Horsepower and Performance
Windows Phone 8 smartphones share mostly Microsoft-mandated specs, so there's not much variation. The Lumia 1020 has the usual 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU with Adreno 225 graphics and 2 gigs of RAM. Compared to today's Android supercomputer smartphones with even faster quad core CPUs that might not sound like much, but keep in mind that Windows Phone is less demanding than Android, and the software is highly optimized to work with the S4 Pro, much like the iPhone is optimized to run well on its CPU and graphics chip. Sometimes you don't need the fastest chip to have a fast phone, and indeed the Nokia Lumia 1020, like most Windows 8 phones, is extremely fast and responsive.
We tested demanding 3D games like Mass Effect Infiltrator and they played smoothly. 1080p MPEG4 video likewise played perfectly and the phone multi-tasks well, so performance didn't degrade with several apps running in the background.
The phone has 32 gigs of storage and no microSD card slot. Camera images shot at full resolution (each one accompanied by a 5MP image for sharing) can eat storage, though at 10 megs per full resolution image and 2 megs for the 5MP image, you can fit hundreds of photos on internal storage and still have room for apps and beefy games. AT&T includes 50 gigs of Locker storage with the phone and you can sync your photos and video to Microsoft's cloud service, SkyDrive. Still, we'd love to see this camera (that happens to have a phone) with a storage card slot, just like a dedicated camera.
Phone and Data
The Lumia 1020 is a GSM world phone with 2G EDGE, HSPA+ 3G and 4G LTE. The phone has a micro SIM card slot up top that uses the same pop-up drawer as the Lumia 900 and 920. Nokia makes excellent voice phones and the Lumia didn't disappoint us: incoming and outgoing voice were landline clear and had adequate volume. Ambient noise rejection worked well to block out distant construction noise and kids giggling without making my voice sound harsh or digitized. The phone has Bluetooth 3.0 and it worked well with a variety of Bluetooth headsets, stereo speakers and our car's built-in Bluetooth.
Data speeds on AT&T's LTE 4G network were excellent in the Dallas area, and speeds matched the iPhone 5, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 on AT&T. We tested using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, just as we do on iOS and Android, and we averaged 19Mbps down and 17Mbps up. Windows Phones ship with IE 10 mobile and it does a good job of rendering full desktop sites as well as mobile optimized sites. Pinch zooming is fluid and HTML5 video playback (YouTube) at full screen is very good. Sorry, there's no Adobe Flash Player support. For those who use mobile data sparingly, the phone has dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n with channel bonding that worked perfectly in our tests using our 802.11n network.
41 Megapixel PureView Camera
Isn't that an insane number of megapixels? Well, Nokia put them to excellent use and it's not just a pointless feature or spec. With that many pixels, you can actually use digital zoom and create images that aren't lossy: think of it as using Photoshop with a very high resolution image: you can crop a section and still have a high quality image without resorting to blowing it up via enlargement. Likewise, the Lumia 1020 creates a companion 5MP image that works like Photoshop resizing a 7,000 x 4,000 pixel image down to less than half those dimensions: it has a lot of data to work with and the result is sharp and clear detail rather than the harsh and artificial sharpening algorithms used by many camera phones. In fact, zoomed shots (up to 3x zoom, which isn't much) are saved in full frame fashion so you can bring back more of the surrounding image if you wish. Don't think of it as zoom; it's really pre-cropping of the photo that you can later undo.
We were worried that the larger than average BSI image sensor and excellent software algorithms would be held back by a tiny camera phone lens. The f/2.2 Carl Zeiss Tessar 6 element lens has one glass element and 5 plastic elements, which is complex compared to most high end camera phone lenses, and as far as we can tell when viewing images at 100% crop, the lens isn't a problem. Nokia's second generation optical image stabilization keeps the lens stable via barrel stabilization that uses electronics, magnets and ball bearings to float the mechanism. It works quite well, and my video was much less shaky compared to video taken without OIS on the Samsung Galaxy S4.
1080p video actually requires way fewer megapixels than do still images, so the Lumia 1020 can shoot full HD video at 4x zoom without any drop in resolution. At 720p it can zoom up to 6x. To zoom a video, swipe your finger across the viewfinder. Video is equally impressive, particularly with good lighting. In our sample video you'll see colorful reflections painted on clearly defined rippling water, and natural color and detail for the ducks' plumage. The stabilization keeps things smooth and stereo audio recording quality is good. In low light situations like a home at night lit by incandescent lighting, colors are quite bold and noise is tolerable, but we noted the same orange color cast that we saw with photos, and it was harder to correct using the white balance setting.
Nokia includes their own Nokia Pro Camera app in place of the very basic Windows Phone camera app. You can run everything on auto and get a great picture most of the time. The only exception is indoor incandescent lighting where images are too warm, and the Xenon flash makes things yellower. Nokia's novel UI makes it easy to dial in white balance correction to correct this; even a novice could do it. There are settings for flash control, white balance, focus mode (auto, macro and infinity), ISO, shutter speed and EV. You can bring up settings individually or together at once as a series of settings arc patterns.
As mentioned, each zoom shot has a companion full frame image to allow for image editing and corrections and there's an option to take a full resolution (~34 meg) image + a 5MP image for sharing. Honestly, unless you view the images at 100% on a big monitor, you might be hard pressed to tell the higher and lower resolution images apart; the 5MP images look that good. And thank goodness for that since it takes about 2-3 seconds to save the 34 + 5MP image set, making action photography difficult. Even when we set the camera to create just a single 5MP image per shot, it took 1-2 seconds to save images. Focus times likewise aren't lightning fast, whether relying on autofocus or using tap to focus. It's a great camera for macro shots and landscapes but not for catching a zippy 2 year old or the football team in action.
That camera can shoot photos at 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, and Nokia's Cinemagraph, Creative Studio and Panorama features are here as well. Nokia's image editor, Creative Studio is great. Why isn't Photoshop this fun and easy to use? You can use it to change colors, saturation, add background blur to macro shots and create collages. Every high end camera phone should come with this sort of app: it's powerful, addresses most of the corrections we'd want to make and its simple to use.
Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone 8 isn't the new kid on the block anymore; that title goes to BlackBerry OS 10 now. And the OS has matured, with over 100,000 apps available on the Windows Store and a complete feature set that includes multi-tasking, copy-paste, full featured PIM apps, mapping and navigation, and mobile versions of IE 10 and MS Office. If you're an app junkie, then Windows Phone probably isn't for you. If you're the average user that wants high quality games and many of the popular staples like Netflix, The Weather Channel, Skype, Adobe Reader, Pandora Radio and ESPN, you could do just fine with Windows Phone. As always, the Live Tile UI is easy to use and is customizable for theme (colors), tile size and which tiles you want. If there's a pre-installed AT&T app (aka bloatware) that you don't want, you can delete it.
Nokia's very good HERE Drive, Maps and Transit are on board, as is the HERE City Lens augmented reality app. The suite of tools provides driving directions, satellite view maps, transit directions and POIs. For those who prefer AT&T's solution, AT&T Family Maps and Navigator are pre-installed. Nokia Music provides free streaming music with mix radio, and we've enjoyed this service since it debuted on our Lumia 920. You can even select mixes and download the tunes for offline playback, and refresh the mixes when online to get a new set of songs. The built-in XBOX Live music and video player has an FM radio that works in conjunction with wired headphones that act as the radio's antenna.
The Lumia 1020 has a 2,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. If you run out of power on the road and aren't near an outlet, you'll need to use an external USB battery pack since you can't swap in a spare battery. Nokia's optional camera grip includes a secondary battery for those who shoot lots of shots. Nokia claims almost 7 hours of video playback on a charge and 13.3 hours (max) 3G talk time and 5.5 hours of web browsing over WiFi. We're still running battery tests, but so far we've made it through the day when talking on the phone for 30 minutes, shooting 70 photos and 5 minutes of HD video, streaming several short YouTube clips, checking email and browsing the web using 4G LTE for 45 minutes. That's on par with other high end smartphones, and battery time is noticeably longer if you aren't shooting 60 to 100 shots per day like us. The Lumia 1020 supports wireless charging with an optional back.
Take the very good Nokia Lumia 920 and graft the Nokia PureView 41 megapixel camera onto the back and you've got the Nokia Lumia 1020. Even better, tweak it with second generation image stabilization, some brilliant image processing software and handy image editing tools and you've got a camera that matches or beats most point and shoots and some DSLR cameras, despite the smaller lens. The Lumia 1020 is an excellent voice phone, has 4G LTE, a solid suite of pre-installed apps and a superb display that's viewable outdoors and works with gloves. Though the app story still isn't as compelling for Windows Phone compared to iOS and Android, there's enough here to make the Lumia 1020 a fun and useful smartphone. But being third OS in the race and the high $299 with contract price might hold this otherwise solid phone for shutterbugs back.
Websites: www.nokiausa.com, wireless.att.com
Price: $299 with 2 year contract, $659 without contract
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