Microsoft Lumia 950 review: How good is Microsoft’s first Windows 10 phone?

Price when reviewed

Microsoft Lumia 950 review: Performance and battery life

The combination of a Snapdragon 808 chip and 3GB of RAM ought to keep things flying along performance-wise, but this is where we hit another snag.

On an Android phone with this combination of components I’d expect animations from one screen to another to be as smooth as melting butter on a teflon frying pan; on the Lumia 950, the experience is far from judder-free. From the homescreen to the alphabetised apps list, launching the multitasking view and dragging down the Action Center, I often experienced a shuddering dragging of feet. Not always, but frequently enough to irritate. The Microsoft Edge web browser seems to take much longer than its iOS and Android counterparts to fully load web pages, too.

This is ironic, since Windows Phone always used to be the mobile OS that didn’t need beefy hardware to run smoothly. It was better than Android in that respect, and now it’s lost that advantage. The result is that, in addition to the cheap-feeling hardware, the Microsoft Lumia 950 doesn’t perform like the premium phone it claims to be. That, for Microsoft, is another critical problem.

Raw performance seems to lag behind rival phones running similar hardware, too. Running the GFXBench DX Bench Manhattan test delivered notably results in the GFXBench tests (see table below).

Microsoft Lumia 950


Nexus 5X

GFXBench Manhattan, onscreen




GFXBench Manhattan, offscreen




I’d hoped that the picture for the Microsoft Lumia 950 might improve during battery life testing. Unfortunately for Microsoft the gloom continues. In our video rundown test, with the phone in flight mode and the screen set to a brightness of 170cd/m2, it lasted 10hrs 1min. Not an unmitigated disaster, but this is below average.

And the display is distinctly below par as well. It’s an AMOLED panel and as sharp as you like, delivering a pixel density of 564ppi. Without a microscope you’re not going to be able to see the pixels here. Contrast is perfect, as with all AMOLED screens, and Microsoft has managed to keep a lid on the technology’s tendency to run riot with colour. Your photographs and graphics will look realistic without being completely over the top.

The problem is that it isn’t very bright, not even by normal AMOLED standards, reaching a maximum of a mere 297cd/m2. This doesn’t bode well for outdoor readability when the sun’s really beating down.

Alas, I can’t confirm this for sure, since a cold winter’s day at the end of November in London isn’t exactly the best testing ground, but experience suggests that it won’t be anywhere near as readable in bright conditions as an iPhone 6s or a Samsung Galaxy S6.

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