It's also worth noting that I'm not including value for money here - not that this is especially irrelevant since there aren't any really high priced Windows Phones right now - even the Lumia 1520 is a modest draw on the wallet. The table below, and this article, is all about looking at the compromises, pros and cons that help decide which is the all-round best Windows Phone.
On the desk in front of me, I have the Lumia 1020 (which needs little introduction in these parts), 1520 (review) and 830 (review), which is a pretty good start. Add to these the Lumia 930, which I've reviewed in depth here, and the HTC One M8 for Windows, which I reviewed in its Android form, so I'm pretty confident of what to expect, as and when it actually arrives in Europe. Plus, being charitable, given it's only available in one place in the world, the newish Samsung ATIV SE, for which I'll have to go both specs and my experience with my day to day Android phone, the Galaxy S4, which is a sister device in many ways. We've got ourselves an interesting ball game.
My approach here - and at this point I have to apologise to anyone viewing this feature ON a Windows Phone - is unashamedly table-based, something which is handled very poorly in the combination of AAWP and Internet Explorer on a phone. Instead, anyone doing such a thing should switch over to a laptop, tablet or even a large screened Android phone, in order to see the whole table. Sorry about that, but hopefully the result is worth it. If you really must view the table on your phone right now, tap here!
In a tweak of my usual comparisons in tabular form. I've marked devices in each aspect with 'red' for especially poor and 'green' for especially good, to get a visual sense for how they're doing. And no arguments on my ratings, please - they're unashamedly subjective!
|Devices:||Samsung ATIV SE||Lumia 1020||Lumia 1520||Lumia 930||Lumia 830||HTC One M8|
|Announced||April 2014||July 2013||October 2013||April 2014||September 2014||August 2014|
|Current price, SIM-free||VERY limited availability, $600||circa £300 (shop around!)||circa £400 (shop around)||£375||£280||Limited availability, $699|
|Screen size, tech||5" AMOLED, 1080p pentile||4.5" AMOLED, 768p pentile||6" LCD, 1080p RGB||5" AMOLED, 1080p pentile||5" LCD, 720p RGB||5" LCD, 1080p RGB|
|Glance screen||No||Yes, full||Yes, with backlight low||No||Yes, with backlight low||No, though DotView case adds some features|
|Materials||All plastic||All plastic||All plastic||Aluminium and plastic||Aluminium and plastic||Aluminium unibody|
|Processor, speed, RAM||Snapdragon 800, 2.3GHz, 2GB RAM||Snapdragon S4, 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM||Snapdragon 800, 2.2GHz, 2GB RAM||Snapdragon 800, 2.2GHz, 2GB RAM||Snapdragon 400, 1.2GHz, 1GB RAM||Snapdragon 801, 2.3GHz, 2GB RAM|
|Storage||16GB, plus microSD||32 or 64GB||32GB plus microSD||32GB||16GB plus microSD||32GB, plus microSD|
|Stills camera||13MP, 1/3"||41MP, 1/1.5" oversampling sensor, OIS, Xenon flash||20MP, 1/2.5" oversampling sensor, OIS
||20MP, 1/2.5" oversampling sensor, OIS||10MP, 1/3.4", OIS||4MP, 1/3"|
|Video camera||1080p||1080p, stereo Rich Recording, OIS||1080p, stereo Rich Recording, 4K with Lumia Denim imminently, OIS||1080p, stereo Rich Recording, 4K with Lumia Denim imminently, OIS||1080p, stereo Rich Recording, OIS||1080p, stereo recording|
|Charging options||microUSB||microUSB||microUSB or Qi||microUSB or Qi||microUSB or Qi||microUSB|
|Battery capacity, life||2600 mAh, removeable||2000mAh, sealed||3400mAh, sealed||2420mAh, sealed||2200mAh, removeable||2600mAh, sealed|
|Speaker||Back, moderate volume, moderate quality||Bottom, loud, high quality||Back, loud, high quality||Back, loud, high quality||Back, loud, moderate quality||Twin stereo, loud, front-mounted, high-fidelity|
|Advanced comms||Dual band 4G||Pentaband 4G, NFC||Up to hexaband 4G, NFC||Pentaband 4G, NFC
||Pentaband 4G, NFC||Up to septaband 4G, NFC|
As a rough metric - and I mean very rough(!) - counting green as +1 and red as -1 gives us a marginal win for the Lumia 1520, with +5. And, unbelievably, the exact same score (+3) for all the other smartphones apart from the elusive ATIV SE (on 0). The overall equality shows visually why I've been having such a hard time in my head trying to work out a 'winner'. Yes, the 1520 looks to be the standout, but you can't recommend such a huge 'phablet' to all your friends and family.
The Lumia 1020, 830, 930 and HTC One M8 all come out equal second then, but you can probably discount the latter as being unavailable yet for most people across the world. Of the three Lumias, the 830 possibly has to be dropped first because of the lower RAM - despite Windows Phone's efficiencies, with Windows 10 incoming, I can see RAM being critical to really smooth running. Leaving the 1020 and 930, of which the nod has to be given to the 930 because of the faster and newer chipset, plus higher resolution screen. It's true that there's no Glance screen, but that's the only big black spot for this device.
In order then, of the handsets considered, it all resolves down to:
- Nokia Lumia 1520
- Nokia Lumia 930
- Nokia Lumia 1020
- Nokia Lumia 830
- HTC One M8 for Windows
- Samsung ATIV SE
Which, depending on your point of view, may or may not be controversial! Discounting the phablet-sized 1520, you could even say the winner is the more normal-sized 930:
It's absolutely true that I've been prejudiced against the Lumia 930 because of the lack of 'Glance' (always on clock, etc.), but if we lay that aside then the 930 comes through (just) to be the Windows Phone that you'd recommend to people in your life.
Of course, the real story of Windows Phone is not about which is 'best', but which is best value, with devices like the 520, 530 and 630 (and maybe 735) eating up the sales charts. Which leads me into a follow-up article, looking at which Windows Phone is best value in the 'other' half of the product ranges. I'll bring this to you shortly!