At a glance you'd be hard-pressed to tell the two handsets apart. The only telltale sign that you're using AT&T's version is the company's silver globe logo to the left of the earpiece up front, which is normally blank glass. That's the only change when it comes to appearance -- the rest of the device is completely identical, with the same machined polycarbonate unibody and superb build quality we mentioned in our original review.
You'll also find the same beautiful 4.5-inch 1280x768-pixel PureMotion HD+ display covered in Gorilla Glass, optically image-stabilized 8.7-megapixel autofocus camera (with BSI sensor, 26mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lens and dual-LED flash) in back, and speedy 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor (plus 1GB RAM) on board. Under the hood, AT&T's Lumia 920 swaps the global model's pentaband LTE radio for a carrier-sanctioned tri-band (700 / 1700 / 2100MHz) unit.
In terms of performance we're seeing almost the exact same benchmark results as other Windows Phone 8 handsets (see table below). WPBench's CPU-intensive battery rundown test shows a slight decrease in battery life between AT&T Lumia 920 (on LTE) and its global sibling (on HSPA+), something we also observed with HTC's 8X for AT&T. In our network tests we recorded average speeds of about 12 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up (with about 70 percent signal), which is slightly better than usual for AT&T near Potrero Hill in San Francisco.
While Windows Phone 8 is not meant to be customized by manufacturers and carriers, it leaves room for pre-installed apps and settings. Nokia provides the same critically acclaimed apps on AT&T's Lumia 920 as on the global version: Nokia City Lens, Nokia Drive+ Beta, Nokia Maps and Nokia Music, plus a bunch of extra settings (Dolby Headphone, equalizer, touch sensitivity and a way to log in to your Nokia account and give the company feedback). Optional camera Lenses include Panorama, Smart Shoot (similar to Scalado Rewind) and Cinemagraph (a clever animated GIF maker). AT&T bundles its usual set of apps: AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, AT&T U-verse Live TV, myAT&T and YPmobile. You'll also find ESPN pre-loaded on the phone. Thankfully, all these applications can be uninstalled.
So, if you live in the US, is AT&T's Lumia 920 a better purchase than the unsubsidized and unlocked global model? Yes, absolutely. Other than the annoying carrier logo, you're getting the exact same handset and gaining AT&T-compatible LTE bands. Better yet: at $450, the off-contract price is significantly lower than the £445 ($710) cost of importing the global Lumia 920. AT&T's Lumia 920 also offers better on-contract value than HTC's 8X for AT&T -- $100 with a two-year commitment buys you 32GB of built-in storage and a choice of 5 hues vs. the competition's measly 8GB and two color options. If you absolutely need a more compact and more elegant Windows Phone 8 flagship, HTC's 8X for AT&T with 16GB of built-in flash is $200 on contract but only comes in blue.
While there are cheaper Windows Phone 8 contenders on the way to AT&T, including Nokia's Lumia 820 and HTC's 8S, the only $100 on-contract alternative to Nokia's unique Lumia 920 is HTC's remarkable One X Android superphone. So the real question becomes: Windows Phone 8 or Android?