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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nokia's new Lumia 900 is simply elegant ... and fast!















Nokia won accolades for its new Lumia 900 smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, including CNET's Best of CES award. The Windows phone, which launches Sunday at AT&T stores, impressed critics with its 4G LTE speed, 4.3-inch AMOLED screen, 8-megapixel camera and user-friendly interfaces. We got our hands on one to give it a test drive.

Right out of the box, you can tell its a different feel: slim yet solid with a contemporary minimalistic design. The polycarbonate unibody shell is scratch resistent (Nokia claims it will look the same in a year). The 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED screen is covered with Corning's damage-resistent Gorilla Glass. The glass sits slightly higher than the phone's body. (Why not extend it all the way to the edges to avoid dirt traps?) One thing I noticed is that finger smudges are tough to clean off of the glass: instead of wiping up with a dry clean cloth as recommended in the manual, they tend to smear.

iphone900.jpgThe Lumia 900 is much less bulky compared to some other phones, at .45 inches thick. At 5 inches by 2.7 inches wide, it's slightly bigger than my iPhone 4. It weighs 5.6 ounces. The unobstrusive buttons for power, volume and camera are on the side of the phone to the right, and easy to find. 

Lumia 900 is the first Windows Phone to run on the 4G LTE network. Lucky for us in the Tampa Bay area, AT&T has launched this high-speed network in February, covering Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. And this puppy is fast. Compared with my iPhone's download of a YouTube video, Lumia 900's download and playback was dreamy: near instantaneous and smooth. Of course, you'll have to keep in mind the faster the download, the larger your consumption, so keep an eye on your data usage.

The 900 runs on the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango OS, which is user-friendly. Even someone with limited smartphone experience would be able to use it in a short time. The buttons (or tiles) and controls are intuitive, and the 1.4 Ghz processor keeps things going at a good page. The phone comes with some basic apps, including maps, calculator, calendar, messaging and music/video. AT&T also threw in their basics, including Code Scanner, Navigator, Radio, U-verse Mobile and XBox Live (some require plans or subscriptions). Also available are Tango Video calling, YPmobile, CNN and ESPN apps. Of course, there are social media, email and messaging capabilities.

Searches are Bing-based. My family especially enjoyed the "name that tune" search where the phone can find the name, artist and album of a recorded song being played. I was able to stump it once -- with a song from the "Mighty Wind" soundtrack. But it got all others from my music library that I tried, including an album from Japan.

There are two cameras: front and back facing. The primary rear-facing camera is an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, large aperture (f2.2) and wide angle focal length (28mm). It comes with a 3X digital zoom and has a dual-LED flash. The secondary 1 megapixel front-facing camera, allows you to have a video chat. The photo quality is much better in the daylight with significant quality issues in low-light conditions. Then there's the noticeable "shutter lag." Best save this camera for still images.

Battery life? Respectable: up to 7 hours of talk time on 3G network. With heavy usage, my tester lasted an afternoon.

The phone is $99.99 with a two-year wireless and voice agreement with AT&T. You have a choice of Cyan Blue or Matte Black during the initial launch on Sunday. High-Gloss White will be available on April 22.

If you've resisted switching to a smartphone because of price or you're just intimidated by it, give this phone a try. It's fast with the 4G LTE, easy to use, sleek, and affordable.

[Last modified: Friday, April 6, 2012 12:38pm]


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