Microsoft caused quite a stir and impressed no less when it came back into the flagship smartphone race with the Lumia 950 and the device's bigger brother, the Lumia 950 XL.

Here are the best and the worst aspects of the new Lumia 950 XL, the first phablet to run Microsoft's latest Windows 10 Mobile out of the box.

Design

If you ignore the slightly different camera housing at the back of the device, Lumia 950 XL is a scaled-up version of the Lumia 950. The knobs for volume, lock and camera shutter sit in a familiar way along the right side of the phone. Lumia 950's USB Type-C was borrowed as well, and can be found at the bottom of the device.

Except for the Gorilla Glass 4 on the display, the rest of the device is made of grippy polycarbonate. The material feels good and allows the device to sit firmly in one's hand.

"Perhaps this model was focused on specs rather than the build, allowing it to be affordable enough to reach more people," Luke Edwards, at Pocket-Lint observed.

Display and Battery

The sharp and well commended screen of the Lumia 950 XL is a QHD AMOLED, sporting a staggering 518 ppi.

"It was impossible for me to discern any pixels from a normal distance. Plus, thanks to the choice of panel tech, the screen was saturated with deep reds and blacks, but not overtly so," Joe Osborne of Tech Radar explained.

Microsoft diverged from the rival flagships' methods of having fixed power sources and implemented a removable, potent 3,340 mAh battery into the Lumia 950 XL. It is probably the business community that will most appreciate this feature, even more so due to the wireless charging capability.

Camera

The main camera is a 20 MP shooter which can take detailed photos even in low light conditions. It does so using the triple LED flash, optical image stabilization, and Zeiss optics. The selfie snapper from the front of the Lumia 950 XL has 5 MP and a wide-angle option. Both cameras can capture video footage, with the rear cam at 4K and the front one at 1,080p.

"The 20.7-megapixel cameras initially appeared to be slow, until I realized they were able to take perfectly sharp photos even before they appeared to lock in focus," Sascha Segan, lead mobile analyst at PC Mag said.

Specs

On paper, the specs of the Lumia 950 XL are similar in many ways to the ones found on the Lumia 950.

The Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor may be marginally better than the Snapdragon 808 from the tinier model, but the true difference will come from the liquid cooling technology. Microsoft borrowed it from the Surface tablet computer, and it proudly stated what all hardware enthusiasts agree upon: a cooler device works faster and better.

With Windows 10 Mobile as support to the full array of Microsoft Office software and with Continuum bringing the PC experience through the Lumia 950 XL, cooling the device is a high priority for productivity.

Behind the Snapdragon 810 there are 3 GB of RAM, putting the Lumia 950 XL toe-to-toe with top-end rival phablets such as the Galaxy S6 Edge+ from Samsung.

The default storage space is 32 GB, but the microSD slot allows for expansion up to 2 TB, so this makes the Windows Lumia 950 XL very future-proof.

Software

Continuum is a very functional tool that helps busy people jump between Windows 10 devices, which is good news for those working on the go.

The pull down menu offers quick selection tiles, allowing fast access to Settings, Flashlight, Wi-Fi and more. The Cortana virtual assistant is there to aid, and the accurate word recognition can really win some precious minutes while the hands are busy.

For now, the biggest software limitation for the Lumia 950 XL is the lack of dedicated apps. The Windows 10 Mobile OS still needs some time to catch up with iOS and Android targeted applications, and that could be a deal-breaker for some.

"There's still a huge gap in decent available apps – so don't expect to see every app you can get on Android or iOS. Also, be aware of the malware masquerading as the official apps roaming the Windows app store," Jay McGregor, a contributor at Forbes, pointed out.

Availability

Signs from the U.S. carriers are less than positive for Microsoft, as AT&T declared that it will support the Lumia 950, but not the Lumia 950 XL.

"The fact that LG could get three carriers onboard for its V10 announcement and Microsoft couldn't summon a single one for its make-or-break, flagship device speaks volumes," PC Mag's Segan noted.

Conclusion

Microsoft advertised its $649 Lumia 950 XL as a PC-simulating, getting-work-done kind of device, and the phablet accomplishes that thanks to the Windows 10 Mobile and Continuum implementations. The display, a generous 5.7 inches of powerful resolution, also helps users be more productive.

Aside from having a big screen to visualize your work in progress, Microsoft equipped the phone with serious hardware. A big kudos goes to the aforementioned liquid cooling method, which keeps all the roaring specs under the hood stable and running lightning-fast.

Based on the Lumia 950 XL, Microsoft's return to the battle of the phablets will probably bring more positive surprises in the future.

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