Nokia Lumia Icon preview: Verizon customers finally get the Windows Phone they deserve

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Nokia Lumia Icon Review

While things have undoubtedly improved in recent years, longtime Verizon Wireless subscribers are no strangers to having to wait a painfully long amount of time before they can finally get their hands on the latest and greatest smartphones. And of course, by the time those phones finally made their way to the nation’s top carrier, they were old news and had been replaced by even newer handsets. Verizon customers who wish they could use Google’s Nexus 5 still feel the pain, in fact, as do Windows Phone fans who wish the could buy the latest flagship handsets Nokia has to offer. While Nokia’s Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520 may never make their way to Verizon, subscribers finally have a worthy flagship option in the brand new Nokia Lumia Icon.

The Lumia Icon ditches the numbers that Nokia phones typically have in their names, but it retains everything else that makes the soon-to-be-former smartphone maker’s phones great. In fact, it adds a few things to the equation that most other Windows Phones don’t have, making the Icon a fantastic option for buyers in the market for a Microsoft-powered handset.

Nokia sent me a Lumia Icon to test — in one of the craziest boxes I have ever seen, I might add (pictured below, and yes that is indeed a band of neon red light around the perimeter of the case) — but rough weather in the Northeast prevented it from getting to me until yesterday. One day obviously isn’t enough time to thoroughly review a device, so here are some preliminary thoughts and first impressions of the Nokia Lumia Icon.

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First and foremost, performance is exactly in line with what we’ve come to expect from Nokia’s high-end smartphones. The Lumia Icon features 2GB of RAM accompanied by a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.2GHz. The chipset provides more than enough oomph to keep the Icon running smoothly during just about any scenario. I have yet to see this phone choke or even stutter.

And for those familiar with Windows Phone, the Lumia Icon ships with “Nokia Lumia Black,” the latest software update available to Nokia phones.

The 5-inch full HD AMOLED display is gorgeous, with a pixel density of 441 ppi for crystal clear images. Nokia’s “ClearBlack” technology is also present for wonderfully deep blacks, and there’s a “high brightness mode” that automatically kicks in to improve visibility in direct sunlight. As has been the case with other recent Nokia phones, it works very well.

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In terms of size, the Lumia Icon is reasonable for a device with a 5-inch display. At 5.39 x 2.79 x 0.39 inches, it’s actually just slightly taller and thicker than the Nexus 5.

Nokia’s new Windows Phone is much heavier than the Nexus 5 though, but to some (including me) that’s a good thing. The reason for the heft is also a good thing: Instead of just plastic like most Lumia phones use, the Icon has a sleek aluminum band around the perimeter of the phone that gives it a nice premium look and feel.

Of course it would have been better if the back of the phone was also aluminum rather than plastic, but overall the phone still has a nice design that deviates from the norm.

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Last but certainly not least, the Lumia Icon features one of Nokia’s industry-leading cameras. It’s not quite as impressive as the iPhone 5s-crushing 41-megapixel Lumia 1020, but the 20-megapixel camera on the Lumia Icon captures images that are remarkably clear in adequate lighting. Low-light image quality is among the best I have seen as well, but again, it falls well short of the Lumia 1020, as expected.

Here’s a video shot entirely with the Lumia Icon:

In the end, the Nokia Lumia Icon is a terrific option for Verizon subscribers looking to deviate from the norm and avoid Android or iOS. Standard caveats apply — apps, apps and apps — but Windows Phone has plenty to offer and the Icon is a wonderful vessel.

For those looking to spice things up a bit, Nokia also shipped the Icon to me with a Purity HD stereo headset that can be used wirelessly or wired. It’s co-branded with Monster and the sound quality is quite good, especially if you’re looking for a headset that cranks up the bass with minimal distortion.

At under $100 from some retailers, the Purity HD headset is a great buy.

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Verizon Wireless will make Nokia’s Lumia Icon available beginning February 20th for $199.99 on a two-year contract.

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