Review: Nokia Lumia 820 – The Second Best

Introduction

Nokia Lumia 820 is the second phone in the Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 lineup. Sure Lumia 920 is their flagship and making headlines but that doesn’t make Lumia 820 any less special. Nokia is fully dedicated to Windows Phone and don’t want any stone unturned. Lumia 820 is a compact device made to make special appearances. It has its own muscles to show off. It surely makes head turn with it’s solid looks. Well that was for the introduction part. But your obvious question would be why one should buy it? And we try to answer it in the review.
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Design:

Lumia 820 takes minimalistic approach in design. It tells us what a slab really. The phone looks like just any rectangular touchscreen phone on the market. No fancy like curved glass or polycarbonate body. Yet it looks solid like a wrestler. Hard to explain in words but even with the minimalistic design it doesn’t look ordinary.

On the front 4.3 inch takes the most of the space. Since the display on the Lumia 820 is AMOLED, it mixes well with the bezel around it when turned off making us wonder about its boundaries. Right in the middle, above the display, there’s a tiny earpiece grill. To the right of it, there are proximity and ambient light sensors followed by a front camera. And there’s a small ‘Nokia’ logo as well in very light shade. Goes almost unnoticed. Below the display there’s usual set of Windows Phone buttons. On the top there’s just 3.5mm headphone jack.

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On the right side of the Lumia 820, there’s a volume rocker, power/unlock key and shutter key in the top to bottom order. It’s really good that Nokia placed the power button on the side instead of remote place like top of the phone which would have made it difficult to reach it.  The microUSB port is on the bottom and loudspeaker is next to it. Left side is bare. Overall design is pretty standard on the portfolio of the Windows Phone handsets.

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On the back the very fist thing you’d notice is the dominant camera panel. It consists of a 8 MP camera and dual led flash. And Nokia has also printed the ‘Carl Zeiss’ label on it. Again there’s Nokia logo near the bottom.

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There isn’t any notch on the back panel to remove it but if you follow the manual it’s too simple actually. The great thing about the back panel (or the shell as Nokia calls it) is that you can change buy other colors and put it on your Lumia 820. The concept of replaceable color covers is back. Remember old Nokia phones. Lumia 820 also supports wireless charging like Lumia 920 but you need special shell for that purpose. The microSD card slot and microSIM card are under the battery. We were surprised by the actual location of the loudspeaker on handset, and the outlet on the panel. Back panel actually covers it completely but there is not even slightest decrease in the output.

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There is no plastic on the front of the device. The back panel or the shell as Nokia calls it, itself extends to the sides phone to embrace it fully. The back panel is too smooth to provide a good grip. We had tough time getting accustomed to its dimensions as well. The height-width ratio is somewhat odd which makes it awkward to hold. It also affects one handed operation as well.

Another flaw with the design we noticed is the battery lock. It’s almost non-existent. It can’t hold the battery in the place. If you shake the phone slightly you can hear the battery hitting on the back cover. The back panel on our unit didn’t fit around the camera panel properly. There was a small gap between the two. Both of them were not in the same level with each other. The construction is the flawed we have seen so far on Nokia phones.

So that was about the design. Let’s move ahead.

Hardware, Performance and Battery:

Lumia 820 has the current top end hardware on Windows Phone devices. Snapdragon S4 dual core processor with Adreno 225 GPU. The hardware is enough for handling Windows Phone 8 and it’s partially possible due to lightweight footprint of the OS itself. The credit also goes to Microsoft which has kept Windows Phone 8 clean and optimized for the hardware it runs on. Microsoft doesn’t allow any OEM customization to the interface which is another thing that keeps WP8 bloat free.

The Lumia 820 has 8GB of internal memory and has microSD slot as well for memory expansion. WP8 doesn’t allow to use memory card for installing apps, only multimedia files like photos and songs are stored there. But 8GB is sufficient for storing apps. It’s only up to Microsoft to allow memory card to be used to store apps.

The battery life on Lumia 820 was just excellent. The 1650 mAh battery has enough juice. Our usage pattern was, push mail enabled on three accounts, WhatsApp running in the background, SNS services, phone connected to the data network or Wi-Fi for at least 18 hours a day and it returned impressive 24 hours of battery life before giving up. But if you’re a gamer or listen to music, then battery would live for just 8-10 hrs too.

Camera:

Camera on Lumia 820 is worth the label and the money. First thing first, it uses Carl Zeiss optics. By now everyone knows that it’s only on Nokia cameraphones. But what it also means is decent image quality. We’re amazed by the amount of details it preserved. It slightly over sharpen the images but that has very little to no effect on details.  Colors were rendered perfectly too and close up photos were excellent as well. It doesn’t end here. Lumia 820 also does a better low light photography. That is not to say it’ll match Lumia 920 in the department but if you get Lumia 820 instead of Lumia 920, you need to be worried of low light photos. In our tests, the low light photos were brilliant. Especially if you turn on the backlight mode of the camera you get some decent pictures.

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Videos are another example of Lumia 820’s imaging department. Sharp and clear videos, that’s how we define it. Lumia 820 is able to record videos in both 1080p and 720p resolutions. The continuous auto-focus comes handy here. It’s not over aggressive but it doesn’t lose the focus from the objects either. It preserves details as expected. In the sample videos we have uploaded, you can pause and clearly read the number plates on the cars. See it for yourself.

Nokia Apps

The great thing about having a Lumia Windows Phone device is that you get lots of stuff which are otherwise not available on other handsets.

First off, it’s Nokia’s mapping and navigation suite. It consists of Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive+. Both of them are proven to be one of the solid SatNav solution out there. With Windows Phone 8 it gets even better. Previously on Windows Phone 7, offline maps were only available for use with Nokia Drive but with Windows Phone 8 the Nokia Maps app can use them as well. Now you might argue that offline maps are now standard option in Windows Phone 8. But that’s it. Nokia takes the experience to the next level. It offers precise walking, driving or even public transport directions. There is a dedicated app for public transport called Nokia Transport. So if in case you’re planning for a journey using the available public transport it’ll give you all the info you need. Additionally Nokia Maps has public transport view and traffic view to show you detailed information about each.

Unlike standard Windows Phone maps, Nokia Drive+ offers full fledged voice guided navigation. Nokia Drive+ immediately calculates the new route in case you miss a turn on the suggested route. And you don’t even need to have active data connection for it to work.

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           Nokia Drive+                           Nokia Drive+

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             Nokia Transit

Couple it with Nokia City Lenses and you have even better experience. It makes use of the camera viewfinder to show you the places around you. You hold your phone horizontally, it switches to the maps mode. Hold it vertically in 90 degress it starts showing list of the places to choose from.

Nokia also has special apps to use with the camera on your Lumia phones. Nokia Cinemagraph to create animations on the go, Nokia Creative studio for image editing, Smart Shot lens for brilliant group photos and Panorama lens to obviously capture panoramic photos. We’ll see them one by one.

Nokia Cinemagraph basically captures multiple frames of some duration,let’s you choose which part of the frame stays in the motion while rest of the frame stays still. Final output is a gif file. Next is Nokia Creative Studio. It offers a basic set of image editing tools. For starters it lets you quickly add funky color effects to you pictures. If you hit the more advanced edit mode, you get to fix the color balance, brightness etc. in your pictures. You can even remove red eye effect too.

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    Nokia Creative Studio

Panorama lens by Nokia is pretty much self descriptive. Let’s talk about Smart shot. We all have sometime captured photos of friends or family in which someone has closed their eyes or is making a weird face and you always wished to correct the photo which is nearly impossible unless you’re really good at photoshop. For users like me and you Smart Shot is the solution and it works on the spot, on demand. When you use Smart Shot it captures around 10-15 frames. From there you can chose the best shot. It doesn’t end here. You can even replace the faces from the selected frame with the one from another frames.

Nokia Music is another hit feature. Music lovers are so in love with it. What makes it special is the unlimited access to the huge song library and it’s absolutely free. You just need to register your phone with your Nokia account. And the music is also DRM free. Mind you it’s free only for a year, thereafter you’ll need to purchase the subscription.

Connectivity:

Lumia 820 is rich in the connectivity options as well. It runs on GSM/3G bands, has Bluetooth 3.0. For navigation, it uses (A)GPS and GLONASS which gives even better accuracy.  It also has WiFi with complete b/g/n support and NFC support. Qi wireless charging is supported through special shells. The network reception was really good, and as Nokia claims, voice was crystal clear with no call drops or whatsoever.

Conclusion:

With Lumia 820 we are not confused with whether to recommend it or not. It’s a one balanced device. For anyone and everyone Lumia 920 not fitting their bill, Lumia 820 is a phone worth looking out for. It surely won’t let you down. As with any Nokia, it’s design will appeal to anyone as much as its features. Plus, the changeable shells add to the looks of the device. There’s HTC 8X in the competition with Lumia 820 but Nokia’s are offering are too much to avoid the Lumia 820. On the other hand HTC hardly as anything exciting things for Windows Phone. Nokia India is officially selling it online for Rs.27,550 but at online retailers like Flipkart are selling it for approx. Rs.25,500 with even 16GB memory card to go with it. If you’re kin on buying a Windows Phone device without burning a hole in your pocket Lumia 820 is worth buying.