What is the Nokia Lumia 925?

To date, the top Nokia Lumia series phones have all used smooth and seamless polycarbonate bodies. The Nokia Lumia 925 is the first to introduce metal to the family. It’s a renegade.

In ditching the integrated wireless charging of the Lumia 920, Nokia has also produced a slimmer, more accessible phone. Yet it benefits from the same advanced camera features of that mobile.

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Nokia Lumia 925 - Design

Internally, the core of the Nokia Lumia 925 is fairly similar to the Lumia 920, but externally it’s a completely different proposition. Rather than a chunky, heavy and colourful curvy block of glossy plastic, it is a non-unibody monochrome device.

This is all down to the phone’s anodised aluminium edge. A strip of metal runs around the Lumia 925’s sides, and there’s no attempt to hide the seam between these sides and the contoured polycarbonate (plastic) plate on the rear.

The two parts are intended to complement each other, and that’s why Nokia has opted for white, black and grey rear parts, rather than colourful ones. After having been lauded for the curvy polycarbonate bodies of phones like the Lumia 800, this new style is a risk. But it works.
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Build quality is excellent, with none of the clicking or flexing you might see in a _phone_ like this from a less-capable mobile-maker.  The seam between the plastic rear and metal sides is a little wider on one edge – visibly so – but Nokia says this is to help professional repairers fix the _phone_ in future, giving them much easier access to its innards.

In-hand comfort is great, thanks to the curves of the aluminium sides and that the Lumia 925 is a good deal less wide than top phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 - mainly due to its mid-size 4.5-inch screen.

There are some hardware inflections that some won’t like, though. The camera lens housing is large, a bit too easy to obstruct with a hand, and it sticks out ever-so-slightly from the Lumia 925’s back. This is because of the mechanical image stabilisation components that have to fit in – the phone is just 8.5mm thick, so too skinny to avoid this. The Lumia 920’s camera doesn’t poke out, but that phone is 2mm thicker - a lot in mobile terms - and 40g heavier.

Where the Lumia 900 was conspicuously huge and heavy, the Nokia Lumia 925 appears ‘normal’ in the world of super-slim phones in which we live.
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Part of the weight loss is down to the removal of integrated wireless charging. This time around, you need to buy a separate wireless charging exoskeleton, which hooks into the phone's battery through three little metal circles on the Lumia 925's rear.

These charging shells supply the traditional Lumia series splash of colour too, although muted black/white ones are available. The shells cost £25, and Qi wireless charging pads start at around £30. For a full wireless charging setup, you're looking at an extra £50-odd.

The Lumia 925 is a departure from Lumia series norms in some respects, but other design elements remain. On the top edge of the phone is a microSIM slot accessed using a paperclip-like tool included in the box – classic Lumia. There is also no memory card slot in the phone, just 16/32GB of internal memory (32GB exclusive to Vodafone), so the only sockets on show are the headphone jack and microUSB port – which sit next to each other up top.
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All other edges are left blissfully free of ports. It’s good for the look and feel of the Lumia 925. There’s just the Lumia-standard trio of buttons on the right edge – volume, power and the Windows-mandated shutter button.
 
As only the edges of the Nokia Lumia 925 are made of metal, it doesn’t have quite the hard, cool impact of holding an HTC One. But it is one of the more attractive, recognisable phones of the year.

Nokia Lumia 925 - Connectivity

Much as it likes to keep things simple on hardware connections, it more-or-less has the lot for wireless. Aside from basics like Bluetooth, 3G and GPS, it has NFC and 4G mobile internet. It's healthily future proofed.

The Lumia 925 also has an FM radio, which is often left out of top-end phones. 

Nokia Lumia 925 – Screen

Like most of the Lumia family, the Nokia Lumia 925 uses an AMOLED screen, one that is 4.5 inches across. However, this is not the screen type used by the phone’s closest relative, the Lumia 920, which has an IPS LCD display.
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The Lumia 925’s screen resolution is 1,280 x 768 pixels, resulting in pixel density of 332dpi. This is way below the pixel-packed-ness of 1080p phones like the HTC One and Galaxy S4, however from normal viewing distances the screen looks near-pin sharp.

Look closely and it does show, but not primarily because of the pure number of pixels. The Lumia 925 has a PenTile screen. This refers to the pattern of red, blue and green dots that make up each screen pixel.

This is not a regular sub-pixel arrangement like ‘standard’ RGB, but slightly irregular ‘RGBG’ layout where rows of pixels do not line up exactly.

Get your eye right up next to the screen and this manifests as a slight fuzziness in text, and a slight patterning in blocks of solid white. However, thanks to the HD-grade resolution, this effect is very minor – rather than serious as it was in 480 x 800 AMOLED phones like the Nokia Lumia 800.
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The PenTile effect in action, super close-up

In this year's top-end phones, you need to become hyper-critical to pick between their screens.

In common with most AMOLED screens, contrast is excellent and colours are vivid. The Lumia 925 also uses Nokia’s PureMotion screen tech – yes it’s marketing-speak, but refers to something real.

OLED screens can suffer from image ghosting when displaying fast-moving images, and Nokia has tried to remedy this by increasing response times by ‘overdriving’ the screen by upping the voltage. And it seems to work – flicking through Windows phone 8’s ultra-fast apps menu leaves no noticeable ‘trails’.

OLED screens are often problematic in other ways too. They tend to have oversaturated colours, looking less natural than those of an IPS screen. Nokia has sensibly provided away to combat this issue.

Deep in the Nokia Lumia 925 settings is a menu that lets you alter the colour saturation and temperature of the display. The ‘neutral’ colour temperature has a slightly warm (orange) skew, but having the temperature slider to play with lets you fix this.
Colour saturation


What Nokia hasn’t been able to solve with software is the slight blue cast to AMOLED screens when they’re viewed at an angle. However, it’s far less severe than in some earlier-generation phones, and is so minor an issue anyway that it is not worth worrying about much when buying a phone – who routinely looks at their phone from an angle in day-to-day use?

There is on spec question that does matter, though – why did Nokia switch to IPS in the Lumia 920, only to revert to AMOLED in the Lumia 925? It was to help the phone stay slim, apparently. The screen structure of the latest OLED panels is very thin, mitigating the added bulk of the clever camera tech inside the phone.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Software

The Nokia Lumia 925 is a Windows phone 8 mobile. Although recent updates to Android have closed the gap between the two systems, Windows is still the snappiest mobile OS around. It is also the most aggressively stylised.

Like Android, it is split into two main sections, the apps menu and the home screen. Both scroll vertically in Windows phone 8, ready to give your thumb a workout.

As Windows phone 8 doesn’t allow manufacturers to brand the interface with their own look or style, the software of the Lumia 925 looks much the same as it does on any other up-to-date Windows phone. And, despite several enriching updates, Windows phone 8 is a system that tends to attract and repel with some severity.
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It’s taut, it’s rigid, it’s fast – but it is also restrictive and, in some ways, malnourished.

What used to define Nokia phones among their Windows peers was their inclusion of Nokia Maps apps. But the company’s deepening partnership with Microsoft has seen this app suite rebranded as HERE Maps, letting it spread to other Windows phones.

It’s no longer a Nokia USP.

However, they remain great apps if – like the rest of Windows phone 8 – arguably a bit too keenly stylised.

HERE Maps is your equivalent to Google Maps, letting you navigate while on foot. HERE Drive is an in-car GPS navigator and HERE City Lens is an augmented reality app that lets you find nearby attractions, such as restaurants.

Their main bonus over their rivals is that HERE lets you pre-install maps to the phone’s memory so you don’t have to stream them on the fly. Whole countries and continents are there for the taking if you have the storage. And the UK plus a few chunks of Europe should only take around 10 per cent of the phone’s 16GB .

Here Maps

HERE Maps

Here Gps

HERE Drive


If these apps are no longer specific to Nokia, what does the Lumia 925 have to shout about, apps-wise? Its key software benefits are largely restricted to minor tweaks and the camera app Nokia Smart Cam, which we’ll cover later.

One small software extra the Lumia 925 provides is called Glance Screen. This is a mode that displays a clock when the phone is in standby. This may prove distracting at bed time, but you can also switch it off or change the standard white font to red to reduce the light pumped-out by the screen.

This Glance Screen feature is viable battery-wise because of the way AMOLED screen work, consuming much less battery when only part of the screen is non-black. It will cause a minor battery life hit, though.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Performance, Apps and Games

Windows phone 8 packs-in an impressive number of features as standard these days, including Facebook/Twitter integration through the People app, a data monitor,

It’s the selection of other apps that remains Windows phone 8’s, and the Lumia 925’s, biggest problem. The system has the worst apps and games selection out of all the major mobile phone systems – even baby of the bunch BlackBerry 10 beats it in volume thanks to its ability to side-load Android apps.

Windows phone 8 has around 140,000 apps in total, but not all are available to the Lumia 925 and there are over 800,000 on the Apple App Store.
Windows Marketplace

This is the key reason why a super-powerful Windows phone 8 mobile isn’t as much of a draw as, say, a super-powerful Android phone. The games to test its mettle simply aren’t there.

Windows Marketplace is where Windows phone 8 apps and games live, and its games library is split into two sections. The ‘premium’ area is where you’ll find games from key publishers, certified with Xbox branding.

The secondary area is the wasteland where small developers and reams of low-quality games live. There are gems in there, but they’re not all that easy to find. And, at the time of writing, there are just 35 games in the Xbox section for the Lumia 925 - there are more for more established Windows phones but support for this phone in particular is lagging way behind at this early stage.

However, looking at the Nokia Lumia 925 specifically, its dual-core Snapdragon MSM8960 1.5GHz Snapdragon Krait processor will be able to handle anything Windows Marketplace has to offer.  

If you’re wondering why the phone doesn’t have a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM (it has 1GB) like some Android phones, no Windows mobiles do. Quad-core Windows phone 8 devices with 1080p screens are expected to land in late 2013 or early 2014.   

Nokia Lumia 925 – Web Browsing

You do not miss that extra spec boost in the Lumia 925, though. The system runs super-quick, and app loading pauses are part-hidden by Windows phone 8's clever animated transmissions.

Navigating though Windows phone 8 is silky smooth. Web browsing is just as snappy as the rest of the phone too.

Browsing is when the extra screen resolution of the Lumia 925, over previous Nokia phones like the Lumia 900, becomes especially handy. Small text is fairly legible rather than being a blocky mess, and rendering of web pages is fast.

The Sunspider Javascript benchmark supports this too. It’s roundly a test of how quick a phone is at rendering web pages. It scored a blazingly fast 889ms. That's quicker than many quad-core Android phones.
Windows phone 8 keyboard

Simple. Elegant. It's the Windows phone 8 keyboard.

One of the biggest browsing wins here, though, is the Windows phone 8 keyboard. It is, as it has been since Windows phone 7 arrived, fantastic. It doesn't offer anything special like gesture typing or invasive predictive text, but its accuracy and feel are top-notch.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Camera

One of the most important features of the Nokia Lumia 925 is its camera, based on the technology used in the Lumia 920. It has been slapped with the PureView branding, introduced with the Nokia 808 PureView back in 2012.

PureView doesn’t relate to a specific type of camera technology, but rather of being ‘cutting edge’ in the field.

The Nokia Lumia 925 has an 8.7-megapixel main sensor, which is well below the 13-megapixel sensors of phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4. But pure sensor resolution is only one part of the camera equation.
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Other important factors include sensor size, lens aperture, lens construction and image stabilisation. As the camera is so important here, we’ll look at the lot.

The Lumia 925’s sensor is slightly larger than the iPhone 5’s, at 1/3” instead of 1/3.2” – not a huge amount more when the original 808 PureView had a huge (for a phone) 1/1.2” sensor. Its sensor pixels are 1.4microns in size, significantly smaller the 2-micron pixels of the HTC One.

Sensor size and sensor resolution aren’t what makes the Lumia 925’s camera special.

Its lens, too, is good rather than stunning. It’s an f/2.0 lens with 26mm focal length and a six-part construction. This is one stride better than the Samsung Galaxy S4, which has an F/2.2 lens. Wider aperture lets the Lumia 925’s lens take in that bit more light within the same exposure window.

What sets the Nokia Lumia 925 apart more significantly is its use of optical image stabilisation (OIS), rather than the ‘software’ stabilisation used in other top-end phones.

OIS uses the phone’s gyroscope to detect when the phone is moved. A lens element then moves in the opposite direction, eliminating the ‘camera shake’ effect. Nokia claims its system can move up to 500 times a second.

This allows the Nokia Lumia 925 to indulge in slightly longer exposures than the average phone, letting the phone once again take in more light for each shot. Nokia claims the average phone can’t go beyond a 1/30 second shutter speed before killing image sharpness, which is raised to 1/4 a second with OIS. Again, according to Nokia. This should result in far better low-light performance than the average phone.

Let’s see how the Lumia 925 actually fares out in the field.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Photo Detail

For an 8-megapixel phone camera, basic detail retrieval during daytime is impressive. A shot of the London skyline shows that the Lumia 925 produces shots with significantly less noise than an iPhone 5.
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The Samsung Galaxy S4 captures that bit more detail in these conditions thanks to its higher-resolution sensor. But note how well the Lumia 925 has dealt with bringing out the tricky shadow detail in-between the scaffolding atop the Gherkin building.

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Nokia Lumia 925 – Macro

Choosing a close-up subject, the Lumia 925 performs well too. Nokia claims the phone can focus on objects just 8cm away. In practice, we found that it needed a little more in most lighting conditions, with shots otherwise ending up completely out of focus – the autofocus giving up just before the shutter fires.

Macro detail is respectable, and focusing time is impressively quick. This isn’t a superstar macro performer, though, with fine details looking a little soft compared to the best out there.
Nokia Lumia 925 camera

Althoug the shot is in focus, the stamen remains a little soft.

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Nokia Lumia 925 – Low Light and Flash

Where the Nokia Lumia 925 camera really separates itself is low-light performance. This is where the OIS feature kicks in.

Low-light shots are far less noisy and far more detailed than almost any other top-end phone of the moment. The one clear rival is the HTC One, which uses larger sensor pixels rather than hardware image stabilisation to achieve better-than-average low-light performance. As we found in our Lumia vs HTC One comparison, though, the HTC One tends to produce glummer colours than those seen here.

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Limbo at the London Udderbelly

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Gold Panda performing at Brixton Electric

The close-ups here may look a little noisy, but these shots were - naturally - taken without any flash assistance, and performance with a non-OIS would be far worse.

In particular, the Lumia 925's vivid rendering of colour is particularly impressive. It's rich and reasonably accurate, where a non-OIS's shades would devolve into a mush of nearby shades that would look thoroughly unconvincing up-close.

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The Lumia 925 has a dual-LED flash rated for use with objects up to 3m away. Its spread isn't as even as a Xenon flash like the 808 PureView's, but it's more powerful than average and comes in extremely handy when used as an AF assist in dark conditions - not just as a flash.

The non-flash shot above shows the Lumia 925's OIS feature working in overdrive - although the room was almost completely dark, it doesn't look hugely darker than the flash picture. With a lesser phone camera, the edges of objects would be far less clear, and the scene a lot darker.

A lack of fine detail in the pixel crop of this shot shows you quite how far removed this is from a 'proper' compact system camera or DSLR, though - there's much more in the flash-enabled shot.

Nokia's Lumia 925's PureView camera is not a magic revelation - optical image stabilisation is common outside of the phones - but it does make the phone camera far more versatile in dusk and night conditions. And it means you won't have to turn the flash on anywhere near as often. 

The phone also has a good-quality user-facing camera with a 1.3-megapixel sensor and f/2.4 lens.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Camera Modes and Performance

Now that we’ve dealt with the camera quality, we need to cover the camera modes. These are, unfortunately, the things that will convince most people that the Lumia 925 has a worthy camera, rather than the techier aspects that relate more closely to picture quality.

The flagship photo modes of the Lumia 925 are all housed within the Nokia Smart Cam app, which is a ‘lens’ for the Windows phone 8 camera app.
Nokia Lumia 925


Rather than encouraging developers to make their own photo apps, Windows phone 8 lets them produce lenses that act as plug-ins for the camera. Smart Cam is Nokia’s.

What it does is to take a burst of about a dozen 5-megapixel images over about the span of around two seconds. You can then apply a bunch of effects or sub-modes to these.

First of all the Lumia 925 picks the best shot, which will generally revolve around searching for faces and, presumably, scanning for solid focusing.

With a few flicks of the touchscreen, you can then make Smart Cam search for faces and pick shots where people are smiling, create a composite of multiple exposures (for example, if there’s someone walking by) and remove objects.

Although you might assume that Smart Cam will use all the photographic powers the Lumia 925 has, that it records shots at five megapixels rather than full-res, and that the speed at which it takes them rules-out being able to make much use of OIS tells a completely different story. As will all frivolous modes like these, Smart Cam is for fun primarily.

Smart Cam

We should also note that all the features seen in Smart Cam have their rivals/alternatives in the TouchWiz interface of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Sense interface of the HTC One.

Other features the Lumia 925 offers outside of Smart Cam include Panorama and Cinematograph. The latter functions like Smart Cam in that it captures a burst of shots, but it then lets you create an animated GIF style image out of them, only ‘giving life’ to the parts of the image that feature movement. It is silly. But bags of fun, especially as you can then edit and share the results online.

We found that when playing around with the Lumia 925 we were drawn to this Cinematograph mode more often than Smart Cam, as it is simpler to use. The standard camera mode was by far our top pick, though, as it’s the only one that produces the best images the phone can manage.

Its camera line-up features omissions, too. There’s no HDR mode, which takes two/three exposures with different exposure parameters and then melds them to produce a shot with more detail in high/low light areas of a scene.   
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Camera Impressions
Despite Nokia’s best efforts, the Lumia 925’s camera app feels a little under developed in parts, a little over developed in others. What we like using is an app that has a few easy-to-access modes we use regularly. Here, the standard camera app is too bare, the Smart Cam app too involved.

Nevertheless, usability of the camera as a whole remains excellent thanks to the fast focusing and the ease with which you can take a picture. Like a ‘real’ camera, the physical shutter button is a two-step mechanism that focuses when pressed lightly, and snaps when pressed the whole way. Alternatively, a tap on-screen both focuses on that area and takes a picture.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Video, Music and Internal Speaker

One of the big ease-of-use multimedia benefits of a Lumia 925 over an iPhone 5 is that you can plug the one into a computer and drag files over to its internal memory. There’s no faffing with specific desktop apps in order to sync videos and music, although Microsoft does offer a Zune app if you’re desperate to be bound in such a fashion.

Music and video files are played using the standard Windows phone 8 media player, which is as pretty and slick as you’d expect from the most conspicuously ‘snazzy’ of all mobile operating systems. However, it’s also simple and intuitive.

Sound quality through the internal speaker is nothing special. It goes reasonably loud for a slim phone and doesn’t distort seriously at top volume. It’s the typical low-grade tonality and mono output that are the limitations here.
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Nokia has put more effort into making the Nokia Lumia 925 sound good through headphones. In the Settings menu you’ll find a seven-band equaliser and access to a Dolby Headphone mode.

With freely moving virtual faders, the EQ gives enough fidelity to let you cancel out unwanted characteristics in headphones. It’s pretty basic stuff, though.

Dolby Headphones tries to offer the experience of surround sound while using stereo headphones through clever DSP, digital signal processing. It appears to fiddle with the channel balance for the impression of a wider soundstage, and compresses the mid-range for a similar effect.
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More important than either of these - top volume in the Lumia 925 is solid, so it should be able to power most portable headphones.

When playing videos, the Lumia 925 is a little more limited than most in terms of what it can play. It can handle DivX files on top of Windows standards MP4 and WMV, but can’t play MKVs. You’ll need to convert these before they’ll play on the phone.

Nokia Lumia 925 – Call Quality and Battery Life

Nokia has been criticised more roundly than perhaps any other phone maker over the past four years. But one thing it has always usually managed to get right is call quality. The Nokia Lumia 925 is no different.

Its earpiece speaker is a few notches louder than the norm, and clarity is excellent. Unless you’re in a very noisy environment you shouldn’t have to use the phone’s top volume level – this is a rarity.

A secondary pinhole microphone sits on the top edge of the phone, listening for ambient noise and removing it from the call signal before it reaches whoever you’re talking to. People may not care all that much about calls any more, but the Lumia 925 is damn good at making them.

Battery life is less remarkable. The Lumia 925 has a non-user-accessible 2,000mAh battery, which is significantly smaller than the 2,600mAh battery of the slightly larger HTC One.
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Without any hardcore battery-saving features employed, the Lumia 925 lasts for a day and a bit with moderate use. There is a battery-saving mode that’ll make your phone last for up to two full days with ‘normal’ use, but it’s a little less dynamic than the sort of battery-saving modes you might see in an Android phone.

Battery Saver blocks apps from accessing the phone’s 3G connection in the background, meaning you have to manually search your emails. It can also be used to limit the phone’s screen brightness – an optional feature. There doesn’t appear to be any of the clever CPU-throttling, which Android phones are capable of.
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Should I Buy the Nokia Lumia 925?

The Nokia Lumia 925 is a high-end Windows phone 8 mobile, but it’s not quite a superphone like an HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4. This is no bad thing, though – the Lumia is significantly cheaper than those phones, while offering high-end build and performance.

Its camera too is impressive – versatile if far from flawless. Is this the phone the Lumia 920 should have been?  As it is a far more accessible, easier-to-live-with phone - yes.

It can’t fix the impossible-to-hide problems of Windows phone 8, like the limited apps selection or that some of the key apps aren’t updated anywhere near as much as they would on Android or iOS. But it is one of the best Windows phones around.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 925 marks a slight change in direction for the Lumia series, adopting metal rather than sticking to series-staple polycarbonate. But otherwise it’s Lumia through and through, with a camera that offers unusually good low light performance, a phone that runs like a dream and bodywork that both looks and feels great.