Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is extra large in many departments — and is worth trying

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lumia 950 XL Review.

It seems now is the perfect time to make some serious noise. Microsoft was planning to roll out the Windows 10 mobile upgrades to the Windows Phone 8.1 devices in December, but the users will need to wait until early 2016 to upgrade to the latest OS version.The hotly anticipated Lumia 950 XL is the latest phablet-sized flagship out of Microsoft, and the first of its kind to come out of Redmond since the Nokia acquisition in 2014. The Lumia 550 features a 4.7-inch 720 x 1280 HD AMOLED display, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 SoC clocked at 1.1 GHz, 1GB of RAM, 8GB onboard expandable storage, 5MP rear camera with LED flash, 2MP selfie camera, 2100mAh battery, and 4G LTE support. The power and volume buttons are well spaced and wide enough for easy reach and Microsoft managed to style up the large rear camera as part of the 950 XL’s aesthetics.

However, in case you want to buy one of the new Lumia devices, then here are their specs: the smaller variant measures 145 x 73.2 x 8.2 mm, it weights 150 grams and has a large circular rear camera on the back of 20MP (using PureView technology, Carl Zeiss optics, OIS, autofocus, triple-LED RGB flash and which is capable of recording 4K videos), while on the front side sits a 5MP camera with an aperture of f/2.4. The plastic also feels far more durable, easier to hold, more scratch-resistant, and easier to clean than its competing metal housed counterparts feel. While the Lumia 950 could be described as being on the heavier side of phones in its size range, the XL is downright feathery compared to other phablets. Like its predecessor, the 1520, as well as its twin, the 950, the XL has a camera bulge sticking out on behalf of the more sophisticated camera it houses.

Rather than the conventional design of a power button with two volume buttons above, the 950 XL has the power button sandwiched between two smaller buttons. But for them to take a higher stance, would depend on its operating system, which runs on Windows 10 – the same one that can be used on desktops and laptops. On the XL, the black lining is perfectly uniform with the white backplate, making it seem as if it’s one side that happens to be painted in two colors. The 950, on the other hand, has a rounded, glossy lining that’s actually smaller than the back plate, resulting in the white back plate giving the device a sort of white, halo outline. While the universal apps, such as the well-regarded Readit reddit client, are spectacular and deliver speedy and refined user experiences, a lot of apps, even some of Microsoft’s own, are still carrying with them baggage from earlier API foundations, such as the outdated app bar designs.

I don’t know what it is about the engineering behind Lumia devices, but lately they just can’t seem to give us Lumia flagships that are pure no-compromise. There’s a world of difference between actuating a touch feature when the screen is on (thereby making it a simple software programming exercise) and when it is off in standby, which I suspect requires bypassing hardware limitations. Apps load up instantly through silky smooth animation without being obscured by painfully long feathering animations found in earlier Windows Phone operating systems. Interesting, I feel the OS isn’t really making good use of the 3GB of RAM found in the 950 and 950 XL, as I find myself bumping into a loading screen more often than I should. Although word flow (swipe to type) now sports a fancy animation that realizes the spelling as you swipe, it seems to be less accurate than before, often completely ignoring very basic English words.

I can see why Microsoft would intentionally disable such a function as web addresses don’t have spaces or a concept of sentences to them, but I think this is a mistake, as users can also type to search in the Edge address bar rather than just enter a website URL. In particular, it allows Glance to be right at home, lighting up only the pixels that need to be lit up, allowing the rest of the screen to remain pitch black. Speaking of charging times, with the provided fast cable charging times are ludicrously fast, often charging from almost empty to near full in under an hour. This is in contrast to the Lumia 1520, which often found itself blinded by the light on top of getting the lighting and mood of the scene completely wrong. Because Rich Capture needs to have everything set to automatic to work, making you helplessly dependent on the dimwitted software’s ability to catch on to what you’re trying to do.

While the shots are taken virtually instantaneously (unless of course you manually elongate the shutter speed), the XL requires a few seconds of post-processing before these images are done rendering and can be previewed accurately and manipulated as images. Wonky software scaling mitigates the core advantages of having a bigger screen, and unrefined software masks any performance difference between the two despite the different SoCs. Unlike the 1520, which had hardware navigation buttons that didn’t take up valuable screen space, the XL’s software navigation not only takes up screen space, it also pops in and out in seemingly random fashions. While you can swipe the software navigation away, the gesture to do it isn’t always reliable, and it just seems so pointless to do so, because most of navigation gets done with the back button anyway. Again, unacceptable in any phone, let alone a flagship, and while I wouldn’t discourage people from buying an XL, as many users will have creak-free XLs, it’s something that I feel compelled to inform you guys of given how common it is.

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