Lumia 950 or 950 XL: the two month verdict!

Published by Steve Litchfield at 14:59 UTC, February 7th 2016

Away from worries over Windows 10 mobile itself not being quite "finished", there"s still the fascinating choice of which Microsoft flagship (and remember that these are arguably the last ever "Nokia" designs) to buy. Usually there would be a specs vs kích thước set of compromises, but in the case of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, the specifications are so close that it really comes down to khung factor và other aspects. As someone whose SIM thẻ has been in và out of each device roughly đôi mươi times in the last two months, rather indecisively, I thought I"d prompt more discussion and deliver my own - eventual - verdict.

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It all started when the two flagships were announced - obviously - with a companion piece to this one penned in mid-November before anyone had looked at either device for more than a few minutes. In it, I weighed up the specs of the 950 and 950 XL and decreed that for only a small increase in size you might as well go for the device with the highest specification & largest screen. Get the XL, I said:

You see, quite apart from other considerations, remarked on below, everyone who tries the two phones comments that there"s not that much difference in size, in the hand - so why wouldn"t you then go for the phone with the larger screen?

Making the benefit of a screen that"s a full half inch bigger very relevant indeed. The 950"s 5.2" display actually ends up as a 5" display, the same as on the now quite old Lumia 930 & 830, thanks to the virtual controls. Yes, these go away at times in the UI & especially when consuming media, so it"s not a permanent downgrade, but that extra 0.2" is almost exactly the amount lost through the controls. In other words, a lot of the time on the Lumia 950 you"ll have the same amount of nội dung as on the older phones, i.e. It"s not much of a bump "up" from what you may have had before.

Although part of me sticks lớn the line that if you own a Lumia 930 then you probably don"t need either the 950 or 950 XL unless you have the funds readily available, let"s assume for the purposes of this feature that you don"t own a 930 (or 1520) và that this is a jump into Windows 10 mobile for the first time, or you have a lesser Windows Phone 8.1 device.

In the original feature, I"d handily listed a 950/950 XL specs comparison, so let"s quote that again here, as it"s instructive (the differences are in orange):

Lumia 950Lumia 950 XL
OSWindows 10 MobileWindows 10 Mobile
Dimensions145 x 73 x 8mm, 150g152 x 78 x 8mm, 165g
Chipset1.8GHz Snapdragon 80864-bit hexacore2.0GHz Snapdragon 810 v2.164-bit octacore"Liquid cooling"
GPUAdreno 418Adreno 430
ConnectivityLTE up khổng lồ 450Mbpsplus dual SIM optionLTE up khổng lồ 450Mbpsplus dual SIM option
Display5.2" AMOLED, QHD (1440p)ClearBlack DisplayGlance screenGorilla Glass 35.7" AMOLED QHD (1440p)ClearBlack DisplayGlance screenGorilla Glass 4
Storage32GB, plus microSD32GB, plus microSD
Rear camera20MP, PureView withoversampling down to 8MP1/2.4", f/1.9Fifth generation OISTriple LED flash4K captureDedicated capture key20MP,PureView withoversampling down to lớn 8MP1/2.4",f/1.9Fifth generationOISTriple LED flash4K captureDedicated capture key
Front camera5MP5MP
Cabling/chargingUSB Type-C (up lớn 5Gb/s)USB 3.1 standardQuick Charge 2.0QiwirelessUSB Type-C (up khổng lồ 5Gb/s)USB 3.1 standardQuick Charge 2.0Qiwireless
Battery3000mAh replaceable 3300mAhreplaceable
SpeakerRear-mounted, monoRear-mounted, mono
OtherInfrared iris-scanner ("Hello Beta")Continuum-readyInfrared iris-scanner ("Hello Beta")Continuum-ready

Here"s my original verdict (having not used either phone!):

For the sake of that only very slightly larger khung factor (and only about £50 more in initial outlay), you also get a significantly faster chipset, including faster GPU, và a battery that"s 10% bigger. The latter is somewhat moot since there"s a larger display to lớn power, but you just know the former will come in handy when rendering video, web pages & playing high spec games in the future. And as an extra zinger, quite a few retail outlets are doing offers khổng lồ bundle the Microsoft Display Dock (for Continuum) for anyone buying the Lumia 950 XL. Making the larger phone even better value.

I suppose it only goes lớn show that you shouldn"t base anything on specifications alone. Having used both phones at length, the difference in performance between the two is miniscule - you really vị have to get a stopwatch out over many operations to lớn notice the different chipsets. Or play a trò chơi along enough, or shoot a video long enough, that the 950 XL"s Snapdragon 810 starts lớn overheat và then throttles back. Which I don"t think I"ve ever seen in real life.

Anyway, I"ve made up my mind - the Lumia 950 is the one for me. This was actually my gut reaction after using both in the very first week - you can sense overtones of the 950 being the more "solid" in the conclusion lớn my full 950 XL review. Then, in my reviews of the Lumia 950, I said:

The smaller sister device to the Lumia 950 XL reviewed five days ago, the Lumia 950 is lower-specced (slightly) but feels more of a sản phẩm that can be recommended lớn more friends & colleagues, being more solid (no creaks), more manageable in the hand... & quite a bit cheaper. In fact, taking into trương mục its quality selling points, I"d say that the Lumia 950 is the most bang per buck at this "sweet spot" size factor in the điện thoại world right now. For Windows Phone (and W10M) fans, I"d go further - this is the Holy Grail, the one device with everything we"ve been asking for.

And, some bugs và issues in Windows 10 thiết bị di động aside, I stand by this. There"s very little I"d change about the specifications of the Lumia 950. If ever a standard-sized phone was created for Windows Phone "fans" then the 950 is the one in terms of packing the absolute most in.

Of the two flagships then, the 950 is the one that I"d pick based purely on comfort và form factor. I know this is subjective, but if the aim of "convergence" really is khổng lồ get as much functionality in as possible while keeping the device kích thước manageable then the 950 is the one that nails it.

We can discount any chipset và GPU performance differences then. What about battery life - there"s the drop in battery capacity by 300mAh for the Lumia 950? In use, I honestly haven"t noticed one device getting longer use on a charge - Windows 10 điện thoại itself is very definitely not optimised yet in my opinion và both phones are out of nguồn by tea-time with my normal use. Until the OS settles down, it"ll be hard khổng lồ draw many conclusions about the battery-efficiency of the two bits of hardware.

Although the cameras in the two devices are identical (and good), the 950 XL feels the more cumbersome when out & about snapping away, whereas the standard-sized body of the Lumia 950 feels comfortable & natural.

The use of Gorilla Glass 4 on the phablet & "3" on the phone doesn"t make any difference in real life - in theory the 950 XL has glass which is less liable to lớn break if dropped onto a hard surface, but then it"s less protected (the 950 has a ridge around the display) and the larger khung factor makes it easier to drop, so you could argue this point either way.

What about controls? The 950 XL"s non-standard layout is initially annoying, but you get used khổng lồ it very quickly and then you switch back lớn the 950 and keep turning the screen off instead of adjusting the volume because you"ve got used to lớn the 950 XL button cluster. So I don"t think either layout is intrinsically "better".

Finally, however, there"s one extra aspect which isn"t directly quantified above, but which is vital lớn me - speaker quality. I listen to lớn a lot of podcasts during the day while doing chores và decent volume and quality is essential. Ditto for Maps navigation instructions while driving. Initially, in my review I"d rated the speakers here as identical và but in a direct comparison I found that the sound produced by the 950 has more "body", a wider range of frequencies:

We"re not talking earth-moving speakers in the same manner as the Google Nexus 6 or điện thoại htc One M7 or even that in the Lumia 1020 và 920. But the 950"s speaker is good enough & loud enough, whereas the 950 XL"s speaker has so little middle and bottom frequencies that it"s harsh on the ear. See what you think in the video above, captured quickly on the hãng nokia 808 with its top notch microphones.

After a little investigation of the disassembly guides online, I found that the speaker components used in the two smartphones are, in fact, different. Here are the relevant frame grabs for the 950 & then for the 950 XL:


Note the "F5L01" & "F4BY1" part numbers. Anyway, empirical listening shows a clear difference.

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Little things then:

easier lớn carrymore solid in the hand (fewer creaks)a better sounding speakermore standard button layoutscreen not quite so exposed if droppedcheaper

Add them all together though and, for me at least, the (smaller) Lumia 950 comes out as the winner above its larger sister device. Your comments welcome - bởi you disagree?


Resplendent in Mozo replacement backs, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL

PS. Thanks very much to mobile Fun for loaning us the Lumia 950 pictured above, left. See the company"s Lumia 950 accessories and, indeed, buy page for the Lumia 950 itself.