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The Nokia Lumia 1020 marries an amazing camera to year-old hardware

Armando Rodriguez | July 30, 2013
Nokia's latest Windows Phone packs an impressive 41-megapixel camera, but lacks a strong app ecosystem and competitive specs.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. In the case of the Nokia Lumia 1020, you might as well be carrying a high-end point-and-shoot in your pocket, as the phone's 41-megapixel camera outclasses the shooters on both the Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 by a good long mile.

Nokia has always emphasized its phones' camera capabilities, and the Lumia 1020 is no exception: Along with the crazy megapixel count, the phone features a custom camera app that has functions never before seen on a smartphone. But for all these advancements, the Lumia 1020 sometimes feels rough around the edges, and a handful of problems keep it from attaining perfection.

A familiar look
 
lumia 1020
Lumia 1020, not to be mistaken for Lumia 920.

The Lumia 1020 is essentially a Lumia 920 with a better camera tacked onto the back. The phones share some design elements—such as a rounded chassis and a large, 4.5-inch screen—although the 1020 doesn't feel as chunky when you hold it in your hand. This phone is slimmer than the 920, but the camera on the rear of the 1020 protrudes a bit and can make the handset feel awkward while it's resting in your pocket. That isn't a deal breaker, necessarily. It's just something to keep in mind if you tend to wear skinny jeans. (The camera housing will dig into your thigh every time you sit down.)

The Lumia 1020 boasts a display resolution of 1280 by 768, which would have been fine had the phone launched a year ago. Nowadays, with everyone and their mom making smartphones touting 1080p displays, it's disappointing that Microsoft has yet to update the Windows Phone OS to support higher resolutions. The screen on the Lumia 1020 is acceptable for watching movies or playing games, but it would have been nice to have a sharper display available for viewing photos shot with the phone's impressive camera. The Lumia 1020 could have been the first Windows Phone with a 1080p display, and the fact that it isn't feels like a missed opportunity for both Nokia and Microsoft.

Overall, the Lumia 1020 is extremely well built, and it probably could survive its fair share of drops and spills. I would still take special care with the camera module, though, as a well-timed drop could be all it takes to damage the sensor inside and make your handset just another Windows Phone.

Old guts
Looks aren't the only thing the Lumia 1020 has in common with its 920 predecessor: Aside from a slight bump in RAM, the two phones use the same 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor and ship with 32GB of internal storage. Although the Windows Phone OS runs fine on this somewhat antiquated hardware, I found that taking a lot of photos and videos would cause the phone to become notably hot to the touch. The two games I played, Jetpack Joyride and Radiant, worked flawlessly but didn't look as good as their iOS or Android counterparts.

 

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