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Nokia Lumia 800 review

Verdict

As a physical specimen, Nokia’s first Windows 7 phone is spot on, but it isn’t quite the finished article

Review Date: 9 Nov 2011

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £26.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

When Nokia CEO Stephen Elop uttered those infamous words “we are standing on a burning platform”, the future looked pretty bleak for the company. A leviathan that once dominated the industry had fallen behind its main rivals, and was in danger of becoming an also-ran in the smartphone race.

Nokia’s answer was to unceremoniously dump Symbian and replace it with Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Now, nine months after that landmark speech, we finally have the first of its new generation.

Nokia’s hopes rest on the Lumia 800; the big question is, can it combine the company’s traditional mobile phone manufacturing strengths with Microsoft’s slick, yet immature OS?

Physical design

Initially, it seems the answer to that question is yes, at least as far as build quality and design is concerned.

The Lumia is a real beauty, but not in the traditional sense. Surprisingly, Nokia has decided to build it, not from aluminium, but a solid chunk of polycarbonate plastic. You might think this would make it feel cheap – in the way the Samsung Galaxy S II does; in fact, by using techniques borrowed from the world of aluminium case design, Nokia has achieved a very high quality of finish.

Nokia Lumia 800 - front

Thus, all the detailing has been machined, instead of moulded: the combined speaker and microphone grille on the bottom edge, the chrome-rimmed 3.5mm headphone socket on the top edge, and the seamless chrome inset surrounding the camera lens on the rear.

The chassis itself is one piece, and it’s uncompromisingly rigid. Any attempt on our part to get it to flex was stubbornly resisted.

And anyone resistant to the idea of sheathing their pride and joy in a cheap protective case will rejoice at the scuff-resistance of the Lumia’s body – with colour running all the way through the plastic (even the brightly-coloured blue and hot pink versions), and Gorilla Glass on the front it should still look smart at the end of your contract, even without the kid-glove treatment.

It isn’t perfect, though. We’re not entirely convinced by the shape: the rounded edges fit snugly into the palm, and it’s a very grippy phone, but we’re not keen on those sharp corners – they have a tendency to dig in after a while, especially during gameplay. And the tiny pop-up door covering the micro-USB port is extremely flimsy.

Software

Aside from those minor points, though, the Lumia 800 is lovely, and its new operating system offers plenty to get excited about. And aside from the new “Mango” version of Microsoft’s mobile operating system, there are a couple of extras, unique to Nokia handsets.

First up is Nokia Drive, which sees the company’s free satnav app ported across to Windows Phone. Given the paucity of satnav products for Windows Phone so far, this is a boon, and all the better for its downloadable, locally stored maps. That gives it a big advantage over Google Maps on Android handsets, which let you cache small areas, but not whole countries, and on the iPhone, which comes with no free satnav solution as standard.

Nokia Lumia 800 - top edge

Nokia is also making a big thing of the Lumia’s Nokia Music app, and in particular the “Mix Radio” feature. This is a Last.fm-alike – a series of themed streaming, semi-interactive radio stations, maintained by Nokia staff in Bristol. There isn’t much control over the content, aside from the ability to skip tracks that disagree with you, but service is free and if you come across tracks you like you can download them directly from the Nokia MP3 store.

Elsewhere, the Mango update offers plenty of useful improvements. There’s broader and deeper support for social networks out of the box. Twitter and LinkedIn support is now baked in, and there are more Facebook features than before, including integrated calendar support, video upload and Facebook chat. The latter is of particular interest, and is integrated in the messaging view with SMS texts and Microsoft IM, allowing you to converse with the same person across multiple services on the same screen.

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User comments

"Nokia’s first Windows 7 phone is spot on, but it isn’t quite the finished article"

How can it be both?

By Lacrobat on 9 Nov 2011

PenTile display

Did you mean newer technology? This is a current Samsung technology, and is widely used in high end phones. Given that the Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus is due to have a PenTile display, it would be fair to say that PenTile is not old technology.

By tirons1 on 9 Nov 2011

Power consumption

I don't think there's much hope for it reaching the heights of efficiency that Symbian achieved, simply because the OS would have to be written right from the start with minimum resource usage in mind. That's not easy when the bulk of it is going to be written in a HLL, rather than tightly coded assembler/C.
Those Psion engineers knew what they were doing; it's just a shame the UI developers crafted such a Byzantine interface.

By 959ARN on 9 Nov 2011

@lacrobat

Read it again, without taking out of context
"As a physical specimen, Nokia’s first Windows 7 phone is spot on, but it isn’t quite the finished article"
ie. its physically spot on, but overall not the finished article.
Your comments are so tiresome

By dg2puk on 9 Nov 2011

Turn by Turn

"Given the paucity of satnav products for Windows Phone"

I'm guessing the reviewer has no ideas about SatNav apps on Windows Phone. Turn by Turn Navigation has been around for almost a year now. It also offers downloadable maps for any country in the world and all for just £3.99. I use it now instead of a traditional SatNav and am very happy with it. they also provide country specific versions with the entire map for that country pre-installed for quite a bit more.

By skarlock on 9 Nov 2011

Hear hear dg2puk

By CSprout on 9 Nov 2011

Word

Navigon was also just release.

It's a shame that other phones require a dual core cpu to work well while WP7 is smooth as butter with one. Imagine what it'll be like with 2 cores... the same! :)

More can sometimes give you... nothing really. :/

By rhythm on 9 Nov 2011

Nokia Drive but NavTeq Maps!!!

Great to see that Nokia's GPS app has been ported but as long a they continue to use NavTeq's hopelessly out-of-date maps, where people will still be directed into dead-end roads and into estates where NavTeq simply has never mapped the roads, it will be just as useless as it is on Symbian!

By grahamft on 10 Nov 2011

Navigation...

My Mozart (T-Mobile, Germany) came with Navigon Select pre-installed, and I got that a year ago!

The Lumina certainly looks a lot better in Black, the blue and pink ones shown at launch looked "odd".

Given the lack of new features, even after a year, I don't feel compared to abandon my 16GB Mozart for a Lumina.

By big_D on 10 Nov 2011

PC PRO- APPLE ENDORSED?

I am slowly growing tired of PC Pro' attitude to anything unless its an apple product.

I notice that you posted negative comments on this phone before, any praise. Very Negative out look!

Maybe you guys should rename yourself Apple pro, and not PC pro.

Remember Gates is still alive donating to charity, and jobs has died with his millions!

By Jerkyflexoff on 10 Nov 2011

"we’re not keen on those sharp corners"

I think the designers wanted to use rounded corners, but couldn't afford the legal fees. :O)

By ChrisH on 10 Nov 2011

Corporate

Hi Jonathan, what about how well it performs in a corp environment ie integration with exchange, sharepoint etc... Surely that's got to be something MS look top win ?

By Northerner on 10 Nov 2011

@Northerner

It works ok with Exchange Server - as long as you have a signed certificate (or no encryption at all).

Using a self-signed cert is a major hassle. Our cert is so poorly configured, even the usual trick of downloading the cert from the server and manually installing it on the 'phone doesn't work. :-(

Android and iOS complain that the cert is screwed up, but they let you continue. WP7 just says it is a security risk and won't communicate with the server. On the one side, that is how it is supposed to work, invalid certificates can't be trusted, so you shouldn't talk to the server, on the other hand, when you know that it is a bodge job, you still can't get any further.

So make sure that your Admins have set up your Exchange Domain correctly! Then you'll be fine.

By big_D on 11 Nov 2011

The anti-MS bias continues

I am getting fed up with PC Pro's anti-MS bias. Just who do they think their readers are?

The review does not tell me anything that I would like to know.

For a much better review, check out Ars Technica.

By jason404 on 11 Nov 2011

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