Just like the Lumia 925 – as well as the Lumia 920, 928 and 820 – the 1020 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 chipset. Like its siblings, the 1020 has a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU and Adreno 225 GPU, but also gets a welcome boost in RAM, with 2GB – more than double that of any other Windows Phone.
On paper, at least, it seems rather uninspired of Nokia to use the same chipset in its newest flagship as the one that it launched in its 920 range-topper a year ago. In practice, though, the Lumia 1020’s performance is unlikely to leave you wanting more.
Navigating through the OS on the 1020 is a flawless experience. Not once did I experience a hint of stutter or lag while tapping through menus; transition animations were always instantaneous and rendered smoothly and without drama.
The handset also had no trouble with multitasking. I was able to jump in and out of multiple games, Office files and media streaming apps with no fuss. Jumping back into a game like Gameloft's stunning ‘Modern Combat 4', one of the more graphics-intensive titles available on the Xbox Games Store, resumes gameplay quickly; the handset never struggled to get me back into the action when I switched between apps. While multitasking on Windows Phone isn’t exactly a richly featured experience, the ability to quickly jump from one app to another with no lag and no temporary loss of performance is really the gold standard of multitasking, and both Nokia and Microsoft are to be commended for making this work so well.
Gameplay itself was an area in which the Lumia 1020 excelled. From titles like 'Modern Combat 4' and ‘Infinite Flight’ , to casual games like Angry Birds: Star Wars II and the ever-addictive Fruit Ninja, performance was smooth and unhindered. And while the Lumia 1020’s display isn’t Full HD, games still looked absolutely beautiful on its 720p AMOLED display.
Indeed, the Lumia 1020 had no trouble dealing with any of the apps or games that I tasked it with handling, and it’s hard to think of any higher praise than that when it comes to assessing a handset’s performance. It would be incredibly easy to dismiss the 1020 for ‘only’ having last year’s dual-core processor, instead of a kick-ass octa-core processor that you can brag about to anyone who’ll sit still long enough to hear you. But that would be missing the point entirely.
The Lumia 1020’s hardware is more than enough to handle anything and everything that you could install on it from the Windows Store. As someone who regularly uses and tests a broad range of devices, I cannot emphasise enough how important that is. I have often said that the best measure of a device is not how it’s defined on paper, but how it copes with everything that you can possibly throw at it. By that measure, the Lumia 1020 is utterly impressive.
My experience hasn’t been completely flawless though – in the first week of testing the 1020, the handset developed something of a penchant for spontaneously rebooting itself, eventually prompting me to resort to a hard reset, wiping the device fully and starting over. It also seemed to enjoy randomly waking the screen; I initially thought that this had been prompted by toast notifications which I had been a split-second too late to see, but I soon witnessed the screen coming on with no alerts or notifications to speak of. Frustrated, I performed a second hard-reset.
Since then, there have been no such issues, so whatever appeared to be irking the device initially has apparently been resolved. This does not appear to be a widespread problem on Lumia 1020s by any means, though, so I am willing to believe that I was unlucky enough to get a slightly quirky review unit – but I felt it important to put this information out there for you to draw your own conclusions.
As you would expect of a modern flagship, the Lumia 1020 offers a broad range of connectivity options. Three versions of the handset are offered in different markets; all three models (RM-875, RM-876 and RM-877) feature GSM 850/900/1800/1900 2G connectivity, while various 3G and 4G bands are supported by each handset variant. The version that Nokia supplied to us for review, model RM-875, supports the 850/900/1900/2100 3G HSDPA bands, along with 4G LTE support for the 800/900/1800/2100/2600 bands.
Potential buyers in the United Kingdom will be happy to learn that the model sold there is fully compatible with the EE 4G network, and with all of the new 4G networks from other operators, who are now beginning to roll out their next-generation mobile services across the country.
I found voice call quality over cellular networks to be about as good as on any other device that I have tested; I was able to try out voice calls with the Lumia 1020 on EE 3G, Vodafone 3G and O2 4G in the U.K. The quality of the incoming audio was always excellent, and those on the other end rarely struggled to hear me, except in situations where ambient noise was especially intrusive, such as on a very windy day, or on a night bus, surrounded by screaming drunkards.
I found that the Lumia 1020 was better than some devices – including the Sony Xperia T, iPhone 5 and Nokia’s own Lumia 925 – at getting the best indicated signal strength; the 1020 seemed especially good at finding and holding on to a 4G signal compared with these handsets. My comparisons in this regard were, however, less than scientific, and you may well find that your experience differs from mine.
You’ll also find Wi-Fi a/b/g/n support (still no 802.11ac though), as well as Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP; an update later this year will bring Bluetooth 4.0 LE support to the 1020.
There’s NFC (referred to by Microsoft as ‘tap + send’) on board as well, which is nice – if you like that kind of thing. Personally, I had precisely zero use for it while testing the Lumia 1020. Every time I have tried to use NFC to get two devices to communicate and share stuff, it’s been a tedious, torturous experience that I am in no hurry to repeat. Anecdotally, I know of no-one with an NFC-enabled phone that ever uses that feature with any regularity. With little third-party support for Windows Phone’s Wallet app, for making NFC payments, I would imagine that it’s a feature you’re unlikely to make much use of either.
With all of its Windows Phone 8 flagships, Nokia has focused heavily on its imaging prowess and the extraordinary capabilities of the PureView cameras it has squeezed into its devices. With the Lumia 1020, the company has upped its game considerably, making its 41-megapixel camera the star of the show.
The 1020’s camera features a six-element lens with ZEISS optics, along with a backside illuminated sensor, to enhance light sensitivity while minimising noise levels. Nokia’s Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) technology is also baked into the device. In a nutshell, OIS compensates for the movement and shake that often occurs when a user takes a photo; this kind of camera shake typically happens as the user presses the camera button and often results in blurred images, especially in low-light conditions.
There are also two separate flash units: an LED-flash for video and Xenon for still photographs.
Tech-heads the world over already know that megapixel count is a fairly meaningless measure of camera quality in and of itself – but the 41MP sensor is much more than just a big number intended to wow people into buying the phone.
The sensor itself has an effective 41MP (7728x5368px) active area, but the images that it captures are not actually 41MP in size. The actual photo size is dependent on the aspect ratio that you set for image capture: at 4:3, images will be captured at 38MP (7152x5368px); at 16:9, images are 34MP (7728x4354px).
When using Nokia’s Pro Cam app – the default camera software which activates when you press the camera button, although this can be changed – the 1020 captures two images when you take a photo: a full-resolution 38MP or 34MP image and a smaller 5MP image that’s perfect for sharing on social networks.
The smaller image uses a technique called ‘oversampling’. Clever people with very large brains from Nokia have explained this to me by saying that the handset essentially combines seven pixels from the full-resolution image into a single ‘super-pixel’, producing a sharp, high-quality 5MP image that takes up much less space (and which is far quicker to upload over a mobile network).
But there is much more to the Lumia 1020’s camera than that. You may recall that Nokia’s slogan for the handset’s launch event was ‘Zoom Reinvented’, and this relates to what is essentially a new way to take photos with your handset.
If you’ve ever tried zooming in on something before you take a picture with your phone, you’ll already be familiar with the deeply unsatisfactory results this produces. It’s frustrating, because sometimes you just can’t get any closer to the action, so you have no choice but to take a photo from far away, while the object that you wanted to focus the image on ends up being very small.
Nokia’s ‘Zoom Reinvented’ philosophy allows you to take a photo with the Lumia 1020 from where you are, and then zoom in on what you want to focus on after you’ve taken the pic. For example, while enjoying a nice cup of tea a few days ago, I glanced out of the window and spotted something odd. I grabbed the Lumia 1020, pressed the shutter button to launch the Nokia Pro Cam app, and took the photo above. The object that I was trying to focus on was way off in the distance, and there was no way for me to get any closer to it before it disappeared. You may not even be able to spot it in the image below (note: this image has been compressed and reduced for publishing purposes - you can view the original here):
The Pro Cam app allowed me to completely reframe the original high-resolution image. I could, if desired, change the aspect ratio entirely (4:3, 16:9, 3:2 or 1:1) and zoom in to make the object more visible. The result is the image below, which I then emailed to a friend who’s very much into military aviation, to mention that a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter had just flown nearby, to see if he knew if anything interesting was going on.
Let’s look at another example. I’m lucky enough to live in a very leafy suburb of London, and the private estate on which I live has a beautiful garden and lake, which I often visit to take a few minutes to clear my head and get away from my desk. During one such visit, I noticed something moving on a leaf that had fallen from one of the trees on to the lawn – can you spot it? (Compressed/reduced image below - view the original here.)
Let’s reframe the image and zoom in, and you should be able to spot the dragonfly standing on the leaf:
The more you zoom in, of course, the less defined the reframed image becomes. But the possibilities are endless. Imagine being at a music concert, for example, and being able to just take a photo from way back in the crowd and zoom in on the action later to save your favourite moments from the event; or snapping a quick pic from an airplane window as you approach your destination and then reframing it later to make it look like you took the perfect shot first time around.
This is something that you really have to try for yourself to be able to appreciate just how awesome it really is.
Here are a few other images that I snapped using the Pro Cam app; I’ll let you judge them for yourself (higher-res versions are available here):
This image was taken using the standard Windows Phone 8 camera app.
This image was taken using the Nokia Smart Cam app.
To demonstrate the Lumia 1020’s imaging capabilities, Nokia commissioned legendary photographers David Bailey and Bruce Weber to try out the device, asking them to share their images of “an intimate human in a distant world”.
Neither of them has ever been a fan of digital cameras; indeed, Weber said: “I don’t do digital and this is the first time I have really gone out in the world and done like a digital sitting. I was impressed with the resolution and the beauty of the colour.” High praise indeed.
I was lucky enough to attend the launch of an exhibition of the photos they snapped with the Lumia 1020 in London last month, and was absolutely blown away by the results. Here are a few of the photographs that they captured:
Nokia also collaborated with National Geographic photographer Stephen Alvarez, as part of the world-famous journal’s 125th birthday celebrations. He was tasked with a ten-day assignment to capture the essence of the American West, with nothing but a Lumia 1020. Some of his photographs are shown below:
But you don't have to be a professional photographer to get the most out of the Lumia 1020. The Nokia Pro Cam app includes a broad array of settings and options to help you get more out of your photos. Nokia has done well to create an attractive and very easy to use UI that also features a live preview, so you can see how your photo will appear before you’ve even taken it.
White balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation options are all provided with the radial interface shown above, while there are also multiple flash options: auto, on, off, focus light only, and no focus light. Pro Cam can also switch to video capture mode by tapping the video button, which is present when the radial menu is hidden.
This short video is unlikely to worry Sir David Attenborough when it comes to wildlife documentaries, but shows off the handset’s 1080p video capture using default settings in the Pro Cam app:
What Nokia has created here is an interface that encourages even the most inexperienced photographers to get stuck in, to experiment with settings, to try things out and see what happens. My own apprehension at somehow ruining the camera, the phone, everything, by tinkering too much with the settings was calmed by Nokia’s chief marketing officer, the wonderful Tuula Rytilä, who reassured me that restoring all the settings to their defaults is as simple as swiping the on-screen camera button to the left from the settings radial menu. Perfect for n00bs.
The camera experience isn’t perfect though. The Pro Cam app – the hub of all this imaging magic – takes around two seconds to start up. Unlike the default Windows Phone 8 camera app, Pro Cam also can’t bypass the lockscreen PIN, so if your device is PIN-protected (and it really should be), you won’t be able to start taking photos with Pro Cam until you’ve entered your four digits. Considering how extensively Nokia and Microsoft collaborated over the Lumia 1020, this is a pretty basic oversight.
Between the slow start-up time for the app and the PIN issue, it means that Pro Cam isn’t a reliable option for always being able to quickly whip the Lumia 1020 out of your pocket to capture a moment before it’s over. As a result, I found myself resetting the stock Windows Phone 8 camera as the default for general image capture, launching Pro Cam from a tile on the Start screen as needed.
Pro Cam also struggles to take photos in quick succession, thanks to the amount of image processing that takes place once you’ve taken a photo; typically, it takes around two seconds before you can take your next snap. Nokia has hinted at me that they’re already working on improving this, and given the company’s excellent track record in updating and enhancing its software for the platform, I’m confident that they’ll do so.
While these imperfections remain, I can’t overstate enough how impressed I am by the capabilities of the Lumia 1020’s camera. Nokia is proud to market the handset under the slogan “nothing else comes close”, and they’re right. The Lumia 1020’s cam is so far ahead of everything else on the market that comparing it to its smartphone rivals seems almost unfair on the competition. But the overall camera experience remains slightly spoiled by weaknesses on the software side. I can only hope that Nokia delivers those improvements soon.
When I reviewed the Lumia 925 earlier this year, I noted what a disappointment it was that Nokia’s then-new flagship handset had only half of the storage of the previous range-topper, with just 16GB of space (14.68GB accessible). A 32GB version was available, but only in certain markets, and with very limited carrier availability.
I wasn’t the only one to voice concerns about that, so it’s refreshing to see that with the Lumia 1020, Nokia has made 32GB of storage the standard. A 64GB version is also available, but it is exclusively available on Telefónica’s networks (including O2 and Movistar), unless you can afford to purchase the device off-contract and at full price. It is this version that Nokia and Telefónica made available to us for review.
With only my text messages, emails and apps, along with around 400 photos and three short videos, stored on the device, 13GB of storage was eaten up. 1.9GB of this was taken up by the ‘System’, with 4.7GB of apps. While the majority of apps have a fairly small storage footprint, some – particularly games – can quickly eat up a lot of space. Despite the fairly generous storage available on the Lumia 1020, you probably won’t want to install too many titles like Modern Combat 4 (1.5GB) and The Sims FreePlay (934MB), if you also want to leave room for other media, particularly given that there’s no microSD slot to expand storage when you run out.
With around 45GB of free space, almost my entire music collection would have able to fit on the device (albeit with room for little else), although if I had been stuck with using the 32GB model, I would have been forced to pick and choose only those songs that I really wanted to carry with me. That said, there are plenty of music streaming options to choose from, including the Xbox Music Pass (which you’ll have to pay for because, unlike on Windows 8, there is no free option for use on Windows Phone 8) and the fantastic Nokia Music app, offering free music streaming.
Listening to music on the move is hugely important to me, so I value the efforts that manufacturers put into ensuring that the experience is a good one. While the strictest audiophiles with the most discerning ears might disagree with my assessment, I found listening to music on the Lumia 1020 to be a joy.
The bundled headset – which includes a mic and button for voice calls – is among the best of those included with any device. That’s not to say that you won’t find better headphones out there in the third-party market, but few other devices include a headset as comfortable and capable as those that come in the box with the Lumia 1020.
They’re identical to those bundled with the Lumia 92x family, and that’s not a bad thing at all. They’re very comfortable to wear, and Nokia also includes a selection of buds to ensure that you find the right fit for your ears. Audio playback is clear and richly detailed; with impressive resonance particularly with bass-heavy tunes. I was constantly impressed with how well bass was handled; music never descended into the kind of muffled, angry thuds that you may experience on cheaper handsets or with inferior headphones. At maximum volume, and using the default audio settings, the headset sometimes struggled a bit with high trebles; I often listen to classical music, and found that string solos would very occasionally sound a bit too shrill.
My overall experience, though, was overwhelmingly positive, and I salute Nokia for not cheaping-out with such an important accessory. For those who like to fine-tune their audio experience, various settings and enhancements are available on the device; I personally found the default settings to offer the most balanced and satisfactory output.
The Lumia 1020 is in good company with just about every other smartphone ever built in that its external speaker is awful for anything except voice calls. Frankly, though, I consider it to be a crime against humanity to attempt to use the external speaker on a phone for listening to music or while watching anything but the very shortest videos, and if you had any expectations that the Lumia 1020’s speaker would somehow transcend all other phones, you’re quite mad. For hands-free voice calling though – or even for listening to voice-heavy podcasts while in the car, it’s perfectly decent with plenty of volume and enough clarity to make it easy to hear and understand what’s being said.
Just please don’t be that person who buys a Lumia 1020 and sits at the back of the bus playing wretched-sounding music through its tinny speakers.
As with the 925/928, which have the same AMOLED panel as the 1020, watching videos on Nokia’s top-of-the-range device is a joy. As I moaned about earlier in this review, I think it’s a great shame that the 1020 doesn’t feature a Full HD 1080p display, but in practice, the overwhelming majority of buyers will be more than satisfied with the HD (1280x768px) resolution of the handset’s screen.
The PureMotion HD+ technology that Nokia has integrated into the device may sound like little more than marketing fluff, but in practice, the display does an excellent job of handling video, especially high-definition content.
Personally, I’ve never much enjoyed watching movies on phones – I prefer to enjoy movies on a much larger screen – but I regularly watch HD movie trailers, which are often the perfect smörgåsbord of quick-pans, densely detailed CGI and fiery explosions, and the Lumia 1020 did a pretty good job of dealing with it all, although it wasn't absolutely perfect.
As you’d expect of an AMOLED panel, colours were spectacularly vibrant, with beautiful contrasts and incredibly deep blacks allowing brighter colours to seemingly explode with intensity.
I also frequently watch TV news channels when I’m out and about, catching a few minutes of news while on a short train journey or while waiting for a bus (for those in the U.K., I heartily recommend the TVCatchup app for this). Streaming this standard-definition content to the handset was absolutely flawless over Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G networks, and I was delighted by how smoothly the relatively small tickers on various news channels appeared, scrolling along the bottom of the screen with no blurring and no legibility issues.
There are various video streaming options available for Windows Phone 8 – from Vimeo to Netflix – but if you want to watch your own video files on the Lumia 1020, you’ll need to ensure that you sync it to the handset in a compatible format. Those MKV files you thought no-one else knew about, for example, aren’t natively supported by the OS, so if you want to transfer your
porn wedding videos to the device, you’ll have to convert them to a supported format, such as WMV, DivX-encoded AVI or H.264-encoded MP4.
The Lumia 1020 features a non-removable 2000mAh battery and, as with most handsets, you should find that a ‘balanced’ amount of usage gets you through the day with no problems.
- A typical day for me will involve me:
- Reading and sending emails – one account set up for push email; two accounts set up to sync every 15 minutes
- Making a few 5-10 minute calls, and sending a handful of text messages
- Using social apps – checking Facebook, reading and sending tweets, chatting on WhatsApp
- Around 15-30 minutes of video streaming
- 1-2 hours of local and streamed music playback
- Around 15-30 minutes of casual gaming
- A smattering of web browsing throughout the day
On evenings out and weekends, I often take plenty of photos too. While the exact way that you use your handset is unlikely to be identical to mine, I think it’s fair to say that my usage is broadly representative of the range of tasks that users engage in on their devices on a daily basis. With this kind of usage, the Lumia 1020 made it through the day with plenty of juice to spare. Without adjusting my usage, I was able to go around a day and a half from a full charge before the battery finally died.
Of course, certain tasks will drain the battery more quickly. Listening to music all day long will suck the life out of the phone a lot faster, so if you’re the kind of person who needs a constant soundtrack playing through the day, or who can’t stop playing games on their phone, you should make sure that you carry your charger with you.
If you do find yourself burning through your remaining battery life more quickly than expected, the Lumia 1020 features the same Battery Saver mode included in other Windows Phones. If you’ve enabled this mode, it will kick in automatically when your battery drops to 20%, and reconfigures the handset to optimise it for lower power consumption. Push email will be disabled, background tasks will be limited and the display brightness reduced, all in an effort to squeeze a bit more life out of the battery before it finally runs out of juice.
Various settings can also be manually reconfigured to optimise the device for extended use. Disabling push email, turning off NFC and Bluetooth, disabling the Glance Screen, and killing auto-upload of photos and videos captured with the camera, will all help to prolong battery life.
If you purchase the optional Camera Grip accessory, you’ll also find that it includes its own 1020mAh battery. This is a brilliant feature (and an essential one for the keenest photo-takers), ensuring that your handset’s battery doesn’t have to take a beating if you’re the sort of person who can’t walk more than a few metres without having to snap a photo of something. The Camera Grip also includes an external battery indicator; push the battery-shaped button on its base, and up to four LED lights will show how much juice remains in its battery.
But the Camera Grip has another trick up its sleeve: it can also charge the battery inside the handset. Simply slot the 1020 into the Grip and, if the phone’s battery is at less than 100%, the Grip will automatically recharge it. It’s a brilliant idea, working perfectly in practice, and I have to commend Nokia for implementing such a thoughtful and useful concept that works so well in the real world.
Superbly designed and beautifully crafted, the Lumia 1020 is without a doubt one of the most impressive smartphones ever created. Its greatest strength, of course, is that incredible 41-megapixel camera. It is a triumph of Nokia engineering, and it is nothing short of extraordinary that the company was able to cram its peerless imaging technology into a device that feels much lighter and sleeker than you might expect from its dimensions.
The 1020’s camera often defies belief in the amount of detail it can capture. Nokia’s marketing slogan for the handset is “nothing else comes close”, and the company isn’t wrong about that. Ignore the megapixel count, and focus solely on the imaging results, and it quickly becomes obvious that the Lumia 1020’s camera leaves its rivals trailing so far behind it that you’d actually need a Lumia 1020 to be able to zoom in and see them in the distance.
But Nokia’s latest flagship isn’t perfect. The camera experience still needs work – the Pro Cam app is painfully slow, both to launch and to take snaps in quick succession. Expect this to be remedied in future updates, but for now, there’s certainly room for improvement.
We cannot forget either that, underneath its pretty body, it’s still sporting hardware that’s over a year old. I stated earlier in this review that one cannot get too bogged down in focusing on what specs look like on paper, but rather how they measure up to the full range of tasks that you will require of them in action. I stand by that as the most meaningful way to measure real-world performance, and in that respect, the 1020 excels, never struggling to deal with anything you can throw at it. That said, with quad-core Windows Phones with 1080p displays just around the corner, the 1020 won't be the king of the hill for long.
There is much to applaud in the Lumia 1020. But there is no escaping the fact that its weakest link is Windows Phone 8. The glacial pace of Microsoft’s development of its mobile OS is, frankly, outrageous. Yes, there have been two updates to Windows Phone 8 since its launch last year, but neither of these updates has delivered any truly compelling features that would win over users from rival platforms. That doesn’t exactly bode well for those considering a device like the 1020.
Die-hard fans of the platform would no doubt point to Android, which isn’t much better when it comes to devices being updated. In some ways, in fact, it’s much worse. But that completely misses the point. Android isn’t playing catch-up with Windows Phone. Microsoft’s mobile OS has been lagging behind its rivals for too long, and until the company picks up the pace of development to ensure that its feature set matches those of its rivals, many consumers will continue to overlook otherwise superb devices like the Lumia 1020.
The other elephant in the room remains ‘the Instagram problem’. Users care about apps, and they’re not going to sit around long enough for Windows Phone-lovers to equivocate about third-party solutions for apps and brands that still haven’t developed for the platform. The good news is that things are continuing to improve. Big names like Flipboard and Vine will roll out their Windows Phone 8 apps soon; companies like Adidas and the BBC have recently launched new apps on the platform too.
But while these problems are slowly being resolved, they remain important considerations for those shopping for a high-end handset. Such compromises are far easier to forgive when you’re paying a hundred bucks for a Lumia 520; when you’re paying $700 SIM-free or committing to a two-year contract with $200 down, one’s expectations are understandably higher.
These compromises will undoubtedly prompt many buyers to gloss over the Lumia 1020, and that’s an absolute tragedy. It would be easy to dismiss the Lumia 1020 as just an amazing camera slapped onto a year-old smartphone – but it’s so much more than that.
Set aside what the platform is missing and focus on what it offers today, and you’ll find a beautiful OS that’s incredibly easy to use, and Nokia’s fantastic range of apps – including the brilliant Nokia Music, HERE City Lens and Drive+, among others – that add extraordinary value to the core offering of the device. All of this is wrapped up in a striking package, overflowing with the best of Nokia’s design and engineering, and featuring the best smartphone camera the world has ever seen.
Indeed, the Lumia 1020, despite its flaws and those of its operating system, is one of the best all-round smartphones available today. Stop worrying about what it’s missing and accept it for what it is, and its strengths become so evident in usage that you may soon forget about its weaknesses. That’s remarkably rare in my experience; to find a device that’s so charming and delightful that you can overlook its shortcomings. Some might even call that ‘love’.
Whether you’ll actually fall in love with the Lumia 1020 will, of course, be a matter of personal taste – and sanity – but give it a chance, and you may well find that it makes you very happy indeed.
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