Following on from my review of the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 in each of the review parts so far ('1' for each), and from my camera head to head with the older Lumia 930 and 1020, here's the second review part, common to both devices of course, since the camera units are identical, with just some back end processing differences that I note below. Summary? With just a few caveats, these are the best imaging smartphones to come out of the Nokia/Microsoft stable yet.
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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 product that can be recommended to more friends and colleagues, being more solid (no creaks), more manageable in the hand... and quite a bit cheaper. In fact, taking into account its unique selling points, I'd say that the Lumia 950 is the most bang per buck at this 'sweet spot' form factor in the smartphone 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.
The next generation of Windows Phone is here, in terms of software and hardware, in the shape of the Lumia 950 XL running Windows 10 Mobile. Now, we've covered the software side of things here ad infinitum on AAWP over the last year, thanks to the Insiders Programme - and almost everything here works identically to the Insiders preview builds on the likes of the Lumia 930. But there are some new tricks, everything's faster and - most of all - we have genuinely competitive hardware to run it all. Arguably for the first time in Windows Phone's history.
I've railed against freemium games which, quite frankly, take liberties with their players and their money, though - in fairness - there are also some good examples, freemium done right, as it were. And then you have traditional games like FoxOne Advanced Edition here, where for around $3 (£2) you get everything. And I mean every plane, every weapon, all unlocked through the time-honoured method of playing well. Making FoxOne Advanced Edition a cracking buy and a lot of fun, without any in-app-purchase worries or doubts.
In a crowded marketplace, it's always good to carve out a niche - and this is what Microsoft did in the wearables space with the original Band, reviewed here. The idea was to do a lot more than a humble 'fitness band', yet stop short of a full smartwatch. As a result, the Band could be a big aid to your life while keeping a multi-day battery life. It was clunky though - and now we have the Band 2, in theory more comfortable, more durable and better in every way. We're well away from 'prototype' territory this time round, and it remains the smartest thing you can hook up to a Windows Phone, in particular...
Sygic is an independent navigation product that's been around for the best part of a decade, existing in the margins while the big smartphone players like (first) Nokia, then Google, Apple and Microsoft, have made navigation an expected, free, part of every device in 2015. It's a tough market to be in and Sygic is doing its best to adapt. But on the evidence of this first 'universal' beta for Windows 10 Mobile, you'll have to really, really want some of the more niche features and be prepared to pay through the nose for the privilege.
The successor to the wildly popular Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO takes many of the same turn-by-time strategic moves in isometric 3D, and adds lashings of moveable scenery, monsters, and creepy atmosphere, all lovingly created with the same professional touches as in Hitman GO. I've been returning to this on journeys and other instances of downtime and it's just as addictive as its predecessor.
Fancy weaving from side to side and running over zombies? This is the zombie/driving hybrid game that everyone's been talking about. And it's on Windows Phone too. But is Route Z any good, how does the freemium pitch work, and what about the implementation on Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile? Here's my full review and verdict.
Getting the right 'moment' on camera has always been tricky, whether it's your kid's sports day or a birthday party. It's so easy to miss the moment, especially on camera-centric devices like the Lumia 1020, which is why shooting 1080p video and worrying about extracting the perfect 2MP 'still' later on is an attractive alternative. I've previously covered Vid2Pix, but that has some serious bugs that come back, erratically, to annoy. Instead, give Frame Grabber a try, it's potentially much faster and seems more stable in doing this most difficult of jobs - deconstructing MP4 video!
If there's one category of application that really shouldn't need to exist, it's music playback, since every computing platform includes this functionality out of the box. However, time spent with music, as well as ways of indexing and accessing it, is a very personal thing and there are a number of third party music player for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile, each attempting to add their own 'spin' (pun intended) on the genre. In this case, Loco Music Player, with a wide choice of themes and lightning fast track indexing.