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Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 Review: September 2013  
 

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: The Nokia Lumia 1020 brings an insane 41 megapixels of camera to the smartphone arena. It's a very expensive phone though, and certainly won't be to everyone's taste.

Today's best buy: Nokia Lumia 1020 (PureMotion ... from Amazon (£0)



 

Review

Nokia is working very hard to differentiate itself from other manufacturers, and the Lumia 1020 easily manages to set itself apart from the herd. Not only does it run the Windows Phone 8 operating system, but it includes a 41 megapixel camera, which is so far beyond what the competition offers that it deserves a category of its own. The 1020 is unique and won't be for everyone, but let's take a look and see who it's for.

Design & looks

Nokia's phones have a tendency to be thicker and heavier than most rivals, and the Lumia 1020 pushes firmly into the bulky zone. There's no getting away from the fact that this is a large and heavy handset, which isn't helped by the fact that the camera projects by a couple of millimetres at the back. There's also quite a wide edge to the phone around the screen, which seems odd. Altogether, this isn't the best designed phone, and ergonomically it sits near the bottom of the class.

The screen measures 4.5 inches, which isn't a bad size, yet at this top end of the market we're expecting more, and given the size of the phone, there's certainly room to squeeze a little more in. It's a 720p HD screen, which again falls behind the very best, but on the positive side, it's a super-bright AMOLED Clearback screen that displays photos at their optimum. It also uses Nokia's Super Sensitive Touch technology, making the screen supremely responsive and a real joy to use.

Lights, camera, action!

We know you want to hear about the camera, so let's cut to the chase. The quoted resolution of the camera is 41 megapixels. The Carl Zeiss Tessar lens is high end, based on the Nokia 808 PureView, and the sensor is large, measuring 1/1.5 inch with backside-illumination for low-light support. The camera aperture is f/2.2, which is above average but not the largest we've encountered in a camera phone, and the camera includes clever optical image stabilization. The icing on the cake is the high power Xenon flash.

The Nokia Pro Camera app lets you control your photography with an interface similar to a dedicated digital camera. In addition to the camera's auto mode, you can take charge by controlling shutter speed, ISO, white balance and focus.

In short, there's everything here to suggest that this will deliver the best photos ever seen on a mainstream camera phone.

It doesn't disappoint. Image quality is simply stunning. While the headline figure is 41 megapixels, in practice the camera uses the 41 megapixel sensor to create a 5 megapixel final image, using an oversampling technique that combines multiple pixels into one. This gives the advantage of both a high native resolution (allowing you to zoom and crop without loss of quality) and plenty of light, resulting in superb low light performance and lots of shadow detail. We'll stick our necks out and say that this is the best camera in any smartphone.

The camera can also record 1080p HD video with high quality stereo sound. A second front-facing camera enables 720p HD video calling via Skype.

In addition to the camera itself, there's a wealth of smart apps to help you get the most out of your photography. Nokia Smart Cam shoots a sequence of photos so you can choose the best or combine them all into a single image. You can remove unwanted objects, apply a range of filters and effects and take a Panorama shot combining several images. Cinemagraph blends photos to make a video-like clip. Most importantly for the staff of S21, the Nokia Glam Me Lens app makes the ugly beautiful by whitening teeth, resizing eyes and changing skin tones - essential! 

Windows Phone 8

The Lumia 1020 is running the very latest version of WP8, which includes some neat upgrades such as the Smart Cam app. We've praised Windows Phone 8 often enough on S21, and highlights worthy of note include the customisable Home Screen with its funky and helpful Live Tiles, the various Hubs that offer useful task-based functionality, the power of Office Mobile and Internet Explorer 10, plus all the built-in apps. Nokia's HERE mapping tools are superb. It's a robust OS that runs smoothly and reliably. The only downside is the small number of third party apps compared with Android or iOS.

Music & media

The Lumia 1020 is a strong performer in this department too. The Nokia Music app supports music streaming as well as music playback and supports all of the main digital music formats. In addition, you have access to Internet Radio and an FM radio too.

Music quality is excellent, both through the speakers and the headphones, and you'll find the music app to be fully featured with a graphic equalizer, album art and full support for podcasts and cloud access.

Performance

Unlike most other high-end handsets, the 1020 runs a 1.5GHz dual-core processor instead of quad-core. We find that Windows Phone 8 is more forgiving than Android, and the lack of extra power is not immediately obvious. Yet that lack of grunt becomes apparent in somewhat slow camera functions, which can be annoying.

We can't complain about the generous 2GB of RAM provided, which is enough for the most demanding apps or heavy multitasking.

The built-in memory stands at 32GB, which is more than many other phones. A microSD card slot would have been nice, but the unibody design precludes that. You do get an additional 7GB of SkyDrive cloud storage for uploading your content.

4G connectivity

The phone supports a wide range of 4G LTE bands, and is available on all the UK's 4G networks. On 3G it supports fast HSDPA speeds of up to 42.2 Mbps. In addition it supports all the other connectivity options you could want - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, NFC and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Battery life

This is one area where the 1020 certainly could do more. The 2,000mAh battery really isn't a lot when you consider what this device is designed to do. If you plan to take a lot of photos or videos, or if you're a heavy phone user, you might well struggle with this battery. It isn't removable either. You can buy a dedicated grip case that makes the phone look more like a digital camera and incorporates additional battery power, but that's quite an extreme measure to take.

Conclusion - genius but not quite there yet

Being fans of Nokia's Lumia range, we were super-excited about the prospect of the Lumia 1020. But making a smartphone that's as good as a digital camera clearly isn't an easy task. Samsung tried hard with the Galaxy S4 Zoom, but that runs into a number of problems. The Lumia 1020 with its high megapixel sensor offers a much better way forward, but the 1020 feels like a beta version of what the perfect camera phone should be. We'd really like a larger screen, a faster processor, a bigger battery and a sleeker design.

Is the Lumia 1020 the best camera phone ever? Yes! Is it a great all-round smartphone? Not really.

Unless you're willing to put up with the compromises, it may be better to buy a really good smartphone that includes a good enough camera. All of the high end smartphones have good cameras these days, usually with a minimum of 8 megapixels, backside lighting, fast autofocus and plenty of camera options. Obvious choices are the Sony Xperia Z, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5s. For Nokia/WP8 fans, the Nokia Lumia 925 may be the best bet.

Yet, if photography comes top of your list of wants, and you're willing to compromise on other areas, the Lumia 1020 might still be the perfect device for you. At least until the next Lumia comes along.


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Nokia Lumia 1020 user reviews

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Rating:


Average rating from 8 reviews:

Reviewed by Lee from England on 26th Aug 2014
Had this for just over a month now and absolutely love it! Windows phone is so much easier to use than Android and despite the "lower spec" dual core processor, the phone never lags and is super smooth. I mainly use my phone for facebook, twitter and a bit of web browsing and this delivers in spades. The camera is stunning. Make no mistake, this blows any other smartphone out of the water. My iPhone devotee wife even admitted to me that her 5s doesn't even come close. My only gripe is the app store. It really is quite poor and although the main apps are available, there is a few that I used on iOS and Android that aren't official apps on WP (they're 3rd part offerings and are full of ads). Also, a TV out option needs to be added so I can enjoy the flawless HD videos on my TV. If these could be addressed then this would be my perfect phone. As it is, the camera is so good that I'm giving it 5 stars anyway :-)
Rating:

Reviewed by CHRIS from UAE on 14th Aug 2014
Love my phone, outstanding, definitely deserves more than 3 star rating. mostly bought it because i like the superb camera quality and previous nokia also had 41 mp. have totally abandoned my digital camera, but the gps is out of this world, and free for life, and i dont have to have internet connection to use it.

nice phone but still getting to grips with the latest technology (at my age)
Rating:

Reviewed by dido from s.wales on 20th Jul 2014
Had this phone just under a month and now it will have to go back as its just switched itself off and won't come back on no matter what it was easy to use except that you had to keep putting the volume up when after it was switched off which could be annoying the call quality was good no hissing or other noise from the phone the speaker is a bit tinny but ok
but due to the problem with the switching itself off I'm going for a refund, i wont be replacing it as it puts me off
Rating:

Reviewed by kimm from England on 23rd Jun 2014
Had it a week now as a replacement for my htc one which is back for warranty repair, again, have to say i prefer the Nokia. Camera outstanding, never used windows phone before, loving it, seems less to go wrong. Only negatives so far, battery not great and in call volume not so good.
Rating:

Reply by Kimm from England on 15th Aug 2014
Please disregard all of the above, after just a month after review, phone is constantly freezing while on lock, nokia suggest not running background apps, phones 4u suggested not having wifi on unless absolutely necessary ,,......why should I have to nurse a phone???.... Phone now gone back but judging by online forums not gonna be any different on return, utter garbage, avoid avoid avoid!!!!!!

Reviewed by SouperJim from UK on 28th May 2014
Pretty puzzled by the review here, I see very little "cons" when considering this handset yet it only got 3 stars, why? You gave the 925 5 stars under a year ago and this handset is so much better! The "underpowered" processor is a non-issue due to WP8 being a lightning fast OS, windows phone just doesn't need the same amount of power compared to android and iOS. It's a charge once per day battery, nothing new there. OK it could be 1080p, but that's the only real issue I can see with the handset. On the plus side, the camera blows the competition out of the water.

I picked up the O2 exclusive 64gb model for free on a 23/month contract, making the phone cheap compared to other flagships and giving me more storage space than I'll ever need.

If you're after a windows phone, this is the handset to get. End of.
Rating:

Reviewed by Lanien Bourke from Australia on 28th Jan 2014
Yes there are a few short falls to this phone. I am still learning how to use all its functions. But basically it is not bad. Yes a removallable memory of 64 or higher GB slot would have helped as there is not enough space on the hard drive along with a faster processor & a longer battery life, but you can not have everything. the other problem is being able to print documents off this mobile phone in office 365 or PDF files with out having to transfer to PC or Laptop. Looking forward to next Nokia with these benefit's & especially that camera it wonderful. I notice that I have not seen an app for a Diary with a automatic date & time to record most important details of one's life because I forget day to day things I like to remember.
Rating:

Reviewed by Tony from uk on 11th Nov 2013
I've given this phone 4 stars, but wondering if it should've been 3. I had the phone for 24 hours and really apart from the camera it's just a normal Lumia 920. I was coming from Android so going to WP8 was a bit of a shock and to be honest, the operating system just doesn't do it for me.

The camera is amazing as you would expect for 41megapixels and the build quality excellent but I just didn't feel comfortable with the OS. Too many little quirks for me.

Took it back to the store on the 7 day change of mind policy and changed for a Galaxy S4 which apart from the camera and build quality is streets ahead functionally of the Lumia 1020, for me that is anyway.
Rating:

Reviewed by peter from uk on 26th Oct 2013
I disagree with the 3 stars. I won't write about the windows phone interface, everyone knows it's probably the easiest and very reliable to use. I had a windows phone for the last 2 years and still runs like a brand new one and never stutters like android. After my upgrade to Lumia 1020 I will pass my other mobile to my brother for xmas cause it still works perfectly. But with the Lumia 1020 it's like a have the best compact camera in my pocket with full zoom. OK is not a DSLR but never thought it will be, it doesn't do 20x zoom yet! Also, nokia music, nokia maps downloaded on mobile for the whole of Europe no internet needed, office and makes it perfect. The camera technology is unreal. It mentions here that the camera is little slow but only if you need the full 41M pic. Otherwise the camera is as fast as other top mobiles. Best smartphone right now, the camera for me is the main factor and there are so many times I knew I wouldn't be able to take that nice pic.
Rating:

Reply by Justin from UK on 27th Oct 2013
Thanks for the review Peter, I am debating which mobile phone to go for at the moment. I love to take pictures and the thought of a 41mp camera on my mobile is fantastic. I was put off a bit when the phone only got 3 stars but have been checking the site everyday waiting for a review, Im was glad to see your 5 star review this morning.


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