Friday, 16 November 2012 18:06

The Lumia 820 Review

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The Lumia 820 is one of the new Windows Phone 8 devices. Nokia is not new to the Windows Phone business and tries again to create a powerful device combining function, design and competetive price. Not an easy task for Nokia especially when using an operating system that comes with compromises itself. Read how it performs in the full length and detailed review.

Overall look and feel

ganzThe NokiaLumia 820 comes in different colors. I preferred the matte black version the most, because I like the look of a fully black painted device. From the buttons over the screen to the camera, everything is black. Only the soft buttons are gray if they are not illuminated. This might make it kind of boring looking to some but looks really solid, homogeneous and "evil" (in a good way) to me. You can’t see where the bezel ends and the screen starts. After turning the device on I was surprised how tall the screen actually is.

The design in nothing really new to the smartphone market. But together with the Windows Phone8 (WP8) look you definitely have a device looking kind of new and fresh in comparison to most well-known Android and iOS devices.

Apart from size weight is important too. A mobile device should neither be too light nor too heavy. To be honest, the Lumia 820 is a bit overweight. With the 4,3 Inch display it weighs 160g and that are like 20g too much. The weight makes it feel really solid what is good because you think you could crack a stone without doing any damage to the phone. Especially when picking the phone up from the table or your pocket you will notice the weight. But you will get used to it within 3 days without your arms getting muscles like the Hulk.

mithimmelThe feeling of the plastic back cover depends on the version. The matte ones feel more slip-proof than the shiny ones. The matte reminds me of matte black tuning cars. At the end it stays plastic. At least you’re not afraid of ruin your device because you can replace the cover easily.

I can hear some silent cracking noise when slightly pressing on the side of the case near to the buttons. If you shake the phone you can fell the battery move a tiny bit. The battery problem can easily be fixed by inserting a piece of paper next to the battery. That’s the negative side of a non unibody design.

Buttons and Layout

All the real buttons are on the right side of the device. With them you can control the volume (or pop-up the music application), unlock/lock the phone and take photos (or open the photo app). The placement is good. Especially the lock button feels naturally placed. You can hold your device and after using it lock it without using a second hand. The finger is already on the right spot (doesn’t matter if your right or left-handed).
tastenThe soft buttons are placed as usual. But using the phone one handed I randomly pressed the search button with my lower thumb. Turning off the high sensitive (glove) mode of the touch screen helped dramatically. All in all I would prefer the back- and search button to be placed slightly more in the middle. The camera on the back is placed at the top of the device. The position of the camera does not play such a big role because you are often holding the device differently (two hands) when taking pictures. But placing it more in the middle would help not getting your finger in the way of the lens or flash. The camera is far away from the camera button that’s why you could take pictures with one hand (right).

The headphone jack is at the top. When listening to music you have to place the phone with the headphone jack upright in your pocket. When looking at your phone again this leads to strange phone turning. But you will get used to it definitely.


kameraLumia 820 does not have PureView. There is no Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) and no super sensor with outstanding lowlight performance like on the 920. As usual: You will get good results if you know your camera. Sometimes it does not focus well or the white balance is not correct. But you will notice the good lens and the quite good lowlight ability. Taking snapshots is easy and it works quite well. Thanks to the camera button the camera app is open quick and is instantly ready to take a photo. You can tap to focus or focus by slightly pressing the 2-pressure-level button. The feature of swiping to the right to look at last photos is really nice. You don’t need to open a menu or something.

The camera menu itself is sometimes annoying. If you want to set the ISO or white balance manually you have to open the menu. Then select that you would like to edit the settings for picture taking. Select the right settings and close menu. If the focus or white balance would work perfectly you would not have to do that often. I hope they fix this.

WP_20121115_023The flash works good and is bright. Before taking a picture the LEDs (two) light up to assist the camera to focus more easily. It’s a helpful thing but people think the picture already has been taken :D You can turn this off in the menu.

The videos in 1080p look okay as long as the scene is steady. Sadly, exposure is not soft, leading to bad quality when the light is changing. A superb job does the microphone. Even loud noise is recorded without clipping or over-amplification. Recording a concert should result in usable sound.

Additional features of the camera are the camera lenses. It works like a plugin and lets you do things like panorama or cinemagraph. This works really good and it is fun to play with. Especially the cinemagraph function is perfect to do real creative work besides applying photo filters.

I noticed a small bug: when playing back music you can’t take a 1080p video, the app will crash.

Take a look at the Lumia 820 picture gallery


Audio and music

wp_ss_20121116_0007Incredibly good sound over the headphones. No hiss, well balanced and wide range of volumes. The equalizer does a good job and does not seem to over amplify. The Dolby Headphone feature results in paranoia like head turning because you think someone is behind you. The sound quality is a big plus over the older generation of Lumias having had problems with hiss.

The sound over the integrated speaker is nothing special. You can turn it really loud but it will still sound like a phone speaker. Ringtones do sound quite nice.

The xbox Audio app works, nothing more. It plays your music and generates a database with your artists. In times of untagged mp3s it's not easy to manage everything. Once a false tagged mp3 is on your phone you can't correct things. Also the identification of artist and album did not work for me. That is annoying. The Nokia Music app did a better job there. At least it identified my music right.

Good thing about xbox music is the integration of the cloud based music and the xbox music pass. You can easily stream music you like. A nice feature is the history; it doesn't just show you your last played tracks but also music and links from apps like Youtube or Soundriven. It provides direct links to the tracks. Perfect if you are on a Soundcloud spree and you want to hear a song again later.

I like how media Apps integrate into the system. You can always pause and "next track" your media from anywhere in the system independent of the app the media comes from. Just press one of the volume buttons once and the media menu opens.

Kind of strange is the volume setting. The setting for headphone jack and speaker are the same. Even the ringtones rely on these settings. You should check the volume twice before you plug in headphones.

Screen and general UI

IMG_0064_editThe screen is an AMOLED (organic LED) without pentile matrix. And it looks beautiful. No other operating system benefits that much from clear black AMOLED than Windows Phone does. Black isn't black, it is the color of the bezel. If the screen is powered on you can’t tell where the edge of the screen is. It really is eye catching to many people seeing the tiles come up with the beautiful transition. The plus in contrast helps to see things during a sunny day. You can set the brightness that high you might think an atomic reaction is taking pace right in your phone. I would love to see more brightness levels in the settings. Even low is too much for me.
 But the automatic setting is doing a good job and has more levels. Till this point it sounds like the best display. But something most tech sites don’t like is the resolution; 800 by 480 is nothing new. Let's call it 2011. But this should not be a deal breaker. The subpixel help alot and you can't see pixels in normal use, only if you want to see them. But a better resolution would be perfection. The resolution is so much overrated and hyped. Just because you can compare numbers so damn easy. And that's what many tech sites do. They compare the numbers and don't take a look at the real world usage. It's true. You won't be able read text on a full screen webpage. Good for me I prefer text in a readable size!

The Windows Phone UI is full of eye-candy. If the OS would not be that fast I would get bored from the transitions. They look really nice and somehow organic. They also can help to connect different screens in a content way (you may want to watch the video to get that). The "broken" headlines feel unusual to Android or iOS users but that's the look of WP. Next to the fact that you will not miss important information in the headline they help you navigate through the different horizontal screens. If the headline is cut or there is another headline next to it you know you can swipe to the left to see more. And sometimes the question comes up: content is never cut, no horizontal swipe to read the last digits of a phone number.

Windows Phone does look different than other operating systems. Yes it might look the most unique. If you don’t like the design you should stick to another phone operating system. 

The Start Screen

lumia 820 start screen windows phone 8It looks kind of different to the start screens you might know. You don’t have steady icons to open an app. Your icon is more like a tile with information that the app provides. It's like a peek into the app right from you start screen. The benefit of this is you don't have to open an app to check if something has changed in the app. New mails, calendar task, Facebook, news, missed phone calls. Everything right at your start screen. You check you phone for 3 seconds to see if there is something new or not. The usage can be like a big notification center.

All you like and need to know is there. Short messages (SMS), email, calendar, ICQ, Skype, news, contacts, Game Hub etc. Customize it as you like. You prefer you contacts on the top - just do so! You need to know what is going on in the world? Just enlarge the news icon. The positions and size of the app tile kind of reflects how important that thing is for you. Things you don't need that often come to the bottom the important stuff up to the top. For the apps you really don't need often you still have a normal alphabetic app list next to the start screen. Sadly you can't group them or put them into folders. You have to know the name or search the list for it.

The live tiles that hold the additional information sometimes show animations. Random contact pictures or different news topics. If you lay you phone right in front of yourself and don't touch anything many things are moving or being animated. The amount of apps doing so depends on you. I like the look because it gives the phone something really personal.

Market place

You can download apps and music very easy. Just open the store and you are able to search by name, genre or popularity. The download and installation is fast. Important is the possibility to test an app. The test versions can work a limited time or just implement less features. Somehow, I'm missing the detailed search with real filters. Something like "more than 4 stars and free".

One thing that still is a deal breaker for many people is the amount of apps in the store. There are not many modern games or apps available to windows phone. Try to find a really good looking game beside the ones from xbox. It's not easy. If you need apps and you want to have WP8 you have to wait a bit longer. The new system may look kind of the same as WP7 but the real changes are under the hood. Developers have it way more easier now to program a good looking app. Porting an app from Windows 8 or Windows RT to Windows Phone 8 does not need that many changes any more. Even porting from iOS or Android should be way easier. If you believe in this theory and don't need that many apps right now you get green light for Windows Phone 8 from me.

What helps a lot is amount of good integrated functions so you don't need many 3rd party apps anyway.

Build-in functions

wp_ss_20121116_0005The Lumia 820 does come with many functions already built-in. The standard apps like calendar, contacts and mail not mentioned.

You should know that you are able to dictate short messages. It works quite well but the context dependent suggestion is way too aggressive leading to wrong sentences.

Nokia Drive+Maps

Turn by turn direction with offline maps. Just download the map for your region and use it without producing traffic anymore. Germany was a 530 MB download. The fact that you can't install the maps on the SD-Card will hold you back getting more than 5-8 countries on your phone. Of cause you can uninstall one and install another one later.

In Maps you just have the card and the ability to get a route calculated. But you can select different layers like satellite view or public transportations


Basic office program. Open and edit office files you like. In the end it really is just an office lite. The functions are limited and the view on such a small display is far away from useful.

Nokia City Compass

Augmented reality app to show you nearby restaurants, shops or tram stations. Very useful if you don't know where to go. By selecting one of the shown points of interests you can directly navigate to it. 


Gallery of your pictures. Also posts on Facebook containing a picture can be shown here. Fast and fluid navigation trough your different albums. Installed Photo editing software is listed too.


If you press the search button the search screen will pop up. You can type your search term or dictate it. A nice feature is the music search. Just tap the button while hearing music somewhere. a couple of seconds later you get the name of the song and artist and a link to buy it in the store. You will need that more than you might think ;)

Useful magic does the picture search. Just point at a Barcode or QR-Code and it will provide you some links or additional information. Best is the picture to text function. It will find text in the picture so you can copy and paste it easily. It is possible to translate the text directly and display it as picture overlay.

Powerful tools!


Note taking tool. Far more functions than anything from the market place. Cloud syncing, checklists, voice memo….


Window to the store and your installed games. Because of the Xbox integration it delivers some social network features.

Day to day use

You should have skipped the parts before that because the day to day use is the most important anyway.

The phone gets things done! All the named functions and programs work like they should without many bugs. The integration of Facebook and other social media helps too. Switching between apps works great and the multitasking is doing fine for the most apps. I would like to have some apps continue running in the background. Especially 3rd party music or video stuff. But that's a fault of the developers and Windows Phone doing best to keep everything snappy. And WP8 is really snappy. Almost every app starts instantly and is not lagging after startup. Just the syncing needs some time if the app was not running in the background.
Because of the small icons on the lock screen you don't have to unlock your phone to see if there are new information waiting for you. Useful is the ability to change music or pause without unlocking.

If you have dry hands the phone can feel a bit slippery. Especially with the matte cover on it's hard to get good grip to it. I would buy a rubber version of the cover if they released one.

Battery Life

In most cases it lasts more than a day. When surfing the web or playing games extensively you're happy to have the energy saver feature turned on to get you through the last part of the day.

You should turn off features you don't really need and turn them on if you do. For example location services or Wi-Fi.

The rechargeable battery has a capacity of 1640 mAh which isn't very much. You can easily replace the battery. Maybe there will be one with a slightly higher capacity in future, who knows. But you can replace your used and old battery after a year or two.


As mentioned you can change the back cover to different colors. But some colors come with a special feature called Wireless Charging. With one of these covers on you just have to lay the phone on a loading pad and it will load up. You don’t need to plug in the microUSB-cable.

Some rugged covers were mentioned already but are not for sale yet. They come with rubber and soft edges that will protect the phone when falling on one of the edges.

Interchangeable battery can be ordered too. For example if yours is faulty or old.

The phone provides a microSD slot for cards up to 64GB. You can't hot swap them because it's placed next to the battery. But with 64GB you really don't need to change the card anyway.

The included Nokia Headset are the best inclusive headphones I used so far. That doesn't say they sound better than a pair of good party headphones. But the sound is usable and you don't need to throw them away. I think they are on par with 15-20 Euro headphones.

The power supply is nothing special but it's small. It holds one USB port to plug the USB-to-mircoUSB cable into it. No strange noises from the power supply when plugged in. 

Windows Phone 8 Thoughts

Windows phone is really fast and the used Qualcomm Snapdragon processor delivers enough power to deal with anything you throw at it. You can use your phone as fast as you like despite the fact that you have to deal with the display transitions/effects. You can't disable these effects in the settings menu. But if you would cut the transitions out of the OS it is not WP8 anymore. The transitions are responsible for the fast, fluid and beautiful feeling of the OS.

But sadly some things are not thought about thoroughly. Skydrive is pretty nice to have. But you can't download an office file, mp3 or pdf to your device to use it offline.

It is nice to have an mobile version office. Wouldn't it be logical to plug in a keyboard via USB or Bluetooth? In the year of 2012 you simply can't use a keyboard. It might be seldomly used but not being able to do so is a pity. 

And think about the additional storage. It's great to have the ability to insert a microSD card. But you can't install maps or apps on it. It might not be important now because you have enough space. But somewhere in future you end up with the phone memory being full of your apps and files you can't delete.

You can’t download mp3s, videos or pdf to your phone. It is simply not possible to select “download” or “save to phone”.

All in all it's hard to become a "Microsoft Fanboy" when you think about all these little small mistakes. And with a new operating system like WP8 with new kernel there is no excuse like “we couldn't” because sometimes it seems, they simply didn't wanted to.

After this harsh words it would be unfair and wrong to let the Windows Phone discussion end with negative words. The Windows Phone 8 operating system is very powerful, full of features and things that help you on your day. It is intuitive, beautiful and consistent all the way. The package is right but not perfect. All I hope for WP8 is to get these little things sorted out, developers to see the potential of the new kernel and people that Windows Phone 8 is more than just colorful tiles.


I try to keep that as general as possible because everyone has different things on their personal importance list.

The Lumia 820 is a really nice phone in its price range. You won't miss that many things beside some apps you know from other mobile operating systems. The phone itself feels solid and fits well in your pocket. It does not look like brushed aluminum but the polycarbonate does a quite good job so far. The ability to change the battery can result in a long lasting phone. And if you like other colors more or your case is scratched you just buy a new one. The camera can perform pretty good if you know its weak points. The support by Nokia and Microsoft is strong and you can look forward to many updates in the future. The phone does have a fast processor and enough Ram to power upcoming games. Connection speed is future-proof with LTE and hearing music with the 820 is wonderful. If you are interested in the operating system and want a power full phone priced lower than the flagships, you are good with the Nokia Lumia 820. Still the start of WP8 is kind of buggy and needs good will to deal with it.
Read 15685 times Last modified on Friday, 30 November 2012 11:59

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0 # JanEisklar 2012-11-21 00:07
ok, eine letzte frage hätte ich dann noch:
Ich war heute mal beim saturn und habe mir das gute stück angeschaut. unter email-sync gab es auch eine große auswahl, doch leider benötige ich AOL-Email. funktioniert das über sonstige? die haben beim saturn immer kein netz, konnte es also leider nicht selber testen. Wie oft syncronisieren sich die emails eigentlich?

email syncronisation is working with quite a lot of services (google, hotmail, yahoo...) but AOL is not on the list. Do you know if syncing email from AOL works when using "others"? really need that one. also, how often do emails sync?
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0 # JanEisklar 2012-11-19 23:17
Hey, erstmal vielen Dank für den Umfangreichen Review! Kannst du die Akkuausdauer evtl. noch etwas genauer angeben? Wieviel telefonierst du am Tag, bzw. wieviel surfst du oder ähnliches?
Und wegen der Musik: Hattest du dann Probleme beim Abspielen von deiner eigenen Musik, wenn diese nicht über die XBox gekauft wurde? und funktioniert das mit den lautstärketaste n auch bei nokia music?
Und zu letzt: starten die apps schnell? Vor allem 3rd party apps würden mich interessieren. Bei WP 7.5 hat z.B. Whatsapp immer eeeewig gebraucht. ist dann schon nervig

PS: ich hoffe ich liege mit der annahme dass du deutsch bist richtig^^
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0 # Daniel 2012-11-20 11:51
Danke für dein feedback. Die fragen der Reihe nach:
Ich telefoniere sehr wenig, schreibe aber öfter mal Sms. Im internet bin ich nur so viel wie "nötig" und pro tag vielleicht eine halbe stunde spielen. Dafür mache ich einige Fotos und Videos und höre Musik. Oft habe ich daher am ende des Tages noch 30-40% übrig. Ein wenig auf dem Blog surfen und news lesen kann aber bereits in 5% weniger akku resultieren.
Für den ein oder anderen könnte ich mir vorstellen, dass der akku zu klein ist.

Eigene mp3s habe ich per Windows Media Player synchronisiert. Über Xbox habe ich noch keine musik gekauft. Generell hab ich bei MS bis jetzt keinen cent gelassen.
Mit der lautstärke geht mit nahezu jeder app die im hintergrund musik abspielt. Auch Nokia music oder soundriven.

Apps starten sehr schnell. Schlecht programmierte apps(facebook) oder sehr aufwendige(noki a drive) brauchen 2-3 sekunden. Sachen wie whatsapp,musik, fotos, emails, kontakte und ähnliches sind sofort(1/2s) da. Es kommt demnächst noch ein video wo ich ein wenig deas reviews mit einbringe. Da wirst du es dann sehen können.
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+1 # Sebastian 2012-11-20 19:36
As a short summary for all those, not unterstanding German:
The question was how much Daniel actually uses his phone (to get a perspective of battery life). Daniel responded he uses it rarely for phone calls, sends just a couple of texts per day. He is only online as much as necessary, plays about half an hour, takes many pictures and listens to music. At the end of the day, 30-40% of battery left. He thinks, battery capacity might not be enough for some people.
Daniel synchronises his music with Windows Media Player and hasn't bought any music over xbox yet.
The other question was about the start-up time of apps like Whatsapp. According to Daniels experience, badly programmed apps like facebook or demanding apps like nokia drive, may take up to 3 seconds. Other apps (whatsapp, music, images,...) are open after about a 1/2 s.
Daniel will make a video about the phone soon. :)
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