Nokia Lumia 1020 review

Lumia 1020With a 41MP shooter on-board the Nokia Lumia 1020 is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the camera phone world. We wanted to find out just how good that camera is and see how the 1020 measures up as a smartphone. Now that Nokia has been bought up by Microsoft this may be one of the last true Nokia phones.

 

Design

The Lumia 1020 looks just like another member of the Lumia family. The curved sides and square corners are a familiar design language now. The body of the 1020 is a single piece of polycarbonate in yellow, white, or black. The right spine is home to the volume controls, power button and a dedicated camera button. Up top there’s the headphone jack, down bottom there’s the micro-USB charging port. The left spine is naked.

When you turn the 1020 over it becomes obvious what this device is all about. There’s no way to hide a 41MP camera. There’s a gigantic round camera module that protrudes from the back, ensuring that the Lumia 1020 can’t lie flat. It’s quite a big phone and it’s heavy too. The Lumia 1020 measures 130.4 x 71.4 x 10.4mm and weighs in at 158g. To put it in context the Galaxy S4 is 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and 130g.

Camera

The main event is obviously the camera. If this is not your main reason for considering the Lumia 1020 then you’ll definitely get more for your money by looking elsewhere. The 41-megapixel PureView camera has a built-in shutter to protect the lens when it’s not in use. There’s also a really powerful Xenon flash which is capable of lighting up the darkest of environments. The video camera can capture full HD 1080p footage at 30 frames per second. There’s also a secondary front-facing 1.2MP camera for video calls.

You don’t need to be a photographer to benefit from this camera. Nokia has included a tutorial to highlight the camera functions and offer up a few tips on capturing great shots. You can fiddle with the shutter speed or the white balance if you want to, but the automatic settings will get you great results. Depending on the aspect ratio you choose, 16:9 or 4:3, you’ll get 34MP or 38MP photos. Since they are too big to share, you’ll also get a 5MP image.

Clarity, detail, and colours are all fantastic. You can’t take better photos than this with any other smartphone on the market. If you don’t get perfect results first time then you can always edit the photos you captured, there are plenty of post-shot editing options.

Display

You’ll find a 4.5-inch AMOLED display on the Lumia 1020 and it has a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels. It looks very bright and sharp with impressive colours and deep blacks. The 332 ppi (pixels per inch) is very respectable and Nokia’s PureMotion technology helps it handle frenetic action smoothly.

Hardware

There’s a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor in the Lumia 1020 and that’s backed up by 2GB of RAM. It’s generally fast and smooth, although the camera can take a second or two to fire up, which is disappointing when you want to capture something quickly. You’ll find 32GB of storage for your photos, but sadly there’s no microSD card slot for expansion. Connectivity is standard with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and 4G LTE all present and correct. There’s even a built-in FM radio.

The 2000mAh battery cannot be removed. It sounds big, but that camera will drain it fast. If you plan on using it extensively then you have to look into getting the Nokia Camera Grip accessory. It fits the back of the Lumia 1020 perfectly and provides a camera grip, a tripod attachment, and an extended battery that promises an extra 55 minutes of shooting time.

Software

Windows Phone has captured third place, but it’s a distant third behind Android and iOS and it still feels like it. You’ll find Windows Phone 8 on the Lumia 1020. Customization options and live tiles are good, and the platform performs well, but the choice of apps and games is still limited. They also tend to cost more on Windows Phone than they do on Android. If you don’t really use a lot of apps then the platform probably won’t disappoint, although the notification system is also a weak spot.

The Verdict

We’re still waiting for the UK price to be confirmed, but expect the Lumia 1020 to go on sale this month. Stateside it has been priced at $300 on a two-year contract. We’ve seen the SIM-free Lumia 1020 priced at £550 here in the UK, and both O2 and Three have confirmed they’ll be offering it, but contract pricing has not been announced.

If you want to have the best smartphone camera around, then you’ll pay the premium to own the Lumia 1020. If you want to have the best smartphone around, then you’ll look elsewhere.

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About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in games development. He has been covering the world of mobile technology for several years now and writes for a variety of popular websites.