Nokia Lumia 800 review: New beginnings

GSMArena team, 2 December 2011.
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Full-res Picture tile is great

The Pictures hub has been polished up a bit in Windows Phone Mango. There's a new People tab, which lets you browse photo albums by individual contacts or groups.

You can set a single photo as a background for the hub (it used to be the last photo viewed) or you can set it to shuffle different photos.

And of course, the point of hubs is that they are the go-to place to do things, instead of apps. New functionality allows apps to integrate into the Pictures hub, so for example, a photo effects app can make its options available right in the hub. Devs need to enable that into apps however.

The main view of the Pictures hub offers four options - camera roll, albums, date and people. A swipe to the left reveals what's new, which displays your Facebook friends and liked pages' new picture galleries. Another swipe shows your favorites section, where the photos you've faved are displayed.

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Pictures hub

Albums feature the camera roll, the preloaded system pictures and all of your Facebook albums. A flick to the left shows all your pictures sorted by date. You can't assign individual camera roll photos into albums, though.

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Albums • Date • Favorites

The people section is where you can select your friends or closed ones so that their galleries on Facebook get displayed right there in your Pictures hub. It's a nice feature for social network users but will be only an empty section for those that aren't too fond of Facebook.

The camera roll unifies your entire collection of photos and videos, taken with the device, in a grid of 4x5. You cannot change the view of the camera roll. Viewing a photo can be done in either portrait or landscape mode. Zooming in on a photo is done by either double tap or pinch to zoom. We appreciate that the camera roll doesn't downsize pictures and you can enjoy them in full resolution.

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Camera roll • Zooming in on a picture

Windows Phone 7 used to be quite restricted when it came to sharing - it's still not perfect (it still downsizes photos before emailing them, for one) but you can now share videos too, either via email or on Facebook. Sharing options include messaging, email, Facebook or the cloud-based SkyDrive.

While uploading photos to Facebook or Windows Live, the OS will detect any untagged faces and allow you to tag them before proceeding with the upload.

The camera roll has a dedicated auto-fix setting, which tries to improve your photo. It's a nice feature but one that produces unrealistic results at times.

The video player is integrated into the Pictures hub. It has a very simple interface - you have fast forward and rewind controls, a time scroll and a video size button that toggles full-screen viewing.

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Video player

The video player doesn’t recognize .AVI files – in other words, don’t expect DivX or XviD support. However, the Zune software on your computer will automatically convert such files to .MP4 – so, you can watch those formats on the Lumia 800, it’s just that the transfer to the device can take quite a while (depending on your computer's capabilities).

It’s interesting (and useful) that you can pin individual items to the homescreen – like a song or video, even an FM radio frequency.

Music + Videos and Nokia Music too

The media players reside together in the Music & Videos hub, which bears the Zune logo. When you start it, it shows the History, which gives you quick access to the last two things played, or you can go to the full menu and start the music or video player, listen/watch podcasts (both audio and video podcasts are supported), start the FM radio or go to the Marketplace.

The music section is made up of albums, songs, playlists, genres and artists. Videos features all, television, music videos, films and personal - think of them like more of categories you can assign your videos to when synching with Zune. The third section is podcasts where you can store all of your downloaded audio and video podcasts.

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Music + Videos hub

The music has a simple and straightforward interface. You won’t have any difficulties using it. However there are some things missing, like an equalizer. Another missing feature is the ability to scrub through a song with your finger – you have to press and hold on the FF/rewind buttons to simply jump back and forth.

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Browsing the music library • Now playing screen • Music controls on the home screen

Mango brings along a slight change in design to the now playing screen. The favorite, repeat and shuffle buttons are now placed horizontally next to the album cover instead of hidden behind it.

You also get radio and marketplace links in the Music & Videos tile. It doesn't offer the option to listen to online radio stations so you would need to insert the headgear to get reception.

You have the current frequency in very large digits – swiping left and right changes the frequency and a swipe and release automatically searches for the next available station in that direction. You can mark some stations as favorites, which will allow you to pin them to the homescreen. RDS is on board and you can switch between headphones and loudspeaker.

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FM radio

Nokia Music works as a general music player but with a location-aware twist. You also get access to the Nokia Music store, which is an alternative to the Zune Marketplace.

As a music player, it's pretty standard - your tracks are sorted by artist, album, playlists or you can view all songs. The interface is very similar to that of the stock music player, but under the album art it lists the next three songs to be played - really helpful if you're using shuffle. There's no way to manually reorder the upcoming songs, but you can reshuffle them if there's one you don’t like.

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Nokia Music app

The location-aware feature is called Gigs - as the name suggests, it finds concerts near your location.

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Gigs looks for concerts nearby

Audio quality is a mixed bag

Recent Nokia smartphones tend to offer pretty good sonic experience and it appears that the Nokia Lumia 800 will be no exception to the rule.

The Lumia 800 exhibited decent loudness and reasonably clean output when connected to an active external loudspeaker. Its scores were excellent for the most part, except for the distortion levels, which were higher than average.

Unfortunately, we are currently having some issues with our audio testing equipment that concern the headphones on part of our usual test. That's why we won't be posting the Nokia Lumia 800 scores with a pair of headphones attached, until we've fully resolved them.

Update 06 Dec: We were finally able to complete the second part of our test, but unfortunately the Nokia Lumia 800 didn't exactly pass it with flying colors. With headphones plugged in the smartphone dramatically changed its frequency response, cutting-off the bass frequencies, while its stereo crosstalk and intermodulation distortion spiked. Quite unconvincing performance for a flagship device.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Nokia Lumia 800+0.13, -0.12-87.387.60.011 0.241-87.8
Nokia Lumia 800 (headphones attached)+1.03, -5.90-87.187.90.028 0.567-41.8
HTC Radar+0.09, -0.48-88.389.20.011 0.242-74.7
HTC Radar (headphones attached)+0.35, -0.15-88.289.10.021 0.568-60.3
HTC Titan+0.06, -0.34-86.987.80.015 0.244-75.5
HTC Titan (headphones attached)+0.34, -0.18-76.877.10.057 0.581-56.4
HTC 7 Mozart+0.13, -0.54-86.688.50.0200.255-86.8
HTC 7 Mozart (headphones attached)+0.38, -0.14-86.488.30.0280.466-72.1
HTC HD7+0.09, -0.43-89.389.50.0170.242-88.9
HTC HD7 (headphones attached)+0.11, -0.36-88.989.20.0240.251-60.3
HTC 7 Trophy+0.44, -3.57-85.088.70.0560.926-83.0
HTC 7 Trophy (headphones attached)+0.69, -3.12-84.988.10.0581.028-66.0
Samsung I8700 Omnia 7+0.13 -1.14-84.485.10.017 0.266-82.5
Samsung I8700 Omnia 7 (headphones attached)+0.31 -0.33-80.581.10.016 0.311-37.7

Nokia Lumia 800 frequency response
Nokia Lumia 800 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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