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5 Reasons To Buy The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Forbes logo Forbes 19-10-2015 Jay McGregor, Contributor
The Lumia 950 and 950XL. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg© Provided by Forbes The Lumia 950 and 950XL. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. There’s not supposed to be a high-end Windows smartphone that looks awesome and has a specification list to drool over.

Time will tell if a smartphone running Windows 10 can squeeze a toe into the Android/iOS market domination. What’s clear today, however, is that Microsoft is giving it a genuine go, with clear features designed to lure rivals over, some of which might just do the trick.

If you’re not familiar with my buying guides, then don’t forget to check out my Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, Xperia Z5, iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge+, Moto X Pure and OnePlus 2.

Continuum

This is Microsoft’s ace up its sleeve. The Redmond based company has long been evolving its Lumia and Surface ranges into the go-to devices for productivity enthusiasts, with purchases of Accompli and Wunderlist. Continuum brings all of it together by making your experience from mobile to desktop as similar as possible. At least, that’s the idea.

I’m sure there’s more to be seen from Continuum (like Snap view) but the core concept is brilliant. Once you plug in the display, keyboard and mouse, you’re essentially mimicking the desktop experience: it’s not a mirrored image of your mobile display, but something that looks and acts like Windows 10 desktop via your mobile. Apps like Outlook operate the same as they do on desktop because they are, essentially, the same app: but simply resized and re-skinned, depending on how you’re viewing them.

This is Continuum’s main sell to users and developers. With apps being the same across all platforms, you’re never without the tools you need to work, and your mobile has access to the wealth of apps available on PC. Of course, the amount of apps that work across mobile and desktop are limited at the moment, but that could dramatically change in the near future, if all developers are as excited as the one’s I’ve spoken to are.

Liquid Cooling

Microsoft’s introduction of liquid cooling to its Lumia range is sure to reignite the Snapdragon 810 chipset’s overheating rumours. But, in reality, it’s more to do with Continuum and what the Lumia 950 Xl is capable of.

As discussed above, running Windows 10 means that users can run (some) desktop applications on the 950 XL – even connecting it to a display and mouse for the full desktop experience. Using your smartphone like a desktop PC is super-taxing on its components and will generate a lot of heat: enter liquid cooling. To briefly explain, liquid cooling involves water moving around a device to cool particular components when the pressure is on. That should mean a smooth running device capable of handling intense tasks with little complaint.

Camera

The Lumia range has a long history of top-quality smartphone photography. And it looks as if the 950 XL will be carrying on that tradition. The proof of the camera’s prowess will be revealed in my upcoming review, but early signs are promising. Mainly the 20MP Pure View rear camera, optical image stabilization, f/1.9 aperture, fast focussing (making the 950 XL good at capturing fast moving images without blurring) and a zoom that reduces image quality loss. Add to that a dedicated camera button, that snaps a shot or shoots a video as soon as it’s pressed, and you have a very capable piece of kit.

Storage

Both the Lumia 950 and 950 XL come with 32GB of onboard storage, which is the only storage option available. But that’s not where the story ends: storage capacity is expandable to 2TB via a microSD slot. The largest capacity microSD card available today is 512GB, meaning your Lumia 950 XL will be comfortably future-proofed.

Display and battery

The power-sucking quad-HD AMOLED display of the Lumia 950 XL – which has a pixel density of 518ppi – is backed up by a large 3340mAh battery. The best bit? The battery is removable. Whilst the necessity of a removable battery is up for debate, if there’s any demographic that might need it, it’s the business community that Microsoft is surely aiming the 950 at. Wireless charging completes the holy smartphone trifecta.

Cons

It’s early days for Windows 10 mobile. As such, there’s still a huge gap in decent available apps – so don’t expect to see every app you can get on Android or iOS. Also, be aware of the malware masquerading as the official apps roaming the Windows app store. Whilst Microsoft seems to have nailed the experience for its homegrown apps, there’s still work to do on the overall store.

Summing up

Should you buy the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL? It retails for the same price as the iPhone 6S 16Gb model, but offers a totally different experience. Microsoft knows what it does best: productivity, innovation and Windows, all of which the Lumia 950 XL encapsulates perfectly. If you’re prepared to forgo the ease and availability of the best and latest apps for a high-spec phone that can mimic your home PC, it’s for you. This is, however, a big ask. It could be a long-while before the app store gets the reboot it desperately needs. 

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