 minutes, USB Type-C connectivity and Qi wireless charging support. The only difference between the 950 and its XL version is the screen size, processors (950 – Snapdragon 808, 950 XL – Snapdragon 810) and battery capacity (950 – 3,000mAh, 950 XL – 3,340mah). On concerns of overheating, Microsoft says they have implemented liquid cooling to keep things cool as the going gets tough.
[nextpage title=”First Impressions”]
When you think of Lumia, a few things come to mind. They have great designs and a wide choice of colours that really stand out from the rest. The previous Lumia 930 by Nokia was quite a looker and it feels great thanks to its sturdy metal frame. The Lumia 950/950 XL, unfortunately, is none of that.
It comes only in typical black or white and the polycarbonate back cover feels like a Redmi Note 2 that costs a quarter of the price. For the flagship asking price above RM2.5K, the design for both Lumia 950/950 XL leaves much to be desired. The only visible luxury is the metal ring or hump surrounding its 20MP camera lens. Even their former mid-range Lumia 830 feels extra special in the hands.
With Windows 10 being the key highlight of the device, using it doesn’t feel much different from a typical Windows Phone 8. Scrolling around the device through its live tiles is smooth and Microsoft claims that you get the same experience for both desktop and mobile. That’s partially true since Microsoft has added Action Centre and a new Start menu interface with Live Tiles in the desktop version.
The camera app is where the party’s at. It shoots up to 19MP in 4:3 display aspect ratio and there’s the option to save your images with DNG RAW format. For the enthusiasts, it still retain the same circular manual controls (ISO, Exposure, Focus, Shutterspeed) when you flick the shutter button to the left. Assisting with low photography shots is a triple LED flash in RGB for a more natural look. There’s also a dedicated camera button but it somewhat feels slower compared to using the on-screen shutter button. I know a lot of our readers are demanding for a Lumia camera shootout, and we’ll definitely have one once we get our hands on a review unit.
A lacking security feature for the Lumia 950/950 XL is a biometric fingerprint scanner. Instead, it gets Windows Hello (currently BETA), which lets you unlock by putting it directly in front of your eyes. This is better than Android’s Face Unlock which can be easily defeated by a photo of your face. Hello uses Iris recognition like what we’ve seen on the ZTE Axon, and it is assisted by an IR light for better detection in low light situations. Compared to the typical face unlock, you would need to place the Lumia 950 closer to your face and does the job well in under 2 seconds. It is quite impressive but it is nowhere as quick as a typical fingerprint scanner.
In the Malaysian launch, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL were lauded as productivity tools. You could work on a powerpoint or excel sheet on a desktop and then seamlessly make changes on your mobile device. And for moments where you need to do work without having a laptop, there’s the Microsoft Display Dock that takes advantage of Continuum. This tiny brick that costs RM309 lets you hook up a monitor, keyboard and mouse to your Lumia 950/950 XL for a PC-like experience. So if you’ve left the office without your laptop, you could still make edits like a full blown desktop provided you have spare peripherals at home. This feature however, is limited to Microsoft Office, Outlook and a number of supported games and apps.
The dock uses a single USB Type-C cable to your smartphone and the back of it consists of 3x USB ports, HDMI, DisplayPort and another USB Type C for power. It connects instantly and it pushes up to Full HD (1920×1200) resolution on the big screen. If you don’t like cables, you can use a wireless keyboard and mouse in your setup. Plus, you could even use your smartphone as a touchpad.
While this is a nifty little accessory, getting your office work done remotely without your work laptop is already possible with Microsoft’s cloud computing solution with Office 365. If your office documents are stored on OneDrive, you could do the same on any available computer through a web browser. Nice to have, but not a deal breaker for us. Safe to say, this isn’t going to replace your PC anytime soon.
[nextpage title=”Would you get it?”]
We expected much more from Lumia 950 / 950 XL with Windows 10. The design is a step back compared to previous flagship Lumias and the “Office Anywhere” proposition is no longer exclusive to the Windows mobile platform. Continuum support is still quite limited and it all depends on developer support which we hope it would gain traction in 2016.
The expensive price tag may put off even the most loyal Windows Phone user and consumers are spoilt for choice if they have a budget of RM2,500++. In the hands, it doesn’t feel premium and pales in comparison with other polished glass and metal devices of same price range. Come on Microsoft, at least, put a metal frame around it.
From the launch event, it seems that Microsoft is positioning the Lumia 950 as a business device rather than a consumer product. If you plan on getting it on contract, it is only available from Digi with a Business SmartPlan plan for now. That’s also including the affordable Lumia 550, which isn’t available outright until the end of this month.
Perhaps the saving grace is its camera. The Lumia 1020 was an epic shooter with a large 41MP sensor. With a new PureView 20MP camera with OIS, this has the potential to be a great photography tool but we’ll reserve our comments until the next showdown.
Who knows the Microsoft Lumia 950/950 XL might just be a stop gap measure before the rumoured Surface Phone appears.