Reviewing a Windows Phone 8 device is a tough proposition: it’s difficult to separate the hardware and the software however for this review I’m going to try gloss over the operating system. The OS is a highly personal choice depending on devices you’ll sync with and what apps you’ll really need but assuming you’re looking for a mid-range Windows Phone 8 device you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive straight in:
At 4.3 inches the Lumia 820 isn’t a small phone but these days it slips slap bang in the middle of smartphone sizes. With the bottom of the range in size being 4 inches while the top is 4.7 inches all the way up to 5.4 inches with the Samsung Note II. Personally I think anything over 4.3 inches is way too big meaning the Lumia 820 is personally the right size for my man hands. The screen takes up most of the front with very little bezel, a fact I find particularly appealing. At the bottom of the device you’ll see the traditional Windows Phone buttons (capacitive in this case) with back, home and search functions. The phone is understated, something that will appeal to many. On the back is a snap off polycarbonate case that can be replaced with a different colour. This took me back to the days of the 3310 and since Nokia has released the specifications of these cases for 3D printers you can expect some really cool cases coming out soon. On the back there is an 8-megapixel camera and on the sides you’ve got a volume up/down rocker, a power button and a camera button. Right at the bottom of the phone there is a Micro-USB charger port.
The Lumia 820 logically slots in below the Lumia 920 in the Nokia model range and features a lot of the same specs as its bigger brother. Both the 820 and 920 have a dual-core 1.5ghz processor, 1 gig of ram and support for almost every network including HSDPA, LTE and wifi. On the downside there is only 8 gigs of memory built in (you can expand with a Micro-SD card though), the screen is a much lower resolution and while both offer an 8 megapixel camera the Lumia 820 lacks the stabilisation technology of the Lumia 920. For me the benefit is trading from a 4.7 inch fairly heavy device to a 4.3 inch device that is lighter in your pocket and usable with one hand although some might be put off by the lower resolution on the Lumia 820 compared to the 920. The phone never lags or gives any impression of slowness and apps open immediately as well as multitask perfectly. Call quality is the usual Nokia excellent and the camera takes great quality snaps.
Here’s the tough part. Windows Phone 8 is a vastly different experience from both iOS and Android and it’s not for everyone. For the Windows user it’s a perfect choice (although there is Mac software for syncing content and contacts). There are a lot less apps on the Windows platform and important apps such as Instagram. Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype are all available so for me the only app I’d miss is Instagram. If you’re an Office 365, Skydrive and Exchange user Windows Phone 8 is a great choice for you. There are some bonus Nokia apps included such as Nokia Drive which gives you voice directions. I used the service to get from Joburg to Potchestroom and the phone got me there perfectly.
There’s no doubt the Lumia 820 isn’t as good as it’s stablemate the Lumia 920 but it does offer a lot of the best of the Lumia 920 without the high cost. You’ll get a device built to last with all the connections you’ll need in the short term. The Lumia 820 also offers flawless speed without the heft and size of the Lumia 920. I’d recommend a Micro-SD card to allow for some music and other media on the phone but otherwise it has everything you need in a mid-range Windows Phone 8 device.