Nokia Lumia 920 & Lumia 820 Preview

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Earlier today, Nokia unveiled its first two Windows Phone handsets, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820. But later on, the Finnish phone company and Microsoft teamed up to hold an event an in New York City where the new smartphones were on display. Brighthand was on the scene to get a glimpse of the devices firsthand, and although some aspects of the new operating system were still under wraps, we got to see the Nokia hardware in action, and we were impressed with what we saw.

Nokia Lumia 920The Lumia 920

Like Nokia’s last flagship Windows Phone handset, the Lumia 900, the Lumia 920 is a bit on the larger side, weighing in at 185 grams and measuring 10.7 millimeters thick. The device’s three buttons (power, volume rocker, dedicated camera button) are all located on the right side, while the micro USB charging port is on the bottom and a headphone jack and pop-out SIM card slot are on the top edge. Like some of the previous Lumia models, a pin-like key is required to pop open the SIM card tray. But Nokia is touting the Lumia 920 as its flagship Windows Phone 8 device, and put simply, on the hardware front, it lived up to that title.

For starters, the Lumia 920 has some impressive specs, many of which are shared with the Lumia 820, including a dual-core, Snapdragon S4 processor clocking in at 1.5 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, NFC support, and LTE connectivity.

Beyond that, however, the rest of the Lumia 920’s specs have an edge over those of the 820, including a 4.5-inch, PureMotion HD Plus display with a 1280 x 768 resolution (and the same ClearBlack technology that’s found on current Lumia models), 32 GB of onboard storage, and, perhaps most importantly, an 8.7-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and Nokia’s Pureview technology.

After seeing the camera of the Lumia 920 in action, we can safely say that it’s much, much better than the underwhelming camera found on the 900 and other Lumia models. At first, we were shown pictures that were previously taken at night by the Lumia 920, and given how bright they looked, it was easy to write them off as being a product of an ideal setup, or perhaps even being doctored since we didn’t actually see them being taken.

Nokia Lumia 920 Photo Comparison With HTC TrophyBut Nokia had just the solution to address skeptics like us, and had an area where we could try taking a picture of a pot of flowers in a poorly lit booth with our own phone, after which a rep would do the same with a Lumia 920. Nokia made a believer out of me the moment I saw the Lumia 920’s photo next to the one I had taken with my HTC Trophy, pictured right. Even though it’s an off-screen shot of the two images, you can still see that it absolutely schooled our apparently weak competition.

The OIS worked well too; it’s activated once the user performs a half-press of the shutter button, at which point motion blur seems to vanish. To see that the addition of OIS performed well is a relief on a personal level, since I couldn’t tell you the number of times the camera on my phone has left me with blurred pictures that came as a result of the slight shake that occurs when fully pressing the shutter button.

The impressive camera of the Lumia 920 went beyond the hardware itself, though. Both the Lumia 920 and 820 feature different “lenses” that users can utilize for different types of shots: standard, panorama, Smart Shoot, and Cinemagraph. Smart Shoot takes a handful of images with a single press of the shutter button, which, in turn, allows users to mix and match certain elements of the photos to create a single, ideal image. So for instance, if you were taking a picture of your friends and everyone was smiling at different times or someone blinked during the photo, you could take the good shots of everyone’s faces from the series of photos that were snapped and put them in a single image.

The Cinemagraph function, meanwhile, also takes multiple pictures with a single press of the shutter button, but they aren’t individually viewable by the user. Instead, they’re put to a different use than they would be with Smart Shoot; Cinemagraph lets users animate their pictures selectively. In other words, what users see is a still picture, but then they are able to highlight the aspects of the image that they want to see animated. By rubbing the area they want to see animated, users will then see that part of the photo move (assuming the subject in that area was in motion while the shutter button was being held down) while the rest of it remains static.

Nokia City Lens on Lumia 820One of the more unique uses of the Lumia 920’s (and 820’s) camera is Nokia’s City Lens feature, which is an augmented reality app that shows users nearby points of interests by marking them on the screen when viewing the area around you through the phone’s camera. Using a combination of information gleaned from the phone’s GPS, compass, and camera, the City Lens creates an overlay that marks different locations like restaurants, movie theaters, and stores on the screen to show where they are relative to your location.

There is also a radar screen in the upper right-hand corner to show how many POIs are located around you, and what direction they’re in. And aside from the fact that the notations on the screen tell you how far each POI is from your current position, locations that are further away will appear smaller or minimized (though minimized icons can still be maximized to provide more information) so the screen doesn’t get too cluttered. In fact, each marking on the City Lens display can be tapped, which subsequently pulls up an entry for that location through Nokia Maps — which is preloaded on the phone, along with many of Nokia’s other proprietary apps, like the recently-launched Nokia Music — to provide more information.

Navigating the Lumia 920 is made especially convenient thanks to its Synaptics screen, which allows users to operate the capacitive touchscreen with items other than their fingers. It works while touching the screen with gloves on, and as well as with fingernails and even metallic objects. We expressed concern over the display getting scratched as a result of being touched with foreign objects, but were then reminded that the Lumia 920 sports a Gorilla Glass 2 screen. The representative I spoke to claimed that the Lumia 820 also has Gorilla Glass 2, but subsequent reports and spec sheets have indicated that this is not actually the case.

Nokia Lumia 920 Top EdgeThe Lumia 920 also features built-in Qi wireless charging, which is a nice touch, but it does not actually ship with a wireless charging base. Users have to pay extra to be able to capitalize on that feature, and Nokia is not currently saying how much it will cost.

As a result of the built-in wireless charging (as well as the camera’s OIS), the Lumia 920 has a curved back that adds to the device’s thickness. Beyond that, however, the phone’s unibody design (combined with rounded edges and sharp corners) was highly reminiscent of the Lumia 900. The only other noticeable difference was that the Lumia 920 does not have a matte finish, but rather a glossy casing.

Part II of this article covers the Nokia Lumia 820, Windows Phone 8, and some Nokia accessories. Be sure to read on.

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