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Mobile review: Nokia Lumia 820

Featuring a nice Amoled display, smooth user experience and competitive hardware, Lumia 820 is here to impress.

    Pros
  • System wide consistent and smooth UI
  • Removable battery
  • Memory card slot
    Cons
  • Lack of adequate business friendly features
  • No support for 4G LTE
  • Lower battery capacity

Last month, Nokia launched the new Lumia smartphones running Microsoft Windows Phone 8 with much fanfare in India. The new Nokia Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 smartphones with Windows Phone 8 are being offered in fancy colours for the Indian crowd. Apart from a unibody design, the new Lumia devices also bring great hardware paired with software that oozes potential.

Nokia Lumia 820

Just like the last generation Lumia devices, Nokia has loaded the Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 with a bunch of Nokia Lumia exclusive applications as well as services. We shared our thoughts on our first impression of the Lumia 920 smartphone about a month ago.

Nokia Lumia 820

Now we got our hands on the Lumia 820 smartphone and as desired it was black. The Nokia Lumia 820 can easily be placed as one of the borderline segment devices that fall between the mid and the high-end.

Design

Nokia has not used the unibody polycarbonate clamshell design for the Lumia 820 because the phone was intended to feature a couple of distinct features. The Lumia 820 features an anodized matte finish battery cover panel. Removing the battery cover panel is a challenge in itself so we strongly advise that you refer to the manual. Compared to the Lumia 800, this model certainly looks wider, slimmer and a bit rugged. Here's an interesting bit, if your friend or family member has a different colour Lumia 820, you can exchange back covers without having to buy a new one.

The Lumia 820 has nicely carved rounded corners to avoid edges. The phone indeed appears a bit heavy in the hand for it weighs about 160 grams compared to high-end devices lurking around 135 grams. Lumia 820 appears quite inanimate when shut down or in sleep mode. The real talent of the Amoled display blossoms every time the screen lights up. The display also carries the trio of the dedicated capacitive keys - back, home and search. On the right side rest a set of physical keys.

At the top on the right bezel is the volume control and under it is the power/sleep/wake button. Nokia has provided a dedicated camera key though the phone does not feature PureView imaging technology but it does flaunt an 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash. The standard 3.5 mm audio port is located on the top and there is a micro USB port for charging/data transfer at the bottom.

Nokia Lumia 820

One needs to struggle a bit to open the battery cover panel and then remove the battery to access the micro SIM and micro SD card slot. Nokia did surprise everyone with a differently designed Lumia 820, but offered two crucial and heavily demanded features in return - expansion slot and removable battery.

Nokia Lumia 820 may not appear as the best looking or exotic build quality design in the crowd, but the phone does set a good example for the minimalistic and subtle design features to provide maximum possible screen real-estate. Moreover, the phone is less than 10 mm slim despite packing hardware that is the same as the high-end Lumia 920.

Hardware

Nokia has constructed the Lumia 820 in a unibody monoblock design with a removable back cover, unlike the Lumia 800. The Lumia 820's 9.9 mm thick chassis might seem a wee bit thick against slimmer high-end handsets. Nokia has packed a 4.3 inch Amoled ClearBlack display with support for 480 x 800 pixel resolution and with 24-bit colour depth. Basically the display resolution aspects of the Lumia 800 continue to exist on the Lumia 820 and both phones offer pixel density of 217 pixel. The difference lies in the screen size and needless to say, the graphics, text and images looked neat even on the Lumia 820. The screen offers saturated colours and is actually quite different from the one in the Lumia 920.

Under the 9.9 mm polycarbonate chassis, Nokia has placed a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8260A mobile processor clocked at 1.5 GHz and featuring Adreno 225 graphics. The smartphone packs 1 GB RAM to power this hardware and Windows Phone 8. The hardware is quite similar to that of Lumia 920. The major difference lies in the fact that Lumia 820 will support DC-HSPA+ and TD-SCDMA networks and will not support the 4G Long Term Evolution networks. At least the Lumia 820 models available in India will not support 4G LTE networks. The essential part is that there is no compromise on the graphics or processing performance; different chips support different sets of cellular network standards.

Nokia Lumia 820 offers a mere 8 GB on-board storage, most of which is reserved for system updates. Thankfully, there is a memory card slot under the back cover to accommodate up to a 64 GB micro SD card, unfortunately not hot swappable, which means the battery needs to be removed to access the memory card.

Nokia Lumia 820

Lumia 820 can playback full 1080p HD video natively, however, it is limited in the video formats it supports. The Lumia 820 supports video formats such as M4V, MP4, VC-1, H.264/AVC, ASF, H.263 and WMV 9. The camera records a full 1080p HD video in H.264/AVC format. In terms of audio format support, the Lumia 820 supports a variety of formats such as 3G2, AAC, AAC LC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, HE-AAC v1, HE-AAC v2, M4A, MP3, MP4, WMA 10 Pro and WMA 9. More about the actual audio-video performance below.

Featuring Bluetooth 3.0 the Lumia 820 can support Bluetooth audio with the compatible headphones and accessories. Of course, you can use built-in Near Field Communication to pair it with compatible accessories such as a Play 360 Bluetooth speaker to enjoy music streaming.

Apart from that, the Lumia 820 offers support for dual band WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n) networks along with WiFi Direct. However, Microsoft continues to lock down the possibility of manual IP configuration for personal WiFi networks even in the Windows Phone 8.

The phone has Nokia Maps and the built-in GPS module that supports A-GPS, SA-GPS, and even Glonass networks for more accurate location services. Nokia Lumia 820 certainly has the advantage of the Maps app over the other Windows Phone 8 devices from HTC and Samsung.

Nokia has taken a wise call to include more concurrent level hardware in the Lumia 820, which may not get out-dated till this year end, at least. Of course, the phone simply performs at par with similar dual core mobile processors and hardware bearing Android smartphones. Thanks to the Windows Phone 8's fluid and simple user interface, using the Lumia 820 feels like sliding your finger over butter.

Imaging and multimedia

Nokia has not used PureView imaging technology in the Lumia 820. The smartphone still features an 8 megapixel camera at the back with dual LED flash and a Carl Zeiss lens. Packing f/2.2 aperture, the Lumia 820 camera does not disappoint and there are ample settings to fiddle around in the camera app. While the dedicated camera button launches a camera app to shoot images, there is still the lack of an HDR option, apart from other settings. Images can be captured by pressing the dedicated camera button hard or by tapping the screen.

We must admit that the Lumia 820 has a great macro mode capability to capture close-up shots of subjects. In all fairness, we were not expecting much as Nokia has excluded PureView technology. However, the Carl Zeiss lens with the f/2.2 aperture does get some decent macro shots. That does not overshadow the noise in the image and the absence of sharp details. Nokia has packed three basic lens apps - Cinematograph, Panorama and Smartshoot, to make the best of the camera.

Nokia Lumia 820

In terms of video recording the Lumia 820 by default records in the 720p HD mode and one can always change it to record full 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. Unfortunately, this phone does not offer rich recording so expect audio quality to be lower than usual. The phone does not have a strong imaging and video backbone but it can certainly please the average user for whom the best quality imaging is not a crucial requirement.

Nokia Lumia 820

Watching videos and photos on the 4.3 inch Amoled display is fun but the colours are saturated so colour purists may not be happy with the colour profile. At times in the native video player the player control settings did stick despite my tapping the empty area several times. That seems like a minor bug but such annoyances might end up bugging the user. The speaker mesh located at the bottom is loud enough for the ringer and music. Nokia has integrated the Dolby headphones audio profile so the compatible pair of headphones will deliver a greater experience.

Nokia Music app offers the free Mix Radio, which is what kept us going, instead of packing the measly on-board storage space with MP3 files. Thankfully the Music App also brings the Software Equalizer to adjust sound output to taste. The Photos app basically integrates with SkyDrive and all the captured photos are immediately backed up to the SkyDrive storage account. There is hardly any change in the Photos Hub.

For mapping, Nokia Maps and City Lens apps provided ample fun and accuracy to find and route locations close by. The Microsoft Mobile Office worked like a charm with our Office 365 accounts. However, the lack of smart keyboards such as Swype or SwiftKey X, does make typing long emails or documents boring and time consuming.

Software experience

The new Windows Phone 8 Mobile OS has been rewritten from scratch. The user experience and navigation are very simple as well as easily adaptive. While most technology savvy people immediately start cribbing about the lack of apps, we would like to show some appreciation for selecting well developed applications. These apps not only look good but present basic features in a good way - Mehdoh is one such paid app. The apps and user interface continue to lure everyone with simplicity and system-wide smooth performance. Though there are certain problems with it.

Nokia Lumia 820

The new customizable start screen did manage to attract us but we got bored in less than five minutes. There should be more to a lock screen than simply resizing the start screen. The lack of a File Manager literally requires one to hook the phone to a PC and search for the file. When compared to the customization and settings options offered by the rival Google Android and Apple iOS, the Windows Phone has many miles to go to catch up. You simply can't use the Windows Phone while you are rolling on the bed or travelling, for the simplest setting of rotation lock is absent. Not to mention, setting up an Xbox account took so long that we could have successfully installed an operating system on a computer in the meantime. There are several such instances where we found some of the very basic settings or features missing. The list is too long. The only thing we hope for is Microsoft releasing a major update that brings the OS to the level of Android and iOS in terms of basic features at least.

However, the reassuring aspect is that Windows Phone 8 provides a uniformly smooth experience throughout the system and with popular apps. At this stage, the software is close to respecting the hardware packed inside.

Battery life

Nokia has packed almost the same hardware muscle in the Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 smartphones. One of the major differences lies in the battery capacity-the Lumia 820 features a 1650 mAh battery. We managed to use the phone for just over a day with normal usage involving a couple of calls, texting, listening to music for about an hour and using social networking apps. Now since the WP Bench is still not compatible with Windows Phone 8 devices, we did not put the Lumia 820 to the same test. Yes, the Qi-standard supporting back cover needs to be bought separately for wireless charging and is not included in the retail bundle.

Nokia Lumia 820

However, with the use of Maps and mobile browsing over WiFi, battery life dropped to around 14 hours. We believe that adding about 1800 mAh battery would have sufficed for this phone to easily pull off a day and a half for the average user. The phone was quite responsive whenever mobile web browsing, gaming and social networking apps were involved. While there were hardly any heavy apps we expect battery life to be better with emails, calling, messaging and social network apps. A number of users reported about WhatsApp draining battery life, and we experienced the same.

Wrapping thoughts

Purchasing a good mid-range or higher mid-range device is as difficult a task as choosing a handset under the budget segment. However, the number of devices is less in the former case as compared to the latter. With the limited number of devices in the sub Rs 25,000 category, Lumia 820 is being sold for Rs 25,599 or less in online as well as offline destinations. Considering the competition - devices such as HTC 8S and Galaxy Grand - the Lumia 820, priced around Rs 20,000 should attract more consumers. Not everyone wants 200 apps on the phone just to fill memory and there are many who still love a simple, smooth and consistent user interface.

Nokia Lumia 820

Despite limitations in the software, Lumia 820 is the smartphone to move to if one is simply interested in enjoying the phone. Of course, more features are always welcome but the phone gives a stable and smooth performance with native apps. A minimalistic design, large display and expandable memory are good enough pointers to convince anyone to buy the Lumia 820. Nokia on the other hand needs to make a larger power packing extended battery for the Lumia 820, for those who are already in love and wish to make the best of the phone.

Nokia Lumia 820 is the perfect fix for those seeking a smoother user interface experience, storage expansion, decent email client and a couple of essential pre-loaded apps.

First Published : Thursday, February 07, 2013 - 00:00



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