Microsoft Lumia 950 XL – Review – How does it stand up to the competition?

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL - The end of an era

Welcome to my review of the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. Thanks to Steve Litchfield from @AA_WP for the loan.

The first thing I noticed reading the specs sheet is that the hardware is well specified. However, more and more phones also comes stacked to the gills with specs, so does the 950 XL stay ahead of the came. Well first, you will notice my 950 XL has the optional Mozo red leather back cover, which I have to say looks smart. Without the leather cover, the standard plastic finish looks and feels cheap and not as premium as other phones. Anyway, maybe the specifications are ahead of the competition? So lets look at the full specifications –

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL - The end of an era

Key Specifications

– OS – Windows 10
– Size & weight -Height: 151.9 mm,Width: 78.4 mm,Thickness: 8.1 mm,Weight: 165 g
– Display size: 5.7 inch, WQHD (2560 x 1440),TrueColor (24-bit/16M),AMOLED, ClearBlack,518 ppi
-Display features: Easy to clean, Orientation sensor, Wide viewing angle, Lumia Color profile, High brightness mode, Corning Gorilla Glass 4, Automatic brightness control, Sunlight readability enhancements
– Memory 32 GB,RAM: 3 GB,Maximum memory card size: 200 GB micro sd,
– User data storage: In device, OneDrive cloud storage, App and data storage on memory card
– Replaceable battery: Yes, 3340 mAh, Fast charging, Built-in Qi wireless charging
– Design details: Exchangeable back cover
– Other user interface features: Glance screen, Voice Commands, Tactile feedback, Voice dictation in edit fields
– Sensors: Barometer, Gyroscope, SensorCore, Magnetometer, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor
– CPU name: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
– SIM card type: Nano SIM
– AV connectors: DisplayPort over USB-C, 3.5 mm stereo headset connector
– Charging connectors: USB-C
– System connectors: USB-C
– USB: USB 3.1, USB Dual Role Port (Gen1)
– Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.1
– Bluetooth profiles: Hands-free profile (HFP) 1.6, Object Push profile (OPP) 1.1, Generic Attribute Profile (GATT), HID over GATT profile (HOGP) 1.0, Message Access Profile (MAP) 1.1, Human Interface Device Profile (HID), Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP) 1.1, Personal Area Network Profile (PAN) 1.0, Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) 1.2, Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) 1.3
– NFC: Pairing, Sharing, Tagging, Secure NFC for payment
– Wi-Fi: MIMO, Wi-Fi call, WLAN IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
– Wi-Fi hotspot: Up to 8 Wi-Fi-enabled devices
– Other wireless connectivity: Screen projection
– Local sharing Peer-to-peer sharing: Nearby Discovery
-Cellular connectivity, GSM network: 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1900 MHz, WCDMA network: Band 5 (850 MHz), Band 8 (900 MHz), Band 1 (2100 MHz), Band 2 (1900 MHz), Band 4 (1700/2100 MHz), LTE FDD network: Band 5 (850MHz), Band 8 (900MHz), Band 17 (700MHz), Band 20 (800MHz), Band 1 (2100 MHz), Band 12 (700 MHz), Band 2 (1900 MHz), Band 28 (700 MHz), Band 3 (1800 MHz), Band 7 (2600 MHz), Band 4 (1700/2100 MHz), TD-LTE network: Band 38 (2570-2620 MHz), Band 40 (2300-2400 MHz)
– GPS and navigation – A-GPS, A-BeiDou, A-GLONASS, Barometer, Gyroscope, Sensor enhanced positioning, Cellular and Wi-Fi network positioning
– Main camera -Main camera: 20.0 MP f/1.9 OIS Camera Focus Type: Auto focus with two-stage capture key
– Camera digital zoom: Yes,Camera optics: 6-lens optics,Oversampling, Sensor size: 1/2.4 inch
– Camera Flash Type: Natural flash
– Camera features: PureView, Fast Focus, True 16:9 sensor, High resolution zoom, Backside-illuminated image sensor
– Camera minimum focus range: 10 cm
– Front camera: Full HD 5 MP wide angle, f/2.4,Front camera video resolution: 1080p (Full HD, 1920 x 1080)
– Main camera video resolution: 4K (Ultra HD, 3840 x 2160)
– Camera video frame rate: 30 fps
– Video recording features: Video zoom, Video light, Continuous autofocus, Optical image stabilization, – Lumia Rich Recording with four microphones
– Video recording formats: MP4/H.264
– Audio recording codecs: AAC LC, AMR-NB, GSM FR
– Audio recording features: Lumia Rich Recording with four microphones
– Audio playback features: Graphical equalizer, Virtualized loudspeaker listening
– Radio features: FM radio
-Video playback frame rate: 30 fps
– Video playback codecs: VC-1, H.263, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, Windows video
– Video streaming: Progressive video download, YouTube browsing and video streaming, Streaming from video services and internet

Phone Basics

From a hardware point of view, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL rocks and in many areas is ahead of the competition especially when you consider when it was first released. Just have a look again at the specification above. Qi Wireless charging. Quick charging. Excellent 20mp camera. Great audio and so on. Where the 950 XL suffers is software. Windows 10 is still being improved so there is the odd bug present.

The Windows Store for apps and games is dismal at best, but we all know that by now. So if the official app is not available you will be hunting for a decent third party option or not bother with an app, and use the web browser instead. You may be lucky and a universal app arrives though. Universal apps may be what helps keep Windows 10 going. However, some of the included software like the Creative Studio are absolutely brilliant. I have covered more of the software situation in my video embedded near the end of the review.

The screen is fantastic. Amazing visibility in sunlight, bright and good viewing angles. Cellular and wireless connectivity was top notch too. Callers had no difficulties hearing me. Battery lasted a day and was recharged over night.

Bluetooth audio was good and the loudspeaker was reasonable.

The 950 XL has the benefit of the Display Dock, Continuum and Universal apps. So when you use the display dock, the phone becomes a mouse, and the apps go desktop quality on the connected display or TV. That’s the theory and its works sometimes. It does depend on the developer as to how well the Universal app is written.


The highlight of the phone so far is the camera quality. It is a real quality affair. Period. It does have some weaknesses mainly in the post processing whereby if you take a few shots and go to view them, you might see applying the finishing touches and have to wait until these are completed. Another aspect is using burst mode, or taking a large number of shots one after another. Eventually you might see a message on screen “saving” and will have to wait until this finishes before taking another photo. However, the image quality is so good, its worth the wait!

I have included a video review which covers the camera in more depth. In the meantime, lets look at some camera samples below.

The Tree at Yelverton Green #lumia950xl

The above photo is extremely accurate to the actual colours.

Yelverton Green #lumia950xl

Again, very well balanced shot.

The End of The Line #lumia950xl

Vivid true to life colours with the shot above.

One Way Out #lumia950xl

Difficult lighting but a great shot.

Wooden Living #lumia950xl

Unusual shot, but superb result.

Blossoming Flowers #lumia950xl

The white flowers are handled well and again overall a good shot.

High speed cornering by George #lumia950xl

I really like this one of George. He was runninig really quickly and sort of cornering at the same time.

George says "hello" #lumia950xl

The overall balance and colours of this photo are absolutely spot on.

George & Fury blasting off #lumia950xl

Another high speed shot and beautifully balanced with accurate colours.

Merrivale Stones, Dartmoor #lumia950xl

Merrivale stones captured in all its glory. Perfect true to life shot again.

Sunshine & Shade #clouds #Dartmoor #lumia950xl

The shade and sun along with the clouds are captured brilliantly.

Scenes around St Michael & All Angels Historic Church #lumia950xl

And finally a shot of my local church.

Video Review

As a compliment to my written review, I have created a video to cover off other aspects and demonstrates some of my points above.


The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is a hardware powerhouse phone with its weakness being the lack and quality of applications / games in the Windows Store. The camera is fantastic, one of the best I have used, so if you can live without a number of apps, which many can, then the Lumia 950 XL is ideal.


4 thoughts on “Microsoft Lumia 950 XL – Review – How does it stand up to the competition?

  1. Thanks for another fascinating review ..
    I have to ask how the 950xl audio compares to the best audiophile smartphones ?
    Cheers jono


  2. In a way I’m not surprised you found the camera great. Expected it would take 6 months to get the bugs sorted out.

    There is very little to knock on this device camera wise. It holds its own against the best and exceeds the rest in some areas.

    There is no response yet to dynamic exposure or flash.


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