Hands on with the Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia followed up the unveiling of its new Windows 8 phones on Wednesday with a demo session providing some hands-on time with the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. Getting up close and personal with these phones gave me the chance to see some of the advances Nokia touted during Wednesday’s press event.

The 920 itself is is slick, glossy, and eye catching in its new yellow, red, and grey colors. The body felt firm and solid in my hand, while the 920’s display looked sharp, bright, and colorful. The 4.5-inch curved display pops, thanks in large part to the 1280x768 pixel resolution and Nokia’s ClearBlack technology. (That’s the Nokia technology aimed at making screens more visible when you’re outdoors.)

Turning to the phone’s Windows 8 interface, I found the live tiles easy to move (as they were in Windows Phone 7) and easy to resize from small, medium, and large. Large-sized tiles display the most information about the app in question; for example, when I resized the email app to the large tile size, it showed the last email read.

The 920 reacts instantly to commands, operating smoothly and without any lag, thanks to its Snapdragon 4 processor. I can’t stress enough how amazing photos look on the 920’s display.

The demo area also gave Nokia the chance to show off some of the 920’s camera features, specifically its “floating-lens” technology for image stabilization. Side-by-side screens displayed video captured both with and without the image stabilization. The difference was remarkable: video captured using Nokia’s image stabilization technology was noticeably less jittery and shaky than the video taken without, giving the 920 an edge over rival smartphones on the camera front.

Accessories took a prominent role in the demo area, with most stations showing off a number of wireless charging options, including a colored oval flat plate, astanding ‘nightstand’ dock, and the Fatboy pillow. All of these charging options worked as soon as the handset was set down upon them, although finding the exact right spot occasionally took me a try or two. The highlight of the wireless charging demos was the JBL Power Up speaker system; it not only charges the handsets but also broadcasts music from the phone, and has a remarkable range. One Nokia rep told me she was able to place calls in her bathroom while the speaker system in her bedroom continued to stream music from her phone.

All the Nokia reps in the demo area were also wearing Nokia Purity Pro Stereo Headphones made by Monster. These headphones feature near-field communication (NFC) capabilities so that they can be paired to the new Lumia handsets.

All in all, the Lumia 920 looks lovely, performs smoothly, and has a deluge of features—especially if your smartphone doubles as a camera. While many of the physical aspects of the new phone were similar to the older Lumia models—save for that exceptional camera—it’s the software that really stands out. Camera features like the ability to add motion or delete people who’ve wandered into the shot along with the phone’s augmented reality-flavored City Lens option will likely set the Lumia apart from other Windows Phone handsets.

The predominant question about the Lumia 920 among people in the demo room seemed to be when they could get one. They’ll have to wait: Nokia hasn’t announced availability for pricing for the new models, though both the 920 and 820 will arrive in select markets later this year.

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