In Depth

Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL reviews: time to switch to Windows?

Microsoft has taken its time but reviewers think it might have achieved something remarkable

The new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL phones have been a long time coming - but Microsoft has pulled out all the stops with a list of specifications comparable to any high-end Android phone on the market.

Digitaltrends praises the phone's "flagship specs, killer cameras, and Windows 10" in its review but says there remains a pertinent question: "Can Microsoft's Lumia 950 and 950XL convince Android and iPhone users to switch over?"

Windows phones have traditionally lost out in terms of market share to their Apple and Android competitors but Microsoft hopes that the latest incarnation of the famed Nokia Lumia series can knock the two behemoths off their perch.

Specs

"Seriously, the new Lumias have it all," says Gizmodo. "Everything about the 950 and 950XL is a spec sheet dream. The only thing you could knock the Lumia for is it has no water-proof or dust-proof protection, but there's still wireless Qi charging and newly added USB Type-C for even more incredibly fast charging."

The two Lumias boast Quad HD screens with resolutions of 2,560 × 1,440 pixels, though the 950 sports a smaller, 5.2inch screen and the XL a 5.7inch screen - this means the phones are actually higher resolution than the iPhone 6 and 6s.

Despite the plaudits, one area that might let the Lumia down is its processor capabilities - TrustedReviews claim that the Lumia's Snapdragon 808 processor "is a capable chip, but it benchmarks far lower than the monstrous Apple A9 powering the iPhone 6S".

Camera

Another tick in the plus column for the Lumia is the power of the camera. DigitalTrends points out: "Windows Phone built its reputation for making amazing smartphone cameras with the Nokia's Lumia 1020."

It appears the tradition has continued with the 950 and the 950XL. "No other smartphone camera captures this level of detail. When you zoom into a photo taken with the 950's PureView camera - 20-megapixel sensor, Zeiss optics, OIS, and triple LED natural flash - you can see every pore, every individual eyebrow hair, and even stubble in high quality," says the site.

Writing for The Verge, Dieter Bohn believes that Microsoft has chosen to follow the Samsung philosophy of "trying to get a usable image rather than being precisely true to the scene the way Apple is" and the camera's pictures are all the better for it.

"The fact that I was getting usable images at all in the space we're in was actually kind of impressive," says Bohn.

Continuum

The flagship feature of the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950XL is the ability to connect the phones to a monitor and effectively turn it into a PC running Windows 10.

Microsoft has marketed Continuum as an effortless way to share documents or Powerpoints without the need for the Cloud. It has also highlighted the video playback capabilities meaning it could rival Google's Chromebit or Apple's AirPlay as well.

Critics remain divided on Continuum though. Bohn describes it as "surprisingly good", adding: "You can have a different app running on the display than you do on your phone, which means it's slightly more powerful than what you'll get with Apple's AirPlay or Google's Chromecast features."

But Gizmodo questioned the feature's utility. "I wasn't quite seeing this future scenario where I personally would get any use out of this," said the reviewer. "It all just feels like a feature you'd have to work into your life rather than it seamlessly integrating into it." 

Verdict

There's no doubting the Lumia 950 and the 950XL are great phones, says DigitalTrends, but "it's hard to convince Android and iPhone users to switch to Windows Phone after all these years, especially when the specs sheets - and prices - are so very similar."

TrustedReviews agrees, saying: "The Lumia 950 won't put a dent in iPhone sales, and we suspect that Microsoft knows this." But as a premonition of things to come, it's a step in the right direction, it says.

"Its camera promises to be excellent, its 4K OLED screen could well be a Galaxy S6-like stunner, and the prospect of a flexible PC-like experience on your phone is a tantalising one."

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