Review: Nokia Lumia 925 ‘ The Perfect Windows Phone?

Jordan O'Brien
July 22, 2013

The Nokia Lumia 925 is by no means a revolutionary phone, bringing more evolution than revolution to the table, but this should not fool you as it is a phone which has built on the great work of its predecessors.

With the Lumia 925 being an increment change from the 920, you shouldn’t be at all surprised that the phones are quite similar, although we think Nokia has done enough changes to ensure the 925 remains in a category all on its own.

Whilst the 920 was big and bulky, the 925 is a lot slimmer and lighter, thanks to the aluminium design ‘ which is a first for the Lumia range.

Despite all the chopping down, Nokia refused to take out any of the insides of the Lumia 920, with the same innards as its predecessor, with a few notable upgrades.


[alert type=alert-blue ]Metal and Polycarbonate infusion[/alert]

When picking up the Lumia 925 you straight away notice the difference in both size and weight compared to its predecessor. We have to say that this is the first Lumia we have seen that compares to the lightness and thinness of other phones on the market.

Whilst it’s still thicker than a Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and even an Xperia Z, it wasn’t all that noticeable.

In fact, when compared to an Xperia Z, we’d even argue that it felt less bulky, with the device weighing slightly less in our hands.

When compared to the original Lumia 920, which came in at 10.7mm, it’s not contest, with this just being 8.5mm thick, which makes it a lot more usable in one hand, as well as a lot less noticeable whilst in your pocket.

The screen isn’t the largest we’ve seen, at just 4.5 inches, and it isn’t HD, but this is a very different screen from the Lumia 920, with Nokia opting for an AMOLED panel rather than the IPS LCD we saw on the 920.

We think that this is around the perfect size for a phone screen, not too big yet not too small. It would be nice to have a HD screen, but as it stands it’s still a vivid display ‘ just like the one we saw on the 920.

It also has the same PureMotionHD+ technology, which Nokia claims reduces latency on animations ‘ something we noticed on the 925, as well as the 920, with the Windows Phone UI being very responsive to touch and incredibly fast.

One issue we had with the screen is the fact that it simply didn’t replicate colours in the same way as the IPS LCD, despite having excellent colour replication, although we have to say they definitely felt brighter as the AMOLED screen really helped the blacks blend into the bezel, meaning the colourful UI of Windows Phone looked a lot more vibrant.

Nokia has also included a setting where you can change your colour profile, just as you would your ringtone. This enables you to change both the temperature of the colours as well as the saturation, with many preinstalled options available to you, as well as the ability to tweak it manually.

One issue I find with most smartphones these days is the inability to read the screen in the sunlight, something that was very much present on other flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S4. With the Lumia 925 I was surprised by how easy it was to see everything on the screen even in incredibly bright direct sunlight.

If you loved the ability to use gloves in the Lumia 920, then that is back with the 925, and yes you can even use your keys, although it isn’t advised.

Under the screen is the same three soft button we’ve come to expect from all Windows Phones, although we did notice that when our phone had run out of charge, the Windows start button would flash after you plug it in. This flashing logo is something we want to see be used a lot more, with it flashing for other events such as notifications ‘ something that is common with Android phones.

People have reported that the Lumia 925 has a notification light, as many have noticed that there is a red light in the top right corner, but Nokia has clarified that this is not a light and is simply just the proximity sensor.

The soft buttons have seen an improvement over the 920 though, with the lights being a lot brighter when illuminated, we did have some issues with this though, as the lights did not always show up, even when in a completely dark room.

Turn the device around and you’ll notice a familiar material, something Nokia hasn’t abandoned on the Lumia 925 ‘ despite encasing it in aluminium. We had the white 925, which whilst it looked a lot better, it also picked up dirt a lot more, a possible downside to choosing Polycarbonate for the rear of the device.

Issues of dirt aside, and the Lumia 925 looks very nice from behind, with everything seemingly well thought out, from the speaker grill to the slight bump on the camera.

The camera is definitely an important feature of the 925, with Nokia claiming that it can capture “more than your eyes can see”, something you’ll hear a lot more about later.

Also on the back you’ll notice three small dots just above the speaker grill, this is where one of the differences between the 920 and 925 really shines ‘ with the Lumia 925 losing its wireless charging capabilities as a standalone device. Now if you want to wirelessly charge your 925, you’ll have to buy a separate case which connects to these three dots ‘ something we’ve seen on similar flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4.

As far as design goes, it isn’t challenged aesthetically by those three dots, but one place it is challenged is the inclusion of two bumps on the speaker grill ‘ which were noticeable at first, but as we got used to the device, we didn’t even acknowledge their existence.

That said, unlike other flagship devices, the Lumia 925 is no where near as flat on its rear, with curves, bumps and indents galore.

As for the edges of device, they are all nice and smooth, making it a feel a lot nicer to hold, although we thought that Nokia felt a little too passionately about putting all the ports in one place, with them all being on the top rather than spread out.

The ports you do get are standard slots for both micro-SIM and Micro-USB as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack.

We do have to applaud Nokia for moving the micro-USB slot to the top, as it makes the device a lot more accessible whilst charging, although we were quite annoyed by it being slight left of centre.

There is no microSD card slot on the Lumia 925, with the only remaining features on the side of the device being the buttons for the volume, power and camera functions ‘ something which is also on every Windows Phone device.

As Nokia has chosen to keep both the left side and bottom of the device free, Lumia 920 users may find the 925 a bit of a culture shock, as Nokia has even chosen to put the speakers on the back of the device. This didn’t affect sound too much, although we had to be careful not to cover the grill.

As far as sound quality goes, we were incredibly impressed by the clarity of the sound, although we felt that it could have been slightly louder ‘ especially given the 920’s booming speakers.

[alert type=alert-blue ]More than our eyes can see?[/alert]

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Nokia really went all out with the Lumia 925 camera, promising an even better experience than the already sublime Lumia 920.

The company even went as far as putting the PureView name in a prominent position just below the camera ‘ something they chose not to do with the Lumia 920, despite it having PureView technology.

Whilst there is a promise of an even better camera, it hasn’t changed all that much, with the same 8.7-megapixel camera and LED flash ‘ something we would have liked to have seen change, especially given the US-exclusive Lumia 928 includes a much better Xenon flash. We did get one addition with the 925 though, with the addition of a sixth lens.

Initially we didn’t see any improvements on the Lumia 920’s camera, which is either testament to how good the 920’s camera is, or Nokia hitting a brick wall — for now we’ll say it’s the former.

The Lumia 925’s camera is supposedly focused on bringing you a great low-light experience, which we have to admit, it delivered.

In our testing, we found that face detail was incredibly easy to pick out even in the darkest of rooms. Whilst there was quite a lot of grain in these conditions we’re willing to forgive it, as it’s heads and shoulders above the competition.

Like the Lumia 920, the 925 features Optical Image Stabilisation, which aims to ensure that any movements you do make are compensated for. This works best in video, although we found taking photos on a powerboat in the middle of the Thames incredibly easy as well.

With all the improvements of the 925’s camera, we have to admit it was rather hit and miss, with some photos coming in a lot darker than we would expect — something we experienced a lot more in Nokia’s own Smart Cam software more than the default Windows Phone camera.

The Smart Cam app was a big boost to the Lumia 925, with it being capable of taking up to 10 pictures at a time in quick succession, up from the former limit of five on the Lumia 920’s Smart Shoot app.

There are also a lot of other cool things you can do with the Smart Cam app, with users being able to create action shots, choose the best out of the 10, focus on motion, change faces and even remove moving objects — which means no more photobombing.

These are features that felt a little gimmicky, with us not actually utilising them very often, although we did find ourselves enjoying some of the effects, so it’s always nice to have them on-hand.

The Lumia 925 is the first Lumia to get the Smart Cam app, but others are set to get it within the next few months, through the Nokia Amber Update.

You can set the Smart Cam app as the default camera app for the 925, although this isn’t recommended as there are a few issues with the app — including the fact that it downsizes those beautiful 8.7-megapixel shots into a more workable 5-megapixels.

We found that on some occasions we were presented with these dark lines across the screen when trying to shoot, which really disappointed us, as it made taking a photo impossible without it looking truly terrible.

You also can’t switch to video very quickly, which is a bummer — so really it’s recommended to remain in the normal camera mode.

Speaking of video, we were most impressed by what the Lumia 925 managed to capture — with both sound and picture looking incredible, even in low-light conditions.

If you want a phone which can shoot in both 720p and 1080p with crisp clear images, as well as impeccable sound, then the Lumia 925 is definitely the one to go for — be careful with the 1080p video though, as this device only features 16GB of storage, with no micro-SD expansion.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Powerhouse or sluggish?[/alert]

It doesn’t have a quad-core processor, nor does it have eye tracking, but the Lumia 925 is by no means an unimpressive device when it comes to its ability to perform. In fact, it performs incredibly well, even in benchmark tests with the 925 even coping with some intensive 3D games, such as N.O.V.A.

Battery life was also not that terrible, although it didn’t manage to last a full day, it was a notable step up from the Lumia 920.

With a 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, the Windows Phone UI didn’t struggle at all, switching between apps incredibly quickly with no latency whatsoever — which was also helped by the 1GB of RAM on-board.

It wasn’t all coming up roses for the Lumia 925 either, with our review unit suffering crashing to the lockscreen on occasions. Whilst this wasn’t the biggest issue in the world as all apps we were running were still running, it often became frustrating and on very rare occasions the phone even restarted itself.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Windows Phone Anchor[/alert]

When it comes to the Lumia 925 performance isn’t really a problem, nor is design, in fact we’d say it’s one of the better phones we’ve seen in these aspects. It is however let down by the lack of apps Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has.

Those of you who need access to first-party apps from Vine, Instagram or Dropbox, then you’ll have to look elsewhere as Windows Phone can only offer third party alternatives.

You won’t find any Google apps either, which is quite an obvious statement given Google’s hatred for Microsoft’s efforts.

Windows Phone is by no means a bad operating system, in fact au contraire, it’s a completely powerful and intuitive OS. But when you have games which launch months after their Android and iOS counterparts, then you’re into dangerous territory with many people having already moved onto new games.

Despite a lot of third party support across the Windows Phone ecosystem, with apps such as Instance and 6secs, they’re not always as fully featured as their first party counterparts, with apps like Instance missing features such as Instagram’s new video service.

It’s great to see the latest Amber update bring back some features we know and love from Windows Phone 7, such as FM Radio, but it doesn’t really go far enough with it still lagging behind both iOS and Android, lacking features such as a Notification Center or even true multitasking.

Recent leaks have suggested that Windows Phone will get these features at some point, which is a positive sign, but when we’ll get them remains up in the air.

Windows Phone is definitely on its way up, with many new apps launching on the system every week, and even some apps using Windows Phone as one of their launch platforms.

Telefonica, the owner of O2 UK, has also thrown its weight behind Windows Phone, promising to push the operating system even harder than ever — a sign that even the networks are warming up to the OS, even though it formerly called the Lumia 800 too expensive and not competitive.

Nokia are also continuing to make their tweaks to the OS, including the ability to set Nokia’s own software as the default camera, something we mentioned earlier, as well as a new Glance Screen.

Glance Screen works pretty well showing you the time even when the screen is locked. It doesn’t stop there with it being able to display both your battery status and your ringtone profile. We would like for it to display notifications at some point in the future, but we’ll have to wait for that.

If you don’t like the bright white lighting up your room when you’re asleep, then no problem with a dedicated night mode which turns those white pixels into red ones instead — although you will still get a little bit of a glow.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Is this the best Windows Phone yet?[/alert]

It’s an incremental change but it’s all about refinement and Nokia has done very well here, and yes you could even go as far as to call it the best Windows Phone yet.

There are obvious improvements that could be made, something we’ll most likely see with Nokia’s next flagship which is rumoured to be unveiled at an event in New York on July 11th.

It’s not all down to Nokia though, with great hardware constantly being produced. It’s nice to finally have something much lighter and thinner, but we also felt that Nokia could have done more with that screen — but this was not down to them at all as Windows Phone does not yet support high resolution displays.

Whilst this is the best Windows Phone yet, it’s unlikely that it’s going to be the best for very long, with HTC rumoured to already be prepping its next hero device.

It used to be that a Nokia Windows Phone really set you apart with great services such as HERE Maps, but these days that’s not the case, with other Windows Phone users getting access to these great apps.

Windows Phone is definitely preparing for take off, and right now the jet fuel that seems to be fuelling Microsoft is Nokia’s great hardware. All we need to see now is for Microsoft to add a few more features to bring it more in-line with other operating systems and we should be ready to go.


About the Author

Jordan O'Brien

Technology Journalist with an unhealthy obsession with trains and American TV. Attempts satire far too often. (+44) 020 7324 3502

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