The Lumia 820 is one of several Lumia 8xx models that Nokia will sell this fall, and this one is an AT&T exclusive. (Those lucky few who received a Windows Phone 8 dev “sled” a few months ago will recognize it as the retail version of that device.) It’s kind of brickish looking but has nice, comfortable rounded edges and feels good in the hand.
From a specifications perspective, the 820 is middle of the road: 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, a previous generation 800 x 480 screen, and a dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 processor.
The Lumia 820 also features numerous potentially killer features that belie its low price: MicroSD expansion, an excellent 8 megapixel camera, a removable back plate that can be replaced with colored options that include wireless charging functionality, and of course those excellent Nokia exclusive apps. Even Nokia refers to this model as its “most versatile” Lumia. And it comes with all the expected Windows Phone 8 niceties, including LTE networking and NFC.
And these killer features really are killer. You can expand the 820 to 72 GB of storage (8 GB internal + 64 GB on microSD), more than double the storage of the flagship Lumia 920. That 8 megapixel camera lacks PureView technologies, whatever that means, but it takes excellent photos. And those back plates mean you’re not stuck with just one color: You can swap them out to suit your mood.
This sounds a bit crazy, but if you are considering a Lumia 920, you should really look at the 820 first. If picture quality is your primary concern, the 920 will win every time. But the thing to remember here is that the 820, like the HTC 8X, while falling short of the 920, still provides better picture taking capabilities than any previous generation Windows Phone handset. We’ve gone from rags to riches when it comes to photo taking. The other 820 attributes may in fact put it right over the top.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Nokia Lumia 820 is fat, with a 170g weight, including cover. Put that against the 112g weight of the iPhone 5 and you’ll see how chunky this smartphone actually is.
The colourful removable covers are solid and scratchproof and house the tech for the wireless charging mat, which is an optional extra. The rounded edges define the fun look of the smartphone, though we don’t think it’s the most rugged smartphone option. Remove the cover and the innards look delicate and skeletal too.
The biggest surprise concerning the Nokia Lumia 820 feature set is the presence of a MicroSD card slot, the first time Nokia has used the storage format with the Windows OS, which makes up for the 8GB storage, the new minimum of any new smartphone. There’s 4G skills and NFC as standard, a 4.3-inch screen and the brilliant extras like Nokia Drive and Nokia Music apps.
The 4.3-inch screen is a decent size but the pixels per inch resolution is low at 217 ppi compared to 329 ppi for a cheaper iPhone 4. The Samsung Galaxy S2 has the same resolution screen and we’re talking smartphone tech that’s 18 months old.
The WIndows 8 OS and images look sharp thanks to Nokia’s own image wizardry but web browsing isn’t the same experience that you get on newer Android smartphones.
The dual-core Snapdragon processor keeps Windows 8 running at speed but we experience start up issues while the Nokia Lumia 820 paused for 20 minutes to ‘install apps’. The 8 megapixel camera produces clean, sharp results and it’s fast.
The camera user interface now features Bing Vision, Microsoft’s own QR reader and giant text overlays when you turn the flash on or off, which feels a bit like overkill to us.
Web browsing is fast and Bing on mobile works really well - it’s fast and reliable, even if the general operation can be hit and miss - aside from the installation issues, battery life seemed to vary dramatically, echoing the power issues of the slimmer Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows 7.
The 1650mAH battery size respectable and expected given the weight of the Nokia Lumia 820. The battery lasted around a day and around half a day during our tests, suggesting that there’s software issues or the general chipset and 4.3 inch display asks too much of the battery.