Product Reviews Windows

Microsoft Lumia 950 Review

Christian Cawley 04-03-2016

This could be Microsoft’s final flagship phone. With many declaring Windows 10 Mobile dead on arrival, pre-installed on a collection of smartphones that don’t seem to be worth the money, just what is the point of the Lumia 950?


From Windows Mobile and Back Again

I acquired my first Windows Mobile device in 2003, and stuck with the platform through to 2013 Why I Quit Windows Phone And Switched To Android In 2010 I bought my first Windows Phone device, beginning a love affair with the slick user interface and writing endless posts and user guides, generally evangelising the platform. So why have I switched to... Read More , save a brief dalliance with the infant Android in 2007. In particular, I’ve been a fan of the Windows Phone era, the tiles, the erstwhile “Metro” design language and the speed of the operating system.

But Windows 10 Mobile represents a bit of a change. It isn’t just a mobile version of Windows 10 – it is Windows 10, shrunk down to be suited to a mobile device. This much can be seen with the Continuum feature, in which the Windows 10 Mobile device — once connected to a keyboard, mouse and a special Microsoft dock (or Miracast device) — becomes a Windows 10 computer Continuum: Switch Between Windows 10 Desktop & Tablet Mode Windows 10 recognizes your hardware and instantly chooses the best display mode. When you connect your Windows 10 Mobile to a larger screen, you'll get a PC-like experience. That's the smoothness of Continuum. Read More .

The idea of having a full PC in your pocket is a nice one, but is it really where the industry is going? And does it have any genuine bearing on your interest in the Lumia 950?

First Impressions of the Lumia 950

As a Windows Phone adherent over the years, I’ve had a fair few devices, and quite a few Lumias. The 800, 820, 620, 640 and 920 have all passed through my hands; I retain a Lumia 930 as a spare phone and occasional digital video device. So I know what to expect from a top end Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile device.



Upon unpacking the Lumia 950, I discovered that the handset was a little lighter than my Sony Xperia Z5 Sony Xperia Z5 Review You're looking for a new phone. Something reasonably powerful, big screen, great sound. A handset to blow your iPhone loving friends out of the water. The Sony Xperia Z5 might just be it. Read More . The reason? It’s got a plastic back cover. No unibody build in sight here, I’m afraid. But, we can look on the bright side. The phone is built for longevity if we consider that a new battery can be installed, and the ease with which the nano SIM and microSD cards 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a MicroSD Card Buying MicroSD cards may seem simple, but here are a few critical mistakes to avoid if you don't want to regret your purchase. Read More can be inserted is refreshing in this age of secret trapdoors on the side of phones.

As for the operating system, things have evolved somewhat, but aesthetically I don’t feel this is for the better.



While tiles can still be resized and repositioned based on your preference, the Start screen seems a whole lot busier than it ever did before. This may be due to the tightness of the tiles, which seem as though they are placed a little closer than on earlier versions.

However, there are plus points. The addition of a file manager, for instance, and the ability to reveal the nav bar (where the Back, Start and Search buttons can be found) simply by swiping up, are good.

And the 20 MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics and PureView image processing software is a massive advantage over many other phones.

What Do You Get with the Microsoft Lumia 950?

Occupying a physical space of 5.71 x 2.88 x 0.32 inches (145 x 73.2 x 8.2 mm) and weighing 5.29 oz (150 g), the plastic-bodied Lumia 950 (available in black or white) has a 5.2 inch AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 pixels and a density of 565 ppi. Touchscreen is Corning Gorilla Glass 3’s scratch resistant glass, and the front of the phone also offers a light sensor and a proximity sensor. There’s also a 5 MP camera.


Inside is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 MSM8992, with a 64-bit Hexa-core, 1800 MHz, ARM Cortex-A57 CPU, with an Adreno 418 GPU. 3 GB RAM system memory is complemented with 32 GB of built in storage, and support for microSD cards up to 200 GB. The microSD card slot is beneath the removable back cover, along with the nano SIM and removable battery.


The 3,000 mAh battery offers 23 hours talk time, with 12 days’ standby time and 18 hours talk time on 3G networks. Wireless charging is built in, and works with any Qi compatible pad. Note that the phone uses a USB 3.1 Type-C connector for charging.

Usual connectivity options can be found on the Microsoft Lumia 950, with Bluetooth 4.1 and dual band Wi-Fi. Wired and wireless tethering/hotspot are included, along with NFC, Miracast and cable and wireless syncing. Mobile Internet is available via 3G, LTE and EDGE.



On the back is the 20-megapixel camera, with its Tricolor LED flash. Focal length is 26mm, and aperture is F/1.9, and the software offers optical image stabilization, face detection, digital zoom, self-timer, autofocus, geo-tagging, and back-illuminated sensor (BSI). Exposure compensation, ISO control, and white balance presets are also included. Camcorder mode features optical image stabilization, continuous autofocus and video light, along with video calling and sharing.

Windows 10 Mobile: A Usable Operating System?

Afyer a month’s use, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something a little unsatisfactory about Windows 10 Mobile. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that somewhere in this phone there is an actual Windows 10 PC screaming to be hooked up and used like a desktop… or perhaps it’s just the fact that compared to Windows Phone 8.1 and its predecessors, Windows 10 Mobile is just a little bit… dull. It’s also slow in places, but this is nothing to do with the phone — rather this occurs whenever the device phones home. Whether you’re connecting to OneDrive, or Xbox Live, or the Windows Store, everything slows down to the point that you’re left hanging, even on the fastest wireless connections.


As I type this, I have the Lumia 950 test device alongside my Lumia 930. The test device is lighter, slimmer, has a better spec and slightly improved camera. It is, to all intents and purposes, a superior device. But Windows 10 Mobile is perhaps the dullest smartphone OS I’ve come across.

Quick rewind: I was there at the beginning for Windows Phone, back when it was little more than a jumped up feature phone. I stuck with it, I loved Windows Phone 8 Windows Phone 8: The Complete Review Question: how do you improve on perfection? Answer: you wait for someone else to have a go. A quick look around the smartphone market reveals that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems are top... Read More , and although I relegated my WP devices to secondary status when it became clear that Microsoft didn’t love the platform as much as the users, I’ve continued to root for it.

I’m not sure I really know what Windows 10 Mobile is, but despite the strong user interface similarities, it just doesn’t feel as fun as Windows Phone 8.1. Something is missing, and I’m not sure what it is.

The Achilles Heel: Apps and Games

It’s clear that one benefit of Microsoft’s merging of its desktop, gaming and mobile operating systems is that it should be easier for app developers to target all three platforms. The woes of Windows Phone in attracting app developers have been analyzed over and over, but boil down to a single truth: app and game developers don’t seem that able to easily transfer their efforts from iOS and Android to Windows Phone.

So is Windows Mobile 10 any better?

Well, at the moment, no. This is not a platform that has any major launch titles, for instance, and nor does it really offer any hugely impressive features beyond Cortana Cortana Talks Back: Laugh, Cry & Love With Windows Phone's Digital Assistant Bored with no one to talk to? Why not strike up a conversation with your Windows Phone? These cues will make Cortana talk. Read More , Continuum and Hello Windows (which uses facial recognition to unlock your device).


Sure, there are games out there, good titles too, many of which with Xbox Live integration How Xbox Live Users Can Benefit From A Windows Phone If you’re a fan of mobile gaming and also own an Xbox 360 console, you might well be aware of Xbox Live, Microsoft’s digital delivery service that also supports multiplayer and most importantly allows you... Read More . Some useful apps come pre-installed, meanwhile, and there’s always a big name flirting with Windows Phone/Mobile (for instance, Slack are currently offering a very good app for the platform).

In my opinion, the “app issue” has been largely blown out of proportion. While it is clear that iOS and Android developers are avoiding Windows mobile devices, plenty of platform-only alternatives have been released over the years. The real app issue with Windows 10 Mobile’s app store is the presence of “crapps” — apps that offer very little other than a wrapped up web page, for instance, or games full of adverts.

How’s the Camera?

As smartphone cameras go, the flagship Lumias have been blessed with Carl Zeiss lenses and PureView software since the Nokia days, meaning that what you have with the Lumia 950 is a good quality, sharp camera. Here’s a comparison with its predecessor, the Nokia Lumia 930 (on the left):


However, while the camera UI has improved, the white balance and auto-focus problems remain. Put simply, the software ignores manual white balance and focus settings, with the result of sudden changes in color temperature and unexpected drops in focus. If these settings were on automatic, you might expect it, but for manual settings to be overridden by automatic ones is just frustrating.

This is a shame, as the quality is otherwise good, as you would expect from a Windows Phone with such a good quality stills and video camera You Won't Believe These 5 Videos Were Filmed On A Windows Phone Who in their right mind would make a movie with a smartphone? Talented filmmakers maybe? The following movies have been recorded on Windows Phone devices. Read More .

A Solid, Usable Phone with an App Problem

All in all, the Lumia 950 is a solid successor to the line. The plastic case makes it lighter than its predecessor (the 930) and while this may not be hugely attractive as a design choice, it does at least offer the possibility of customizing the phone with alternative removable battery covers. Windows 10 Mobile may feel slightly less accessible than Windows Phone 8.1, but it does have the benefit of Continuum, which puts a PC in your pocket.

Apps are a problem full stop, but there is a strong chance that the unification of Microsoft’s consumer platforms could put an end to this. The worry is that the Lumia brand might have had its plug pulled by the time that happens, possibly replaced with a Surface phone.

Microsoft Lumia 950 RM-1104 5.2" 20mp 3gb Ram 32gb 4g Smartphone International Version No Warranty (white) Microsoft Lumia 950 RM-1104 5.2" 20mp 3gb Ram 32gb 4g Smartphone International Version No Warranty (white) Buy Now On Amazon

Our verdict of the Microsoft Lumia 950:
Overall, the Microsoft Lumia 950 is a solid piece of hardware, with a friendly and, efficient Windows 10-style user interface. But ultimately, like a PC, it’s designed for office productivity first, fun later.
7 10

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

Related topics: MakeUseOf Giveaway, Windows Phone.

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  1. Behih Abbas
    December 21, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    I'd love to use one of your phones for the first time

  2. Jayanth
    March 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I'm in for the Win! Here I come, my 950! :)

  3. Anonymous
    March 21, 2016 at 6:53 am

    When u guys will announce the winner....its not so cool waiting!!

  4. Anonymous
    March 19, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    I hope win.. I want new phone, now have 5 years old Sony Ericsson Xperia X8

  5. Milica Mitrovic
    March 19, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    i use old Symbian phone.. i would be over the moon to win!

  6. Diane
    March 18, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Fingers crossed. I need a smart phone because college -.- and this is Lumia <3

  7. John Pena
    March 18, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    I have the 640XL and would love to upgrade.

  8. shalhavi Rami
    March 17, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    can i have it pleasssssseeeeeeeeee???
    it will change my life those IOS android phones are soon 2014

  9. Maki
    March 17, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    I want this phone :)

  10. wendy malone
    March 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    very nice. fingers crossed.

  11. Navin Elias
    March 17, 2016 at 5:26 am

    I have been avid follower of the windows line of smartphones... My first windows phone was Samsung Omnia W. Later shifted to lumia 520, Lumia 535 and presentlying using Lumia 640 XL. (I had ensured that I purchased all the windows phone on the second day after it hit the market)..

    Due to the application scenario I never wanted to invest to get a flagship windows phone(Another major factor was the pricing)...

    Let's see if the universe decides to refund all the money I have invested in the windows phone by rewarding me with FREE FLAGSHIP phone :D

  12. Marla
    March 17, 2016 at 4:26 am

    yes please

  13. Sufiyan
    March 16, 2016 at 5:50 am

    Love this phone!

  14. Miroslava Bogdanovi?
    March 15, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I hope the prize.
    Good luck to all

  15. Ibnu Akbar An Nuha
    March 15, 2016 at 11:20 am

    52 entries YAY!!!!

  16. Edmond
    March 14, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    . Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :)

  17. arun deo
    March 14, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    love it to win it :)

  18. Anonymous
    March 13, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Love this phone! Can't wait to win :)

  19. Anonymous
    March 12, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    27 in total...i want to win this,win this, win this

  20. WW
    March 11, 2016 at 5:44 am

    Give it to me!

  21. Thiru
    March 10, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Hi MakeUseof, There are many who might want this phone!

    But I absolutely am a mad fan of Lumia phones and would really treasure the 950 because currently I dont have the money to buy it!

    Hope I win this phone, Thanks! :-)

  22. Jitin
    March 10, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Man last three months i was entering diffrent sites for diffrent givaway (nexus 5x, 6p, s7, iphone6s) no hope my best hope is here hope i will win.

  23. Catalin Mihai Banica
    March 9, 2016 at 8:23 am

    love the product

  24. Anonymous
    March 9, 2016 at 3:20 am

    got 21 and 10 days left me winner this time

  25. Peter La Monica
    March 8, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I have had a 950 since day one, my Yazz Billy was making me crazy. I don't agree with the lackluster opinion but that his opinion. I am surprised that the things it doesn't do aren't mentioned. Mostly revolving around Cortana, there are things that still don't work, thou they are fewer and fewer with every update.

    Text tone plays the default tone not the tone selected for that person, ring tones seem to work fine and no one seems to know why. Cortana doesn't let me talk to my band (v-one) anymore and just started last week Cortana reads text messages on an average of every 10th message even though the settings says read every message aloud.

    Don't get me wrong, I would not trade my 950 for anything, the plus stuff is just great, the PC on a phone thing, the camera, windows 10 is much better and easier, though why the Cortana's 'read text messages aloud' settings are in 'Cortana-notebook-settings' section I will never understand.

  26. Anonymous
    March 8, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    just got 19 entries i can't wait to see if i can win without getting any referral entries...because none of my friends will believe on giveaways till anyone wins one.

  27. Mario
    March 8, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    why is there no windows phone makeuseof app?

  28. T Orekoya
    March 8, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Nice phone. Screen contrast one of the best. Had one of the earlier (smaller) Lumias once. Loved having it... Would like another

  29. Rob Eyles
    March 8, 2016 at 10:33 am

    This could help me leave the BB10 world for ever :)

  30. aleks khaos
    March 8, 2016 at 8:14 am

    since win 10 they done a great job by adding lots o apps

  31. Prabhath
    March 8, 2016 at 6:22 am

    count me in too....

  32. Alfred C
    March 8, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Good Luck all. :)

  33. David Sherrets
    March 8, 2016 at 4:31 am


  34. Anonymous
    March 8, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Good Luck to Everyone! But I think this has my name on it!

  35. Ron S
    March 7, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    I had a Win phone, it died immediately. boo.

    Maybe a new one would make me happy ...

  36. Radu Simionoff
    March 7, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    This is absolutely wrong - nothing from Microsoft's statements makes us believe that Windows 10 Mobile si dead! I do not see how Lumia 950 could be the final Microsoft flagship.
    Also, considering what MS has done lately - Continuum, Cortana, Universal Apps - I would say that, by the contrary, Windows 10 Mobile is in the very center of the Microsoft ecosystem.
    Lumia 950 is a great device, you have powerful features that you cannot find on any other phone (except for Lumia 950 XL, of course).
    I agree that perhaps this is not a device for children, but this is the perfect phone for business people, for grown ups that need an advanced piece of machinery that integrates perfectly with laptops and tablets on Windows 10.

  37. Anonymous
    March 7, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I have been always passionate about windows phone. Actually my first smartphone was a windows phone(Lumia 620). Presently i am using another phone with another OS. But still i like to read and know more about windows phone/Mobile.i was comfortable with lumia 620 the same way i am using an android phone now. I am not like a fanboy who only criticize other OS without any reason. Android is a great OS but I feel something special about windows devices. It may be because i am comfortable with Microsoft products.i use a lot of Microsoft products. What ever the reason it may be my next smartphone will be a Microsoft phone. I just dont care about share stats.

  38. Anonymous
    March 6, 2016 at 9:07 pm


  39. Anonymous
    March 6, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    nice to get one :)

  40. Krzysztof Krasuski
    March 5, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Good luck to everyone!

  41. Tetyana
    March 5, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I woooooould like win it!!!

  42. Yacine
    March 5, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    GL !

  43. anantsaga
    March 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    after watching superb review ....want to win this lumia 950

  44. anantsaga
    March 5, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    wish to win

  45. Rakib
    March 5, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    i would like win, but good luck to all

  46. adrian
    March 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    gl :D

  47. jonathon hudelson
    March 5, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I am trying to figure out how I can enter m6y name so can win this sweepstakes which is all I do is enter sweepstakes? Does any one no how I can enter, because you can not win if you do not enter to win
    . I am disabled, and love winning sweepstakes of all kinds. I would love to win, but have no idea how to enter?

  48. Paul Girardelli
    March 5, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Me please . . pretty pretty please.

  49. olut
    March 5, 2016 at 9:52 am


  50. maki
    March 5, 2016 at 9:18 am

    i hope win :)

  51. Anonymous
    March 5, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Me please.

  52. RickM
    March 5, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Windows Phone 10 looks amazing! I'd loved to win a Microsoft 950.

  53. Anonymous
    March 5, 2016 at 7:06 am

    I hope to win! But good luck to all.

  54. Anonymous
    March 4, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Harry Potter fan indeed, bringing us light in these dark times :D maybe my patronus could be Lumia 950 (Expecto Patronum...)

  55. Rachel Heap
    March 4, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Love to win thank you

  56. Hustler
    March 4, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Dreams are valid....Good luck you you all.

  57. Hustler
    March 4, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Luck is all i wish you all in winning this amazing Phone.

  58. Andres
    March 4, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Good luck to all, but hopefully I will win it :)

  59. Veder
    March 4, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Wishing everyone good luck! Great giveaway as usual MUO!!

  60. Anonymous
    March 4, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Nothing is impossible. Just wish for the best!! Good luck everyone!!