Review: Microsoft Lumia 950

Likes
• Light weight
• Lightning fast
• Awesome camera
• Dedicated camera button

Dislikes
• Random key presses
• Reboots
• Average battery

Introduction

So I finally have it, my Lumia 950. With the arrival of Microsoft’s first flagship handset, running their latest mobile operating system, things could really shape up and get interesting. The real question is, can Microsoft’s latest device hold its ground, especially when the competition is already fierce?

In all honesty, if you’d have told me 6 months ago that I’d be using a Windows device as my daily driver, I’d have laughed myself to death. I hated Windows 8 and disliked Windows Mobile just as much. The whole thing just seemed to be a mess, but after trying the Insider version of Windows 10 Mobile, my ice cold heart started to melt. A few months later and I’m wielding a Lumia 950.

So, let’s take a look at my thoughts and impressions.

Look and Feel

The first thing you’ll notice about the Lumia 950 is how nondescript it looks. A plain black slab with rounded corners. There’s no metal, but I don’t mind, the plastic shell feels durable with its matte finish, and it’s replaceable. On the rear of the device you’ll find a silver windows logo, camera hump, and triple LED flash. At the top is a single 3.5mm headphone jack, then left side has nothing, the bottom has a USB C port, and then the right side has volume rocker, power/lock button, and a camera key!

So all in all, it’s pretty plain, but it looks smart. The Lumia 950 resembles something I’d expect to see if the HTC HD7 and the Samsung Galaxy S2 had a baby. It feels light weight and comfortable to hold, and as I mentioned above, the back is replaceable and there are already some awesome looking rear cases hitting the market. Check out the Mozo shells as an example.

The display! Oh it’s gorgeous. It’s bright and the viewing angles are insane. This is one of the best displays I’ve seen. The quality is absolutely fantastic. I always hear people talk about the quality of blacks on the screen, and until using the Lumia 950 I hadn’t really paid any attention. In the dark the blacks blend in completely, leaving nothing but the colours on the display. It makes for a pretty interesting illusion when you’ve just got a Windows logo hovering above your hand when the phone boots up in the dark. Out of all the displays I’ve seen on a phone, this has to be the best I’ve seen.

Camera

The Lumia range have always been known for their fantastic camera’s and the Lumia 950 is no exception. The device is capable of capturing amazing photos with very little effort, but if you’re into playing with camera settings then you’re in luck!

There are a range of settings that you can customise, allowing for better manual shots to be captured. Also, for those who really seek quality, you can capture in both JPEG and DNG formats.

When using the Lumia 950’s camera I was impressed by how well the automatic settings worked. The auto focus was pretty good at finding it’s target, and macro photography works well with this device. I’ve used plenty of mobile phone cameras and when it came to close up shots they always seemed to struggle at close range, the Lumia 950 however performs great here.

The addition of the camera shutter key is a welcome one. It not only allows you to load the camera quickly just by clicking the button, but it also allows for better photography. You can hold the phone in a more natural position which will help minimise shake, and just click the button, there’s no need to try and get your finger on the screen. There are also two levels to the camera shutter key, a light press will focus the camera, and a second harder press will capture the photo.

The camera performs well in low light situations, with images coming out with very little noise compared to other smartphones (I’m looking at you Xperia Z5!) and for those truly dark situations you have a triple LED flash. Now, like most phone camera flashes this one isn’t great, with a tendency to light things up too much, draining colour from the subject, but it does perform better than most others. I would have preferred a Xenon flash like the Lumia 1020 had, but then I also like not having a huge camera hump.

I love playing with cameras, and the Lumia 950’s is a pleasure to use. From my experience it blows the competition out of the water, even the Xperia Z5 range.

Windows 10

I think it’s safe to say that regardless of the hardware Microsoft threw at their latest handset, unless they got the operating system sorted then it was destined to be a sinker. So how is it? A pleasure to use is the answer!

There’s something great about the simplistic look of my home screen. It’s easy to navigate to every app or service I use on a regular basis and the home screen doesn’t feel crowded despite having almost every app I use pinned to it. Love them or hate them, Live Tiles are back, and for the first time ever I find myself preferring this over the competition. My folders are organised, becoming one big live tile, for example, all of my office applications are in one folder, with the Live Tile cycling what is on display so I can see all the apps in the folder at a quick glance.

Windows 10 is lightning fast, with apps opening quickly and multi tasking working like a dream. The settings menu’s have been cleaned up, making individual options a lot easier to find now, unlike previous iterations in which it was sometimes impossible to find a setting you needed.

The Action Centre has also been improved, resembling Windows 10’s desktop counterpart. Pull down from the top and you’ll see your notifications, and just above these you’ll find your 4 most commonly used settings. Hit the expand button and you’ll find more quick settings, enabling you to toggle features quickly without digging deeper. These quick settings can be customised, allowing the user to chose which quick options you can add to your Action Centre.

As is always the case with Windows Mobile, the Lumia 950 comes with a host of Office Applications. We’ve got Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. These apps have all been massively improved and are a pleasure to use, even on the smaller screen. Outlook allows you to pin your individual email accounts to your home screen, letting you get to the email account you want faster, rather than having to fish through the app. Of course, these apps all become even better when you hook your Lumia 950 up to a monitor and use Continuum (More on that later)

So, it all seems pretty great right? Well, just remember that Windows 10 Mobile has literally only just launched for consumers, so you will find issues. So far my phone has rebooted every couple of hours (although this seems to have stopped since a software update last night) and certain apps seem to go a little mad, or just not work properly (I’m looking at you Groove Music!). I’m sure there will be updates landing quickly, but it’s worth taking into consideration that you will face issues during this early stage.

Despite these issues, the overall feel of the operating system is great. I absolutely love it. Is it for everyone? Probably not, but if you want something that looks and feels professional, is productive and easy to navigate, then Windows 10 Mobile is worth a look.

Windows Hello and Continuum

Windows Hello is perhaps my favourite feature of my Lumia 950. There’s just something fun about lifting my phone up and having it scan my eye to unlock! I mean, who wouldn’t have fun with that?

Once I got over the gimmick I found myself impressed by how accurate the scanner is. You can train it multiple times in the settings, which obviously helps increase accuracy. Windows Hello works in darker conditions, it works at arms length or right next to my eye, and it works at angles so you don’t need to stand like a statue, you can just unlock your phone naturally. If you switch between wearing glasses, then have no fear, Windows Hello recognises my eye with or without my glasses.

Now, there are two big problems with Windows Hello. The first is that it makes me unlock my phone like Derek Zoolander, I always seem to stop and strike a pose. Hopefully this will end soon! The other issue is that almost everyone who has seen me use this feature has immediately asked “What happens if you lose both of your eyes?”, this is normally followed by me being given some pretty insane hypothetical situations that I have to come up with solutions for.

When Microsoft announced the Lumia 950 they also revealed Continuum. This made me weak at the knees, and seeing it in action still has me really excited. As I mentioned above there are plenty of productivity apps and once they’re loaded up in Continuum they look just like their desktop counter parts. This is quite frankly awesome!

It’s in the early stages right now and doesn’t allow for multiple apps to run in windowed mode which is a shame, but hopefully with future updates Continuum will become even more similar to the Windows 10 desktop we are all becoming used to.

One thing that I feel is worth mentioning is that Continuum works with pretty much all forms of display adapters, both wired and wireless. I originally thought it would only work with Microsoft’s Display Dock, but then I paired my 950 with my Amazon Fire TV and BAM! Continuum worked. You can load Continuum with Miricast devices, standard HDMI adapters, basically anything that will pair your phone with a display. Pretty handy.

I won’t go into a massive amount of detail regarding Continuum as it deserves it’s own article, and also I need to spend more time with it before I can form any more opinions.

The App Gap

Whenever anyone talks about Windows Mobile, the ‘App Gap’ always seems to get thrown in there. Now, let’s be honest, there is a lack in applications for Windows mobile, but with universal apps working across all Windows 10 devices, it looks like the future could get brighter. For me, the app issue isn’t a big one. Everything I need and use on my phone I can download, with only a few apps that I’d like missing from the store.

However, there is one huge and glaring issue, and that’s maps! Here Drive is no longer the default sat nav app, which is understandable, but what really breaks my heart is that the application is no longer available to download. This wouldn’t be an issue, but Microsoft’s own maps app just isn’t as good.

Oh well! Things will get better, especially with universal apps, and to be honest there are already plenty of apps available.

Battery

One thing that I loved about my Lumia 640 was the battery. I was getting about 3 days of usage so I was hoping that the Lumia 950 might deliver similar results. Sadly it doesn’t, in fact, it’s one of the let downs on this device. Now, it’s not bad by any means, I get at least a solid day, we are talking at least 24 hours, but I wouldn’t like to try and get all the way through the second day without a charge.

One of the benefits is how fast this device charges. I plugged it in for about half an hour and came back to find the battery had almost completely charged from practically being flat. Now that’s impressive, I only wish the battery lasted a little longer, but it’s certainly not below average so it will do!

Conclusion

Well, that’s a brief overview of my thoughts on the Lumia 950. I absolutely love it and I can’t wait to see what comes with future updates to the software. This isn’t a phone for everyone, and probably shouldn’t be one that users who absolutely love their applications should get just yet, but this is definitely worth keeping an eye on. If Microsoft can deliver on their promises to get more apps onto their platform then they stand a very real chance of gaining market share in the mobile sector.

My only concern is how poorly Microsoft have handled the launch of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. They confused potential buyers with where and who they could buy the phone from, there was also a lack of launch date and a huge delay between announcement and actual launch. To top it off, in the UK right now this device is still pretty much vapourware. It’s almost impossible to find in any stores which makes adoption… Well… Impossible! Fingers crossed Microsoft will pull their fingers out and give this device the support it deserves.

So, would I recommend this phone? Yes! Absolutely. I will be using this phone as my personal device and would put this head and shoulders above the competition in so many departments. It feels great and the camera is superb. If you’re a fan of the Windows ecosystem then this could be your next mobile purchase.

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First Impressions: Surface Pro 3

Well, I finally caved and picked up a Surface Pro 3. I’ve been toying with the idea for some time now, looking to replace my Nvidia Shield Tablet with something a little better for writing. I loved the idea of having something with a large screen and full desktop experience, but my previous use of a tablet running Windows had been less than ideal.

It’s been just less than a week of using the Surface Pro 3 and so far I love it. I’ve even come to the conclusion that it’s time to finally give up my Macbook Pro (maybe). With the Windows 10 update the Surface Pro 3 has gone from being a good device to being an amazing device.

Finally both tablet and laptop mode work well. Unlike my previous experiences with Windows 8.1, everything flows, there’s no horrid interruptions like users had to face before.

The device is fast and powerful, handling pretty much everything I do without batting an eyelid. Throw in good battery life and I’m onto a winner. When it comes to my writing this thing is awesome.

The Surface Pen is a welcome addition to my usage. Note taking feels natural and drawing works well.

Basically, the Surface Pro 3 has combined all of my devices into one. I’ll write as more in depth review after using it for a little longer, but so far, I’m more than glad I decided to give this device a chance!

Review: YESSBON Universal Soft-Touch 13/13.3-Inch Laptop Case

The case I used was the black and grey Macbook pro 13 inch case. It feels good and looks premium, so you can’t go too far wrong with the design. There are two sets of popper buttons on either side of the case, allowing you to close it with two levels of tightness. This is handy if you fill the case up with your Macbook and other gadgets (which it has plenty of slots for)

The most pleasing part about this case was this it offered plenty of room for my Macbook, but also other compartments for additional gadgets such as my tablet and mobile phone. As mentioned above, the two levels of tightness when closing the case helps to prevent this from feeling cramped and allows for additional protection for all of your portable devices.

My only criticism of the case is that it feels just a tiny bit too large for the Macbook as there is just a little room for it to slide around while in the case. It’s not a deal breaker and won’t take away from the protection, but it does mean the case takes up more room in your bag which is a shame.

Apart from that one criticism this is a pretty good case, especially when you consider the low end price. For the cost, you get a great deal of style and quality and can’t go too far wrong. Definitely worth picking up, especially if you’re the kind of person who carries multiple gadgets on the go!

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Offer: Surface Pro 3 Discounted and Free Keyboard

Well this is tempting! If you’re in the market for a tablet/laptop hybrid device then now might be the time to pick one up. The device is currently on offer with a nice bit of discount, but it also comes with the Type Cover free of charge.

All in all, that’s not a bad package and price for such a good bit of kit. The Surface Pro 3 supports the best of both worlds, offering a full desktop experience in a gorgeous package. The device is capable of running as a tablet or laptop, the 12 inch touch screen giving enough space to work comfortably, which when combined with the Type Cover offers a desktop experience.

So as I mentioned above, if you’re in the market for a device like this, or like me you’ve been tempted by the Surface, then now is the time to buy!

If you’re after something smaller then Microsoft did recently launch the Surface 3, a smaller version of the Surface Pro. It’s not quite as powerful as its bigger brother, but still it offers a full desktop/tablet experience to the user and can be paired up with a Type Cover.

If you’re interested in the promotion, which runs until 11th of June, then you can find the link here: Surface Pro 3

Review: 1byone® Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard

I was sent this product to offer an unbiased review and I was pretty excited to see how this keyboard and trackpad combination performed. I’ve been keeping my eye out for this sort of product for a little while now to combine with my Nvidia Shield Tablet so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to review this product. So, did it live up to what I was hoping for?

The Good

  • Stylish and slim
  • Keys feel good with no skipped presses
  • Micro USB charging
  • Good battery
  • Function keys for Android and Windows
The Bad
  • No grip for the bottom
  • A little too slim, flexes when typing
  • Trackpad sometimes stops working for a few seconds

The keyboard is very easy to pair with your device, literally hold the function key and the C key and then search for the keyboard in the bluetooth settings on the device you wish to pair with. Within only a couple of minutes of unwrapping the keyboard I was paired and ready to play.

It’s comfortable to use, with keys that feel great to type on. They offer a good click and are adequately spaced unlike some portable keyboards that have a plushy and cramped feel to them. My only criticism of typing on this product is that due to the keyboard being so slim it does seem to flex a little when in use.

Moving onto the trackpad is a slightly mixed bag. On the one hand it works straight off the bat with Android and offers something closer to a laptop experience on your tablet. The trackpad is large enough to use for browsing, but it does feel a little cramped, but I suppose that’s to be expected. The one thing that really let the mouse side of things down was its tendency to either lag or just disappear entirely for a few seconds. However, it performed well enough that I didn’t need to carry a portable mouse around with me.

The design of the device is great. It’s slim, lightweight, and the keys fill up pretty much all the space on the device, giving the user a great typing experience. However, the biggest flaw with this product is in the design. It has four rubber nubs on the top, obviously to help protect your tablet screen if its faced down while in your bag, however it doesn’t have the same nubs on the bottom. It does have four, very tiny and recessed slivers of rubber in each corner on the bottom.

The issue with this design flaw… Well if you type on a smooth surface it causes the keyboard to go sliding all over the place. In the end I had to seek out some form of rubber to stick on the bottom of it because out of the because the keyboard was just too slippery to use on a smooth surface. It’ not the end of the world, but it does require some additions in order to be usable.

So in conclusion this is a pretty good keyboard, especially at the price range. Are there better keyboards out there? Of course there are, but you’ll be paying extra for that. If you’re after something to combine with your tablet for some on the go use without paying a premium then this is going to cover everything you need.

Yes it has its flaws, but for the price being asked you can’t go wrong.

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Chromebooks

Up until a month ago I had never played with a Chromebook. I saw them as watered down laptop, capable of barely anything, but now I’ve had a tinker with a few, changing my perception.

What got me think was, what do I actually use my laptop for? Writing, browsing and the occasional spreadsheet, all of which a Chromebook can handle. They are nice and lightweight, and the best bit, they are very reasonably priced.

I almost want to get, my carry everywhere device, but that seems a little wasteful considering I have my macbook pro. However it’s something I’m considering for the future. It offers everything that I need and at a pretty good price.

What really struck me was how likely it is that these devices could really start to eat into Microsofts territory. For students a Chromebook is pretty perfect and for a lot of other people these Chromebooks will really fulfil most needs.

What I’d like to see from the Chromebooks is either a 15 inch model, or a hybrid, a great tablet and keyboard combination, like a Surface running Chrome. Fingers crossed either of these things come along, and then maybe I’ll say farewell to my Macbook.

I think it should be an interesting year seeing how Chromebooks evolve and push their way into the market. They’ve become serious competitors now, offering more than enough to steal users away from Windows. Who knows what the future hold, but with Microsoft offering a hugely pricey Surface 3 in response, the future isn’t look bright for them.

Technology Got Stuck

I can’t help but shake the feeling that right now technology feels stuck in the novelty and experimental stage. Progression seems to be mixed with different companies and industries experimenting with all sorts. Where will a product line end up?

Let’s take tablets and netbooks, hell, even laptops as an example. Apple undoubtedly managed to persuade the general public that every single one of them needed an iPad to replace their laptop and now other manufactures are following this example. But who’s going to come out on top? Everyone is experimenting. We have ultrabooks, we have hybrid tablets, we have convertibles we have plain simple tablets… then we have iOS, we have Android, we have windows…. and thats just tablets…. there’s more operating systems coming!

This isn’t the only example. Look at smart phones currently. Manufactures are simply recycling their older products and bumping up the screen size and internal specs. Where has the innovation gone? I remember eagerly watching as a phone was announced and being wowed or shocked by the complete new design. Gone are those days.

I just can’t help but shake the feeling that manufactures are pushing their products into niches they just don’t fit into. It reminds me of the HD DVD vs BLU Ray race. People held off dedicating themselves to a technology because they didn’t know what would win out. I feel the same right now, especially with things such as tablets/laptops. I honestly couldn’t say which is going to win out and last into the foreseeable future.

Everything just seems as though its manufactures testing the water and experimenting without actually truly dedicating to what it is they want to do. Come on guys back to what made technology so exciting! Stick with the direction you want to go in and throw your weight behind it! 😀

Samsung Ativ PC Pro Day by Day

Well my Samsung Ativ PC Pro has just arrived and I’ll be writing my thoughts on the device one day at a time. So far I’m very impressed by it and I look forward to using it more and seeing how it really performs in real world usage. So what will I look at when reviewing this beast?

Samsung

Right now I use a MacBook Air which I absolutely love. Its a great piece of kit and does most things that I need but its getting old and lacks power now. I also love the form factor of something like the Ativ PC Pro and I’m intrigued to see how well it performs as a tablet and also ultrabook. Obviously I do a lot of writing and the Mac has proved to be a great companion for all of my notes and work. I’ll take the Ativ PC Pro for a real spin and see how productive it really can be!

I’ve ordered myself a larger 256GB SSD (http://amzn.to/Z43Ec9) which I will fit into the tablet. This will hopefully be arriving this week and I’ll let you know how well the installation goes!

Day One

I’ve been using the Ativ PC Pro for just over 24 hours now and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. I felt that I was going to be underwhelmed by this tablet due to the negativity that Windows 8 has received but I’ve got to admit that the OS actually performs very well. The tablet feels premium and performs well handling pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it. I’ve spent most of my time installing my applications and customizing the device but so far I’m impressed.

My first impressions of the OS is that it offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand I have the traditional desktop mode which I’ve spent most time using with my tablet docked in the keyboard. This performs exactly how you would expect from a Windows device. I’ve not had a chance to spend much time with Modern UI but from my brief play it handles well and gives a touch friendly environment. The thing that I love about this device when compared to other tablets is that it offers me everything. There’s no need to worry about where I will download my media content for example, I’ve got the choice to use iTunes or Google Music and I don’t need to worry about converting files. This is a full Windows experience and I love it so far.

So the device itself, what’s it like? Nice, very nice. It’s obviously bigger than your traditional tablet but that suits me just fine. It feels premium and when docked in it’s keyboard it feels and handles like an ultrabook. It’s on the heavy side so one handed use will get uncomfortable after a while and it’s also very long so using this device in portrait seems odd. It has all the ports I require and doesn’t really compromise on anything.

One of the biggest advantages is also the biggest let downs. I went for the Samsung Ativ PC Pro over the Microsoft Surface Pro due to it’s keyboard dock. The keyboard is great to use and the trackpad works well although it is a little on the small side. However the keyboard disconnects that are so widely reported are exceptionally annoying causing the keyboard to disconnect at even the slightest movement. The dock also feels extremely cheap and light which is odd considering how well made the tablet itself feels. It’s a shame that Samsung didn’t really go to the same effort in building the keyboard dock as they did the tablet. What I would have loved to see is something that employs the same materials as the tablet and perhaps uses bluetooth to connect with the tablet to avoid disconnection issues.

I’ve installed a couple of games onto the tablet just to test out how well it handles them. So far I’ve tried out Torchlight 2 and Guild Wars 2 and both games have handled well. As I mentioned I’ve not had a great deal of time yet to really test out the tablet but I’ll get some benchmarks etc in my day 2 experience.

Day Two

Well another day down and I’m still impressed by the Ativ. One thing that has struck me is how well the battery performs. I expected a couple of hours at best but I’ve squeezed over to 5 hours of screen on time and a couple of these were spent playing Guild Wars 2. Considering the power needed to keep this going it doesn’t overheat even when gaming and just keeps on performing.

So when it comes to gaming how well does it actually do it? It’s acceptable but won’t blow your socks off. If you’re looking for something that’s going to act as your gaming machine then look elsewhere, perhaps the Razer Edge? Yes the Ativ can game but it doesn’t deliver stellar performance. My session in Guild Wars was relatively smooth but bear in mind I had to drop all settings to low and lower the resolution to 720. The other problem I faced when gaming with this tablet was the keyboard dock. For whatever reason you cannot use the trackpad simultaneously with the keyboard which makes controlling your character difficult. I just hooked up a bluetooth mouse and problem solved but still it’s just another flaw with the dock.

I also decided to spend a few hours using the Ativ as a tablet because lets face it Windows 8 has been marketed at the touchscreen crowd. Desktop performed reasonably well with only a few icons being too small to hit
but at the end of the day it’s what you would expect. What I really wanted to find out is how well Modern UI performed. It was all lovely, pleasant boring. It just felt like a really dumbed down windows and left me constantly longing for my keyboard and mouse. It’s ok for those occasions when space is limited but in comparison to the likes of Android left me feeling underwhelmed. The other issue with using the Ativ as a tablet only is its weight! After a few minutes of using this I had to rest it somewhere because it is big. It’s also long which makes using it in portrait feel a little bit odd.

So to sum up if you plan on using it as a tablet only it maybe worth looking at other options unless you need the sheer power of this machine. However if like me you want a good mix and a hybrid machine then don’t let my experience of using it as a tablet put you off.

Day Three

I think I’ve got a good grasp of how well this tablet performs now. I went into this wondering if I would be getting rid of my MacBook and using only one device. My expectations were low, Windows 8 hasn’t exactly had a great ride since it’s launch. So what’s the outcome?

I love it! Sure there are things that aren’t up to scratch within the OS but for the most part it does what it needs to and its got a lot of polish and even better it offers a full desktop OS unlike any others offer right now. I can load up all my old applications and also play full PC games on my tablet. No other OS gives me this power right now and that’s where Windows 8 beats Android and iOS hands down.

When it comes to hardware I love pretty much everything about the tablet. It gets a little hot when under heavy load but its not uncomfortable. The biggest let down is the keyboard dock which has an appalling trackpad and is missing so many features. It’s just too light so tips over on non flat surfaces, could have been solved with an additional battery and the disconnection issues… the less said about that the better. If Samsung can manufacture a better dock then this device will be absolutely fantastic.

The tablet market is about to get flooded with Windows 8 devices but in my opinion the Samsung Ativ PC Pro is head and shoulders above the rest. I just really hope that manufactures don’t start pulling out of the Windows 8 space. I thought I was going to hate it but this has been a refreshing experience. It’s a no compromise device and I all I can say is that if you’re in the market for something portable but with power then this is your device.

For a full spec list and current prices check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/Yb7ih6

For a full list of accessories available check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/11Ul2kL