My Full Review of the Nokia Lumia 925

(TL;DR? Scroll down to the summary)

This is a full review of the Nokia Lumia 925 running Windows Phone 8 from a user’s practical perspective. Since the experience is determined by hardware as well as by software, services and app ecosystem, this review will not be just hardware and specs centered.

Here’s some information on what exactly I’ve been using: unbranded unlocked device; white model; all available updates installed; no accessories such as wireless charging; WiFi at home; main computer: Surface RT; previous phone: HTC Radar running WP7.8

AESTHETICS

  • Just beautiful. The deep black curved gorilla glass looks like a crystallised puddle at night, the UI looks clean, simplistic and aesthetically coherent. I’ve been using "Metro" UIs for a long time, but with this beautiful hardware it looks fresh and kind of futuristic.

HOLDING IT

  • The device feels much lighter than I expected. Unlike some other slim and sleek devices, this one does not feel like they crammed the weight of a larger device into a smaller shell. Unless you have some neuromuscular deficiency, you are barely going to feel any sort of considerable weight in your hand or your pocket.
  • Everything about the device feels very solid and well-built, the rounded corners feel nice in the hand. The device is so thin and light that you barely feel it in your pocket. Sometimes I wish it was a little thicker or rounded like the 920, which would make it easier for my thumb to reach the upper parts of the touch screen (it’s harder to prop such a thin device up with the other fingers for the thumb to reach the top of the screen).
  • The device can get pretty hot in the upper right corner sometimes, especially while charging, down/uploading large amounts of data, and at high air temperature, to an extent that touching that part of the device actually hurts. But most of the time, especially at comfortable air temperature, the aluminium feels nice and cool.

BUTTONS AND PORTS

  • Nokia made a good decision putting all the physical buttons on the right side. They feel solid and have a soft but nice little "click".
  • The camera button has just the right amount of resistance, so you can be confident that you won’t press it accidentally while you’re waiting for the perfect moment to take the picture.
  • The three capacitive buttons work just like you would expect. They all have subtle vibration feedback.
  • Having the USB port on the top is unusual, but ergonomically it makes sense. Both the USB port and the headphone jack are placed just a little off the centre, which makes it a little harder to find them without looking.

DISPLAY

  • Basically you don’t see any pixels, unless you hold the device at a viewing distance of 4 inches and flex your eyes’ inner muscles as hard as you can. (The glance screen does not have the same smooth pixel rendering as the phone’s actual UI, so it appears more pixelated - even at more usual viewing distances)
  • You can adjust colour saturation and white balance of the display, so whether you like strong saturated or soft natural colours - it’s up to you. Blacks are absolutely black. Under most lighting conditions you can barely distinguish the black of the bezel from the black of the display, so the phone’s UI seems to float on a shiny deep-black surface covering the whole front side of the device.
  • The display seems to run at a relatively low frequency. You won’t notice this while watching videos, but you do notice it when swiping across the start screen. Also, subpixels of different colours seem to switch at different speeds, so you see some colour separation while swiping.
  • The display deals unbelievably well with direct sunlight - the image is bright and clear, colours are just a little softer than under normal lighting conditions. I am equally impressed at how well it handles brightness adjustment at night. If you unlock the phone at night, you won’t be blinded by the display’s brightness.
  • Contrast is high from any angle. What’s a little annoying is that white turns bluish when you tilt the display at around 15+°. So you have to hold the device at a perfect angle +/- 15° to really enjoy your photos on this display.

TAPPING AND SWIPING

  • The touch screen is very responsive (with the exception of the glance screen - you have to tap much harder than usual, which I just can’t get used to). You can use it with gloves on (even with pretty thick ones).
  • Unless you have unusually large hands, you’ll need to move your hand around in weird ways in order to reach the top of the screen with your thumb.
  • I like the rounded edges of the gorilla glass - you often swipe over the edges of a display (when flipping through photos etc.), and the rounded edges make it feel very smooth.
  • The UI perfectly sticks to your finger while swiping - no lag, no jittering.

GETTING AROUND

  • You can pin almost anything to your start screen (apps, people, notes, image folders, documents, weather locations, etc., third party apps even let you pin some of the system settings), so for your most frequent tasks you will need very few taps, and I hardly ever need to use the apps list.
  • Navigation through the system UI as well as within apps is always fast, smooth and basically lag-free. I have seen minimal stutter with UI animation a couple of times.
  • Apps load pretty fast. I have never had the feeling that I had to really "wait" for an app to load. Some apps take a second or two to load, but it never gets annoying.
  • I wish apps didn’t reload from scratch when you re-start them by tapping the tile. If you want to resume where you left off, you need to access the app via the multi-tasking menu. Fortunately, OneNote and Internet Explorer do remember where you left off.
  • With WP8, things work just as you expect them to. No desperately-looking-for-options or what-the-heck-did-I-do-wrong-again.

BEING UP TO DATE

  • There are at least 5 different places the OS uses to provide glancable live information - the glance screen, lock screen, start screen, status bar, and toast notifications. This is both a good thing and a bad thing - it allows for a lot of customization, but can get a little confusing.
  • The best thing about WP8’s way of handling live information is that it actually works - you never miss a thing, and I hardly ever need to open an app just to see it there’s anything new.
  • Thank god for glance screen! Every phone should have that feature.

CUSTOMIZATION

  • Visually, there’s not much to customize. Several apps can provide custom lockscreen backgrounds that are regularly updated (facebook, weather, etc.). Accent colours are not just used by the system, but by most third party apps as well.
  • Being able to pin, resize and rearrange tiles is great, but since the one tile size which allows for useful detailed live information (wide tile size) takes up almost a third of the screen’s real estate, you’ll need to make most tiles smaller. I wish there was a way to have more detailed information take up less of the screen.
  • There are lots and lots of useful system and app settings (a lot of which are about managing data usage).

COMMUNICATION

  • Managing and finding contacts is really simple.
  • Being able to pin your favourite contacts to the start screen is a true tap-saver.
  • Social networks are integrated nicely into the contact list and all communication apps as well as the camera. Unfortunately in my country, it seems that facebook’s privacy policy doesn’t allow WP to show all news feeds and content in the people app (the official facebook app works fine though).

SYNCHRONISATION

  • Synchronisation with SkyDrive, Facebook, Mail accounts etc. is really simple. All I had to do was enter a few passwords, and my contact list, photo albums and mail folders were filled with all the data instantly.
  • Unfortunately I couldn’t synchronise the Music collection with my Xbox Music collection on my Surface RT. The tablet couldn’t find a driver to connect with the phone. I guess that might be a problem with the Windows RT 8.1 preview, which I currently use on my Surface.
  • Photo backup via SkyDrive is a particularly useful feature. I have photos taken with my phone uploaded automatically in high res, but only via WiFi. That way I can easily edit my photos on the tablet.

PHOTOGRAPHY

  • There are two preinstalled camera apps as well as several additional (rather gimmicky) editing tools. The preinstalled standard WP camera app is as simple as it can get; Nokia’s Smart Cam app is a fun tool but not something you would use regularly.
  • I installed the Nokia Pro Cam app from the store (for free), which was initially designed for the Nokia Lumia 1020. It doesn’t allow for the same kind of downsampling and digital zoom as with the 1020, but its pro-level controls allow you to take pictures in a way that they rarely need any post-editing. Most of the time the auto-settings do a great job, I use the controls mainly for macro shots and for special photographic effects. The results are stunning - you don’t get a huge amount of detailed when you zoom in, but as a whole the photos make you think "wow, this looks just like it looked in real life!", which I have never experienced with a smartphone camera before.

AUDIO

  • You can adjust headphone audio output by selecting pre-set EQs or setting EQ manually.
  • The speakers sound clear and are capable of producing some nice volume, but as with most phones you won’t enjoy listening to music through them. Ringtones, phone calls etc. sound nice and clear.
  • Phone audio quality is surprisingly good. Voices sound like actual human voices speaking in actual acoustic environments, rather than robotic flat audio signals coming out of a machine. Wish it was a little more bass-y though.

CHARGING

  • I haven’t had to charge during the day. Unless your everyday life is very smartphone-centered, battery life shouldn’t be an issue.

APPS

  • I’m not much of an app-junkie, so it’s hard for me to judge the app ecosystem situation. All I can say is that I personally don’t miss any apps, and that going through the top apps in the store I found a surprisingly large number of useful apps I didn’t expect to fall in love with (excellent news readers, weather apps, local public transportation apps, etc.)

SUMMARY

  • Light, well-built
  • Beautiful in many ways
  • Display beautiful and readable under all lighting conditions; disappointing viewing angles
  • Easy to use; things work as you expect them to; basically lag-free
  • Complex but effective live information system
  • Amazing camera
  • Battery life good enough for average usage
  • App ecosystem better than expected, but probably lacking to other users