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Nokia Lumia 1020 vs. Lumia 920 vs. Lumia 928: should you upgrade?

News by Andrew Kameka on Thursday August 29, 2013.

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Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia took a big step forward with the release of the Lumia 1020, but did it move forward far enough for people who might have already purchased the Lumia 920 or 928? It has been less than a year since the first Windows Phone 8 handsets debuted, and the Lumia 928 debuted only two months ago, so it would take a tremendous device to make someone switch so soon. Here's a Lumia 1020 vs. Lumia 920 vs. Lumia 928 comparison to help Nokia fans decide which phone is the best to buy.

In our Nokia Lumia 920 vs. Lumia 928 comparison, it appeared that Nokia's first attempt was its best. The Lumia 920 had a more accurate screen, better speakers, and a more comfortable designed that made me hesitant to recommend the 928 over the 920, despite being a newer device. Introducing the Nokia Lumia 1020 into the discussion complicates matters. Nokia stuck to the script with the Lumia 1020 and introduced a design that is similar to the 920, but with the obvious difference being the headline-grabbing 41-megapixel camera sensor of the 1020. A large circle the shape of a NY-style pepperoni slice protrudes from the frame and houses a Xenon Flash for photos and an LED flash for video.

While the Lumia 920 and Lumia 928 have small cylinders integrated with their design, the 1020 has a camera module that sticks out. It makes for less than ideal motions for holding, but it's not an insurmountable challenge. The curved edges and polycarbonate material offer a splendid feel that's slick without being slimy. The 928 has a boxier shape than the similarly designed 920 and 1020, and it has a glossy finish compared to other two. As much as glossy plastic builds are criticized in the tech media, they have a feel of being more durable. Both the Lumia 920 and Lumia 1020 suffered noticeable chipping along its edges from drops, but the Lumia 928 test unit that I have shows nary a scratch.

Internally, the Lumia devices are repetitious in nature. They all share a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 32GB of internal storage with no expandable memory, and 2,000 mAh batteries. The 1020 is the lone standout because it has 2GB of RAM, compared to the others 1GB, because it needs more free memory in order to handle the heavy lifting of its camera. Windows Phone has always managed to make transitions feel good even on the dual-core processors and limited RAM, but the 1020 feels a tad better in non-camera operation. Nokia's range of devices feel on par when it comes to battery life and typically deliver a full day of moderate to heavy usage without fail. The real issue comes from the 1020 being excessively used as a camera. You'll still get long life snapping photos, but the heavy activity taxes battery life if used for hours as a full-time camera. On a performance level, the 1020 gets a slight, barely-there edge.

I'm sure you've noticed a trend of continuity by now. That trend continues when discussing screen sizes because all three devices have 4.5-inch displays with WXGA resolution. The 920 stands out here for its LCD display that's brighter and has a slightly better profile than the OLED displays of the 928 and 1020. All three screens are still good with strong colors and enhancements for readability outdoors. Since the release of the Amber update, all of the Lumias have the benefit of being able to adjust the saturation and temperature to create a better display.

There's even less to distinguish their software packages. Putting the carrier bloatware aside, and there's plenty on each, all three Nokia devices unsurprisingly run the same type of Windows Phone 8 software and have access to the same apps. There are some limitations like the Nokia Lumia 928 being unable to access the FM radio feature because of hardware, but the majority of the software offered by Nokia is available on all devices. Nokia has introduced the Pro Camera to all of its high-end Lumia devices, along with the Glance clock screen and other features, so that's not much of an advantage. What the pre-1020 phones won't get is the benefit of the 41-megapixel sensor. The big disc sticking out of the back of the Lumia 1020 does a tremendous job of capturing a ton of light, detail, and color, and then putting it all together to form a beautiful photo. The photo samples at the bottom of this post illustrate that dominance. The Lumia 920 and Lumia 928 take great photos, especially following some improvements from recent updates, but the Lumia 1020 is the best smartphone camera of the bunch.

Click on images to see full-screen photos

The decision on which phone to purchase seems clear: the Lumia 1020 is better than the Lumia 920 and Lumia 928. However, that superiority has its limits because owning a Lumia 1020 will set you back $299. Then there's the looming threat that at an even bigger and (arguably) better Lumia is only weeks away. At this point, I'd advise someone to be patient a short while longer rather than pony up the extra money to get a more enjoyable experience. If you are an AT&T customer already satisfied with the 920, it's hard to recommend upgrading this soon with more Lumias on the horizon. However, if you hate large phones and absolutely need a new phone today, the Lumia 1020 is a great fit.

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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