Microsoft’s 950 is a 5.2-inch phone does try a few interesting tricks so that it's not too basic. Its iris-scanning technology makes for an impressive advanced, up to date unlock method and Continuum lets me scale the software to TV proportions for a useful desktop-like mode. Lumia 950 lays the foundation for Windows 10 Mobile, but now it's up against the best phones ever made, like the similarly-sized Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6S, LG G4 and Nexus 5X. Does it really have what it takes to win converts from iOS and Android, or keep Windows Phone 8.1 users from defecting? Clearly, it's not that simple.
It doesn't measure out to be the thinnest or lightest phone of its size, with dimensions of 145 x 73.2 x 8.25mm and a weight of 150g. But it's still a nice fit for one-handed use with a little extra stretch. The boxy design is palm-friendly, and the thicker-than-normal bezel means you'll never accidentally touch the display. You'll also never mistake this for a "premium" handset, either. The Lumia 950 is enveloped with a one-piece plastic shell that overlaps its Gorilla Glass 3-protected screen. While the front is in a glossy black, the rear cover comes in matte white or matte black. Gone are the fun, vibrant colours of orange or lime green, as seen from last-generation Windows phones, with the Lumia opting for a classier, sleeker and overall more sophisticated look with a sharp black.
The microSD card and battery are easily accessible behind the removable plastic cover, a boon for professional users. Even the expandable storage slot can be accessed without removing the battery (but the same doesn't apply to the stacked nano SIM card underneath of it). The USB-C has its ups and downs. Powering that 3,000mAh removable battery is a USB-C port on the bottom frame with fast charging capabilities. I still hate carrying around an extra cable, as much as I appreciate the reversible connection. It'll be easier once microUSB is further phased out of devices at the end of 2016.
The top of the Lumia 950 frame has a normal headphone jack, while the right side houses a power button and volume rocker, or more accurately the volume rocker and power button. They're in reverse order from many of today's phones, and that's how Nokia had them. Sadly, there's no double-tap-to-wake function. In fact, the only way to turn on this phone is to press that tiny power button on the right side. The speaker is on back is placed next to the 20MP camera and triple LED flash. The 20-megapixel (MP) camera is flanked by a fancy triple LED flash on its left side, and there's no significant camera bulge, like on the Nexus 5X. this camera can be operated with the dedicated camera button, giving access to quick and easy photography.
Windows 10 Mobile has a dark theme turned on by default, and it really lets the deep blacks and Microsoft's familiar blues shine on this 5.2-inch AMOLED display. The quad HD resolution at 2,560 x 1,440 doesn't hurt either, packing 564 pixels per inch (ppi) into this 16:9 display. That's sharper than the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus and ties the Galaxy S7, but it doesn't come close to matching Apple and Samsung's brightness levels. The Lumia 950 does well enough outdoors and has wide enough viewing angles, but it could be brighter at its max.
Whatever the brightness setting, I noticed this phone runs hot when in use for longer than a half hour. It's most evident when scrolling with my fingers using the touchscreen. The slower (and less problematic) Snapdragon 808 chip shouldn't run this hot, like a problematic Snapdragon 810, but maybe this is why the new Microsoft Lumia 950XL uses "liquid cooling."
The Lumia 950 doesn't have liquid cooling, but it does offer a handy glance screen. This shows limited information, like the time, date and simple notification icons, when the phone is asleep. Like Motorola's slightly more advanced Moto Display, the static text here is in white against the otherwise turned off AMOLED display in black. It's not a battery hog, but this feature can be turned off in settings.
Windows 10 includes a one-handed-use mode, sort of like Apple's Reachability mode. It drops the entire screen down and stays there even when you tap into other menus. You have to tap the Windows home button to revert it or let the screen sit idle for a while. This helps that 5.2-inch display feel a smidge smaller for critical, one-handed touchscreen tapping on the subway or tube.