Review roundup: Microsoft's Lumia 950 smartphone

— 1:48 PM on November 20, 2015

The announcement of the Lumia 950 and 950XL back in October marked both the release of Windows 10 for phones and Microsoft's return to the high-end smartphone scene. The company officially released the Lumia 950 today, and a batch of reviews are already in. Folks who've had their hands on a Lumia 950 see some promise in the device, but each review we surveyed shows that Windows 10 on phones is still a work in progress.

The Lumia 950 didn't make a great first impression with reviewers, thanks in large part to its plastic backside. Windows Central's Daniel Rubino notes that the matte polycarbonate back "feels cheap." He says that other devices in the Lumia 950's $600 price bracket from Apple and Samsung just plain look nicer. Paul Thurrott felt similarly about the 950's plastic back, but he also points out that the feel can be remedied by purchasing a third-party swappable back. 

Beyond the look and feel of the device, reviewers generally had a fluid experience when it came to using the phone. The Verge's Dan Siefert says both the performance and battery life of the new Lumia is "what you'd expect from a 2015 smartphone." His sentiments were echoed by Windows Central and Paul Thurrott, too. 

Benchmarks show that the Lumia 950's performance isn't quite flagship-class, though. Ars Technica's Peter Bright ran the phone through the GFXBench 3.0 and web benchmarks. He found that the Lumia was always the slowest of the devices tested when he compared to the newest iPhones and Nexus handsets.

A big bright spot for the Lumia is its camera. Ars Technica, Windows Central, and Paul Thurrott all included pictures taken with the 950's shooter in various lighting conditions. According to the reviewers (and to our own eyes), the images produced by this phone are generally well-exposed and sharp. The 20-megapixel sensor in the Lumia 950 picked up a lot of detail, too, even under lower-light conditions. 

The biggest sore spot for all four reviews, though, is the Windows 10 platform itself. The Verge says the OS "feels like a work in progress." Ars Technica bemoans the wide "app gap" between Windows and its mobile counterparts, and Bright says there are still plenty of bugs to work out in the base OS. Continuum, the Windows 10 feature that allows a phone to connect to a larger screen and work like a desktop PC, seems to have some promise, though. All four reviewers tried out the Lumia 950's dock, and they all agree that Continuum works relatively well with the few universal Windows apps available today.

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