Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review

May 18, 2016 Android Microsoft Reviews

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

It’s been highly awaited by the fans of Microsoft Windows 10 platform to see what the developers will accomplish in their new masterpiece after the Lumia 950. Now that we look at it we come to realize that it makes use of one of the best hardware around and it's the perfect demo platform for all newly introduced Windows 10 Mobile features. The eight-core Snapdragon 810 is here, the screen size went up from 5.2" to 5.7" and the new cooling system has been introduced, which is highly notable for taking away the heat while playing games. But let’s look at the newcomer in details, shall we?


Design and Hardware

If you tend to consider metal and glass to be the exterior signs of premium quality, then you are going to be disappointed since Lumia 950 XL comes in matte plastic. To us it’s simply a matter of personal preference. You should take into account though that the specifics of the material provides for rather light weight - 165 g (5.82 oz). The perfectly flat front is made of a huge Gorilla Glass 4 piece, which should keep the 5.7" high-res AMOLED screen out of trouble. The dimensions are 151.9 x 78.4 x 8.1 mm (5.98 x 3.09 x 0.32 in). It might seem big, but it’s definitely not overly massive. The build is very well done, the rear cover fits perfectly around the chassis and there are no creaks whatsoever.


Microsoft went with the same screen resolution within the Lumia 950 XL as the standard 950: 2,160 x 1,440. That makes for a lower amount of pixels per inch at 518ppi. Still, that matches the same-sized Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and crushes the 5.5-inch's 401 ppi. And of course it’s AMOLED technology again. Thanks to the choice of panel tech, the screen was saturated with deep reds and blacks, but not overtly so.

Software and Performance

It’s part of Windows strategy of unification among its devices to make the OS of Lumia 950 Xl very similar to desktop Windows 10. The interface of Windows 10 mobile is extremely user friendly and appears pretty familiar to those using the desktop version. Very organized settings menu alongside with some nice Mobile version components are making it a nice experience to use.

Windows Hello, for example, stands for the biometrical authentication technology within not just Windows mobile, but the whole line of its devices. In other words, it’s Windows’ answer to fingerprint scanner. The way it’s implemented in Lumia 950 XL is due to the specially dedicated camera sensor on top of the display. Once it remember your eyes, you simply need to click on the Lock key and it takes the device 1-2 seconds to unlock it for you as you stare at it.


Continuum is an awesome feature announced last year. Let’s see what it can do in Windows 10 Mobile. Continuum kicks in when you connect your Lumia 950 XL to a monitor, keyboard and/or mouse via the proprietary Microsoft Display Dock. The UI you'll see on the monitor won't just be a 1:1 representation of the handset's screen. Instead, the phone is basically turned into a makeshift PC, which will even work with a mouse and keyboard for interaction. SO basically it’s the same Windows Desktop you have on your PC, but just without the icons.

Microsoft's proprietary Display Dock is recommended for Wired or Wireless connection with the Lumia 950 XL. The dock is small and nicely designed - besides the USB type-C ports for charging and connecting the phone, it offers 3 USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI output and even a DisplayPort. There is even a micro USB. Unfortunately, the device is quite pricey, while certain retailers offer it free with Lumia 950 XL purchase.


In regards to the camera nothing changed drastically from Lumia 950. Namely, you will enjoy PureView 20MP shooter in the rear with optical image stabilization and 4K video recording capability with Zeiss optics. Up front is the same 5MP, wide-angle selfie snapper with 1080p video recording.               

Also we see some great features implemented that make it a unique experience to use this shooter. For example, Lumia Rich Capture, which is Microsoft's secret camera sauce. You would be given the chance of editing the tonal properties of the shot - the strength of the HDR filter. Live Images is another one you get. It saves the picture with additional data in the jpg file and any Windows 10 Photos app will play your image animated before revealing the final snap.


The Music app in Windows 10 Mobile has gone through some major changes. It is now called Groove Music, named after Microsoft's music streaming service. Groove Music service is integrated within the app and offers streaming and downloading music the same way Google Music and Apple Music does.

The phablet produces very good output. While connected to an active external amplifier, the smartphone's volume levels were nicely high and its clarity readings were brilliant.

Battery life

The Lumia 950 XL comes powered by a 3,340 mAh battery. Now we do see the improvement compared to Lumia 950, the new battery is 10% bigger. And honestly it was highly expected due to the more demanding chipset and bigger screen.

Our Likes:

  • Very clever and extremely handy liquid cooling technology. This one is definitely a winner.
  • Gorgeous 5.7 inch display.
  • The camera is very decent and has amazing features that do work. No panorama – that’s the only unfortunate thing about it.
  • The storage. It’s really enough for most users, you will love it.
  • Performance-wise the smartphone is a true powerhouse.

Our Dislikes:

  • The only significant we came up with is the design materials. No matter what we say about the advantages of plastic, it does appear to be lacking premium look and feel.
  • Also, and it is always a matter of personal preferences, the OS choice is up to you.