Nokia Lumia 800 Review

The Lumia 800 is Nokia’s phoenix; set to rise from the ashes of its disastrous smartphone business with barely a scorched feather. Banking on Symbian OS was clearly a bad move and every phone brand from Apple to MyLittlePony has stolen away Nokia’s customers with iOS and Android alternatives. The funky Finnish firm still sells more basic mobile phones globally than any other brand but you can tell they were irked by their smartphone faux pas. The media hype surrounding the replacement to the X7 has been frenetic with bloggers getting nose bleeds just debating the many proposed names that Nokia’s PR department would throw like tit-bits to the madding media crowds.

Reviewer Rating

8.5 out of 10
Overall: 8.5 out of 10
Breakdown of overall phone rating
  • 1. Style
    8
  • 2. Build
    9
  • 3. Display
    8
  • 4. Processor
    7
  • 5. Imaging
    8
  • 6. GUI
    9
  • 7. Social
    10
  • 8. Games
    10
  • 9. Music
    7
  • 10. Business
    8

User Rating

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars
(7 votes) select eggs to vote.

Loading ... Loading ... Nokia Lumia 800

Prime Millet

  • Sweet and fruity Windows ‘Mango’ OS
  • Awesome social networking tools
  • Eye-searing screen image and slick scrolling
  • Stylish, solid, could double as cudgel

Droppings

  • Only 16 GB of memory and no expansion slot
  • Pants imaging (er, not literally)
  • Low-res video, no front camera
  • Marketplace still full of tumbleweed

The wait is over and the Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone is on the streets. It is a renewed and refreshed device, invigorated with the latest 7.5 version of Windows Phone OS, or mango for no easily explainable reason. Well if Android can have ice cream sandwiches then we are clearly all going to get on the luxury comestibles naming bandwagon.

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These include the Carl Zeiss lens on its 8MP and HD-ready camera, MS office applications and the free Nokia Mix Radio music streaming service. The AMOLED screen is right up there with the latest Samsung and HTC models, and the processor is sharpish quick if not quite a dual-core power house of you know what.

But the natty Nokia is not going to win every game of smartphone trumps because it isn’t short of ‘if only it had’ features too. The limited 16 GB of memory and no SD card slot is worthy of a Homer Simpson ‘d’oh!’, there is no front camera and the hard-button positioning just sucks. Three days with the Lumia 800 and I managed 27 accidental photos of my own palm.

First impressions count

Straight out of the box it’s a cool looking device. Sleek, slim and darkly sexy, like Kiera Knightly in a cocktail dress. It probably weighs as much as KK as well because it is a hefty bit of kit, coming in a good few grams heavier than the iPhone 4S. Actually, outside of Columbian marching powder a few grams is nothing, so the Lumia’s perceived mass is clearly an illusion brought about by its slim figure and curvaceous back panel. In fact, this solidity combined with the sharply profiled corners would probably make for a decent self defence weapon at a push.

As Nokia used to spend millions on product placement back in the day, I eagerly await the movie where a strategically positioned Lumia stops a bullet with is one-piece polycarbonate case. That said, if you were to keep it in your breast pocket the weight and angular corners would wear clean through your shirt before the end of the first chase scene. This is clearly a phone of substance and feels impervious to the rigours of day to day use or the odd comedy phone fumble. I doubt it would survive compression trauma quite as well as my first Motorola flip-phone, which got driven over by a van, but I’d say it could probably fend off a G-wiz.

The full gloss 3.7in AMOLED screen looks wonderful, for the first seven seconds. After that you will have handled the phone and the gloss screen begins to accrue fingerprints like a CSI officer. Given a couple of calls you will add some ear grease as well. I am not sure why the screen seems to show up handling marks more so than, say, an iPhone 4S but a polishing cloth or screen protector sticker will be useful if you want people to see your new phone and go ‘wow’ rather than ‘yurk’.

In the top edge there are sockets for the SIM card and USB port, neatly concealed behind plastic flaps to fend off the worst pocket fluff. Four hard buttons are positioned down the right hand side, badly. The upper volume up/down and power buttons are conveniently placed for right handed thumb or left-hooker index finger operation but the camera button is just wrong. Placed near the bottom right it is always in danger of being accidentally pressed by your thumb joint or a rogue pinkie. And I did, a lot.

The issue is compounded by Nokia thoughtfully allowing the camera to operate straight out of stand-by mode. If you are looking to capture that quick comedy moment on the fly it works well, being a far quicker snapper than an iPhone. But time saved on the swings of a quick snap will be lost to the roundabout of deleting loads of accidental photos of your pocket, palm or the person standing beside your ear.

Around the back the Carl Zeiss lens itself is embedded into the upper middle of phone, which is arguably not as convenient as it being in a top corner and out of the way. Above it is little SMD LED light as a ‘flash’ which has, like all such devices on smartphone, all the illuminating power of a candle on a windy day. When you can buy a reasonable digital still camera complete with proper slim line flash for a handful of change these days I do wonder why no one puts a decent flash on a smartphone. I digress.

In fact, the camera system itself is far from perfect. There is only one camera for a start, so any thought of video calls are out of the question irrespective of what Apps come along for Windows OS. In use the autofocus is rather slow and not the most accurate on the block which pretty much kippers the point of the shoot-from-standby feature. Pictures in broad daylight are a little over-contrasty with whites bleaching out, but colour and detail are on par with other smartphones. The LED lamp is not too shoddy in use in fact and its two stage red-eye reduction is handy. But the flash angle is considerably narrower than the wide angle of the lens leaving you with a well illuminated central portion and dim edges. A proper DSC the Lumia 800 is not.

I’m not overly impressed with video ability either. Its 720-line resolution is not as peachy as the full fat 1080 line High Definition video recording found on the iPhone 4S and Galaxy. Being the sceptical sort I would guess this is for two reasons. The first being the Lumia 800’s fixed 16GB of memory not being capable of holding much data-heavy 1080 line video, and secondly so the next Lumia model, destined to launch next year, has something to shout about. Still, video recordings are reasonably sharp as long as there is not too much going on in the scene.

A feast of firmware

My eyes, my eyes! Hit the power button and the screen boots to life with an eye-searing brightness. Colours are rich and punchy and the contrast between brightly lit areas and the black background will have iPhone fan-boys weeping for AMOLED on the iPhone5. The blacks are so black you can’t see where the edge of the screen ends, and icons, tiles and images have a real leapt out factor. The touch-scrolling is seamless both horizontally and vertically and not once did it freeze and release mid-scroll Andrios-style. Damn, that screen is good. Which is a very pleasing reaction considering that at 480×800 pixels it’s resolution is a long way from the iPhone 4S’s 640×960 pixel screen.

The Lumia 800 squeezes plenty of business and productivity juice from the promised Windows Phone OS ‘mango’ functionality too. The home page is rather different from the usual smartphone fodder, comprising large coloured tiles for each major function or hub of similar functions. It works well and is easy to get used to although strangely there is a default ‘me’ tile. This intermittently brings up your own facebook picture, presumably in case you forget who you are. Needless to say all the tiles can be tweaked, modded and placed where you like and you can change the tiles that are pinned to the home screen. Delve deeper and a swift scroll to the left brings up all your apps and functions in one scrolling list rather than the page based navigation of other smartphones.

The default section of tiles is the obvious selection of phone, messaging, email and news with a single hub entitled ‘people’. This mashes together Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, your Outlook addresses etc into one place to replace what would otherwise be called ‘contacts’. It even pulls content live back to the home page presenting you with an ever changing collage of pictures of your facebook friends. Ye gadz, that can be scary. You can update a profile database for each person, bundle people into groups that can be messaged or emailed on mass, and keep a scrolling list of messages as an amalgamated feed from your social media accounts, SMS and emails. The other way round, SMS, tweets, emails, and posts from any one friend can be displayed in one seamless string of messages on one scrolling page.

It’s very slick, but I just don’t get it. Maybe if I was 15 years old this would be fine but as more mature member of the proletariat I like to keep friends and freaks from Facebook a long way away from my business contacts – both physically and as accessible lists on my devices. Bundled together like this I always worry that one small slip might mean one’s boss Jane might just get a message intended for Janet from loosedating.com.

And speaking of business users, for the first time on a handheld device the Lumia 800 comes with a stripped down but workable version of MS Office called MS Office Mobile. No awards for an original name then. However as a man who spends most of his waking hours looking at Word pages, Excel workbooks or PowerPoint presentations, this functionality gets damn close to being the killer App than means the laptop stays at home. It ties in sweetly with SharePoint and Office 365 for collaborative working and the email application has a very Outlook feel. Setting up POP and Exchange account is super-slick, although I can see corporate IT departments everywhere bemoaning the ease of back-end user access.

Other embedded functionality includes Nokia Drive, a turn by turn GPS device with maps of all Europe as far as I could tell. It has 2D or 3D map display and location finder of what, back in the day, were called points of interest. Out on the road and side-by-side with an iPhone 4S the Lumia 800’s navigation gave a good account of itself being quicker to operate and easier to read that the Apple. It seemed a damn site more accurate too as when I leapt out for snacks and supplies it indicates I was still on the right road whereas the iPhone decided I had gone for a ramble in a nearby field.

That’s entertainment, or not

Given the Microsoft OS it no surprise that the Lumia 800 is intrinsically linked to Zune. It’s not my favourite media front end, but it’s not a dog either. However Nokia Music is very much geared up for impulsive streaming rather than store-and-sync media. Nokia is keen to highlight that this eliminates the need for masses of memory in the device, which given the limited 16GB on hand is just as well. But the argument if flawed and city-centric. Memory doesn’t actually cost a lot whereas downloading data over 3G does. Having all your music on your phone means it is always accessible whereas streaming means you need a Wi-Fi connection or a solid 3G signal and if you drive anywhere outside major UK conurbations you won’t have either while you are on the hoof.

Still, the Mix Radio feature is at least a free service to use although network charges will still apply. This lumps channels into rough genres or artists you like a bit like a limited Spotify and accompanies each track with a full-screen image of the artist or album cover. There is also limited functionality to develop streamed radio playlists based on your taste of music from your (limited) music library. It works, but I would argue that a phone with a lot more memory for your own music and a Spotify App for the ad-hoc streaming would be a far better bet. That said the attached Gig Finder features is rather cool for finding live dates of artists you like on the fly.

Nokia’s Marketplace is a nicely logical experience and considerably slicker to navigate than the Android equivalent. But there is an elephant in the room at this point. Compared to iTunes store or Android marketplace, the Windows OS equivalent is kiosk in a ghost town on the borderlands of nowhere. There simply are not enough Apps, good or bad, to make for a compelling Windows OS App story at this time. Of course this is expanding rapidly, but largely with iOS/Android developers creating ports of existing Apps rather than genuinely new stuff. Time will tell, but I can’t help thinking early adopters of WP phones like the Lumia 800 are going to be left wanting.

As life is too short already, I don’t do mobile games. Just thinking about the amount of combined life lost to Angry Birds makes me a very angry bird. However for those who need to get a life, the Lumia 800 is well connected with the gaming community and offers a direct portal to Xbox live. And if you are really sad and really bored, you can create an Xbox avatar of yourself specifically for the phone. Other more game-enlightened reviewer’s have said the Lumia could well be quite a tool for mobile gaming, so I will nod to their expertise on that one.

Apparently you can also use the Lumia 800 to make phone calls too. I tried this and it worked exceptionally well, pulling a three-bar Vodafone signal right beside an iPhone 4S showing two bars. A drive by test through the local signal backstop village did drop a call but only between the bakery and the post office before the signal was found again. By comparison the iPhone 4 simply couldn’t find a signal in the same county and the 4S is only marginally better.

Rounding up

So does this phoenix get airborne enough to save it from a baked backside? Well, yes it just about does. The screen is superb despite the resolution and the mango favoured Windows OS is very sweet indeed. The MS Office suite will certainly appeal to those who live and die by the PowerPoint slide or Excel spreadsheet and the Nokia add-ons work a treat. If you are the sort of person seriously into social networking the People hub is an exciting way of bringing a number of social steams together in one place at one time.

On the downside it’s not cheap, close to the same prices as the more powerful processor and better screen equipped iPhone 4S. Moreover, the button positioning is a serious issue for me, the Lumia’s imaging ability is a long way from living up to its Carl Zeiss billing and the limited memory is just rubbish. With 100 GB of music sat on my PC even a 64 GB iPhone 4S is a bit limiting, making the Lumia 800’s 16 GB and lack of expansion a deal breaker for me.

So there you are. If you a crusty-old, non-gaming, music junkie who spends a lot of time in phone signal wilderness with a decent DSC in your back pocket, the Lumia 800 is not for you. If on the other hand you love social networking, games and streaming media, it is serious contender against models from Apple, Samsung and HTC.

Posted in Nokia | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Nokia Lumia 800 Review

  1. Andres says:

    Not bad, but hardly enough to make me want to give up the android app lovelies that google throws at me.
    Maybe v2 will be better and v3 the one you’ll actually want (in classic MS style).

    And disappointed with this page. The section title “Reviewer Rating” had me reaching for my thesaurus (Style? Build…..?) until I realised it was their rating of the phone.

    • piccybird says:

      My last Windows OS phone ran Windows CE. ( The many hours of playing Sim City 2000 :) ) Windows mobile OS has changed a lot since then. I suspect that people will not want to move away from their current OS be it Android / iOS. Particularly if a lot of Apps have been purchased. This Nokia is a nice phone it will be interesting to see how well it picks up.

      Thanks for the comment about the Reviewer Rating. We’ve added a descriptive line above the ratings table to make it clear the items are the breakdown of the overall phone rating. We hope this makes it clearer.

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