Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review: Microsoft’s last Windows Phone?

£530
Price when reviewed

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL: Performance

Along with its larger frame, the 950 XL also delivers a modest performance boost over the 950, with an additional two cores and 200MHz of speed from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 CPU, but the same 3GB of RAM powering Windows 10.

That may not sound like much, but I can’t say I noticed any of the judder or chug Jon reported in his review. This will make Microsoft breathe a sigh of relief, although if Windows 10 Mobile requires beefier specifications than Windows Phone 8.1 did, this is definitely one area where the company want to avoid parity with its rivals.

More strikingly, the difference in the GFXBench scores between the two handsets are huge. A quick recap of the smaller Lumia 950’s results before the big reveal: in the Manhattan test it managed 6.3fps onscreen, and 12.3fps offscreen. That puts it in a similar ballpark to the LG G3 (7.7fps and 11fps).

Microsoft Lumia 950XL

Microsoft Lumia 950

LG G4

Samsung Galaxy S6

GFXBench Manhattan, onscreen

11.8fps

6.7fps

9.4fps

15fps

GFXBench Manhattan, offscreen

21.2fps

12.3fps

15fps

23fps

What a difference the Snapdragon 810 and Adreno 430 GPU makes! Suddenly, the Lumia has gone from lagging behind the LG G3 to leapfrogging the LG G4, and it’s not too far behind the impressive performance of Samsung’s flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S6. You could quite legitimately point out that gaming performance is less important on a Windows 10 phone, given the comparative lack of premium games in the Store, but it does mean day-to-day performance is pretty damned solid.

It’s a shame that this performance boost comes at a price, though: the Lumia 950 XL is £110 more expensive than the plain Lumia 950.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review: Camera

The ace up the Lumia 950 XL’s sleeve is the camera, which is identical to the one Jon raved about in the review of its smaller sibling. He’s far more of a cameraphile than I, and it takes a lot to impress him. The Lumia delivers.

It’s a 20-megapixel affair with optical image stabilisation and a bright f/1.9 aperture. Crucially, it has a 1/2.4in sensor, which means that it lets loads of light in for great quality in low light.

Images are balanced and detailed in pretty much any setting you can throw at it, including tricky low-light situations. Images are clean and detailed, and it packs a triple-LED flash for when it’s too dark for the 950 XL to cope.

Back when Lumias were exclusively a Nokia thing, their cameras often received praise for the camera interface, too, which offered quick access to adjustments such as exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity and shutter speeds. Microsoft has sensibly retained this, and it’s the cherry on the cake, adding up to what is one of the best smartphone cameras around. Video recording is good too, at up to 4K resolution and 30fps with excellent quality.

Despite the identical specifications on the camera, you could make a case for the 950 XL being slightly weaker than the 950 here. Its size makes it a touch more unwieldy, although it’s nothing that can’t be compensated for with a little practice. You also get a dedicated camera button, which can be used to launch the camera app from standby in a second or so.

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