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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL – A straight-forward pure flagship offering minus fancies

Rahul R
Sr. Technology Reporter
Editors Rating

Microsoft, which is at a critical juncture as far as its Windows Phones are concerned, released the Lumia 950 XL by positioning tis handset as a “pure flagship” rather than just another conventional Windows Phone. The Lumia 950 XL created all the right pre-release hype, with its Windows 10 Mobile being the major attraction and a USP.

Also the Microsoft Universal Apps are compatible with the Lumia 950 XL, thus offering users a uniform experience across both the smartphone and the PC platforms. On paper, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL features impressive key technical aspects such as a really large 5.7-inch display, 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 and a 2 GHz Cortex-A57 CPUs within a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC, and a 20 MP rear camera, but do these tech-specs really synchronize and work well with the Windows 10 Mobile OS, let us find out.

The Lumia 950 XL incorporates Liquid Cooling technology that prevents over-heating of the phone. Liquid Cooling sets the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL apart and is a USP of the phone.

We recently got to lay our hands on the Lumia 950 XL and conduct a review of the handset. Check out, how the smartphone performed, below:

Design and Display

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL measures 152mm in length and 78.44mm in width to accommodate its really large 5.7-inch display. These unconventional dimension metrics led to us having to stretch our thumbs to a great degree to operate the screen during typing and carry out on-screen navigation. This factor could serve as a hindrance for those preferring a degree of compactness and a strong grip.

The outer body of the Lumia 950 XL is made up of plastic, which was a minor let-down to us as branding a smartphone as a “pure flagship” at least warrants the incorporation of an outer metallic frame. The curvature and overall design is also pretty conventional and could have been better.

As far as the display is concerned, the 5.7-inch screen, enclosed within a Gorilla Glass 4 protector has resolutions of 1440 x 2560 pixels with a pixel density of 518 pixels-per-inch (ppi). We could view high-resolution images and videos with clarity. Image rendering is also crystal clear, so is the sharpness and this aspect results in toning up the contrast level. We even watched high-definition movies, within the smartphone, and all color aspects were clearly visible thus enriching our movie-viewing experience.

Processor and Memory

Under-the-hood, the Microsoft Lumia 950 incorporates, within a Snapdragon 810 SoC, a 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 and a 2 GHz Cortex-A57 CPU. These work in tandem with a 3 GB RAM. The Snapdragon 810 SoC is an enhancement from the standard Snapdragon 808 hexa-core SoC found within the Lumia 950 (a significant lower-end sibling of the Lumia 950 XL).

During our testing of the smartphone’s processor and processing speed, we could play games like the Modern Combat 5: Blackout and the latest updated version of Halo: Spartan Strike without lags. Also navigation through the Windows UI also proved to be relatively smooth.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, by default, offers 32 GB of internal storage which can be expanded up to 200 GB with an external microSD card. During our usage, we stored at least 10 HD movies within an external SD card apart from countless audio/video files.

Camera

With its 20 MP rear camera, that have lenses measuring 26mm and having f/1.9 aperture, we were able to capture fairly good images even in low-light conditions. In normal conditions, we could take clear images highlighting rich colors. We could also shoot 4K videos using the 20 MP snapper. These captured videos also rendered well upon checking-out post recording.

There is also a 5MP front camera, with which we could capture selfies that are fit to go up on Instagram.

Software and apps

The Lumia 950 XL runs Microsoft’s newest Windows 10 Mobile operating platform, by default. We felt that Windows 10 would do a world of good for existing Windows Phone users (Windows Phone 8, 8.1) upon upgrading to the latest platform. We tested out Cortana that responded quite efficiently especially when there were circumstances when a new message arrived, or whenever we wanted to play a song over Bluetooth, or just wanted a message to be read out aloud.

A refined aspect, within the Windows 10 OS, is the ability to reply to a newly received message (after notifications are issued) without having to open the native app.

We also observed al our calendar entries and Google Contacts sync with precision; this is a notable improvement over earlier Windows Phone OS variants.

In-phone navigation and readability of text/names, when the phone is placed under intense sunlight, has improved as a result of Color Inversion offered by Windows 10 Mobile. We could also activate the one-handed operability by long-pressing the Start key. With this, we could easily navigate to the top of the screen as the screen sildes-down significantly.  Also, in one-handed mode, the area left vacant, after the screen slides-down, becomes black.

What lets down the software, a tad, is the lack of applications which seems to be hitting Microsoft from the very beginning of the inception of Windows Phone OS. However, the Windows Store has been receiving frequent newer apps. For users having migrated from Google’s Android, all of the essential Google apps would require fresh downloading. Microsoft also provides “alternatives” to essential Google apps which could be trying out.

Windows Continuum

This feature, theoretically lets Lumia 950 XL units to be used like PCs. With the Continuum functionality, the Lumia 950 XL can be connected to a larger external monitor/display via an adapter. Users can also interface, keyboards and mice, to the phone. All your work is saved within the phone.

We could harness Continuum’s functionality in a relatively hassle-free manner. Also, using the display dock, in tandem with the Lumia 950 XL, worked like a breeze.

We were also able to create presentations, within the Lumia 950 XL, display these externally via Continuum, and also edit these presentations within the phone.

Battery

The Lumia 950 XL features a removable 3,340 mAh Lithium-Ion battery; upon subjecting the battery to real world performance test, we could get nearly a full day worth of backup time upon restricting usage to only audio/video calls over a 3G network.

While playing games, and when the screen brightness is set at maximum, the backup time ‘drastically’ reduced to half. The Lumia 950 XL also let us play videos, at a stretch, for upto 10 hours.

It seemed that most of the battery juice was directed towards energizing the Lumia 950 XL’s “really large” 5.7-inch screen.

Overall performance and verdict

Although lags are minimal, the Lumia 950 XL consumes significant time to implement synchronization techniques. Be prepared to wait, if you have large volumes of data to sync from the cloud and from your multiple accounts. However, in case you own a Microsoft Account (MSA), syncing should be a breeze.

The user interface animations also talk to you relatively quickly, and the in-phone navigation also proves to be glitch-free.

Verdict: The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is a pleasure to use. Microsoft should make up for lost time as far as Windows 10 Mobile apps are concerned. The Lumia 950 XL is custom-made for those preferring to watch movies within their smartphones, and also indulge in video-calling with loved ones. The tech-specs of the handset are straight-forward.  

However, its AED 1,900 price tag could lead to raised eyebrows among first-time buyers.

Positives: Display producing relatively sharp images and video rendering, removable battery, rear camera, liquid cooling

Negatives: Plastic outer-frame, Windows 10 apps.