Business Tech & Gaming

Thursday 14 December 2017

Microsoft Lumia 950 hands on review

Microsoft Lumia 950
Microsoft Lumia 950

Paul Mallon

Microsoft has a new flagship smartphone in the form of the Lumia 950 and we've been putting it through its paces

Microsoft’s latest flagship handset is here, and we’ve been getting a first impression of the device.

The Lumia 950 is a marquee release for Microsoft, coming at a time when they’re launching Windows 10 in earnest and working towards building an integrated ecosystem across mobile, desktop, tablet and even games consoles.

The phone makes a great first impression, mostly with the large 5.2 inch screen which packs in Quad-HD resolution. The numbers are 1440 x 2560 million pixels but what that means in practise is a pin sharp display and the AMOLED tech makes for gorgeously deep blacks.

In the hand, the Lumia 950 feels surprisingly compact despite the large screen. That’s partly down to the slim profile and rounded edges which make it very comfortable to hold. We really like the plastic back plate which somehow manages to be smooth to the touch but still provides plenty of grip.

Plenty of users will be happy to hear that the rear of the device can be removed and there’s a replaceable battery inside, rated at 3,000 mAh. You can also add a SIM card and microSD storage, which officially supports cards up to a huge 200 gigs. That’s on top of the internal 32 gigs, so you’ll never run out of space.

Inside, the 950 is running a Snapdragon 808 chip with 3 gigs of RAM. That’s a very high spec, and we’ve had no problem running games and exploring the interface of the phone so far.

Windows 10 is a huge part of the experience of this new phone, and that starts with the home screen and its live tiles. It’s a unique way of presenting your information, letting you see updates from your contacts in a constant animated stream that’s very different from the static home screens of most phones.

It all feels very slick, and comes with some improvements to the UI. For example, you can decide exactly where you want to place the keyboard for typing – including a left and right handed orientation, or you can just pick it up and move it to a different part of the screen.

There’s also deep integration of Microsoft apps which reaches into the wider ecosystem. For example you can start a Microsoft Word document on the phone and have your progress synced to the cloud – then pick up where you left off on desktop or mobile. These connections are only going to get deeper as time goes on, with the potential for game streaming and more in the future.

Our favourite part of the phone so far though has to be the camera. Mobile photography is still full of underperforming shooters but the 950 has one of the best we’ve tried.

The back houses a 20 megapixel sensor with an f1.9 aperture, digital zoom, 6-lens Zeiss optics, image stabilisation and a triple LED flash. Those items are all great on paper but the real treat is how quickly it performs. Just press the hardware camera shutter button on the side and it instantly launches and captures in under a second.

More than that, focussing is fast and accurate and the images the phone captures are simply excellent. Colour reproduction is accurate and the shutter speed can often capture fast moving objects with little or no blur.

We also love the tiny macro shooting distance which is even better in manual mode. Unlike most phones, you’ve got full control over exposure and white balance but also focus. Flick it to manual and you can create your own artistic blur or make sure things are pin sharp, and all of these controls also work in the video mode, which shoots up to 4K effortlessly.

The triple flash is strong enough for all kinds of scenarios and with Rich Capture mode you can decide after the shot if you want to reduce the effect of the flash. This mode also uses HDR like tech to produce composite images to reduce blur and retain better contrast, and does so without bothering you too much with fancy menus.

Microsoft isn’t shouting loudly enough about how good the camera is on this device, and it could easily go toe to toe with the best shooters around. Photography lovers should definitely consider the Lumia 950 as their next handset and we’re looking forward to getting to grips with the rest of its features.

The Lumia 950 is available now in Ireland.

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