Performance & Battery Life
Just like previous Lumia smartphones, the 950 XL’s performance is outstanding. Windows 10 Mobile isn’t as demanding as Android, so it takes less under the hood to provide a decent experience (same goes for iOS). The Lumia 950 XL features Qualcomm’s SoC Snapdragon 810, which had some overheating issues when it first launched about a year ago. Microsoft addressed this issue with a liquid cooling system, which seems to work. Even when pushing the system, we couldn’t cause it to overheat.
The phone comes with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with microSD. Looking past the build and finish, the Lumia 950 XL performs well enough to suggest long-term reliability, whether as a smartphone or through Continuum, functioning as a PC.
The 3340 mAh battery offers average battery life. The combo of a Snapdragon 810 and a 5.7-inch QHD display require a lot of juice. Add two active SIM cards, and the strain increases. Expect to charge this phone at least every other day, and more frequently with above-average use.
Software & Windows Continuum
Compared to the previous version, Windows 10 Mobile features functional alterations at the OS level along with a few cosmetic changes. Windows Phone 8.1 users will feel right at home, and will find that everyday tasks have a simpler and more available solution.
Going as far back as Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has been persistent with a UI that aligns closely with its PC offerings. It has been and still is a stark departure from iOS and Android, which are both very similar in broad terms. Variety is a good thing, and Microsoft deserves credit for this approach.
Windows Continuum is the feature that expands Windows 10 Mobile into a desktop OS. This requires the Display Dock Continuum, along with an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Once connected, Windows 10 Mobile takes the appearance of Windows 10, but the limitations of the Lumia 950 XL remain. Users are still limited to the ARM-powered Lumia’s applications. That said, Windows OneDrive works well in this situation for saving and syncing files, and it’s an innovative feature. Bottom line, the Lumia 950 XL is not a PC substitute, but as an emergency or quick option, it’s better than any other smartphone.
The 20-megapixel rear-facing camera is a real Lumia 950 XL strength. It comes with a brand new 1/2.4” BSI sensor, OIS, and triple RGB LED flash. The ZEISS signature lens offers 26 mm of focal length and f/1.9 aperture. This is one of a few models that supports RAW files (combined with 8 MP JPG + 19 MP DNG), which should please photographers that love to manipulate and tinker with images after the fact.
Images taken with Lumia 950 XL are outstanding in any lighting condition, and offer a high level of details, and great noise reduction, while the colors feature the right exposure and vivacity. Rich Capture mode is the Lumia version of HDR, and it cleverly edits the image, displaying it as rich, both as on the phone’s screen and when viewed on other devices.
The front-facing camera has a neat trick: a biometric user authorization feature called Windows Hello. Basically, a user can unlock the phone with an iris scan. Windows Hello also has a 3D face capture version for laptops and larger devices, but the Windows 10 Mobile iris scanner is a bit simpler. It scans the color pattern in the user’s eye. This functions immaculately in practice, even in dark-lit rooms, through contact lenses, and glasses. This is a modern and likeable alternative to the fingerprint reader, which this device lacks.