Nokia Lumia 800 Lightning Review: The Unattainable Foreign Beauty

Windows Phone has been sort of a ship without a port for a while now, getting along as a platform without a must-have, lightning-rod handset. Nokia's Lumia 800 is the first serious contender for that honor, but Mango's knight in shining polycarbonate might not be enough to make its presence felt across the pond.

Like

Using the Lumia 800 doesn't feel like using other Windows Phones. Everything is better, faster, slicker—from touch events to app performance to the general responsiveness of the software. Using it, you get the sense that this is how everything should be. Third party apps especially operate a lot more smoothly, even compared to similarly-specced phones like the Samsung Focus Flash and HTC Titan. It still has some lag in heavier apps, but in general it clears up a lot of the stability issues that the 7.5 Mango launch introduced to the platform.

The Lumia is also gorgeous, of course. The matte polycarbonate body and sleek, curved design feel great in the hand, and the phone is sturdy enough that you won't constantly fret about setting it down. It's got some heft to it, as well, but not in an unweildy way—like a little Scandinavian Cadillac in your pocket. The ClearBlack AMOLED display is really impressive, especially with color quality and viewing angle.

Despite our initial hems and haws about them, the two Nokia apps that come loaded on the Lumia 800 are actually pretty useful. Nokia Drive simplifies WP's native turn-by-turn map functionality, and Nokia Maps is a really impressive mapping alternative that's enough to make you stop writing love letters to Google Maps. The public transportation feature that tells you how many and which stops you need to take is especially awesome, and a welcome improvement over Windows Phone's pre-loaded Bing Maps. Which sucks. A lot.

And even though the Lumia isn't for sale in the US and doesn't continue Nokia's trend of making usable-anywhere pentaband phones, we were able to average over 1Mbit down on AT&T's HSDPA network. Soooo, you could get by on this thing in the US if you wanted. Just sayin...

No Like

Despite the fanfare it received, the Lumia's camera isn't in the same league as the iPhone 4S's. It's above average and a skosh better than, say, the camera on the new Motorola Razr, but top notch cameras like the 4S and the Galaxy S II wreck the curve for everyone else. The Lumia 800 doesn't capture colors nearly as well as those two, its auto-focus and shutter are slower, and even on its macro focus setting, the Lumia had trouble focusing on super-near objects.

Aside from the camera, the hardware leaves little to complain about. If you want to really pick at some nits, there's the push-to-open flap at the top of the phone that protects the micro-USB port, which could be concerning for long-term I'm-definitely-going-to-eventually-break-this reasons.

The rest of the complaints are the same ones that have been levied against it since it was announced: a mere 16GB of non-expandable storage; no NFC; no front-facing camera.

Should I Buy This

The Lumia 800 is by far the best Windows Phone you can buy. And you can buy it and use it on AT&T's American network if you reallyreallyreally want to. But sadly, right now it comes at a high enough premium ($577 pre-tax) and with enough hardware caveats that you're probably better off waiting for Nokia's official stateside launch in 2012.

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Nokia Lumia 800 Specs

  • Processor: 1.4GHz single-core MSM8255
  • Memory: 512MB RAM
  • Storage: 16GB (non-expandable)
  • Display: 800x480 AMOLED ClearBlack
  • Battery: 1,450 mAh
  • Dimensions: 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm
  • Weight: 142g
  • Frequencies: 850/900/1900/2100