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Nokia Lumia 800 Review: The Windows Phone That Would Be King

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NOKIA LUMIA 800
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THE CAPTAIN GADGET 5-PARAGRAPH REVIEW OF:

The Nokia Lumia 800

(1) The Nokia Lumia 800 is the best smartphone you have ever held, though it is not the best smartphone you have ever used. In your hand, the Lumia 800 feels remarkably solid, as though having been carved clean out of a single piece of obsidian, or the monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey"; it is a phone that you will prod your friends to hold for themselves, so proud will you be of its make, its impressive density. The thing is so well-built that it is almost a letdown it does not shoot lasers or give back massages in addition to making calls and checking emails. Therein lies the problem: Aside from feeling great in your palm, the Nokia Lumia 800 does not clearly distinguish itself from the horde of other Windows Phones currently available. You are paying a premium for design, not performance.

(2) This smartphone's killer feature is not Siri, nor Ice Cream Sandwich, but rather gadget-as-piece-of-architecture. Curved on the sides, flat on the top and bottom and suitably thin yet solid, its only buttons are, from top-to-bottom on the right side, a volume control rocker, a lock screen and a camera launcher. Its only visible hole is a headphone jack up top: The charger and SIM slot are hidden beneath two flimsy latches that are (form over function!) more of a pain to open than they should be. The screen gently slopes outward toward the holder -- imagine, if you can, a boy holding a cafeteria tray under his shirt -- but stays relatively free of smudges (or, perhaps I was persistently wiping to preserve the phone's beauty). The tiles on Windows Phone Mango look great cascading up and down the Lumia's Hall-of-Mirrors-ish curved display; more Windows Phones should use this curving glass as it is so well-suited to the style and movement of Mango.

(3) Beyond style, the Lumia 800 offers little to distinguish itself among Mangophones. Perhaps it is the oft-repeated hype-line that this phone is WP7's saving grace, but there is something very underwhelming about the way the Lumia 800 actually operates. Everything looks great and runs smoothly, sure, but performance-wise, Nokia's first Windows Phone is just on par with other Windows Phones: just on par when it should be a double eagle, given its body. This is not Mango supercharged: It is regular Mango on a very, very pretty phone. I will repeat my opinion of Mango from an earlier review: It is an attractive mobile operating system that is comparatively lacking in apps but is cutting-edge in design, terrific for communication across several platforms (Facebook, SMS, Twitter and more) and an early-adopter's dream. The Nokia Lumia 800 is one way to experience this mobile OS, but it is not the only way. For add-ons, the Lumia 800 ships with Nokia Music (why?) and Nokia Drive (why, yes!), a navigation system that reads directions aloud; American drivers -- especially those who have their smartphones hooked up to their speakers and who do not have Garmins or TomToms -- will love Nokia Drive.

(4) In short, Nokia could have done a bit more past the design phase to fill this phone out: There is no front-facing camera or 4G capability, two features that seemed like no-brainers. The camera on the back is great and loads quickly, and I got consistently excellent battery life, often spanning across two or three days of heavy use with push email enabled. The lack of power-sucking 4G, of course, helps with that; next year, Nokia would be wise to trade in some battery hours for some quicker download speeds. Using the phone day-to-day, I never sensed anything special about the phone's performance -- fast, yes, but not commensurate with the build.

(5) When you hold the Nokia Lumia 800 for the first time, you will want to love it, in the way that we want to love albums with clever titles or books with impressive covers or poorly-behaved puppies with adorable faces. The extent to which you will fall in love with the Lumia 800 will directly align with how many points you are willing to award to design; that the design is so terrific, and that I genuinely enjoy using Windows Mango, means I give this phone many, many points. And yet still, something absent nags: Though this is a great phone to have and to hold, it is a better phone to hold than to have.

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NOKIA LUMIA 800 SPECS

Cost: Unknown
Carriers: Unknown (rumored AT&T)
Operating System: Windows 7.5 ("Mango")
Network: 3G HSDPA
Display: 3.7-inch, 480 x 800 pixels, Gorilla Glass, AMOLED
Weight: 5.0 oz.
CPU: 1.4 GHz Scorpion processor
Memory: 512MB RAM
Storage: 16GB internal; no card slot
Camera: 8MP rear-facing with flash; 3264x2448 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics
Battery Life (stated): 13 hour talk time on 2G; 9 hours 30 minutes talk time on 3G

Official Website for the Nokia Lumia 800.
Full specs for the Nokua Lumia 800.

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