Ever since Microsoft took over Nokia we’ve been excited over the prospect of what’s next.
Microsoft itself has played a role in making our expectations and growing our anticipation. It made a lot of promises like the new category of “Universal Apps”, iris-scanning, Windows Hello tech and, of course, the Lumia range’s trademark PureView camera hardware.
When a change is in process, you are already naturally curious, filled with anticipation. Much like when you have a new manager at a football club. You expect to see something new, something different and you are excited about it.
But imagine if that manager straight away claims that he is going to win the league that year. Well, Microsoft with all its claims has done nothing but add to the speculation and to the odds of people getting disappointed if those promises are not delivered.
At the moment it does not really seem like Microsoft is delivering according to its promises. But in that hope it has launched its newest flagship device – the Lumia 950 XL.
This again seems to be a device for Windows users who are comfortable with the WIndows OS and while the device impressive overall, yet there are certain things that could have been better.
The Lumia 950 XL comes with a 5.7 inch QHD AMOLED display. Its a good thing I reckon, that Microsoft has opted for the AMOLED panel.
The screen seems to be very sharp and vibrant thanks to which display is one arena in which the Lumia 950 XL can now compete with devices like the Google Nexus 6P and Samsung’s Galaxy Note5.
In real-world use, the display seems to be just as good. The screen has a picture density of 518 ppi which makes the text, images and videos look very sharp and neat. Also, being an AMOLED panel the screen of the Lumia 950 XL is vibrant and has intensely-deep blacks. The whites look a little red but are more than decent. Overall, colors look rich and balanced.
At 5.7 inches this is a big screen and relative to that the pixels seem to be uniformly distributed.
The screen is not as bright as some of the other flagship devices though, and does seem to get a little reflective when used under the sun.
So, the outdoors visibility is not great but the screen in general is pretty impressive. Most people will love the Lumia 950 XL, just for this beautiful, vibrant display.
The one thing that I’ve been a fan of from the Lumia devices, has been it’s simple yet classy design. Lumia devices in the past have been built so well, with their nice sturdy feel, that the plastic material aside, one ends up considering them in the same build-quality league as that of Apple’s devices.
Microsoft seems to lack in this department though – their first big offering, the 950 XL does not seem to be up to the usual (read: erstwhile Nokia’s) Lumia standards. There’s just something amiss. For one, the polycarbonate casing does not feel as sturdy and solid as we have come to expect from Nokia/Lumia.
The back is removable and inside you’ll find the two SIM and the micro SD slots. Removing the back cover is a slightly heart-stopping experience as you’ll find yourself conscious of not wanting breaking inadvertently. The device just doesn’t seem to want to let go of the cover! Which is a good and bad thing, at the same time. But… it is a scary experience the first time you try it.
The placement of the buttons seems to be a little absurd with all the buttons piled on one side of the device. The bottom end of the phone bears a USB Type-C connector and while the volume and power buttons seem to be well placed for you to reach, they’re easy to confuse. The audio jack is placed at the top edge of the phone.
The phone is not too heavy and feels quite at home in your hands.
Now, while the phone looks nice as a whole and does handle pretty well, it’s a little dull. Which leaves you with some sort of disappointment; as in the past, no matter the specs the Lumia devices always had a premium look and feel to them. This was one of the trademarks from Nokia but Microsoft seems to have to lost out a bit on that.
Nokia in the past never really needed to pack the spec sheet of the previous devices simply because of the fact that hey seemed to get such high levels of optimization out of their devices.
Microsoft however, seems to be changing that trend. As a result of that the Lumia 950 XL has a very impressive spec sheet.
It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB of RAM, The performance of the phone is very good and snappy. Compliments of the 810, the phone is pretty fast. But the Snapdragon 810 has infamously been associated with a lot of heating issues.
The heat generated by the devices using the Snapdragon 810 is sometimes of the thigh-burning intensity. The Lumia 950 XL however, does not seem to be too affected by this thanks to a smart move that they’ve made by including a heat-pipe (that runs on liquid cooling) and the use of plastic for the phablet’s body. Apart random flashes of heat, the device does not heat up too much or too often.
There are a few issues with the performance of the device however. On occasion, software bugs cause the device to chug and stutter when navigating between menus. This happens while playing some demanding games as well. While this is not a big deal it still remains an issue.
And given that the performance of the device otherwise is brilliant Microsoft should really look into this. Hopefully a software update will fix things via better optimisations and leaner code. There’s hope! This is Microsoft, after all!
The Lumia 950 XL uses Microsoft’s newly released Windows 10 Mobile operating system. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s vision of creating an OS that runs across all device platforms. So, in theory it would be convenient to make apps for PC’s, mobile phones, tablets and laptops on the same platform.
Windows 10 in general is huge upgrade from windows 8. Previously the number of apps on offer for Windows was considerably limited. But with Windows 10, come a load of cool new features that improve the app-offering from Windows.
There is this new and very exciting feature called the Continuum which enables users to turn the Lumia 950 XL into a functioning desktop PC, through the Microsoft’s Display Dock which will cost you around INR 5,999 once it is launched.
You will essentially be able to use the device as a PC by connecting a keyboard and a mouse externally. When connected the phone will bring up a simplified version of the Windows 10 through which you can access versions of universal apps like Netflix, Microsoft Office and the Edge browser.
Not only that, with Continuum, you can run different apps on your phone and the big screen, at the same time – so you can snap off emails while your spouse catches Netflix
This is a cool and exciting new feature. It certainly is innovative and the idea of having a common platform for all devices is an enticing one. And if you look at it, it may change the way we interact with our devices.
There is another interesting feature called Windows Hello. This is basically a iris scanning technology oriented towards make your device and data more secure. It creates a 3D map of your iris (which to me seems more secure and personal than fingerprints) – you stare into a special sensor of the 950 XL whenever you want to unlock the screen or make purchases in the Microsoft Store.
There’s also Cortana – Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant. Surprisingly, Cortana does really well, despite being a recent addition to Windows phones. You will be surprised often with her ingenuity and capabilities.
While all these upgrades are positive, there are still some apps that are in their beta form. Also some of the existing apps look neglected. Apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram really need some updating. These things won’t trouble the Windows users as much they would the Android and iOS ones who consider moving to the Lumia 950 XL.
So, all in all, the software on this device is futuristic and pretty neat. Not to forget the excellent optimisation and the buttery smoothness that this device operates with.
The Lumia 950 XL comes with a 29 megapixel rear camera which really impresses.
The Preview camera tech from the Lumia range has always been a unique feature. Under regular light the camera is capable of clicking some stunning snaps with vibrant and sharp finish. The shutter speed is awesome and there is no lag whatsoever between pressing the button and actually capturing the photo.
Under lower light conditions, the optical image stabilisation system kicks into action and results in some very impressive indoor and night-shots. The amount of detail in the low light shots is surprisingly high and the colours turn out to be fairly realistic as well.
The triple-LED flash sometimes does seem to make things overly bright (especially when the subject is near the phone), but it usually works pretty well.
On the software front, the Lumia 950 XL has a very decent camera app which has clearly been worked upon recently. The updated version of the Lumia camera app on Windows 10 supports the hardware’s performance admirably.
Did we forget to mention, that the camera also has 4k video capture? Well it does. And the results look very good especially when viewed on your big-screen 4k ready TV, via the Continuum patch-up.
The audio quality of the device is very good. There is some distortion at top volume levels but in general, the performance of the speakers is well above average.
Also, the device’s delightful display makes it a very good entertainment unit. The big 5.7 inch screen provides you with a very good video watching experience.
And, thanks to the light weight, playing games on the device is also fun and not as stressful as on some of the heavier phablets in the market.
All in all, the Lumia 950 XL provides you with a better-than-good entertainment package.
Business is set up the usual way as in all Windows devices, and accounts can be configured easily, simply by entering a valid username and password for your mail and/or One Drive account(s).
Microsoft has done things differently as far as the security aspect of this device goes. As we mentioned, instead of the usual fingerprint scanner Microsoft’s decision to opt for an iris scanner makes the device and data more secure; but some may argue that placing a finger on a button is more convenient than having to look into a sensor.
There are always going to be people who argue, and no brand can satisfy all of it’s audience. Microsoft understands that and has bet on it’s experience no doubt garnered through it’s laptop and desktop product lines.