Nokia Lumia 1020 review: View from the top

GSMArena team, 21 September 2013.

Introduction

PureView is on its way down in history and while we loved the Nokia 808, it will be the Lumia 1020 that makes the name more than a footnote. With a modern OS and improved design of both the camera and the phone itself, the 1020 is Nokia's - make that Microsoft's - best bet at having the best mobile camera ever made.


Nokia Lumia 1020 official images

This is probably what Microsoft was actually buying. Windows Phone handsets are getting lost in the high-end and it's the Lumia 1020 that can raise the platform above the rabble of Androids and successive iPhones. The basic design has been around since the Lumia 800 (the Nokia N9 even), but nothing in the world can make a more decisive difference than the PureView camera.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 might as well be Nokia's loudest bang on its way out (along with the to be announced Lumia 1520 phablet). And we'll probably see the history repeat itself much like with the Nokia N9, where the last product of a lineup is always the greatest.

With 41MP resolution, the 1020 camera has twice as many pixels as its nearest competitors. Three times as many if you want optical image stabilization. And the sensor is four times as big as most smartphone sensors and more than twice as big as the second-biggest sensor. The 808 PureView had a bigger sensor, but it has since retired and it didn't have the stabilization and bright aperture to begin with.

But we shouldn't let our focus on the camera detract from the smartphone experience. The Nokia Lumia 1020 equals the best of the (admittedly not very populous) Windows Phone world and the opposing BlackBerry world. And with Microsoft's tight control on the hardware allowing for optimizations not possible on Android, the 1020 shines throughout, not just in terms of camera.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • Quad-band 3G with 42 Mbps HSDPA and 5.7 Mbps HSUPA support
  • 4.5" 16M-color PureMotionHD+ AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of 1280 x 768 pixels; Corning Gorilla Glass 3; Nokia Glance
  • 41MP PureView sensor (38MP effective), 1/1.5" sensor size, 1.12Ám, ZEISS lens, Optical Image Stabilization, xenon and LED flashes
  • 1080p@30fps video recording; 4x lossless digital zoom
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • Windows Phone 8 OS with Nokia Amber
  • 1.5GHz dual-core Krait CPU, Adreno 225 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8960 chipset, 2GB of RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS and GLONASS support
  • Free lifetime voice-guided navigation
  • 32GB of inbuilt storage; 64GB Telefonica/O2 exclusive version
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • Wireless charging with optional accessories
  • Built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • microUSB port
  • Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP and file transfers
  • SNS integration
  • Xbox Live integration and Xbox management
  • NFC support
  • Digital compass
  • Nokia Music
  • FM radio

Main disadvantages

  • Camera bump on the back
  • Shot-to-shot time of several seconds is painful
  • Screen has average sunlight legibility
  • Non-user-replaceable battery
  • Wireless charging needs an extra charging case to work
  • No microSD card slot
  • Relatively low battery capacity
  • No system-wide file manager
  • No lockscreen shortcuts

The new Amber update from Nokia (which integrates Windows Phone GDR2) brings a number of new software features, including Lumia exclusives, some of which are reserved for the platform's top brass. We're talking about the Pro Camera app, of course, which allows manual focus (no other phone on the market has that). The Glance screen and color tuning are pretty awesome too, plus the old Nokia staple of free offline GPS navigation.

Still, the camera cannot completely mask the fact that the Lumia 1020 is a little boring - it's almost the exact same device that we saw late last year in the form of a Lumia 920. And Amber was more of a catchup update than anything, it's GDR3 that will bring the high-res screen and quad-core CPU support, though it won't bring these to existing products, of course.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Nokia Lumia 1020 Nokia Lumia 1020 Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020 at ours

Can the Nokia Lumia 1020 help Windows Phone become the viable third platform, alternative to both Apple and Google solutions, that Microsoft wants it to be? Only one way to find out - look at the hardware, then the software and then what we're really here to talk about, the camera.

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