- Performs well
- One of the best rear-facing cameras on the market
- Windows 10 Mobile has some interesting innovations, like the Windows Continuum and Windows Hello
- Features USB Type-C
- Exceptionally poor finish and outdated design
- Expensive starting price
- Average battery life
- Windows Continuum leaves room for improvement
Microsoft's Lumia 950 XL is the best Windows 10 Mobile available when it comes to specs, software display quality, and the camera. It has a lousy finish, however, and offers nothing to sway dedicated Android and iOS users.
To mark the arrival of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has two new premium devices: the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950 XL. While the name suggests that only size separates the two, the XL has a more powerful chipset, cooling system, and a slightly larger battery, making it the true flagship of the bunch.
With Windows 10 Mobile and support for Windows Continuum through the Microsoft Display Dock, Lumia 950 XL features a 5.7-inch AMOLED QHD display covered in Gorilla Glass 4, 20-mega pixel BSI PureView rear camera, 5-megapixel selfie-camera, Cat. 6 LTE radio, and a 3340 mAh battery. Inside, it sports an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with Adreno 430 graphics and 3 GB of RAM, and includes 32 GB of internal storage along with a microSD card slot. The Lumia 950 XL is also available as a dual-SIM device.
As of this writing, it’s available starting at $650.
Build & Design
Unfortunately, this Lumia 950 XL betrays Nokia’s near sacrosanct reputation for well-built devices. Both phones feature a plastic rear cover that looks cheap, and both have thick display rims. All navigation keys are on the display, meaning there is a centimeter of unused space under the screen. Both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL look out of place next to the current flagships, like the iPhone 6s and Galaxy Note5. This is not a design fit for a device with this price and these specs.
The display glass has exceptionally sharp edges, for no apparent reason, as does the back cover towards the corners. This, despite the fact it’s slightly rounded in order to provide better ergonomics. This is why Lumia 950 XL doesn’t feel comfortable to hold. This design is more in line with the first phablets that hit the market several years ago.
The front bares the Microsoft logo above the screen, along with the telephone speaker and the selfie-camera, while the rim below the display is wasted space. The back includes the rear camera bulge and the triple LED flash, complete with the Windows logo underneath. Also on the front, the speakers and pinhole mics for ambient noise reduction.
The microSD and nanoSIM card slots (or two nanoSIM slots of the dual-SIM model) sit under the removable rear panel, along with the removable battery. That means that the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL does not have a unibody, which makes for a thicker device. It’s 8.1 mm (0.32 in) thick, and measures 152 x 78 mm (5.98 x 3.09 in). Its mass is average for a 5.7-inch phone: 165 g (5.82 oz). There’s always a tradeoff between the utility of a replaceable battery with the thinness of a unibody design. We won’t complain about this element of Microsoft’s decision here.
The power button is located on the right side, in an embrace between a two-piece volume rocker. The camera shutter button is somewhat lower. The phone’s upper side houses the 3.5-mm audio jack in the center, while the bottom side includes the USB Type-C connector. Lumia 950 XL is one of the first phones to ship with USB Type-C, but we expect many more in 2016.
The 5.7-inch Lumia 950 XL has a QHD resolution that offers an exceptional density of 515 pixels per inch, which, as expected, results in fantastically sharp imaging. This is an AMOLED screen, the kind we gush over in Samsung smartphone reviews. Those excellent impressions apply here thanks to the vibrant colors and sustainable contrast.
The black tones are very dark, the whites are very bright. This is a bright display with large viewing angles. It’s one of the best we’ve tested at cutting through bright sunlight and glare.
If there is a complaint, it’s with color accuracy, which is a common issue with AMOLED. Given AMOLED’s popularity, most seem to dismiss it, but eagle-eyed users will notice that the colors shift a bit to the greener part of the spectrum. This creates an almost pastel effect that when matched with AMOLED-style saturation; resulting in a very cheerful, and almost silly, cartoon-like aesthetic.
But that’s nitpicking. There are better displays on handsets, but Lumia 950 XL’s display is exceptionally good.