As you may have seen during our live blogging, Nokia has launched the Lumia 920 and 820 smartphones. You can check their specifications and features in our previous report. The first impression is that this a very nice hardware platform for Windows Phone 8, and it’s not surprising that Steve Balmer was so enthusiastic about it.

Both 820 and 920 phones are very (very!) responsive, and that’s partly thanks to the Windows Phone 8 OS itself. The Lumia 920 is the more interesting device obviously. It looks and feels a bit large, but not close to the Galaxy Note 2 or the LG Vu. The 920 has a polycarbonate body which is extremely resistant (I dropped a Lumia 800 once… oops, it came back totally fine).

The first thing that catches one’s attention is the display. It is based on LCD technology, and has a resolution of 1280×768. However, the brightness, color saturation and even black levels were impressive in the demo environment. We’ll have to do some side by side testing, but it is quite remarkable and pretty much everyone should be able to see it right away. The touch functionality also works with or without skin contact, thanks to a thin pressure-sensitive layer (in addition of the capacitive tech). This means that gloves aren’t a problem. It’s also possible to use nails as well. I wonder how a pressure-pen would work like.

At this point we have not been able to perform system benchmarks, but it’s fair to say that the performance of the Snapdragon S4 used in the Nokia 920 is well documented. This is basically the same chip than the AT&T Galaxy S3, so just look at that, and you will know what level of performance we’re talking about. Even though it’s a dual-core, it’s fair to say that its floating point speed and graphics capabilities can sometime surpass quad-core chips.

The wireless charging has potential, but we know from history that this is not a “make or break” feature as we have seen from the Palm Pre days. It’s a very nice perk, but you first need the customer to buy the phone in the first place.

PureView looks amazing, seriously. Its basis is rather “simple” but nobody else ever did it. Basically, Nokia has managed to stabilize the optical system enough that it can slow shutter speed at all times. Because of that, its PureView camera can gather much more light than competitors, without suffering from blurry pictures or shaky video. There were live demos of both, and in low-light shooting or shaky videos, the Lumia 920 blew my iPhone 4S out of the water – it’s not even funny. I suspect that the larger/thicker body gives Nokia enough room to do that. The wireless charging also adds to the thickness.

Overall, the Nokia Lumia 920 seems like an excellent hardware platform for Windows Phone 8. I suspect that competitors will build and pitch thinner devices as a counter move – the Lumia 920 weighs more than 170 according to my estimation. In the end, the PureView camera is be the main edge that Nokia has (especially the low light + image stabilization aspect), along with the very good offline mapping services. We really need to take PureView for a spin in the real world. At the moment, Nokia’s demos are very impressive, but it remains to be seen what you and I will get out of it. We are really forward to testing it in a full-scale review.

Transparency: we have payed for our flight from San Francisco, but we will be using lodging that Nokia provides to a large number of reporters. Although most media outlets never disclose things like this, we do. More about our travel policy.

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