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Nokia Lumia 1020 review

This is the story of a little smartphone series that grows up earning a few pixels and, three years later, positions itself to take over the world. The device in question, the newest addition to that lineup, is in dire need of an introduction. We’ll be happy to give it anyway: pictured atop this very text sits the Nokia Lumia 102, the latest and greatest flagship out of Finland. This is the hero, the device chosen to lead the megapixel charge for Nokia as it ventures deeper into 2014, and it’s fitted with the best of everything: a 4.5 inch TrueColor display, 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset, Windows Phone 8 OS, a whopping 41 MP camera and a wide assortment of brand-new firmware amenities, to name just a few.

If your first impression of the Lumia 1020 was like ours, we’re guessing you had a hard time differentiating it from last year’s flagship 925 model. Take a closer look, turn it around even, however, and it becomes more apparent that Nokia’s design team didn’t actually use the past year to catch up on the sleep it lost crafting the 925. The phone maker kept to the same overall style, but it made a few crucial tweaks along the way to improve its fit and finish.

Nokia’s choice of build material wasn’t one of them. If you are a critic of the Lumia plastic construction, you’ll be disappointed with its successor — the company’s continuing its long-standing tradition of keeping metal out of the assembly lines, building the entire device out of polycarbonate.

The biggest benefit in using this type of material is that it offers a little more give when you drop the phone. It’s still plenty sturdy, and it feels like it’s just as durable as the 925. This may be ideal for a large number of potential buyers, but we still prefer the HTC One’s premium build quality and visual appeal, thanks to its use of high-grade aluminum through its entire unibody chassis.


The back of the Lumia 1020 looks different from its Lumia cousins, thanks largely to the 41-megapixel camera module that sticks out of the back. However, the bulge is not as big a problem with the 1020 as it was with the Nokia 808 PureView. The 808 was not the easiest phone to carry around, measuring 13.95mm at its thinnest and 17.95mm thick at the camera module. The Lumia 1020, however, is just 10.40mm at its thickest (you guessed it, the camera module), and the bulge as compared to the rest of the body is not as pronounced as the one in the 808. However, the phone is unable to lie flat on its back; instead it rests at an angle that makes it easier to glance the screen if you are looking from front, an unintended benefit. The phone weighs 158 grams, but doesn’t feel too heavy.

The Lumia 1020 is available in Yellow and White colour options, in addition to the Black that we received as our review unit. The display on the 1020 is bright and the colour reproduction closer to the real world when compared with most other AMOLED displays, similar to what we noted in our Nokia Lumia 925 review.


Nokia claims that its ClearBlack technology ensures that users see truer blacks, which in turn enhances the contrast of the display, thanks mainly to reduced reflections on the screen. The result is a screen that is easy to use, even in bright sunlight.

Needless to say, the highlight of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is its 41-megapixel camera, so we’ll be focusing most of our energy on this section. While the sensor inside the Lumia 1020 is 41-megapixel, the pictures it clicks are either 38-megapixel or 34-megapixel, depending upon if you are clicking pictures in 4:3 mode or 16:9, similar to what we saw in the Nokia 808 PureView.

While Nokia has worked hard to improve the hardware behind the camera, the software side seems to have regressed a bit. The default camera app on the Lumia 1020 is Nokia Pro Cam that seems to be lacking a few options found in the year-old Nokia. With the 808 you could choose to simultaneously click photographs in 2-megapixel, 3-megapixel, 5-megapixel or 8-megapixel effective resolutions, in addition to 34-megapixel or 38-megapixel full blown images. With the 1020, however, you are limited to a 5-megapixel image in addition to the 34-megapixel (16:9 mode) and 38-megapixel (4:3 mode) full-sized image.

Having said that, Nokia Pro Cam offers plenty of control to experienced users letting them adjust the exposure, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and, of course, focus as per their needs. This can be done using controls at the top right (while holding the phone in landscape mode) of the screen or by dragging the on-screen click button to the left to reveal a grid of circular lines. The app also gives a live preview of how the resultant image would look when you, say, adjust the white balance. The app also offers options for shutter delay and exposure bracketing, which can be used for creating manual HDR images.

Nokia Pro Cam is one of the many camera apps (or lenses as they are called in Windows Phone) installed on the Lumia 1020 and that can be a little confusing for users. You can switch to any of these apps by clicking the switch lens button on the bottom right of the screen, but remember that only the Nokia Pro Cam can take 34-/38-megapixel pictures. The other lenses (apps) that the Lumia 1020 ships with are Bing Vision, Camera360, the default Windows Phone Camera, Nokia Cinemagraph, Nokia Smart Cam, Panorama and Vyclone.

The Lumia 1020 comes with 32GB of non-expandable storage, with 29.12GB available for the end user. While that seems like plenty of storage, on a phone that captures large-sized images, an option to have expandable storage would’ve been nice. In case you are wondering, the 1020 comes with FM radio support, which can be utilised thanks to the pre-installed Amber Update. Nokia Lumia 1020 is priced at R10 000 which makes it slightly more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and considerably pricier than other flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z1 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

Yes, shutterbugs will love the Lumia 1020 camera, but at the price tag one has to wonder if they are perhaps better off buying a point-and-shoot camera, which are getting smaller, easier to carry bodies and bigger sensors, and a mid-level smartphone. If you want one that runs Windows Phone, pick the Nokia Lumia 925 which is still our favourite Windows Phone running device.

Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.