Microsoft lumia 950xl

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review

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A year ago, I gave up on Windows Phone. Frustrated by a lack of quality apps, poor hardware offerings, and a feeling of missing out, I bought an iPhone like millions of others. I haven’t regretted switching away from Windows Phone at all.

But I have been waiting for a true flagship Windows phone to come along and tempt me back. Microsoft’s Lumia 950 XL is supposed to be that phone: it’s the latest and greatest hardware, powered by the new Windows 10 Mobile operating system. Like many other Android and iPhone handsets, it has a fast processor, high-resolution display, and impressive camera. Those are table stakes for any modern, high-end smartphone, but what makes the 950 XL (and its smaller sibling, the Lumia 950) unique is its software.

Windows Phone first debuted five years ago, and it has been a constant waiting game for basic features and apps to appear. Windows 10 Mobile is Microsoft’s latest attempt to reinvent its mobile efforts. The Lumia 950 XL should be designed to make people ditch their iPhones, but most, including myself, won’t.

There’s no easy way to say this, but like the smaller Lumia 950, the Lumia 950 XL design is simply boring. It’s uninspired, plasticky, and looks like any other low-end Lumia that Microsoft has been churning out over the past year. If you’re someone that believes Windows Phone is dead, this is the casket you’d bury it in. It looks like a developer device, and feels like whatever talent was left at Microsoft from Nokia just gave up on designing anything pretty.

If you’re someone that believes Windows Phone is dead, this is the casket you’d bury it in

This isn’t the design a $650 smartphone that is supposed to relaunch a software giant’s mobile offering should have. It’s just bland. It doesn’t tempt me to ditch my iPhone, but the basic design has some positives. The only positive here is that it's lighter than Nokia's older polycarbonate designs.

Underneath the dull exterior, Microsoft has included some good specs. Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 810 processor powers the 950 XL, alongside plenty of RAM (3GB) and enough storage (32GB). It even has a big battery (3,300mAh) that can be swapped thanks to a removable cover, charged quickly with a USB Type-C cable, or charged wirelessly. The 5.7-inch display looks great thanks to its Quad HD resolution, and it has good viewing angles.

The real star of Microsoft’s mobile show has always been its Lumia cameras. The Lumia 950 XL doesn’t disappoint here, but it’s not perfect. I’ve taken some great photos with it, but I’ve also taken some really bad ones. Microsoft still hasn’t perfected the software algorithms to comfortably take a photo with automatic processing to the point where I trust I can point and shoot.

The Rich Capture mode is probably the most impressive part of the camera. I’ve used it a lot, and it’s a great way to get good low-light images. Unfortunately, if you have a moving subject, such as a person or pet, it produces a lot of blurry images. Still, between Rich Capture and the extensive controls Microsoft offers in the camera app, you can get some really great results if you’re willing to put the time and effort into setting it all up.

Rich Capture is an impressive Lumia camera feature

Most of us don’t use smartphone cameras like that, though. I usually snap a photo and instantly want to share it with a friend or on Twitter or Facebook. I just want my phone to take a good photo every single time. The Lumia 950 XL does that most of the time, but then occasionally it will just take a really bad one and disappoint me. Autofocus is still a little too slow for my liking, and Rich Capture images still take a while to process. I just wish that the automatic processing worked a little more reliably. The camera and its software is probably one of the only things that would tempt me back to Windows Phone, but it’s not enough on its own.

Along with the Lumia 950, the 950 XL is one of the first devices to run Windows 10, and it’s designed to show off the new features of Microsoft’s mobile operating system. Most apps have been overhauled since Windows Phone 8.1, but they’re all fairly familiar. Disappointingly, everything feels like a work in progress. I’ve run into weird bugs where I’ve had to reboot the device, and I can’t even add my Google Apps work calendar to the device because of a weird Windows 10 bug that messes up all of our meetings.

I’m also disappointed with the design direction for Windows 10 Mobile here. Hamburger menus and inconsistency across each built-in app makes it feels incoherent at times. Mixed with the fact it has felt buggy and unfinished through its testing period, the final result isn’t as impressive as I’d hoped for. The overall user experience feels like a weird mix of Android and Windows Phone instead of something wholly belonging to Microsoft. None of the uniqueness of Windows Phone remains apart from the Live Tiles. Everything else feels like it has been ripped apart and moved around, and that Microsoft is still tweaking and figuring out what to update next.

Windows 10 Mobile feels like a weird mix

Performance isn’t terrible across the OS, though. Most of the speed of Windows Phone remains, and the fact Windows 10 is running on the handset doesn’t appear to drain the battery. I’ve consistently got a solid day of battery life, although standby seems to strangely vary.

Aesthetics aside, Microsoft has done a good job of marrying Windows 10’s mobile equivalent to the desktop. Microsoft Edge acts as the browser, like the desktop, and there are mobile versions of Mail and Calendar that feel familiar. If you use Windows 10 on the desktop, then this is simply a smaller version as the apps adapted for the smaller screen size. It’s all part of Microsoft’s universal apps promise so you can run the same applications across phone, desktop, and Xbox One. We’re at the very early stages of this big promise, but it looks encouraging.

Windows 10 Mobile also offers two new tricks for the Lumia 950 XL: Windows Hello and Continuum. Like the desktop version of Windows 10, you can log into the 950 XL with just your face. A special camera at the front of the 950 XL will look for your eyes and log you in automatically. It sounds like the future, but I find it slightly irritating. Most of the time I have to bring the phone unnaturally to my face, which feels awkward and slow. After using Touch ID on the iPhone 6 for the past year, I would have preferred Microsoft added a good fingerprint reader.

Continuum is really the star of the show, however. It lets the phone transform into a low-powered PC, with a few catches. In addition to the phone, you’ll need Microsoft’s $99 Display Dock (or a Miracast adapter), a mouse and keyboard (Bluetooth or USB), and a monitor or TV. You plug the Lumia 950 XL into the dock or connect wirelessly, and the phone simply beams itself to the display. It looks very similar to a Windows 10 desktop PC, minus a few features like app snapping and full multitasking.

Microsoft designed this with universal apps in mind, but most of them don’t support Continuum yet. Microsoft’s own apps all work fine, but third-party ones need to be updated to support the feature, and the vast majority haven’t yet.

Continuum feels like a glimpse into the future, though. Every app developer is focusing their efforts on smartphones right now, not tablets or desktop PCs. If we arrive at a future where phones can be a single computing device, then Microsoft is well positioned to offer this. If Microsoft builds an Intel-powered phone with true desktop apps, Continuum could get very interesting. But that’s not where the 950 XL is at, and it’s little more than a parlor trick in its current state.

The app gap problem still exists

What’s not encouraging is the state of apps for the Lumia 950 XL. I wanted to switch back to using this as my daily device over the past two weeks, but I simply couldn’t hack it. It stayed in my pocket while I used my iPhone 6S Plus, simply because so many apps are still missing or inadequate on Windows Phone. I’ve been to a lot of events recently and need Periscope to stream from the Verge account, or to use Snapchat. I simply can’t do this with the Lumia 950 XL, and I can’t even access our Trello work app. If I can’t get my work done on the move, it’s really difficult to switch back to a Windows phone.

Microsoft’s original plan was to support Android apps on Windows 10 Mobile, but that seems very unlikely now. Most of the third-party apps are just poor ports from iOS and Android, and lack key new features. The Twitter and Instagram apps are still depressing examples of the state of Windows, and I don’t feel like much has changed over the past year. Microsoft’s mobile store needs some serious love, but it’s running out of time.

The Lumia 950 XL simply isn’t for me or the vast majority of smartphone users out there. I use Windows 10 on a daily basis on a PC, but the experience on mobile is just lacking. Microsoft has done an excellent job on its apps for other platforms, and my iPhone home screen is full of them. The Lumia 950 XL needed something exciting and unique to convince me to switch back, but it failed.

That might change if a rumored Surface Phone arrives next year, but right now it’s the same old waiting game for Windows on phones. A year ago I was tired of waiting, and today nothing feels like it has changed. Windows 10 papers over the cracks, but unless developers buy into Microsoft’s vision of universal apps then it won’t change much. More and more high-profile apps are disappearing from Windows Phone, and the Lumia 950 XL won’t help bring them back.

The Lumia 950 XL isn't going to help Windows Phone

At this stage, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL really should be the standout phones that reboot Microsoft’s mobile efforts, but it feels like the company has read the writing on the wall and already given up.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Lumia flagships are a rare breed, not just in terms of new models, but on the street as well. Almost four years have passed since the Lumia 900 line began, and a lot has happened in that time – not least the evaporation of Windows Phone's already paltry market share.

The Nokia Lumia 930, nominally the last flagship-class device in the WIndows Phone era, was released back in mid 2014, but the world has moved on.

Now, a QHD screen and a powerful 64-bit processor is the bare minimum that an elite-tier handset needs in order to compete. And with quality imaging also becoming the norm rather than the exception, there's little room for compromise at the top.

Against this, everything that once made the Lumia brand special no longer has such lustre. Optical imaging stabilisation is one such example – the thing that Nokia once did best is now commonplace.

Dreams of making smartphones for everyone and seeing Windows 10 Mobile conquer the world with coloured tiles have been replaced with a more modest ambition: making devices to reward fans who stuck with the OS through the lean times.

Enter the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, alongside the Lumia 950.

The Lumia 950 XL is, as the name suggests, the larger device of the two, and it boasts some hefty specifications too, meaning that on paper it looks to be a smartphone geek's dream.

But with the Android and iOS competition now so incredibly strong, is it really enough to restore consumer confidence in Microsoft's mobile vision?


Over its years as a smartphone maker Nokia built up a considerable design pedigree, and the Lumia line was no exception. With the handsets defined by the use of colourful matte polycarbonate, even a punter on the street could recognise the likes of a Lumia 920 at a distance.

Things have changed under the bean counters at Microsoft, and at first glance the Lumia 950 XL is almost totally unremarkable, at least from the front. The 5.7-inch AMOLED display, covered with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 4, takes up most of the faceplate, with only a small, minimalist 'Microsoft' logo adorning the top.

The rear of the handset also tends towards a corporate look and feel. A vast expanse of featureless black matte polycarbonate houses just two notable landmarks – a large, silver-ringed camera 'oreo', and a small Windows logo.

The power button and volume keys are on the right side, as you'd expect, but their layout is odd and confusing. Whereas the power button normally stands alone, on the Lumia 950 XL it's flanked by separate volume up and volume down keys.

This may sound like a minor detail, but as someone who's used Lumias on a daily basis for years I found the new button layout jarring throughout my review period. Moreover the buttons themselves, while nicely clicky, are quite sharp, making them feel unfinished.

On the same side you'll also find the two-stage camera shutter button, always a nice inclusion.

Thankfully, one trend that began a while back – the abandoning of removable backs – has been reversed here. The rear of the Lumia 950 XL is user-removable and replaceable, giving access to the microSD card slot and to the removable battery.

As the 950 XL is a phablet, using it in one hand was always going to be something of a challenge, but thanks to the weighting of the device it's not as bad as I feared it might be. Even at 8.1mm thick and 165g, and with my spindly little mitts, using the handset was never uncomfortable.

Overall, the design of the Lumia 950 XL is unremarkable. In a budget smartphone, I'd list that as a positive, especially given some of the weird-looking units that are occasionally trundled out; but in a 2015 flagship device that costs the best part of an iPhone, it's a different story.

When you're spending the sort of money on a handset that could buy you a week's holiday for two, the experience has to reflect that, and that experience starts when you first pick up the device.

Buy an iPhone 6S and the jewel-like feel is an instant reward, and the same goes for the Samsung Galaxy S6 or even the Google Nexus 6P. These devices are distinguishable and special, whereas the Lumia 950 XL is unfortunately reminiscent of its less-upmarket brother, the 640 XL.

Earlier Lumia devices gave the user a sense of identity in the hand, something unique, and that has been lost. Whether the diehard Windows faithful will care has yet to be seen, but other potential purchasers are unlikely to be blown away.

The genesis of a new operating system that prioritises a unique and cohesive design should be honoured in the hardware carrying it, such as with the Dell XPS 13, and in this respect Microsoft has failed with the Lumia 950 XL.


The screen is another story altogether, and clear signs of Nokia's display heritage can be found in the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. Outdoor visibility is pretty good, although it would be nice if the screen could become just a tad brighter. The 2K resolution of the 5.7-inch panel equates to a 518ppi, making text lovely and crisp, and enabling the Windows Live Tiles to really stand out.

As might be expected with an AMOLED screen, contrast is excellent. Colours have a very nice 'pop' to them, while blacks are pleasingly deep. Viewing angles are great, with no drop-off in either brightness or colour from any angle.

Somewhat unusually for an AMOLED display, the colour accuracy is also very good. Microsoft claims to have calibrated the panel exactly, and to my eyes I could find nothing wrong, although you have the option to change the white balance in the settings menu.

The device also supports a popular and somewhat mislaid feature in 'Glance', which enables the display of information when the phone is asleep. Double-tap to wake has been discarded, however.

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A lot has been said about Microsoft's mobile journey. The firm arrived on the scene in 2000 with Windows Mobile, and rebooted with Windows Phone 7 in 2010 and later again with Windows Phone 8; each attempt failed to capture the attention of mainstream users. Windows 10 Mobile is something different altogether though.

The real story behind Windows 10 is the change in focus, a recalibration of Redmond's mobile strategy. In the past we saw the typical Microsoft bravado, bolstered by years at the top of the heap, culminating in rather brash efforts that failed to make a lasting impression.

Windows 10 Mobile is an acceptance of the current reality of the wider smartphone landscape, and of Microsoft's place in it. Microsoft has reinvented its software once more to meet the needs of a different user base, one that values customisation over almost all else and that doesn't care a great deal about looks.

As such, there is plenty of wholesome geekery on offer. Perhaps the best example of this is Windows 'Hello', the iris-recognition technology built into the device.

Theoretically this enables the user to unlock the phone with their eye, but in practice I found that it failed more often than not, no doubt because I wear glasses.

Microsoft has been careful to label the feature as a beta, with shortcomings to be addressed via software updates, and I found that when someone who doesn't wear glasses used the feature the accuracy was much improved.

While iris scanning isn't perhaps as immediately convenient as a fingerprint scanner, it's nonetheless an imaginative inclusion.

As for the wider feel of Windows 10 Mobile, imaginative isn't the first word that springs to mind. When I first used Windows Phone it was on version 7.5, and compared to Android and iOS I generally felt that it had a bold style and cohesion, even in the third-party applications the other systems often lacked.

Windows 8 cemented this, and to this point I don't believe any operating system looks better on an AMOLED screen. With Windows 10 Mobile, however, Microsoft has abandoned this sense of style in favour of feature creep.

This makes for some odd choices. The circles in the revamped People hub are a little grating, while the renamed 'Microsoft Edge' (replacing the inbuilt Internet Explorer) takes a little getting used to. Removing the native Music app for 'Groove Music' is also a little confusing, especially for those unacquainted with Microsoft's new streaming service.

For every downside there is an upside however. Double-tapping the softkey bar causes the display to sleep, while the phone app has a built-in option for voice recording, a godsend for those doing interviews.

There's even a slider for adjusting the transparency of the Live Tiles, which is a nice touch. In short, even more than Cyanogen OS, Windows 10 Mobile has the potential to be something of a tinkerer's paradise.

The story as a whole is of a shift from design over usability to function over form. The experience is still somewhat suspect, though. I suffered regular stutters when using the Start button, frozen screens at random intervals, apps randomly crashing and occasional issues with voice calls, among other things.

Given that Windows Phone as it currently stands is completely rock-solid, the fact that Windows 10 Mobile is such a mish-mash is a little surprising.

Microsoft will in no doubt improve the experience over the next few months, and those with prior experience of using a device with beta software will understand the risks involved; for the average punter, however, it could well be a no-no, at least for the moment.


In the last few years microUSB as a standard has become pretty much ubiquitous on smartphones, with almost every device (so long as it doesn't bear the Apple logo) using such a port for charging and data transfer. The times, however, are a-changing.

USB-C offers a couple of advantages over microUSB, enabling faster charging and, by incorporating a reversible connector design, eliminating the problem of trying to plug the cable in the wrong way up.

This is all well and good, but there's just one problem: good luck trying to find someone who has a spare USB-C cable handy.

With only a few flagship phones currently using the standard, we're not throwing away our microUSB cables just yet. I've been through around four phones in the last five years or so, and I've accumulated roughly enough microUSB cables to circle the Earth twice.

This means that charging most devices isn't an issue, and neither are lost or damaged cables. Working with USB-C is another matter altogether.

Moreover, with the Lumia line, the 'wrong way up' problem was solved with the addition of a textured pattern on the charging cables supplied by Nokia – that one small indent made a big difference.

On the Lumia 950 XL I found the USB-C port more of an irritant than anything else, and if the point of the change from microUSB is convenience, then I'm missing something. I had to remember to take a USB-C cable with me for data transfer and charging in different rooms, something which was a definite nuisance.

This could prove to be a real pain when travelling as well – you can pick up a generic microUSB charger simply and cheaply just about anywhere, and that's far from the case with USB-C at the moment.

Although devices such as the OnePlus 2, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and LG G5 have adopted the standard, it's not being taken up beyond by everyone with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge sticking with microUSB.

One Great Continuum

Despite the ever increasing power of smartphones giving developers more and more options for expansion and improvement, not much has actually changed in the last few years. Case in point with the iPhone, which despite various iterations since its original release is still functionally the same device.

With the Windows 10 unified code base and variable design language, Microsoft is hoping to position Continuum as a halfway point between the mobile phone and the desktop, as a device that can revolutionise computing as a whole.

At the moment however, Continuum is limited to dedicated Windows apps, of which there are only a few, meaning the feature is effectively a mirror of Windows RT, enabling a little extra functionality when plugged into a bigger screen.

If the story of Windows 10 is one of potential however, then Continuum is easily the feature that has the greatest chance to become something great; however only time will tell what will become of Microsoft's admirable effort.

  • Read our Windows 10 Mobile review

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM - user opinions and reviews


Hi all, may I know, is it lumia950xl can run meta trader 4? It is a trading forex platform. Gladly to hear the response. Thank you.


LOL, 14 Apr 2019no it isn't LOLOh yes, it still is. It can still put a serious fight with newer Android or iOS phones.


RIP_Microsoft_Mobile, 24 Jan 2019RIP Microsoft. it has been 4 years already since the last product release. It seems that micro... moreWhat do you mean seems? It was on the news 3 years ago.

They disbanded their mobile division.


dilip satre, 01 Jan 2019Best camera phone no it isn't LOL


RIP_Microsoft_Mobile, 24 Jan 2019RIP Microsoft. it has been 4 years already since the last product release. It seems that micro... moreif you have something, working great, why do you need to keep modifying it.. I know a company.. they only first rotated camera and named it a new.. then removed home button and called it's newer.. and then removed audio jack.. and it was newest.. this is nothing but fucking inventions..


RIP Microsoft. it has been 4 years already since the last product release. It seems that microsoft has abandond the mobile industry. thet never push the potential of their product. thats a bit sad, bye bye. we will miss you...


Best camera phone


Anvesh, 14 Aug 2018Hey there,I've been fan since 8 yrs of MS,[MS 950XL],Been using it since many yrs,Yea it was r... moreDid you reset the phone? Just try that.

Yeah, that's right. some apps are not available in the store because the apps developers are not making/updating for windows phone OS. Its really a great OS but so far no one think there is any future for the same.


tranformation, 03 Sep 2018why not produce smartphone with note book function, core I5, micro hdmi or usb mhl for a compa... moreCheck the Xiaomi Mi Pad 2.


why not produce smartphone with note book function, core I5, micro hdmi or usb mhl for a compact computer hands on?


Anvesh, 14 Aug 2018Hey there,I've been fan since 8 yrs of MS,[MS 950XL],Been using it since many yrs,Yea it was r... morewhat u mean hangs? i have had microsoft b4 and i have never ever seen it hang...thats what i like about these phones and always remain fast as hell!! i may not buy the 950xl ........hhhmmmmmmmmm


I love the phone so much but probably mine got crushed, and I really miss it, do they really exist to date ?? I want to buy a brand new one. where can I find it please??


Hey there,I've been fan since 8 yrs of MS,[MS 950XL],Been using it since many yrs,Yea it was really pretty good screen,Touch is amazing,Best screen & brightness ever.Outstanding camera view,Sufficient space,but it HANGS!!Dulliest & hardest part is no updation of Apps.Moreover,apps are vanishing from Windows store(I'm shocked) Including games.It hangs always....Trying to open windows store since 1 month,But i Couldn't....Guess time to change this.No ones ready to buy this either


Yes 950xl no update since may, store app no new update, battery is runout quickly now and easy to heat, maybe this ended of live windows phone


pedmar, 08 Jul 2018Are you talking about the L950XL? Must be crazy!! This device hasn't gotten an update since Ma... moreSend your 950 XL to me when you switch. I will gladly take it off your hands...


Reading all these comments praising this device I'm wondering if MS made another secret device that some were privy to?? Because my gf nexus 6p has same specs and that device makes it look like I'm trying to race a paper plane and a f16 from NY to Miami. Must be my device because how are people saying the camera on this beats the pixel cameras. 🤔


Kris, 25 Jun 2018One of the best phone I had ever. Fast, Super touchscreen, Best audio quality, Sufficient stor... moreAre you talking about the L950XL? Must be crazy!! This device hasn't gotten an update since May. Have to charge my battery at least 3 times a day (on my 4th battery), phone shuts off randomly or restarts. Phone hangs, fast?? Really?? Must be a true Windows fan. I e had mine for 2yrs + and can't wait until I change it when I decide on what to buy. Great potential but MS shit on us fans.


One of the best phone I had ever. Fast, Super touchscreen, Best audio quality, Sufficient storage & RAM, Iris scanner works perfect, Super camera, Best battery life, and Still getting the updates.


You are absolutely correct. I bought this phone used, from my friend, just to get my hands on that camera. He loved the phone & would still be using it, if not for the apps issue.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review



  • Decent screen
  • Good camera
  • Cortana


  • Dull design
  • Not enough consumer apps
  • Buggy

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £529.99
  • 20.1-megapixel PureView camera
  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor
  • 5.7-inch AMOLED, QHD display

Microsoft has been making big promises about Windows 10 Mobile for more than a year now. These have ranged from lofty claims about a new category of “Universal Apps”, iris-scanning Windows Hello tech and, of course, the Lumia range’s trademark PureView camera hardware.

The sheer number of promises have left many wondering if the company’s flagship Windows 10 Mobile phablet can actually live up to the claims. Sadly, the answer is not really.

Watch: 5 things you need to know about Windows 10 Mobile

Lumia 950 XL – Design

Since Nokia, now Microsoft Devices, launched its first Windows Phone 7 smartphone – the Lumia 800 – many moons ago, the firm has rattled out a stream of unique-looking, brightly coloured handsets.

I’d hoped this trend would continue with the Lumia 950 XL, but sadly this isn’t the case. The black Lumia 950 XL on review is one of the dullest-looking phones I’ve held in quite some time. The phone lacks any obvious design features, save the shiny PureView camera sensor on its rear.

The polycarbonate casing doesn’t feel as robust as past Lumias; pressing on the phone’s removable backplate displayed more give than I’d like. Note that removing this rear shell isn’t for the faint-hearted either. Whenever I pried off the rear plate to get access to the phone’s microSD and SIM slots, it felt as though it was on the verge of snapping.

Once setup, though, the phone does tick many boxes. There’s a USB Type-C connector along its bottom edge, which in the coming months is forecast to replace micro-USB as the smartphone’s standard connector.

The power, volume and shutter buttons are well placed, so you can still reach them one-handed despite the phone’s plus-sized 152 x 78 x 8.1mm dimensions. The 165g weight means the 950 XL isn’t too heavy; the phone never feels cumbersome to hold.

Related: Best smartphones 2015

Lumia 950 XL – Display

Microsoft has loaded the Lumia 950 XL with an impressive 5.7-inch quad-HD, AMOLED display.

On paper, this puts the Lumia on a level-pegging with most competing plus-sized handsets. Google’s awesome Nexus 6P and Samsung’s reigning Galaxy Note 5 both feature similarly specced 5.7-inch QHD displays.

In real-world use, the Lumia 950 XL’s display easily matches its competitors. The screen’s 518ppi density ensures Live Tiles and text look universally sharp. The AMOLED tech also results in blacks that are among the deepest I’ve seen on a smartphone, and help to make colours look vibrant and rich. Whites do look a little red when compared to the Nexus 6P, but are far from the worst I’ve seen.

Although brightness isn’t the highest I’ve seen, it’s good enough for general use. Direct sunlight can result in the screen becoming reflective and therefore difficult to use, but that’s a universal issue affecting most of the smartphones I test.

Deputy Editor

After graduating from King’s College London, Alastair started his career covering government technology policy and cyber security at The International Business Times. He later joined Incisive Media as…

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review -

To mark the arrival of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has two new premium devices: the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950 XL. While the name suggests that only size separates the two, the XL has a more powerful chipset, cooling system, and a slightly larger battery, making it the true flagship of the bunch.

The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL has an excellent AMOLED display, but lousy build quality.

With Windows 10 Mobile and support for Windows Continuum through the Microsoft Display Dock, Lumia 950 XL features a 5.7-inch AMOLED QHD display covered in Gorilla Glass 4, 20-mega pixel BSI PureView rear camera, 5-megapixel selfie-camera, Cat. 6 LTE radio, and a 3340 mAh battery. Inside, it sports an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset with Adreno 430 graphics and 3 GB of RAM, and includes 32 GB of internal storage along with a microSD card slot. The Lumia 950 XL is also available as a dual-SIM device.

As of this writing, it’s available starting at $650.

Unfortunately, this Lumia 950 XL betrays Nokia’s near sacrosanct reputation for well-built devices. Both phones feature a plastic rear cover that looks cheap, and both have thick display rims. All navigation keys are on the display, meaning there is a centimeter of unused space under the screen. Both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL look out of place next to the current flagships, like the iPhone 6s and Galaxy Note5. This is not a design fit for a device with this price and these specs.

The display glass has exceptionally sharp edges, for no apparent reason, as does the back cover towards the corners. This, despite the fact it’s slightly rounded in order to provide better ergonomics. This is why Lumia 950 XL doesn’t feel comfortable to hold. This design is more in line with the first phablets that hit the market several years ago.

The front bares the Microsoft logo above the screen, along with the telephone speaker and the selfie-camera, while the rim below the display is wasted space. The back includes the rear camera bulge and the triple LED flash, complete with the Windows logo underneath. Also on the front, the speakers and pinhole mics for ambient noise reduction.

The microSD and nanoSIM card slots (or two nanoSIM slots of the dual-SIM model) sit under the removable rear panel, along with the removable battery. That means that the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL does not have a unibody, which makes for a thicker device.  It’s 8.1 mm (0.32 in) thick, and measures 152 x 78 mm (5.98 x 3.09 in). Its mass is average for a 5.7-inch phone: 165 g (5.82 oz). There’s always a tradeoff between the utility of a replaceable battery with the thinness of a unibody design. We won’t complain about this element of Microsoft’s decision here.

The power button is located on the right side, in an embrace between a two-piece volume rocker. The camera shutter button is somewhat lower. The phone’s upper side houses the 3.5-mm audio jack in the center, while the bottom side includes the USB Type-C connector. Lumia 950 XL is one of the first phones to ship with USB Type-C, but we expect many more in 2016.



The 5.7-inch Lumia 950 XL has a QHD resolution that offers an exceptional density of 515 pixels per inch, which, as expected, results in fantastically sharp imaging. This is an AMOLED screen, the kind we gush over in Samsung smartphone reviews. Those excellent impressions apply here thanks to the vibrant colors and sustainable contrast.

The black tones are very dark, the whites are very bright. This is a bright display with large viewing angles. It’s one of the best we’ve tested at cutting through bright sunlight and glare.

If there is a complaint, it’s with color accuracy, which is a common issue with AMOLED. Given AMOLED’s popularity, most seem to dismiss it, but eagle-eyed users will notice that the colors shift a bit to the greener part of the spectrum. This creates an almost pastel effect that when matched with AMOLED-style saturation; resulting in a very cheerful, and almost silly, cartoon-like aesthetic.

But that’s nitpicking. There are better displays on handsets, but Lumia 950 XL’s display is exceptionally good.

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Just like previous Lumia smartphones, the 950 XL’s performance is outstanding. Windows 10 Mobile isn’t as demanding as Android, so it takes less under the hood to provide a decent experience (same goes for iOS). The Lumia 950 XL features Qualcomm’s SoC Snapdragon 810, which had some overheating issues when it first launched about a year ago. Microsoft addressed this issue with a liquid cooling system, which seems to work. Even when pushing the system, we couldn’t cause it to overheat.

The phone comes with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with microSD. Looking past the build and finish, the Lumia 950 XL performs well enough to suggest long-term reliability, whether as a smartphone or through Continuum, functioning as a PC.

The 3340 mAh battery offers average battery life. The combo of a Snapdragon 810 and a 5.7-inch QHD display require a lot of juice. Add two active SIM cards, and the strain increases. Expect to charge this phone at least every other day, and more frequently with above-average use.

Windows Continuum

Software & Windows Continuum

Compared to the previous version, Windows 10 Mobile features functional alterations at the OS level along with a few cosmetic changes. Windows Phone 8.1 users will feel right at home, and will find that everyday tasks have a simpler and more available solution.

Going as far back as Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has been persistent with a UI that aligns closely with its PC offerings. It has been and still is a stark departure from iOS and Android, which are both very similar in broad terms. Variety is a good thing, and Microsoft deserves credit for this approach.

Windows Continuum is the feature that expands Windows 10 Mobile into a desktop OS. This requires the Display Dock Continuum, along with an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Once connected, Windows 10 Mobile takes the appearance of Windows 10, but the limitations of the Lumia 950 XL remain. Users are still limited to the ARM-powered Lumia’s applications. That said, Windows OneDrive works well in this situation for saving and syncing files, and it’s an innovative feature. Bottom line, the Lumia 950 XL is not a PC substitute, but as an emergency or quick option, it’s better than any other smartphone.


The 20-megapixel rear-facing camera is a real Lumia 950 XL strength.

The 20-megapixel rear-facing camera is a real Lumia 950 XL strength. It comes with a brand new 1/2.4” BSI sensor, OIS, and triple RGB LED flash. The ZEISS signature lens offers 26 mm of focal length and f/1.9 aperture. This is one of a few models that supports RAW files (combined with 8 MP JPG + 19 MP DNG), which should please photographers that love to manipulate and tinker with images after the fact.

Images taken with Lumia 950 XL are outstanding in any lighting condition, and offer a high level of details, and great noise reduction, while the colors feature the right exposure and vivacity. Rich Capture mode is the Lumia version of HDR, and it cleverly edits the image, displaying it as rich, both as on the phone’s screen and when viewed on other devices.

The front-facing camera has a neat trick: a biometric user authorization feature called Windows Hello. Basically, a user can unlock the phone with an iris scan. Windows Hello also has a 3D face capture version for laptops and larger devices, but the Windows 10 Mobile iris scanner is a bit simpler. It scans the color pattern in the user’s eye. This functions immaculately in practice, even in dark-lit rooms, through contact lenses, and glasses. This is a modern and likeable alternative to the fingerprint reader, which this device lacks.

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    • Service, Warranty & Support
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Overview
  • Performance
  • Conclusion
  • Image Gallery

Microsoft’s Lumia 950 XL is the best Windows 10 Mobile available when it comes to specs, software display quality, and the camera. On the other hand, past Lumias had a better finish, design and price-to-performance ratio, especially when Nokia was making them.

This phone offers nothing to sway dedicated Android and iOS users, especially compared against the strong crop of 2015 flagships. But it’s still a good device for old Windows Phone 8.1 users. The Continuum feature is novel, but the $99 Display Dock is a questionable investment, given the limitations the 950 XL places on the PC experience.


  • Performs well
  • One of the best rear-facing cameras on the market
  • Windows 10 Mobile has some interesting innovations, like the Windows Continuum and Windows Hello
  • Features USB Type-C


  • Exceptionally poor finish and outdated design
  • Expensive starting price
  • Average battery life
  • Windows Continuum leaves room for improvement
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Image Gallery

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

If there was one advantage in waiting so long before bringing out the next elite Lumias, it was that Microsoft had the chance to thoroughly analyse hardware trends before jumping in. As such, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL comes well equipped, both by the standards set for 2015 and for the future.

Powering the device is the controversial Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, an octa-core 64-bit chip clocked at 2.0GHz, and backed up with 3GB of RAM. Much has been written about the Snapdragon 810, and the various '-gates' it's caused, in the past year.

Microsoft has worked hard to counter reported overheating and other issues. The chip is a newer version from Qualcomm, lacking some of the problems of its predecessor, but perhaps more importantly, the Lumia 950 XL has liquid cooling. That's right: liquid cooling.

The geek cred of such a feature notwithstanding, in general use I still found that the device could become quite warm, especially when attempting to do several things at once, or when experiencing one of Windows 10 Mobile's frequent bug episodes.

This also raises concerns regarding the longevity of the device. There's no doubt that Microsoft will continue to optimise both the OS and the chip so they can run with some increased degree of harmony, but whether the phone might melt internally beforehand is another question altogether.

Despite this, whether gaming or running multiple apps at once, I experienced no slowdowns. Really, there's nothing in the Windows Phone app ecosystem that can really challenge the likes of the 810, especially given that the previous most powerful chip in widespread use was 2013's Snapdragon 800, in the likes of the Lumia 1520 and 930.

The app problem on Windows 10 Mobile is the same as it was on Windows Phone – that's to say, pretty bad. Geekbench 3 was not available for use, and so Basemark OS 2 was used. For comparison, I also ran the benchmark app on both the Nokia Lumia 930 and the Microsoft Lumia 950.

All results ought to be taken with a pinch of salt. Windows Phone has many great third-party solutions to many aspects of the app gap, but a proper, current benchmarking app has yet to arise.

Overall the results were a little odd, with the Lumia 930 achieving an overall score of 1001, the 950 managing 1295 and the XL managing only a paltry 890. This doesn't show the whole story however, with the graphics section being quite telling.

Here the 930 managed 1212, the 950 came to 1436 and the XL bounding ahead to 2014. In the System and Web sections, the XL achieved a considerable lead also. However, this was only due to a odd problem with the memory segment, seemingly due to the device attempting to write to microSD rather than the faster flash system memory.

With regards to memory management, Windows 10 Mobile takes a cue from iOS. Instead of truly running in the background, apps are paused, with only certain trusted sources able to break this lock.

This means that multi-taskers might be slightly frustrated, but it makes for swift transitions between apps, as well as meaning that wayward processes have less of a chance to malfunction and consume battery. The device can handle around eight open apps at once before beginning to close processes.

In everyday use I found the Lumia 950 XL to be a strong performer. When swiping through the OS, and opening and closing apps, everything worked as it should. However, as is something of a trademark with Windows Phone, there wasn't much separating it from my Lumia 930 in terms of performance.

The spec sheet of the XL may be an indication of where things are heading, but for the moment it might be slight overkill.

But with the in-built 32GB of storage, along with the potential to at least triple that via a microSD card, even the most demanding of power users ought to be satisfied.

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2015 was a great year for smartphone shooters, at least for Android. The likes of the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4 and the Nexus 6P stretched what the public now expects from their mobile shoots.

And with both Nokia and Microsoft having thrown millions in marketing dollars at the general public to promote the benefits of Windows Phone, one thing has stuck: a reputation for excellent mobile imaging.

Especially given Nokia's PureView branding, and the likes of the crazy Pureview 808 and Lumia 1020, the perception of the Finnish firm's competence in this field has been sown in the public consciousness. As such, the Lumia 950 XL carries the burden of expectation.

With a 20MP BSI sensor, Carl Zeiss optics, optical image stabilisation and a triple-LED RGB flash, along with 'Rich Capture' technology, the potential is certainly there for excellence.

And sure enough the Lumia 950 XL proves to have one of the strongest mobile camera sensors of the year. In good lighting, detail is crisp, the white balance is almost always on point and colours are appealingly warm without appearing too saturated.

Even in very dimly lit situations the camera was able to pull in a fair amount of light without ruining the white balance, which is no mean feat.

The real star of the show here is the Rich Capture mode, which acts as a sort of smart editing assistant. When you view an image in the gallery, the unaltered image is displayed and then an edited version; depending on the image an extra image may be overlaid for more detail, or an HDR effect may be implemented, among other things.

You can then choose to alter the strength of this effect, for example by controlling the amount of flash present by balancing a flash-lit shot with unlit shot (a really neat party trick for nights out).

Generally the image processing is quite mature, leaving images with a very natural look. That is to say the software doesn't fiddle around with shots too much, an acknowledgement that giving the user more control isn't always such a bad idea.

The extra processing power of the 950 XL over the Lumia 950 also helps in this regard – processing images on the larger phone is a speedy and efficient affair.

This ethos of allowing more user control can also be seen in the camera app, once titled Lumia Camera and now the stock Windows 10 Mobile camera application. It's a masterpiece of design.

Launching in roughly a second when triggered via the two-stage shutter button, you're initially presented with a very simple view. On the right side are the shutter and video buttons, and in the top-right corner sits the shortcut to the settings menu.

The top of the interface houses the camera switch, the flash toggle and the Rich Capture toggle, and in the left corner sits the gallery shortcut. It's a clean interface that doesn't overwhelm.

By 'pulling' the shutter button from the side however, or by pressing the arrow on the top bar, it becomes possible to alter the white balance, ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation, and switch to manual focusing. It's a photographer's dream, and a pleasure to use.

The Lumia 950 XL is also capable of shooting 4K footage, which I found to be crisp and well presented, and with excellent audio capture due to the four-way mic system.

As for the 5MP selfie camera, as such things go it's a competent performer. It's by no means the best in its class, but it is leagues ahead of the likes of the unit on the Lumia 930.

In all, the Lumia tradition of great imaging performance is alive and well in the 950 XL, Microsoft has succeeded once again in crafting a fantastic package.

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