In Review

Nokia Lumia 950 vs Lumia 550: Windows 10 for Mobile reviews

Microsoft will introduce Windows 10 for Mobile with the top-of-the-line Lumia 950 – and the entry-level 550 will follow

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Microsoft's Lumia phones have never had it easy. With the smartphone market dominated by Apple iOS and Google's Android software, consumers may be forgiven for overlooking the likes of the Lumia 950.

However, Microsoft hopes that its new mobile operating system, Windows for Mobile, will rekindle some interest. The first phone to carry the new software will be the Nokia Lumia 950, a flagship phone now available for pre-order in the UK, and it will soon be joined by the Lumia 550, and entry-level upstart that's garnering a lot of praise.

Prices

The Lumia 950 is a high-end smartphone and comes with a price tag to match: its recommended retail price in the UK is £449, starting £10 cheaper than an iPhone 6.

The Lumia 550 is expected to be released in December, just in time for Christmas. The price has yet to be confirmed, but 3G expect it to come in at not much over £100, sim free.

Display

The Lumia 950 has a 5.2-inch Amoled screen coated in protective Gorilla Glass 3, with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. That works out at 564 pixels per inch, a  "glorious… ridiculously high resolution", says Arstechnica. And the deep blacks and sharpness of the colour "makes for beautiful text and crystal clear pictures."

The screen and display of the Lumia 950, one of the key selling points of the device, certainly "keeps up with the smartphone Joneses", says Tom's Guide.

The more modest Lumia 550 will get a 4.7-inch Truecolour LCD screen with 315 pixels per inch and a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. It can't match the colours and brightness of the 950, but the display is good for the price of the phone.

Camera

The camera on the Lumia 950 Is a 20 megapixel PureView which makes the most of the powerful display and screen. Tech journalist Paul Thurrott says image quality is on par with that of an iPhone 6S, and low light performance is particularly impressive. The front-facing camera fits the bill too: a five-megapixel 1080p unit.

The Lumia 550 has lower technical specs, but five-megapixel main camera is packed with features, including LED flash, auto and manual exposure moded, automatic upload to web services, touch focus, and 720p HD video, which can be recorded in the MP4 format. The two-megapixel front-facing camera can record video in 480p.

Features

One defining feature of the Windows 10 for Mobile software used on the Lumia 950 and its larger companion, the Lumia 950 XL, is Continuum mode, which lets users link the phone to a keyboard, mouse and monitor and use it as a desktop PC with scaled-up versions of apps such as Word and Excel.

It provides a "decent basic desktop computing experience", says the Wall Street Journal, which looks and feels very similar to a full-blown PC with Windows 10, especially when using apps like Word.

But even with 3GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.8GHz processor, the phone is stretched to its limits when browsing the internet, the paper says. With six or seven tabs open at the same time, it can feel like "the dial-up modem days."

Another new feature of the Lumia 950, called Windows Hello for mobiles, uses infrared to scan your eyes to unlock the phone automatically – a convenient trick, but in this early version it can struggle in the dark.

The 550 comes with 1GB of RAM and a Quad-core 1.1 GH processor, but will not come with the Continuum feature. It will, however, feature mobile-optimised versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It has only 8GB of memory, but there's an SD card slot should you need more space.

Verdict

The 950 has impressed and frustrated reviewers in equal measure. The quality of the screen and camera is undeniable, and the Continuum feature is genuinely useful and innovative.

The only real shortcoming is the lack of apps. It's an interesting phone with flagship levels of hardware, says Forbes, but the "lack of a solid third-party app system lets the whole platform down".

The as-yet-unreleased Lumia 550 is shaping up to be an excellent cheap-and-cheerful option, and if there are no launch hiccups it could sell "much better than the 950 and 950 XL", according to Softpedia.

You'll be hard pressed to find a better phone for the money, says 3G.

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