The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL smartphone is the company’s first flagship phone that runs on Windows 10 Mobile. However, it’s a little bit of a disappointment. On paper, specs look just staggering with a ton of ram, a powerful battery, and a pin sharp display.
It has a lot of shortcomings ranging from how it feels to how it works.
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review
It has a more than decent screen, and the camera is pretty great. Cortana is always a plus in my book.
Yet, the design is downright simple, apps are sparse and the phone is buggy as hell.
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL specs:
- 20.1-megapixel PureView camera;
- Windows 10 Mobile OS;
- 3 gigs of RAM;
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 proc;
- 5.7-inch AMOLED, QHD display.
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL price – $650
Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t follow-up with a great smartphone. We were expecting something amazing after the Lumia 880, which was released four years ago – the first Windows Phone 7 smartphone.
Its design is dull and it doesn’t brandish anything new. It looks like your average budget smartphone. It lacks essential design features. The only thing that pops out is the PureView camera sensor on the back of the smartphone – it resembles Kubrick’s HAL, in a way.
Its polycarbonate body feels rather awkward, and not as sturdy as past Lumias. Given that removing the rear backplate entails a trip to Oh, no, did I broke it? land, it’s not for the faint-hearted. It cracks under the slightest pressure and accessing the phone’s SIM and microSD slots is an emotional rollercoaster.
Yet, it’s not riddled with flaws.
It comes with an USB Type-C connector, which will most likely replace the traditional micro-USB. The shutter buttons are perfectly placed and my fingers lay naturally on their position. The volume and power buttons are at hand, even though the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL’s is a bit tall – 152 x 78 x 8.1mm. The phone weighs 165 grams, which means that the Lumia 950 XL is neither too heavy, nor too light.
The phone’s display is impressive at first. Microsoft packed the 950 XL with a 5.7-inch quad HD AMOLED display. You may think that it’s worth competing with the Nexus 6P or Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 – both smartphones feature the same specs; but it falls short.
When you take it for a test run you see it cripple under its own weight. It does output impressive booming whites and vibrant colours, with text looking pin-sharp, but it doesn’t challenge Google, nor Samsung.
The phone’s 518 ppi density guarantees that everything looks crisp and clean – but not as much as we would have wanted. Brightness is another thing I’m disappointed about. It’s good for general use, but under direct sunlight the screen becomes reflective and quite difficult to use.
It runs on Windows 10 Mobile, and I have to say, the OS has won me over. It’s intuitive and the user-experience is high-quality. It’s the smartphone’s most interesting feature. This is part of Microsoft’s strategy to create an OS-to-rule-them-all. An OS that can run on a variety of devices – from PCs, and laptops to smartphones and tablets.
In theory, it does make an app developer’s job easier as there’s no need to port to another ecosystem. It’s a massive upgrade from Windows 8, and it adds a ton of new awesome features that drastically improve the smartphone.
Take Continuum and Windows Hello, which are the key features of the Lumia 950 XL. Continuum turns your smartphone into a fully-fledged desktop PC. That is, if you pair it with Microsoft’s very own Display Dock.
The Display Dock costs about $100. It comes inside the box if you pre-order it from Microsoft, but I’m wary that big telecom corps will ship it too – I’m looking at you Verizon and AT&T. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
Windows Hello, on the other hand, is more security oriented -it offers iris-scanning technology. The Lumia 950 XL distinguishes itself from other smartphones in the price range with this unique new feature. It’s still in the beta, and it has its hiccups but the potential is there – and it’s huge.
How does Windows Hello work? It constructs a 3D map of your iris. It’s safer to do so than to rely on fingerprints. Gaze for a few seconds into the special sensor and the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL will unlock the smartphone.
On paper, the phone has some mouth-watering hardware. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core proc, an Adreno 430 GPU and 3 gigs of RAM. There are a handful of apps on the app store that need this much power, but one can imagine that Continuum drains a lot of juice.
Usually, it has normal temps, but seldom it goes bonkers all of a sudden and it reaches burning levels. To be frank, that has nothing to do with Microsoft, but more with Qualcomm’s 810 Snapdragon proc, which is well-known to have brain-farts from time to time.
I did find a few performance issues and more bugs than I care to admit, but the Lumi 950 XL worked pretty great.
For no apparent reason, Halo: Spartan Assault sessions displayed stutters and fps drops. Can’t put a finger on why that’s happening, but it’s a little bit too flawed for my taste, considering that it’s a $650 flag-ship smartphone.
Microsoft’s PureView camera is indeed its selling point, as it manages to capture fabulous pics full of life – a pulpy and scrumptious colour palette, with deep blacks and perfect whites. The 20-megapixel rear camera doesn’t need to be meddled with, as its default setting is well balanced.
It performs admirable in low light as well as it does in a well-lit room. There are no signs of pixelation, and pics come out as realistic as they can get.
It’s capable of capturing 4k-video, and the quality is, well, 4k.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL gets all of its power from a 3340mAh battery. Microsoft boasts that their smartphone can last up to 10 hours on a single charge – mixed use.
And tests proved that they are right. Actually, I managed to reach the half-day mark, but I didn’t watch that many YouTube cat clips that day – I normally watch 40, or 50. Don’t judge.
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Verdict
I expected more from the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. Considering that the Lumia 880, which was released many moons ago, was a fantastic piece of hardware, the 950 XL is somewhat lackluster.
If you love the Windows Phone OS, then you might want to consider buying the Lumia 950 XL. However, Android and iOS users will be highly disappointed.
One recent smartphone that we here at TrendingTechNow reviewed and can honestly recommend, is the BlackBerry Priv. Check it out.