Introduction

The Nokia Lumia 800 is without a doubt one of the most interesting devices produced by the iconic Finnish smartphone manufacturer in a long while. Expectations are high for the Lumia series, which represents Nokia’s first foray into devices running Windows Phone 7.5. At the same time, we haven’t touched many Windows Phones since our initial review what seems like ages ago, but the platform has moved along, giving us an opportunity to finally take a formal look at the new things Windows Phone 7.5 brings.

It’s easiest to just start with the aesthetics, and here the Lumia 800 shows a huge amount of influence from the Nokia N9. Though we don’t have an N9, it’s comparatively easy to confuse the two based on just how similar their exteriors are, though inside both are completely different beasts. Of course, this form factor borrows a lot from what made the Nokia N8 such a unique device - unibody design, rounded edges, tapers, and a flat top and bottom. The only downside to this unibody construction is having the battery sealed inside, which isn’t quite a deal breaker but is worth noting.

The Lumia 800 (and N9) physically depart from the previous generation of Nokia designs in a major way by eschewing anodized aluminum in favor of a monobody polycarbonate plastic exterior. Of course, this led to much gnashing of teeth over whether the Lumia 800 would feel plasticky, and many looking at this change in materials as a step backwards. Unsurprisingly, the handset doesn’t feel cheap or plasticky at all. I’ve seen Nokia refer to the exterior as polymer a few times (much the same way some weapon manufacturers refer to things as polymer in place of “plastic”) and honestly after playing with and holding the Lumia for so long I’m convinced the phone pulls this material swap off quite well. The only downside is that skin oil does discolor the plastic visibly (at least the black variant we have), but it isn’t anything a wipe with a microfiber cloth can’t fix.

Part of what really helps the Lumia feel good is the fact that the exterior isn’t glossy or mirror-smooth, but rather given a light matte texture. It doesn’t scuff with a fingernail either like some other matte-finished plastics. In addition, it’s striking how nice having a uniform round edge at the left and right side helps ergonomics. It really is one solid piece, minus the display glass.

The only completely flat parts on the Lumia 800 are the top and bottom, with the rest of the phone having a convex spherical shape. On the backside, the only part of the phone that is indeed flat (and thus sits coplanar with a surface) is the chrome “Nokia / Carl Zeiss Tessar” strip which houses the camera. The only major annoyance I have with the whole design is that putting chrome right where the device lays flat just invites scratches. Even with a case on, the chrome strip has picked up some scratches that definitely show at the right angle. To the right of this strip is a dual LED flash, and a tiny little cutout home to a second microphone undoubtably for noise cancelation when on calls.

At the very top is the standard headphone jack at far left, and the two doors for both microUSB and microSIM. The microUSB door has a raised region to demark where to press, and pushing here pops up the door which is held shut with magnets otherwise. I worry this door is the first thing that will break off, but it’s nice having a covered port. Right next to that is the microSIM tray, which slides over and then out. The door has some contacts on it that seem to be used with logic to tell when you’ve ejected the SIM as well. It’s also inside here that Nokia places the model number, FCC ID, and all that jazz. It’s with these two open that you can see the only two screws on the device as well, which look like some Torx bits.

It’s intriguing to me that we’re now seeing microSIMs popping up everywhere and in so many devices. While this used to be a big deal, SIM cutters are now so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to fault anyone for using one.

On the right side, Nokia puts the volume rocker above the power button, and then on the lower quarter is the mandatory two-step camera button. I have no complaints with any of the buttons; obviously, Nokia has this down and I have no doubt they’re communicative enough to use even with gloves on.

The bottom of the Lumia 800 is home to some more European regulatory markings, and the speaker grille which hides the speakerphone and microphone. More on this later, but I unfortunately found the Lumia 800’s speakerphone incredibly quiet.

The left side is devoid of buttons, and really feels good. When I look at the ports arranged this way, I feel that they’re designed to accommodate the phone being held in the left hand, with the fingers naturally resting right on the buttons.

The front is one homogenous piece of glass with the three mandatory Windows Phone buttons at the bottom, all capacitive and backlit. I have no complaints with the capacitive buttons - they work perfectly. Curved displays are all the rage lately, and again the Lumia 800 has a convex shape that bows outwards spherically, including the front glass. It isn’t huge, but it’s enough to be perceptible. Up at the very top is the narrow slit for the earpiece.

I’ve put together the usual comparison table and tossed in the Focus S (which we'll review soon) for good measure. Windows Phone land is still dominated by Qualcomm SoCs, and at this point all the phones shipping are now using single core S2 (MSM8x55 or MSM7x30) variety. Both the Lumia 800 and 710 run their MSM8255s at 1.4 GHz. In addition there are actually two variants of the Nokia Lumia 800 - the RM-801 which we have, and the RM-819 which differ in what WCDMA bands are present, but more on that later.

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4S HTC Sensation Samsung Focus S Nokia Lumia 800
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 126.3 mm (4.97") 126.1 mm (4.96") 116.5 mm (4.59")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 65.5 mm (2.58") 66.8 mm (2.63") 61.2 mm (2.41")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 11.6 mm (0.46") 8.5 mm (0.33") 12.1 mm (0.48")
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz) 148 g (5.22 oz) 125 g (3.9 oz) 142 g (5.0 oz)
CPU Apple A5 @ ~800MHz Dual Core Cortex A9 1.2 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon MSM8260 1.4 GHz Single Core Snapdragon MSM8255 1.4 GHz Single Core Snapdragon MSM8255
GPU PowerVR SGX 543MP2 Adreno 220 Adreno 205 Adreno 205
RAM 512MB LPDDR2-800 768 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2 512 MB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB, 32GB or 64GB integrated 4 GB NAND with 8 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled 16 GB NAND (no external microSD) 16 GB NAND (no external microSD)
Camera 8 MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP AF/Dual LED flash, VGA front facing 8 MP AF/LED, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP AF/Dual LED Flash, 720p Video Rec.
Screen 3.5" 960 x 640 LED backlit LCD 4.3" 960 x 540 S-LCD 4.3" 800 x 480 SAMOLED+ 3.7" 800 x 480 SAMOLED w/ClearBlack
Battery Internal 5.3 Whr Removable 5.62 Whr Removable 6.1 Whr Internal 5.37 Whr

Nokia also does something interesting and ships a rubberized exterior skin with the Lumia 800 right in the box. This is a welcome thing to do that I wish more smartphone OEMs would do. The rubberized skin doesn’t cover any of the buttons or ports and keeps the backside off rough surfaces to prevent scratching. I spent most of my time with the Lumia 800 in the rubberized case, but more because I worry about shipping devices back all scuffed up than out of worry about build quality.

I think that’s the major takeaway in the look and feel department. Though we haven’t reviewed every Windows Phone formally, I’ve at least touched every one of them, and the Lumia 800 is without a doubt the absolute best Windows Phone hardware out there right now. Build quality is excellent, the phone feels substantial in the hand, and the form factor and shape have a spark of - something different - people were looking for when they thought about Nokia making a Windows Phone.

Battery Life and Charging
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  • smellslikepoo - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    I don't have this phone or an android or an iphone. Last year I shelled out for an unlocked N8 after doing some research. Personally for me it's a awesome piece of tech. The Ovi Store is somewhat limited in it's selection but this really doesn't faze me much. All of the most popular stuff was included or could be a downloaded for free. The processor is a little long in the tooth but I haven't seen another phone that comes close to the hardware packed into my N8. When I bought it I purchased an Otterbox case as well. Most people who see the phone in the case think it is a cheap android.

    Ihave used my girlfriend's iphone 3 and played with alot of droid phones. Recently I bought a gingerbread tablet. The first thing I noticed about android is that it is alot of fun on my tablet but would hate to be stuck with android on a phone.

    I thought the iphone was pretty nice but would hate to be stuck with itunes and all the other things apple. I wasn't impressed with the phone aspect of the phone either.

    When people would ask me what apps I could run or how fast my processor is most of the time I'd say... I I dunno. It do know I have a 12mp camera with a real xeon flash, bt3, usb to go, real gps with a lifetime of free maps all around the world, amoled screen, hdmi, works as a wifi hotspot and 48 gb of storage. People look at the case and think it's another cheap plastic knock off until I show them the aluminum body that is...

    I was
    Reply
  • smellslikepoo - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    .... Hoping this phone would be like my N8 only with WP7. Guess I'll keep my-not-so-smart-but-has-the-features-I-actually-use-in-a-phone-camera until they come out with something comparable.

    In all honesty I'd pay double today for another N8 if I could use it on Verizon's network.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    This hasn't necessarily got anything to do with the Lumia, but wanted to share it nonetheless.
    I don't understand Nokia's reputation for solid phones quite frankly. My experience is a small sample size, but the experiences made in my circle of family and friends is nothing but horrendous. A friend had an N85 which broke 2 times (couldn't dial anymore once and display crack the second time) which got replaced by a N95. That had random reboots and bad call quality. A family member from my wifes side had a N97 which they can't do anything with because it is much too slow. Another friend got a Nokia X8 but portrait/landscape orientation doesn't work one bit. I don't know anyone who has a Nokia Smartphone and is happy and content.

    Granted, Samsung, Apple, LG, HTC etc. aren't marvels of quality control. But at least they don't have a reputation like that. They get called out when shitty stuff happens. I don't see the same level of scrutiny applied to Nokia.

    As for the phone reviewed here. I feel thoroughly underwhelmed. Battery/charging issues, small display (personal taste), ordinary build quality, irreplaceable battery, great camera.... My SGS2 shoots photos that I cannot distinguish from my point and shoot (Canon IS590), that is good enough for me (again, personal taste).

    But since WP7 is kinda supposed to be on the cheap side, 420€ for this thing is too much. I get an SGS2 for the same kind of money with a better screen (RGB>RGBG), better SoC performance and better battery times. If you want WP7, go with another brand would be my advice and use the money saved to buy the next generation. This thing ain't worth it. :)
    Reply
  • Heron Kusanagi - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    Before that, what is the X8? There's only the X7 in Nokia's portfolio.

    Well, Nokia feature and dumb phones back in the day have that reputation of solidness. My family has quite good experience with Nokia, especially with the E series. My E63 is with me for 3 years going on the 4th. My dad's E5 is holding up amazingly too.

    The thing is Nokia doesn't get called out because it was the best before the iPhone came out, and if you

    I think mileage will differ. Like how some guys swear by Acer while I keep having issues with it.

    I am skipping this generation of Nokia WP7 phones because of my contract which doesn't end in June. But I do think the Lumia 800 is a solid first attempt.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, January 06, 2012 - link

    Meant the Nokia X7, got a bit confused with the Xperia X8. :-) Reply
  • binqq - Friday, January 06, 2012 - link

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    Reply
  • huy5sys - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Nokia missed an important trick IMO.
    How about a 3:2 mode for 6x4 prints withou the need to crop?

    16:9 ==> 3552 x 1998 = 7,096,896 pixels
    4:3 ==> 3264 x 2448 = 7,990,272 pixels
    3:2 ==> 3462 x 2308 = 7,990,296 pixels

    About the same pixel count as the 4:3 mode
    Probably needs only a minor software change.
    Makes a big difference.
    Hope someone from Nokia is listening.
    Reply
  • juzzle - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I spent 5 days with a Nokia Lumia 800. I loved it, but returned it. Read the whole story (compared to the iPhone 4S) at the link below:

    "The Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone Mango 7.5 make a formidable combination. Beautiful build quality, gorgeous display, immediate responsiveness and an extremely elegant operating system (clearly better in many respects than iOS5). I bought the phone 5 days ago to replace my painfully slow iPhone 3G. Despite this praise however, the phone is going back today, replaced by my shiny new iPhone 4S – “what?!” I hear you say – well read on."

    Be warned that some grey market versions of this phone (notably Hong Kong) do not come with Nokia Drive or Nokia Music.

    http://opinionroad.com/2012/01/16/nokia-lumia-800-...
    Reply
  • Shuol - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    The phone has a great feel and looks great on the desk. But the software really lets the phone down. It is obviously microsoft software which always lack innovation. The user experience is defined by the programmed functions - i.e. it's bottom up instead of top-down. e.g. when you go to bed you set an alarm. Instead of the phone asking whether it should turn off the phone function until the alarm goes off, you have to set flight mode. This is 2012 not 1990. Nokia gave me corporate blah blah and passed the buck to microsoft, so I created www.nokia-lumia-800.org to vent my frustration and collect everyones thoughts. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 07, 2012 - link

    According to Engadget and a few others the new firmware (as of today I think) nearly triples the battery life, I'd like to see that tested. That's either some crazy optimization or some crazy bad original firmware Reply

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