T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 810 with Windows Phone 8 Review

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Welcome to this review of the new Nokia Lumia 810 running Windows Phone 8; now leave.

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Well, leave and come back after reading Judie’s extensive review of the HTC 8X Windows Phone 8.

Why? First off, it is an excellent review. Second, in that review Judie spends a good deal of time talking about Windows Phone 8. The Lumia 810 is also one of the first phones running the new Windows Operating System, so covering the OS details would be a bit redundant. Instead, in this post we’ll be looking specifically at the Nokia Lumia 810’s hardware and the overall impression it has left on me.

As Judie notes in her review of the 8X, we really enjoyed our time with Windows 7 last year. Although both of us returned to our iPhones, I can say with confidence that we not only came away with a solid appreciation of the platform, but we also realized that, at least for us, it is second only to iOS. Truthfully, I think if either of us were told we could no longer use iOS, we could be quite happy with Windows Phone.

When Microsoft sunset Windows Phone 7.5 just weeks after the huge launch and public push of the Nokia Lumia 900, with no upgrade path for people who had just bought into the new platform, we both soured on the platform — or more specifically on Microsoft. The decision might have been necessary to move the platform forward, but it showed zero respect for consumers who had taken the leap of faith to move to a new platform that had far fewer available apps than iOS and Android. I don’t fully recall Judie’s response at the time (other than that she was beyond perturbed), but I know I swore I was done with Windows Phone. DONE. D.O.N.E. (Judie laughed at me for that, and said “we’ll see!”)

Thankfully I have a short memory for such things.

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When presented with a chance to try a phone running the new Windows Phone 8, I jumped. How do I like it? Well, let’s just say that I’m not unhappy Judie wanted, and bought the Nokia Lumia 920 for herself, since it means the HTC 8X she reviewed is on the way to me!

As I noted in the beginning however, Judie does an awesome job digging through Windows Phone 8. (By now you’ve read her review, right?) That’s leaves me wanting to speak specifically to the Nokia Lumia 810. So let’s dig into it a bit.

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From Nokia:

Capture, share, and relive all your perfect moments with the Nokia Lumia 810’s amazing 8MP camera, with Carl Zeiss optics, HD video, and video chat. And with Nokia Drive’s voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation and Nokia Transit, you can get virtually anywhere you want to go.

Grab those can’t-miss moments in stunning 1080p color with an amazing 8MP camera featuring Carl Zeiss optics and exclusive Nokia lenses. And take 720p video in gorgeous clarity and color with a front-facing HD camera.

Find your way with Nokia Drive’s free voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, including traffic alerts and speed limit warnings, with free maps for 166 countries and 50 languages. And Nokia Transit gives you scheduled door-to-door directions and lets you see upcoming stations, which makes getting where you need to go easier than ever.

Adding a charging station and wireless charging shell makes charging your Nokia Lumia 810 easy—just place it on the stand to charge it wirelessly. And while your NFC-enabled phone is charging, the stand can launch the app of your choice—like a clock or Nokia Music.

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When I first saw the Lumia 810, I was struck by just how boxy it was. It is a good 40-50% thicker than the iPhone 5 I am using, and it really feels like… a box. And not in a good way. Let’s compare the specs:

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The Lumia is 5.03 x 2.69 x 0.43 while the iPhone 5 is 4.87 x 2.31 x .30. In the weight category, the differences are equally large with the Lumia coming in at 5.11oz and the iPhone 5 weighing just 3.95 oz. Now, it’s true that some of you may not see these differences as all that significant.

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And while on paper they might not be, when actually holding the devices the differences are HUGE!

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As you can see, the Lumia 810 – from here referred to simply as the 810, doesn’t go after the weight reduction plan Apple seems so fond of pursuing. The result is that the 810 feels a bit like… a brick. Or so I thought in the beginning.

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The entire front of the phone is consumed by the screen. Thick side bezels on the left and the right are only outdone by the even thicker bezels on the top and bottom.

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The top has the earpiece, video chat front facing camera, as well as the Nokia and T-Mobile branding.

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The bottom has the three capacitive buttons on all windows Phone 8 devices. On the left is a back button, in the middle is the Windows/Home button and on the left is the search button.

The screen itself is gorgeous. Colors pop, especially against a black background. The bezel, especially at the top and bottom, is abundant. Too much so. Having used an iPhone 5 with its almost edge-to-edge glass, as well as the iPad mini which reduced the bezel to make more room for an abundant screen it was striking to me that so much of the front face is consumed by bezel rather than screen.

Speaking of the screen, it is super responsive. The 4.3” “Nokia ClearBlack” display with a 480×800 resolution may not be impressive on paper but it is, in fact, gorgeous. The touch experience is as precise as I have come to expect on an iOS device and, at least to me, it seems to continue to be lightyears ahead of Android. In my time with the 810 I didn’t sense any screen slowdowns at all. It was as fluid an experience as I have had.

The sides and back of the phone are made from a plastic that is coated in a soft-touch material that feels great and makes keeping a grip on the phone simple.

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The bottom has the speaker, microphone and a microUSB sync/charge port.

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The right hand side has the volume up and down buttons, the sleep awake button and the dedicated camera shutter button. I. LOVE. THAT.

The top has a 3.5mm headphone jack and what appears to be a noise canceling microphone.

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The back has the camera, flash and Nokia and Carl Zeiss branding.

The whole things comes together as a nice package that, while not nearly as sleek as the iPhone 5 (or the HTC 8X) certainly holds its own.

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One of the reasons for the slight clunkiness of the phone is the fact that, unlike the iPhone 5, the HTC 8X, or the Nokia Lumia 920, this phone has a user-removable battery, a microSD slot (user-expandable memory!!), and the SIM card, which are only accessible once you remove the back cover. Let me rephrase that. They are accessible once you remove the back, side, top and bottom cover. Basically everything except the screen comes off to allow access to the phone’s innards. That, however, is easier said than done. You see, there is no cover latch. There is no groove that screams, “Slip something inside me and I’ll come apart like oyster waiting to be shucked.” (Yeah, I have absolutely no idea where that imagery came from…) I actually had to go to the User Manual to figure out how to open the damn thing, and I NEVER use the User Manual. And even then, I thought I was going to rip off one or more fingernails in the process. Fail. Fail. Fail.

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Once I finally got the cover off, I inserted a 32GB of extra storage via the microSD slot. Just like that I had more storage capacity than I needed.

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It ships with 8 GB of storage, but you can add more. Take that, iPhone! Take that, HTC 8X! Take that, Lumia 920! How can you consider yourself a flagship phone if your memory isn’t expandable?!

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Putting the back, side, top and bottom cover back in place was as simple as placing the two parts in place and pressing the cover and the screen together. At least that part of the process was easy.

From there I was able to start using the phone. And a funny thing happened … I found that I really, really liked it.

Yes, as much as I found it to look and feel a bit like a brick when I first sized it up, once I began using the phone, I discovered that it feels genuinely awesome on the hand. It doesn’t have unibody construction, but it does feel solid. And while it is certainly thicker than the other phones I have been using, it feels remarkably comfortable to hold. I dare say it is actually MORE comfortable to hold than the iPhone 5. Moreover, while I love the premium materials from which the iPhone is constructed, the 810 actually feels… well… warmer. After using it for a time, the iPhone 5 feels sharp and cold. I’m not, mind you, giving up my iPhone 5 just yet, but the 810 was surprisingly pleasant to hold and use.

The phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Processor and 1GB RAM. Those certainly aren’t stand-out specifications by any measure here at the end of 2012. Still, I didn’t experience any slowdowns, hiccups or speed issues during my time with the 810. That speaks to both the OS itself and Nokia’s design; I was impressed.

The Camera

Nokia phones have always been known for their great cameras. And while the likes of the iPhone 5 and some of the current generation android handsets have really stepped up their game, this phone is no slouch either.

The Specs:

8 Megapixel rear camera that also shoots 1080p HD video

1.2 Megapixel Front-facing Camera that records 720p video

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With Elana driving I snapped this. For me, trying to grab a shot like this while in a moving car is a great way to test a phone’s camera; I was impressed.

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I was also impressed with the quality of the image snapped by the front-facing camera. It is great to see the front cameras moving away from being a VGA throwaway.

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I love the dedicated camera button.

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And I can easily see using the 810 as a handy camera for taking product review shots!

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The camera itself is excellent, but the phone also offers some great onboard camera functionality, though the use of several included apps. Bing Vision lets you use the camera to scan barcodes, QR codes, books, music and more. CNN Report lets you be the reporter. (Although, I do long for the days when the only people “reporting” the news were actual reporters whose articles were fact-checked and vetted.)

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Smart Shoot is a neat Nokia app (also available for the Lumia 920), that lets you take a series of group shots and use the best shot of each person and use it in the final image. That means the days of great group shots with one person look away from the camera are done.

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Cinemagraph is another cool Nokia app (which is also available for the 920), that merges still photos and video into a still shot with movement in certain areas. On the 810 the movement in this photo was cool to watch. When exporting however, it simply became a still. Unfortunately. there is no way to export and share the movements off the phone. :-(

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Panorama is now ubiquitous in current generation smartphones. While it worked well, I still prefer the iPhone 5’s automatic functionality by a mile.

Bits and Pieces

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I used the phone to navigate to dinner last night, and it work perfectly. That said, I’ve never had an issue with the iOS maps program.

The phone has Near Field Communication, which “allows you to share contacts, web pages, videos and more with a single tap against another NFC capable device”, but the device only sports Bluetooth 2.1. I’m not sure why they would go with 2.1, when Bluetooth 4.0 is now the standard and it offers some significant advantages including the use of less power.

The 810 is Smartphone Mobile HotSpot Ready, which again, is now pretty much commonplace in current gen smartphones.

Like the Nokia Lumia 710 which Judie reviewed last spring, the 810 offers changeable covers that let you change the entire look of the phone. Better still, if you purchase the charging station and wireless charging shell, you’ll get wireless charging. With the stand, you can have the phone launch a predetermined app as soon as you place it on the charger.

The removable 1800 mAh battery offers up to 10.3 hours of talk time and up to 400 hours of stand by time.

The 810 works fine for calls. It didn’t stand out, but it didn’t fall short either. What’s amazing to me is that anymore, the quality of the calls is only one small part of the overall assessment of my pocket computer … I mean smartphone.

The box includes the phone, charger, USB cable, Micro-SIM card and start guide. In other words, add Nokia to the growing list of manufacturers (HTC, LG, etc.) who have stopped including earbuds. Cheap, Cheap, Cheap!

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I liked using Windows Phone 7 during Judie’s and my time with the HTC Titan last year, so I came into this experience predisposed to like the Nokia Lumia 810 and Windows Phone 8. As Judie’s review indicates, Windows Phone 8 is a terrific step forward. I was especially pleased to find that voice recognition has now been extended to email; in Windows Phone 7.5, it was present in SMS but not email.

What I did not expect was how much I would like the Lumia 810. My first impression was that it was big and boxy. It is, but it is big, boxy, AND a pleasure to handle and use. I’m not all too pleased to be sending the review sample back, as I could absolutely see myself using this phone. No, I don’t think I would replace my iPhone 5 with the 810, but that is mostly because I am so deeply entrenched in the iOS ecosystem. That, and the fact that I should be getting my hands on the HTC 8X Judie reviewed some time in the next few days. Yes, with the new updated version Windows Phone has matured and the hardware running the operating system seems more than up to the task.

MSRP: $99 on contract

What I Like: Windows Phone 8 is awesome; Feels great in the hand; Good camera; Expandable memory; Fast; Nice, responsive screen

What Needs Improvement: Looks and feels a bit boxy; Much heavier than some other current ten phones; Runs on T-Mobile’s network; Bluetooth 2.1 only

Source: T-Mobile supplied 2-week review sample

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1 reply

  1. I’d love to use my T-Mobile SIM in that device. 😉 It’s interesting to see how the form factor is decidedly iPhone-ish to my eye. Also, IIRC, the Lumia 800 and 900 seemed considerably different in size, whereas the 810 and 920 seem to be much more similar despite the difference in screen resolution.

    Though…I had to chuckle at your kitchen picture, Dan…I have the same cutting board (part of a multi-colored set?) and I think same Le Creuset pot (except mine is green). It’s great for risotto and stews and such. But I digress!

    Myself, I’d like to see how well WP 8 meshes with Windows 8 at some point or one of the Surface tablets.