Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia: The Nokia Lumia 920 sports a 4.5-inch 1280×768, that’s a 15:9 aspect ratio, IPS LCD. From the very beginning I did not think a PenTile OLED display and the typography-heavy Microsoft Windows Phone OS were a good combination. Oddly enough the Lumia 820 still uses a 4.3-inch 800×480 OLED, which I believe is PenTile. At least now the top-of-the-line Lumia running WP8 will look absolutely fantastic with a proper retina capable 331.7-ppi RGB LCD.

Why does Nokia and so many other hardware brands think sub-branding every possible component adds value? Let’s start with what Nokia calls its 4.5-inch WXGA IPS LCD: PureMotion HD+. Do you know why the + in HD+ is there? Because Nokia’s LCD is special: It has 48 more vertical pixels than a normal HD does with just 1280×720 pixels. The whole PureMotion HD+ sub-brand is idiotic. It’s doesn’t sport a 16:9 aspect ratio so the LCD wasn’t clearly sourced for HD video stuff. Yet Nokia wants to slant the display’s advantage toward video with ‘Motion’ in the display sub-brand.

Then there’s PureView; this one with a non-PureView-like 8.7 megapixels. The f2.0 Carl Zeiss glass is very nice, but what is PureView suppose to mean now? A set of technologies Nokia uses to enhance the camera in its smartphones, like optical image stabilization. This is a big mistake on Nokia’s part because PureView used to mean something quite special.

Optical image stabilization. Let’s talk about that a little. Nokia wanted everyone to know how amazing its optical image stabilization is and made an ad for it. Turns out it was faked. Amateurs. Still, optical image stabilization on a smartphone is impressive. Let’s hope other brands equip OIS into their smartphones.

All in all the Nokia Lumia 920 is a well-designed smartphone with a lot of hardware going for it. Unfortunately Nokia’s hardware and Microsoft’s OS aren’t aging well for me: The new Lumia 920 running the new WP8 OS is starting to look old already.

Update 2012.09.06: Nokia faked the still photos too.

Update 2012.11.02: Dieter Bohn, The Verge:

Marketing aside, this screen is gorgeous. It’s a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1280 x 768, offering a slightly higher pixel density than the iPhone 5’s Retina Display. Text is crisp and though the pixels don’t appear to sit as close to the surface as on the iPhone 5, the difference is minor. Really, the only knock I can deliver against it is that it does dim a bit when you’re looking at it at sharp angles. Given that the ClearBlack technology involved polarizing the glass, it’s not a huge surprise nor should it cause problems for users.

I’ll take circular polarizers that minimize refraction/reflection along with the sharp angle dimming any day. One other area that I obsess about on a smartphone is the camera.

There are two major categories in which the Lumia 920 excels: low-light performance and image stabilization. Both rely on what Nokia calls “floating lens technology.” In a first for the mobile world, the entire optical assembly inside the 920 is suspended on tiny springs, which absorb and dampen the movements of your hand as you shoot. By reducing camera shake in this fashion, Nokia can afford to keep the shutter open for longer, absorb more light, and deliver much brighter pictures.

Nokia and Zeiss attempted to accomplished something extraordinary; it succeeded for the most part. OIS on a smartphone is quite exciting, but according to Bohn you can hear the springs doing their floating thing; for the next revision I would recommend a floating lens technology that is silent. (Lose the PureView sub-brand; by slapping the name on the Lumia 920, Nokia has muddied the PureView brand, which to me meant a 41 megapixel pixel-fusing digital zoom imaging technology.)

Nokia is pushing the boundaries of what can be done with the camera and display in its smartphones. Nokia did good with the display: The circular polarizer should be copied by every other smartphone manufacturer. But the overall results are less than perfect. The Nokia Lumia 920 is big, thick, and heavy; the thickness is due to OIS. Would a smaller, thinner, and lighter Lumia 920 with a less capable camera have been better? Maybe. Instead of bleeding edge technologies integrated into a body only a few might love, Nokia needs to focus on advanced technologies that can be integrated into a neat package that would be loved by many.