DESIGN & HANDLING
The Lumia 820 has a sleek, minimalist design that's certainly easy on the eyes. That said, it's not exactly innovative—other than for choice of colours the phone is available in.
While the top-of-the-range Lumia 920 has a unibody casing, the Lumia 820 has a removable back cover. That means you can access the battery plus the SIM and memory lodged underneath it. It also means you can switch the colour of the phone's casing as and when you like.
However, we generally prefer phone casings with rubbery finishes, as grip isn't so great with super-smooth plastics.
In terms of size, this mobile is neither ultra-slim nor ultra-light (it weighs 160 g nevertheless), but it does sit nicely in the palm of your hand. Compared with the Lumia 920, which is bigger (4.5" screen) and heavier, the 820 is easier to use regularly with one hand. That's an important point for many mobile users—not everyone wants an outsized smartphone.
The 4.3" screen has a definition of just 800 x 480 pixels. By current market standards—and compared with the competition—the screen's pixel density is therefore on the low side. This is a rather surprising choice from Nokia—after all, this isn't an entry-level smartphone. In comparison, the Lumia 820's main rival, the HTC 8X, has a 4.3" screen with a def of 1280 x 720 pixels—just like the Lumia 920.
While screen contrast is very good, the maximum brightness has dropped to 284 cd/m² compared with 410 cd/m² for the Lumia 920, 374 cd/m² for the HTC 8X and 500 cd/m² for Apple's iPhone 5. The 820 doesn't reproduce colours quite as accurately as the 920 either, with a Delta E of 7.4. Many recent smartphones get scores under 4 for Delta E (Delta E measures colour fidelity—the closer to zero, the more accurately colours are reproduced onscreen).
Otherwise, the touchscreen is responsive and reacts perfectly well to commands. Nokia has taken things one step further in the Lumia 820 and 920, however, as both of these new phones' touchscreens can be used while wearing gloves, and still with relative precision. That'll definitely be useful this winter—nice one Nokia! Other manufacturers would do well to add this kind of functionality to their smartphones and tablets—users are sure to appreciate it!
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
Windows Phone 8 isn't totally different from version 7.5 of Microsoft's mobile OS. However, the new OS has evolved, bringing new features to all handsets on this very pleasant-to-use platform. You can check out all of the new features on offer in our article on Windows Phone 8 (SkyDrive, shared calendars, note-taking, contact groups, kid's mode, etc.). Otherwise, WP8 inherits the key strengths of WP7, with Office apps integrated directly, a direct link to a 7 GB SkyDrive account for free online storage and the One Note app for a smart way to take notes and jot ideas.
Nokia's Lumia smartphones also come loaded with a selection of exclusive applications, like Nokia Transport, Nokia Drive, Nokia Music and Nokia Explore. All these free services make a nice bonus, as they're effective and well-designed—just like the Nokia Maps app seen in all Windows Phone handsets.
Certain star applications are still notably missing from the Windows Store. For example, there's no sign yet of Instagram or DropBox (but you do get SkyDrive for cloud-based storage).
The Lumia 820 is generally smooth and responsive to use in all situations, whether downloading apps, surfing the web, watching videos, etc. Things even stay fluid when you've got several apps running in the background (multitasking). The combination of a stable operating system, a robust set of tech specs and some effective hardware/software optimisation gives good results. The Lumia 820 is a handset that performs well on a day-to-day basis.
Nokia was promising an excellent camera in the the Lumia 920, but the results ultimately proved disappointing, with image quality that wasn't consistent over the frame. In fact, overall picture quality in the Lumia 920 is no match for the kind of results we've seen with other recent high-end smartphones outed over the last six months. So how does the Lumia 820—also equipped with an 8-Megapixel sensor—fare in comparison? To be honest, it doesn't do much better. Here too, the results are disappointing. While the Lumia 820 does a marginally better job than the higher-end 920—with a little less blurring and more detail present around the edges of the frame—ultimately, it could still be better. The camera therefore isn't a make-or-break feature that could lead you pick the Lumia 820 over other phones.
The HTC 8X, also on Windows Phone 8, does better, preserving more detail over the entire frame. However, the image processing system does tend to over-accentuate the edges of objects.
Finally, while the Lumia 920 performs very well in darker conditions, the 820 isn't quite on par. That said, with a low level of light and without the flash, this handset can still take decent pictures in challenging conditions.
Otherwise, the Lumia 820 has a few nice extras in its camera mode, like a panorama function and a Smart Photo mode that combines a series of shots to give you the best possible results.
Video quality (up to 1080p) is perfectly acceptable for a smartphone and sound is recorded reasonably well.
The headphones out is functional and doesn't distort sound in any way. The dynamic range is good and there's a pretty decent volume level. The speaker does struggle a bit more, though, as it soon saturates if you crank up the volume.
With its 1650 mAh battery, the Lumia 820 can hold out for a day of relatively heavy use (SMS, web, social networks, music, photos). Games and video inevitably require more power, though, and will drain the phone's battery more quickly.
Like the Lumia 920, the Lumia 820 is compatible with induction charging (wireless charging) via a series of optional accessories.