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Nokia Lumia 820 Review: More Control, Slimmer, and Reasonably Priced

The Nokia Lumia 820!
The Nokia Lumia 820!

Nokia Lumia 820 Review

Most of the attention of the Nokia Lumia line-up went to the flagship, the Nokia Lumia 920. However the younger sibling, the Nokia Lumia 820, is quite a gem itself. It sports nearly identical internal specifications and comes with a smaller form factor at 4.3-inches. There’s no PureView camera but it does have microSD storage, removable battery, and interchangeable back cases. Of course it’s also worth mentioning that the Lumia 820 is much more affordable with an SRP of Php18,990. In short, if you’re in the market for a Windows Phone 8 device, all of the said features make a compelling case for the Nokia Lumia 820.

We’ve been testing a unit for the last two weeks now and we’d like to share with you guys our complete review.

Nokia Lumia 820 Spec Sheet

  • 1.5GHz Dual-core Krait Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon CPU
  • Adreno 225 GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB Internal Storage, Expandable up to 64GB via microSD
  • 4.3-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 480 x 800 pixels (~217ppi)
  • GPS, AGPS, Bluetooth 3.1, WiFi, WiFi Hotspot, NFC
  • 3G, HSPA+
  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus, dual LED flash
  • Can record video 1080p@30fps with image stabilization
  • VGA front-facing camera
  • Dolby Headphone sound enhancement
  • Li-Ion 1650 mAh Battery
  • Wireless Charging
  • Microsoft Windows Phone 8

Hardware: Lighter, sleeker, and more portable

Unlike the first generation of Lumias and the Lumia 920, the Nokia Lumia 820 doesn’t have a unibody build. It has a removable back cover (yes you can change colors) which gives you access to the microSD slot, microSIM, and the changeable battery.

The 4.3-inch display is at the front though we don’t get the gorgeous curved glass anymore of the Lumia 920. At the sides are the usual ports and buttons: volume rocker, power lock, camera shutter, microUSB, and audio jack.

Not as thick as the 920. easier to use with one hand
Not as thick as the 920. easier to use with one hand
What the back looks like
What the back looks like

The 4.3-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen has a resolution of 800×480 pixels which roughly comes out to ~217 pixels per inch. On paper it might look substandard for a phone selling for more than Php15,000 but in real world use it’s actually hard to distinguish the difference between the displays of the 820 and 920 unless you have keen eyes.

Display quality -- the pixel density compared to the 920 is not that noticeable.
Display quality — the pixel density compared to the 920 is not that noticeable.

The Lumia 820 also offers a much more portable and ergonomic form factor. It’s significantly thinner and lighter than the Lumia 920. It’s actually easier to use with one hand unlike the 920 which usually needs both your hands on it for texting and e-mailing.

Everything considered with the hardware and chassis design of the Nokia Lumia 820, we can say that it sits comfortably in the middle of the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X. It’s not as heavy or thick as the 920 but it’s still bigger than the HTC 8X. The HTC 8X’s form factor, while hip and cool, has sharp edges though so it has a tendency of biting into the flesh of your palm.

Windows Phone 8 rocks on the Nokia Lumia 820

Microsoft Windows Phone 8 on the Nokia Lumia 820. Gotta love those Live Tiles!
Microsoft Windows Phone 8 on the Nokia Lumia 820. Gotta love those Live Tiles!

When it comes to software, the Nokia Lumia 820 is no slouch. Windows Phone 8 works wonderfully smooth on the 820. It’s almost lag-free. The only time we experienced significant delays was when we were searching for people on our contacts list (though we have more than 5,000) and loading graphics intensive applications like games. Other than that it’s a near-flawless experience. Animations and transitions are all seamless.

The Live Tiles system is also something that grows on you. Initially it looks just cool but there’s actually a lot of personalization you can do with them. For basics you can rearrange and resize them. For more advanced users you can download apps with specific live tile functions and pin them to your home screen. You can even assign functions to tiles that have your photos (just download the app that lets you do that).

Pressing down on live tiles lets you rearrange and resize them
Pressing down on live tiles lets you rearrange and resize them

Core Services: Messaging, Telephony, and Calendars

Messaging
Messaging

When it comes to the basics the Nokia Lumia 820 delivers in spades. Messaging, telephony, and calendars are all gorgeous thanks to the user interface and design elements of Microsoft Windows Phone 8. All core services are feature-rich as well and they sync seamlessly with your Microsoft cloud apps.

Note that if you’re coming from Android that you can just sync the contacts list you have on Google to the phone. If you don’t want to sync via the cloud, the phone has an app called “TRANSFER MY DATA” which lets you transfer your contacts, text messages, and photos from your old phone to the Lumia 820 via Bluetooth.

Social Networking

Major social networking sites are represented on the Windows Phone 8 app ecosystem save for Instagram. Initially the Twitter and Facebook apps were gruesome. They followed the design elements of Windows Phone 8 but the functionality and usability just wasn’t there. Fortunately they shipped an update for Twitter a few weeks ago and it’s infinitely better than the previous version. We daresay it can stand head-to-head with the iOS and Android versions.

Twitter app is pretty solid. Recent update was awesome.
Twitter app is pretty solid. Recent update was awesome.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Facebook app. It’s still messy and hard to navigate. You’re better off opening it on the browser.

Facebook app is crap.
Facebook app is crap.

By the way, for some strange reason the official “Youtube” app that you can download from the Windows Store isn’t actually an app. It just opens the browser with YouTube mobile loaded on it. Blargh.

The good news is that developers are starting to take notice of Windows Phone 8 so we’re really hoping and praying for good updates. ๐Ÿ˜›

The App Ecosystem

It's not as robust as the Apple App Store or Google Play but it definitely can deliver all the core services... except for Instagram.
It’s not as robust as the Apple App Store or Google Play but it definitely can deliver all the core services… except for Instagram.

Speaking of developers and apps, the Windows Phone Store is actually starting to get a lot of good apps. It’s far behind iOS and Android but it’s getting better. Here are a few of the must-download apps:

Social Networking: Facebook, Twitter, #2InstaWithLove*, LinkedIn
Photo Editing: Cinemagraph*, Creative Studio*, Panorama*, SophieLens for Nokia*, Smart Shoot*, Lomograph
Communication: Kik, WeChat, Whats App, Skype, Viber
Maps and Traffic: Here Maps*, Here Transit*, Here Drive + Beta*, gMAPS Pro, MMDA
News: Weave News Reader, Inquirer, GMA News, ABS-CBN News, ESPN, CNN
Live Tiles: Connectivity Studio, Battery Level for WP8, MegaTile, PhotoGrid
Games: Armed (RTS), Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds series, Plants vs Zombies, Asphalt 5, Bejeweled+*
Others: Evernote, Metrotube (really good YouTube app)

*Exclusive to Nokia Lumia

Graphics intensive games like Asphalt Heat 7 run on it but there's loading time is quite long.
Graphics intensive games like Asphalt Heat 7 run on it but there’s loading time is quite long.

As you can see there are a lot of really good Nokia exclusive applications. That’s probably the best selling point for picking Nokia when you’re in the market for a Windows Phone. Fortunately all of the Nokia exclusive apps that run on the Nokia Lumia 920 also run smoothly on the Lumia 820 so again that’s another reason that adds more value to the device given the much lower price tag.

Microsoft Windows Ecosystem

When doing reviews we can’t ignore anymore how the phone interacts with other devices. Each “smart device” is part of an ecosystem and for the Nokia Lumia 820 it’s part of the Microsoft Windows family.

There are several cloud-based applications that sync between your PC and the phone. The central hub for all of this is your Windows account (live). This is where your contacts, settings, apps, etc. are all synced and backed up. This system is very reliable as we’ve restored a copy of our account across several phones already and it has been seamless (from HTC 8X to Lumia 620 to Lumia 920 to Lumia 820 and back to Lumia 920). Also your account is tied in to your Skydrive which is Microsoft’s cloud-based storage system. This is where your photos, videos, and other files are stored. Lastly there’s Microsoft Office 365 which is a cloud-based service for Office documents.

Other than the PC, the Nokia Lumia 820 can also work with the Xbox. Sadly it can only function as a glorified remote control and data viewer so that’s the extent of the connection, lol.

Camera Performance: Far from the Quality of the Nokia Lumia 920

The Nokia Lumia 820 doesn’t have the Pureview optics of the Nokia Lumia 920. However it is still quite respectable and at par with a lot of other shooters of other devices. The Lumia 820 packs an 8.0-megapixel rear camera that delivers good photos, especially when you have good lighting. It also takes decent low light pics but it’s nowhere near the Lumia 920.

Here are some sample shots:

WP_20130331_002

WP_20130329_001

WP_20130403_004

Lastly note that it can also take 1080p video. ๐Ÿ™‚

Battery Life: Average… don’t turn on Location Services often

Powering the Lumia 820 is a 1650mAh battery. While that doesn’t seem big it’s actually enough to get you through the day with moderate use. This is mainly due to the smaller screen size as well as optimizations with the hardware and software. Another bonus is that it’s removable so if you have a spare one you just have to pop it in when your primary batt is out of juice. We actually used to do this a lot before with our BlackBerry phones, hehe.

Verdict:

Nokia Lumia 820: Two Thumbs up!
Nokia Lumia 820: Two Thumbs up!

With everything considered, especially the lower price point, we can definitely say that the Nokia Lumia 820 is a good alternative Windows Phone. The different form factor lends itself to different usage habits and suits people who don’t like bulky and hefty phones. The microSD slot, removable battery, and interchangeable back plate also gives users more control and personalization. In short the Nokia Lumia 820 is not just a cheaper version of the Lumia 920. It’s a different experience and it offers a different set of pros and cons. It’s not a dumbed down Lumia 920.

The Nokia Lumia 820 retails for Php18,990 and is now available at Nokia stores nationwide.

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime heโ€™s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime heโ€™s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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