Nokia Lumia 1020 Review: Great phone, but is it worth the price tag?


Lumia 1020

First off

Let me say: This phone is amazing. It’s lightning quick, never hangs on any tasks and consistently gets the best benchmark when I test it on any of the bench-marking apps available on the marketplace. Oh yea, and the camera is otherworldly, I will never need to bring my point and shoot camera with me again…

 

Now, let’s get to the review.

I picked this phone up for $299 at an AT&T store after Amazon had problems processing my order. Almost as soon as I walked out the door I had regrets (let me explain). Windows Phone 8 is amazing, it’s so smooth capable and polished; it really is the best mobile OS. That being said, if you’ve had a Windows Phone 7.8+ device before then WP8 on the Lumia 1020 just feels stale, not unlike any other OS at this point. The difference between the 1020 and the other devices is the price tag. $299 is just too expensive for me to recommend this phone to people who already have a high-end WP 7.8 or WP 8 device, aside from the camera there really isn’t much different…

Lumia 1020 benchmark

Windows Phone 8 Performance

If you don’t currently have a WP 7.8 or WP 8 device, by all means go for the 1020, it’s a wonderful device and Windows Phone 8 will make you smile at every turn. The Lumia 1020 has a whopping 2GB of ram, easily 4 times more than the ultra-efficient Windows Phone 8 needs to operate. This means that there really isn’t any task the 1020 can’t handle, and background tasks won’t weigh you down. Like the 920, 928, and 925, the Lumia 1020 has a 1500mhz dual core processor which is more than enough to run Windows Phone 8. You won’t get the satisfaction of saying “I’ve got a quad-core” like some of the android phone owners, but when they go head to head I have no doubt in my mind the 1020 will be faster than any android device you pit it against. The beauty lies in the software; Windows Phone is slim and professional, while most Android offerings are bloated and laggy…

Build Quality

The build construction of my Lumia 1020 is exactly what you’d expect from a high-end Nokia device, top of the line, solid construction. Although my 1020 will wear a protective case for its entire life I have little doubt that this phone could withstand a few unprotected drops and suffer only a couple scratches on the case, Gorilla Glass 3 gives you that added piece of mind that your screen isn’t going to crack after one drop.

Lumia Image Test

Comparison of Lumia 1020, 928, and 900 cameras.

“Second to none” is the phrase I would use to describe the Lumia 1020’s camera. Nothing else even comes close (including my Sony Cyber shot), night time pictures without a flash – though still worse than what your eyes can see (obviously) – are the best I’ve seen on any phone, or point-and-shoot camera. If you somehow have a tripod for this phone you can have it leave the shutter open for up to 4 seconds, giving you extremely bright (and blurry if your subject is moving) night time pictures . The delayed shutter function does allow you to set the phone down after telling it to take a picture so you can minimize movement while taking a night time picture.

Video on the Lumia 1020 is spectacular as well, smooth HD capture and clear audio recording are high points of any phone and like the 928, the Lumia 1020 dons multiple microphones to make audio recording in hectic environments possible.

On top of the physical pleasantries of the 1020’s camera, there is a plethora of apps that make use of the camera. My favorites so far are Photosynth (lets you capture a spherical image around you) and Fresh Paint (think “Take on Me”). Instagram or not Instagram and “Vine” are now available on the Lumia 1020, there is certainly no shortage of cool apps you can use with the 1020’s awesome camera.

Nokia CollectionThe Nokia Advantage

Not all Windows Phones are created equal, in fact all Nokias are well above the rest of the pack when it comes to app availability. When most people think of Windows Phone they think of a lack of available applications.

Nokia recognized this fact and has made it their mission to give Lumia owners the best selection of apps possible. The Nokia collection is something unique to Nokia Lumia Windows Phones, and includes dozens of cool, very well made apps that replace most if not all of the apps missing from the general Windows Phone  marketplace.

Apps unique to Nokia Windows Phones include “Nokia Video Trimmer” which allows you to cut your own recorded video, and “Nokia Video Upload” which allows you to upload videos to Youtube.  One of the coolest apps from the Nokia collection is “Photobeamer” which allows you to display any of your phone’s pictures on a second (internet connected) screen, just by pointing your phone at the screen.

The Nokia collection brings Windows Phone users more than apps created by Nokia, popular games, and social apps have been brought over from the other mobile operating systems by Nokia, it feels like home.

Lumia1020StorageStorage Space

Like the other uni-body Lumias before it (and the iphone), the 1020 has no way of accessing its battery compartment and no way of adding a micro SD card. What you see is what you get (actually it’s about 5GB less than what you see); with no apps installed the Lumia 1020 will have a maximum of 27 GB of free space. 3 GB of space is lost to formatting, 2 GB lost to the OS, this loss of space is the same on every phone, but with the Lumia 1020 it hurts more because every megabyte is prime real estate. In a battle of fortune, the 1020’s full res pictures are around 10MB a piece (and the phone also takes a 5MP picture for sharing). That’s great because you really are getting full quality pictures but not so great because you will eat into that chunk of free space alarmingly fast if you take a moderate amount of pictures. When you add apps, music, and videos into the mix, that free space gets even smaller. To combat this space issue, AT&T is offering a free upgrade to their 50gb of cloud storage through AT&T locker (limited time offer they say), and as always SkyDrive offers 7gb of free cloud storage (I’m still on the 25gb free they gave me for being an early WP user). Even with those two free cloud storage options I long for expandable memory. If I could, I would throw in a 64 GB MicroSD and carry around tons of music and videos. Cloud storage, is not the answer to phone storage in my opinion…

Price

Like I said, the Lumia 1020 is expensive, currently ranging from $250 on Amazon to $299 at the AT&T store. The Microsoft Store also sells the Lumia 1020 for $299 but includes the camera grip free of charge. I mean, sure it’s a free grip, but I can’t see anyone using it on a daily basis or ever taking it with them, it’s huge…
The only way I have been able to justify spending $299 on the Lumia 1020 coming off the Lumia 900 is by realizing that this will replace my point-and-shoot camera, so if you think of it as paying $150 for a good camera and $150 for a great phone it feels a little better.

Lumia1020BatteryCutBattery Life

A key question people ask me all the time is what kind of battery life they should expect. The Lumia 1020 is on par with any other modern smart phone out there. It has a large 2000mAh battery and lasts me an entire day using it for email, web browsing, the occasional game and of course picture taking. If you do data heavy tasks or talk on the phone a lot you can expect your phone (any phone) to run out of juice much faster. Comparing the battery life of my 1020 to my 900, I’ll say that my 1.5 year old 900 still gets better battery life than the 1020, but I hear that Xenon flashes use a lot of juice.

Issues

I have to disclose the fact that I am on my second Lumia 1020. The first handset I got was plagued with a few issues. The phone had reception issues and would drop calls when I was standing still, in places my Lumia 900 had full LTE coverage. Call quality was genuinely poor on the first 1020. On top of the signal problems that first 1020 had issues where Bluetooth would disconnect every 5 minutes or so. My phone says it has the Amber update which is supposed to mean BT 4.0, so I originally chalked the BT problems up to that, but my new handset has none of these problems (and does have the Amber update). AT&T swapped out both the handset and my SIM card to cover all the bases on the reception issues. My new handset has yet to drop a call and seems to get a much more solid connection; call quality  is better but still nothing ground-breaking.

There are a couple minor issues that both my handsets share.

The first issue is that when looking at the phone in a completely dark room with brightness on auto, I noticed what appear to be streaks or irregularities in the black back ground of the screen. Both 1020 handsets had this problem and although you can’t see them with any external light on, or the brightness turned up, it makes me wonder what those irregularities are, and if they will be a problem further down the road.

The other issue that both handsets I’ve had share, is that the loud speaker on the phone is quiet, disappointingly quiet. There is really no comparison between the 1020 and the Lumia 900 when it comes to loudness of the speaker, the 900 takes the cake…

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a great phone, easily worth 5 stars. If you don’t currently have a Windows Phone 8 or 7.8 device and you want to take amazing pictures, by all means go out and get this phone. It will be 100% worth its expensive price tag. However; if you do have a Windows Phone 8 or 7.8 Lumia I would seriously think about how much you value picture taking. Aside from the camera the only measurable differences between this device and even my Lumia 900 are the few WP8 exclusive apps and .2 inches of diagonal screen width. I haven’t noticed any real improvement in performance over my 900. If you currently have the Lumia 920, the ONLY differences between it and the 1020 are the camera, and the fact that the 1020 doesn’t have built in wireless charging, it really wouldn’t be worth upgrading from the 920 to the 1020 unless you are a true camera nut in my opinion.

Perhaps what the Lumia 1020 has shown me most so far, is just how amazing my Lumia 900 was/is; dated camera aside, that 900 can still go toe to toe with the 920 or 1020 on most tasks with ease.

In addition to the best cellphone camera ever, the 1020 does offer something the Lumia 900 never will, future proofing.

 

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