Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
470
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It's the best Windows 10 phone around, but it's still dogged by major performance issues

Specifications

Processor: Octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Screen Size: 5.7in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 20 megapixels, Storage: 32GB (29.1GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 152x78x8.1mm, Weight: 165g, Operating system: Windows 10

It might have been Microsoft's first Windows 10 phone, but the Lumia 950 was a bit of a disappointment. Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 ran like liquid butter on even the most underpowered smartphone, but a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 couldn't save the Lumia 950 from slow and jerky performance.

The Lumia 950 isn't the only Windows 10 handset, though; it's accompanied by its big brother, the 5.7in Lumia 950 XL. This comes equipped with the more powerful octa-core, 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset, providing another two cores to help deal with Windows 10's extra flab. Paired with 3GB of RAM, this kind of specification wouldn't look out of place on one of this year's top-end Android phones, but sadly even this isn't quite enough to run Windows 10 smoothly.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL rear

Performance

It's certainly faster than the Lumia 950, with smoother menu animations and slightly quicker app loading times, but the Lumia 950 XL remains a disappointingly sluggish device that repeatedly wigs out when scrolling down the Start screen, throwing you unceremoniously into the main app list, and still takes around a second to open a single Settings option. As with the Lumia 950, it's difficult to compare its exact raw processing power to the Android competition without a Windows-friendly version of our Geekbench 3 tests, but you don't have to spend much time with the Lumia 950 XL to see its everyday performance is decidedly lacking.

Playing games was also a bit of a trial. Despite scoring 1,316 frames (around 21.2fps) in the GFX Bench DX offscreen Manhattan test, even games like Threes were almost unplayable. We managed a few games of Beach Buggy Racing without too much trouble, but it's nowhere near as slick or smooth as you'd expect from this kind of specification.

Windows 10 Mobile Start, Apps, Settings screenshot

^ The layout of Windows 10 is a vast improvement over Windows Phone 8.1, but it doesn't run nearly as smoothly

One thing Microsoft has got right, though, is web browsing performance. A Peacekeeper browser benchmark score of 813 might not be particularly outstanding, but in practice the Lumia 950 XL can tackle complex web pages as well as any Android phone. The Edge browser is so smooth, in fact, that you almost forget how bloated the rest of the operating system feels - but that feeling quickly dissipates as soon as you return to the Start screen.

Display

This is a real shame, as the rest of the phone has everything you'd expect from a top-end flagship. The 2,560x1,440 resolution display provides plenty of definition across 5.7in, and the AMOLED panel produces stunning colours, covering a near-perfect 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut. It's admittedly not the best AMOLED display I've seen in terms of overall accuracy, but colours still had a pleasing punch to them and they weren't overly saturated.

Likewise, with ultra-deep 0.00cd/m2 black levels and a contrast ratio of infinity:1, images had plenty of depth and detail, and viewing angles are superb. However, like the Lumia 950, the XL's max brightness is rather low for an AMOLED, topping out at just 305.32cd/m2 when set to 100%. This is just about bright enough to see clearly in bright lighting conditions, even with the sunlight readability feature enabled, but you may struggle come summer time.

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