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Nokia Lumia 1020 hands-on review

A big player in the camera phone arena
Fri Jul 12 2013, 10:00

FINNISH PHONE MAKER Nokia drew the world's interest at 2011's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona when it unveiled its first 41MP smartphone, the Nokia 808 Pureview.

The phone was the first to integrate a camera that could match and at times beat many low-end and midrange dedicated camera devices. On paper the idea bristled with possibility, offering avid photographers and business bloggers an all in one device that could handle all their mobile work needs.

Nokia Lumia 1020 home-screen

Sadly, come its release featuring an outdated Symbian operating system, underpowered processor and bulky design, the Nokia 808 Pureview never really caught on and is instead largely remembered as a proof of concept and indicator of Nokia's future Windows Phone plans.

Now it's a couple of years on and Nokia has finally decided to revisit the super camera phone concept, this time loading a new hyper sophisticated and refined version of the 808's Pureview camera technology into its Lumia 1020 Windows Phone 8 smartphone.

Design and build
Visually the Nokia Lumia 1020 is more akin to the Lumia 920 than Nokia's newer Lumia 925. The Lumia 1020 ditches the metallic trim and plastic backplate of the new phone for the unibody polycarbonate design reminiscent of older Lumias. While some will be sad about the lack of metal, in hand we found, as we did with the 920, that the Lumia 1020 still felt well built and robust.

We were also surprised how much Nokia has shrunk the Pureview camera technology in the Lumia 1020, with the handset measuring 130x71x10.4mm and weighing 158g. While 158g is heavier than average for a smartphone, it is significantly lighter than other super camera phones, like the 808 Pureview and 200g-plus Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.

Nokia Lumia 1020 side

Display
The Nokia Lumia 1020 comes equipped with a 4.5in Amoled HD+ 1280x768 Gorilla Glass 3 coated display. While we're a little upset that the 1020's display is not 1080p we were still impressed with its performance on the brightly lit showroom floor, with it remaining legible and usable even when hit directly with a bright lamp. We're guessing this is due to the inclusion of the high-brightness, Sunlight Readability and Clearblack technologies seen on the Lumia 925.

Clearblack is designed to allow the phone to remain legible in adverse lighting conditions and improve general display clarity. It does this by making blacks displayed on the screen deeper and richer. The deeper blacks in turn make other colours pop out more, thus making text easier to read and the display look generally nicer. Puremotion on the other hand is a nifty bit of tech designed to improve how animations run on the device, making it smoother to look at and use. Finally super sensitive touch does what it says on the tin, making the screen more sensitive to use inputs - so much so it makes it so people can use the phone while wearing gloves.

Operating system and software
The Nokia Lumia Lumia 1020 runs on Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system and features all the latest apps and productivity features from both Microsoft and Nokia.

Nokia Lumia 1020 storage

This means as well as the opeating system's inbuilt Outlook, Microsoft Office, Lync and Skype features, the Lumia 1020 also boasts the latest versions of Nokia's Here locations services - which are a massive boon, loading faster than their inbuilt Bing equivalents and in general offering more accurate information.

Performance
In terms of raw muscle the Lumia 1020 isn't a massive step up from the Lumia 920 or 925, coming with a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM. However, as we've found with numerous other Windows Phones, this isn't an issue and during our hands-on we never noticed a performance issue with the phone, with it opening applications in seconds and dealing with any task we threw at it. 

Camera
Nokia Lumia 1020 41MP sensorThe Nokia Lumia 1020's 41MP rear camera is undeniably its key selling point, with Nokia claiming it is the most advanced ever seen on a mobile device, featuring a 1/1.2in BSI sensor, 6-lens Zeiss wide-angle optics, optical image stabilization and Xenon flash as well as new oversampling and generation two image stabilisation technology.

The Oversampling and image stabilisation technology is designed to radically improve video and photo detail levels, allowing the 1020 to outperform competing smartphones like the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 in all shooting environments.

Having had a chance to test the Lumia 1020's camera we have to say we're impressed. Upon launching the Pro application we were confronted with a host of customisation options, allowing us to radically adjust things like the ISO and exposure to create results that were downright jaw-dropping. We found the same was true when we switched the camera to shoot in full auto, with images taken on the showroom coming out crisp and vibrant and boasting beautifully rich colour and contrast levels.

The high megapixel count also lets the Lumia 1020, like the 808 Pureview, capture 5MP images that look just as clean and crisp as those taken on any other top end phone at 6X zoom - a serious achievement considering how bad most smartphone's zoom features are. As an added benefit for those looking to share their photos while shooting at a high megapixel quality, the Lumia 1020 also features a dual shoot feature. The feature makes the 1020 shoot a high resolution 38 megapixel image for high-end use while simultaneously creating a 5MP picture small enough to be uploaded to Facebook or Twitter.

Nokia Lumia 1020 test-shot

The six camera elements and flash components are also meant to radically improve the Nokia Lumia 1020's low light performance. Sadly we didn't get a chance to take the Lumia 1020 anywhere outside the showroom floor, meaning we didn't get a chance to see how it performs in more adverse outdoor and low light conditions - though rest assured we will when we get more time with the device later this month.

Storage and battery
The Lumia 1020 comes with 32GB of internal storage, though on the demo unit we had only 29GB that was usable. The device is powered by a 2,000mAh battery, which sadly doesn't boast in-built wireless charging support. Instead, as was the case with Lumia 925, those that want wireless charging will have to shell out for an extra attachable clip case. Nokia claims the battery will last a full day on one charge.

Chances
Having had some hands-on time with the Nokia Lumia ,1020 we have to say we're impressed. The camera technology is every bit as good, if not better than the technology seen on the 808 Pureview, and comes with the added bonus of running Windows Phone 8 rather than Symbian.

We'll reserve full judgement for now, but check back soon for our full review. µ

 

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