Anybody that’s not a hardcore (read undiscerning) fan of a competing platform can easily tell the Windows 10 Mobile-powered Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is a big deal just by glancing over its beastly spec sheet.
Is it the perfect high-end smartphone? Absolutely not, but primarily because perfection is impossible to achieve in a continuously shifting, ultra-competitive industry like this. And if by some miracle Redmond would have equipped its first homebrewed flagship with everything but the kitchen sink, the already steep price tag may have easily exceeded $1,000.
Besides, where would be the fun in choosing between a flawless Lumia, an impeccable iPhone, and a sublime Samsung Galaxy? Each of the three’s strengths and weaknesses keep the conversation going, not to mention they spark rivalry, which in turn yields innovation.
For its part, the 950 XL stands out with PC convertibility through Continuum support, liquid cooling, a phenomenal triple-LED flash PureView rear camera, iris authentication, plus a series of Android rival-matching features.
But in a utopian world, I would have also liked to see it offer these things:
Water and dust resistance
Sony, which essentially paved the way for mainstream Western liquid-proof handhelds, is surprisingly taking a step back in related warranty policies. The Galaxy S6 ditched the S5’s IP67 certification, HTC and LG’s movements on the front have been minimal to nonexistent, and Apple is apparently making strides, but it’s not advertising them yet.
That sounded like ideal timing for a bit of ruggedness to be added to the Lumia family’s bag of tricks, though MS ultimately chose to play it safe. Do we still dig water-resistant phones? I know I do, and I’m not much of an outdoor enthusiast. I’d just really like to be able to take a sharp selfie of me swimming with the fishes. Not “Godfather” style, of course. And I sure as hell am not going to buy a fugly S6 Active.
Is the sensor a tad gimmicky on a few Android devices that don’t make an effort to integrate it very well? Definitely. Will this method of biometric authentication get better in time? Probably. Already, it’s blazing fast, mostly secure, and in Google and Apple’s camps, it promises to improve the convenience of mobile payments.
Granted, unlocking the Lumia 950 XL with one’s eyes is pretty impressive. But why not have that, and a fingerprint scanner? Come to think of it, there’s even a third biometric authentication mechanism Microsoft could have adopted… in a perfect world, and the ZTE Axon Elite, for instance, lets you use your eyeballs, fingers, and voice to unlock it.
Full metal jacket
Ah, the age-old polycarbonate vs aluminum debate! Before getting into it, let me just underline I’m well aware there are practical advantages to sticking with a plastic construction. But personally, I’d have preferred the whole phone to exude some extra robustness and a more “premium” air.
It’s obviously too early to tell if the Win 10 Mobile 5.7-incher is at least as tough as the all-metal HTC One M9, metal-and-glass Galaxy S6 Edge+, or 7000 Series aluminum iPhone 6s/6s Plus. The drop and bend tests aren’t in, so for now, I’ll merely say the Lumia 950 XL doesn’t look as stylish as a couple of its competitors.
Front-firing stereo speakers
Another claim I can’t support with hard evidence until we get a chance to fully review the Lumia 950 XL is its audio output falls behind the sound systems of the HTC One M9 and Nexus 6P, for instance. But how could it not when Microsoft took the single loudspeaker on the back route instead of the front-facing stereo speakers tech of the aforementioned two Android soldiers?
Ironically, HTC’s next-gen hero will ditch the BoomSound excellence of its predecessor, though even just one bottom-positioned speaker might be better than the audio player located on Lumia 950 XL’s rear. Why? It’s simple. The risk of stifling the power of an alarm in the morning is smaller.
USB Type-A to Type-C cable
The Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL retail boxes apparently include your typical product user guides, standard chargers, and USB-C cables. That latter accessory is a treat Samsung doesn’t provide with its latest Galaxy spearheads, and the great thing about it is you can plug it in whichever way.
But exactly like the Nexus 5X, there’s no easy, immediately available method of hooking up the phone to a non-USB Type C-capable computer. Adapters can be bought from a number of third-party retailers for as little as $10, yet it feels like maybe you shouldn’t be required to go through the trouble once coughing up $650 for the Lumia 950 XL.
Focus on the positives
Without a doubt, the strong points overwhelm the flaws here. There, I said it, before seeing the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL thoroughly reviewed and put under the microscope. And yes, it’s possible I’ll add a few weaknesses to the above list after that happens.
But unless the Snapdragon 810 processor catastrophically overheats, or the Quad HD display drains the massive 3,340 mAh battery in no time, this thing should make quite a splash among mobile “prosumers” not afraid to board the Continuum bandwagon early. Also, who knows, maybe the 950 XL will lay the groundwork for a spectacular Lumia comeback.