Slim, understated and -- dare we say -- a whole lot more Android-esque, the Lumia 925 doesn't look like any other Lumia. Were those vibrant colors not pulling in customers, or is Nokia simply trying a different tack?
The Lumia 925 feels a lot safer, design-wise, and, well, a little blander than what we've seen before.
The company has said that the phone is aimed for people that wanted something that stands out a little less, but we've got mixed feelings on the current grey / black / white palette, even if it does go well with the new metal look. In the grand scheme of contemporary smartphone design, the Lumia 925 feels a lot safer, design-wise, and, well, a little blander than what we've seen before. However, it's another well-made phone, and to be clear, we particularly like the finish on the matte white model.
There's an almost ceramic texture to the phone that improves the grip and also lends it more of a flagship feel. And about that feel: we mentioned in our Lumia 920 review that Nokia's first Windows Phone 8 device was a bit cumbersome, a bit too heavy. Well, this one isn't. The Lumia 925 has shed around a quarter of the weight of the 920 (139g versus 185g), but that has also required some sacrifices: the new model arrives with 16GB of storage (down from 32), and no built-in wireless charging. If you're looking for some contactless charging, you'll need to purchase a cover that adds that functionality.
While thinner (a "volumetric" 8.5mm vs. 10.7mm) than the Lumia 920, the 925 fits so much better, so much more comfortably, in our hands. It's not quite as thin as Nokia would like you to believe -- if you line up both phones and take into account the camera protrusion, the two are pretty close. But once you grip the 925, you'll understand it isn't at all clunky like its predecessors. The frame itself is fashioned out of lightly textured aluminum, with machined buttons in the typical Windows Phone places. The 925's camera button has a strongly discernible two-stage depression, so you'll know when you're focusing with a half-press or capturing a photo with a full depression.
All the ports (micro-USB and headphone) now belong on the top edge, as well as the micro-SIM tray. If we had any complaints about the phone's build, we'd argue it isn't quite as polished as the Lumia 920. We loved those micro-drilled holes for the speaker and mics, and the micro-USB port that sits just below the surface of the Lumia 925 lacks the black outline we've got on our yellow Lumia 920. The headphone socket, oddly, does get that treatment. Within the plastic backing panel, you'll find Nokia's most recent imaging pride and joy: its 8.7-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, arriving with what appears to be an identical dual-LED flash (no xenon here, sadly). The camera unit protrudes slightly, but the lens is fortunately slightly recessed within the plastic that surrounds it, offering some protection when resting on flat surfaces. There are some loudspeaker grille holes at the bottom, although the position does blast the sound into your hands if you're holding it in portrait mode. Above that is a trio of contacts for that optional contactless charging cover. The phone itself is sealed, so there's no access to either the 2,000mAh battery or any slot for microSD expansion.
Melded into the aluminum frame is Nokia's new antenna system. The primary one resides in the bottom of the phone, with two more antennas in the top edge. Those black stripes then separate these antennas from the rest of the aluminum body -- Nokia says it's ensured that the antenna "maximizes use of radio bands," whether on GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900), WCDMA (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100) or LTE (Bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20) -- check out our performance section to see how it fared.
With the Lumia 925's 4.5-inch AMOLED WXGA (1,280 x 768) display, we're offered something to compare against the existing Lumia 920, a phone that went for an IPS LCD over OLED. You've probably already heard our complaints about OLED, with the primary one being that bluish tint affecting whites and other shades -- and its something that still pervades this phone's display when viewing it at off angles. However, Nokia's attempted to amend this by adding a "Lumia Color Profile" option. We had ours largely set on enhanced colors and neutral white balance. You might recall a similar choice on Samsung smartphones using AMOLED from the Galaxy SII and onwards, but there's not just a handful of profiles here -- Nokia leaves the settings in your hands to adjust. Also nestled within the same settings option is the familiar high-sensitivity touch option that lets you use gloves or tap on the screen with your nails.
We prefer the AMOLED option over IPS LCD, in part because the black frame surrounding your Windows Phone home screen is nearly indistinguishable from the bezel
We prefer the AMOLED option over IPS LCD, in part because the black frame surrounding your Windows Phone home screen is nearly indistinguishable from the bezel, at least head-on. Better still, AMOLED's "black" pixels don't require any energy, meaning there's likely to be a minor battery-saving benefit for anyone who goes for the black Windows Phone customization over the white one. Viewing angles are great, and at wider angles, the screen brightness diminishes less on the 925's OLED compared to the IPS screen of the 920.
Nokia's coined the phrase PureMotion HD+ to describe its high-response screen and in practice, it means a display that doesn't blur much as you're scrolling through sites. For outdoors, there's a ClearBlack layer to aid readability, plus a high-brightness mode when you're desperate to browse the web outside. In another effort to slim down, the phone's Gorilla Glass 2 screen has shrunk to a 2.25D curvature (compared to the 2.5D curve on the Lumia 920). This lesser angle means not as much glass is used, which helps the phone shed mass in the form of both grams and millimeters. Even so, there's still more than enough curve to make swiping the screen a comfortable experience.
The hardware has been left largely unchanged since the Lumia 920, with an 8.7-megapixel sensor, ISO up to 800 and 1080p capture at 30 fps, all through an f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lens. Within that lens, there's been some improvements, however, although nothing quite as progressive (or impressive) as optical image stabilization or lossless zoom. Alongside noise-compression algorithms and software-based tweaks, Nokia's added a sixth glass element to the five-lens Carl Zeiss setup seen on the rest of the Lumia 920 series. We've been promised that this would improve the sharpness of images -- something we did indeed notice during our five days of shooting.