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Home > Windows Phone Reviews > Nokia Lumia 1020

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Nokia Lumia 1020

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: AT&T
Manufacturer: Nokia
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What's Hot: Fantastic camera, brilliant way of handling zoom, gorgeous display, excellent call quality.

What's Not: More expensive than other flagship smartphones, big and heavy for a 4.5" smartphone.

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Reviewed July 24, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is the manufacturer's latest flagship, and as with the previous flagship Nokia Lumia 920 in the US, it launches exclusive to AT&T. In fact, the Lumia 1020 bears a strong resemblance to the 920 when it comes to looks and also internals, with one important exception: it has Nokia's simply crazy 41 megapixel PureView camera. And that camera adds a black aluminum Cyclops eye on the back, which may not be attractive but it's much less bulky than the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom's rear mechanical zoom lens. In fact, Nokia approaches the issue of zoom in a more creative and practical way, where practical means keeping your phone compact and looking like a phone rather than a camera. Given the huge number of available pixels, Nokia uses digital zoom instead of optical. Digital zoom used to be a dirty word because it resulted in blocky and pixelated images, but when you've got more pixels to work with than a pro DSLR, it's no longer a problem.

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a GSM Windows Phone 8 smartphone with 4G LTE. AT&T will offer the phone for $299 on contract at launch, which exceeds the usual $199 with contract flagship phone price (the Samsung Galaxy Note phones are the other exception, having also cost $299 at launch). This is the opposite tactic from the bargain priced $99 on contract Lumia 920, where Microsoft was looking for instant Windows Phone traction and likely sweetened the subsidy.

Design and Ergonomics

As with the Lumia 920, this is a uniquely designed polycarbonate unibody phone with a 4.5" display. The Lumia 1020 is available in white, yellow and black, and all have a matte black aluminum ring on the back for the camera assembly. The camera assembly sticks out a bit and I don't find the giant black disc attractive, though it would blend in much better on the black model vs. our white Lumia 1020. Nokia managed to devise a matte finish that they say won't get dirty--a challenge particularly for white phones and that's why they're usually glossy. The color runs through the polycarbonate, so it won't change color if it picks up a scratch. Because the camera section sticks out a bit, the phone doesn't sit flat on a table, which is a bit annoying. Happily there's an automatic lens cover so you won't have to worry the lens.

Nokia Lumia 1020

This isn't a light or small phone, and you'll feel it in your pocket or hand at 158g (5.6 ounces). Nokia's polycarbonate Lumias can survive some nasty attacks, and it's built like a tank. The phone measures 5.12 x 2.8 x 0.41 inches, making it similar in size to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One with larger displays. Given the curved sides and matte finish, it feels good in hand and isn't likely to slip out... as long as you have large hands, that is. The phone has metal volume, power and camera buttons on the side, a 3.5mm combo audio jack up top and a micro USB port for charging and syncing at the bottom next to the mono speaker.

ClearBlack AMOLED Display

The phone has a stunning 4.5" AMOLED ClearBlack display that looks great outdoors and works with gloves. The 1280 x 768 resolution won't wow those who've grown accustomed to full HD Android smartphones, but at 334 ppi we're not complaining. That's excellent pixel density and you won't see a jaggy font or noisy image on this phone. The display is curved and covered with Gorilla Glass 3. Viewing angles are wide and the display has a fast 60Hz refresh rate. It's the perfect partner for photography since it's colorful and easy to see outdoors as well as indoors. The Lumia has settings for sunlight readability, touch sensitivity and you can adjust the color profile via saturation and color temperature sliders. It has an ambient light sensor that does a good job, and you can turn this off if you wish.

 

Deals and Shopping:

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 Video Review

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 Sample 1080p Video

 

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.

camera settings

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.

Battery Life

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.

Conclusion

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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Nokia Lumia 1020

 

Nokia Lumia 1020

 

Nokia Lumia 1020

 

Nokia Lumia 1020

 

Nokia Lumia 1020

 

Sample Photos:

Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020

 

 

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Specs:

Display: 4.5" capacitive multi-touch ClearBlack AMOLED display. Resolution: 1280 x 768, 334 ppi. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor. Outdoor viewable, works with gloves, 60Hz refresh rate. Gorilla Glass 3.

Battery: 2000 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. Ships with compact 1.5amp micro USB charger. Wireless charging is available with an optional back.

Performance: 1.5GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU with Adreno 225 graphics. 2 gigs RAM, 32 gigs internal storage.

Size: 5.12 x 2.8 x 0.41 inches. Weight: 5.6 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band, 3G HSPA+ quad band 850/900/1900/2100MHz, 4G LTE on bands 2, 4, 5, 17.

Camera: 1.2MP and 41MP PureView rear camera with BSI, Xenon flash and f/2.2 Carl Zeiss Tessar 6 element lens. Focal length: 26mm..

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC.

GPS: Has GPS with GLONASS. Comes with Nokia HERE Maps and AT&T Family Maps and Navigator.

Software: Windows Phone 8 and standard suite of apps including mobile versions of IE 10 and MS Office plus email and PIM apps. Nokia Pro camera app, image editing apps, Panorama, Cinemagraph, Nokia HERE Maps, Driving, Transit and City Lens. Camera tutorials. AT&T Locker, AT&T Family Maps, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio and TV.

Expansion: None.

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