Nokia, Microsoft, and AT&T are placing huge bets on the Lumia 900. But, does it have the hardware to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus and Apple’s iPhone 4S? In this week’s episode of Cracking Open, I show you what’s inside the Lumia 900 and show you how it stack up to the competition.

The Lumia 900 has a single-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage, a 4.3″ AMOLED display (800 x 480), 802.11 b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, an 8MP rear-facing camera, and a 1MP front-facing camera. It measures 5.03″ (H) x 2.70″ (W) x 0.45″ (D) and weighs 5.6 ounces.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Nokia Lumia 900

Cracking Open observations

  • Single-piece polycarbonate case: Like the Lumia 800, the 900 has a single-piece polycarbonate case, which gives the phone a solid, sturdy feel.
  • Bigger, heavier than the competition: It’s about the same width and height as the Galaxy Nexus, but it’s slightly thicker and heavier. Compared to the iPhone 4S, it’s bigger and heavier all around.
  • Good build-quality, tricky to open: The phone’s construction quality is good and opening the device isn’t difficult–once you know the trick (demonstrated in the video).
  • Good, not great, display: The Lumia 900 has a 4.3″ AMOLED screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and an approximate pixel density of 217 pixels per inch (ppi). This is lower than the resolution and pixel density of the displays on both the Galaxy Nexus and the iPhone 4S. Don’t get me wrong. The Lumia has a nice display, but I wouldn’t say it’s “resolutionary” or anything like that.
  • Single-core processor, average amount of RAM: The Lumia has a 1.4GHz, single-core Qualcomm processor and 512MB of RAM. The Galaxy Nexus has a 1.2GHz, dual-core Texas Instruments processor with 1GB of RAM. And, the iPhone 4S has a dual-core Apple A5 processor (which appears to be clocked at about 800MHz) and like the Lumia, it has 512MB of RAM. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t really give us a clear winner in the raw performance category. At face value, the Galaxy Nexus seems to come out on top, but a handset’s performance is also determined by its operating system, the efficiency of the software you’re running, and a host of other factors. I can tell you that in the very limited testing I did, the Lumia was responsive and didn’t suffer any noticeable lag.
  • Less storage than competitors: The Lumia only comes in a 16GB version, which is half the 32GB you get with the Galaxy Nexus. And of course, Apple is all about choice with the iPhone, which comes in 16-, 32-, and 64GB versions.
  • Less battery life than competitors: As for battery life, the Lumia also appears to be at the bottom of the list. According to Nokia, the Lumia can provide up to 7 hours of talk time. Samsung rates the Galaxy Nexus at up to 12 hours, and Apple says the iPhone 4S gets up to 8. Just remember, all of these values are subject to how you use the device. Sure I can get a full day out of my iPhone 4S, but not if I’m constantly browsing the Internet, taking photos, or streaming video. And don’t even get me started on what running the Nexus’ 4G radio does to its battery life.
For a real-world review of the Lumia 900, check out Jason Hiner’s post, “Nokia Lumia 900: A review for business professionals.”

Bottom Line

The Lumia 900 may lack of a dual-core processor and have a lower resolution screen and less storage capacity than the Galaxy Nexus and iPhone 4S, but it’s definitely the best Windows Phone 7 device I’ve tested. And even with its less-than-cutting edge hardware, I found the Lumia’s overall performance on par with the other two phones.

So why didn’t Nokia pack the phone with the newest processor, best display, and more storage? I think it all comes down to price. At $99 (with a two year contract) the Lumia is definitely the most affordable high-end smartphone on the market. Had Nokia pushed the envelope on hardware, they would have needed to raise the price.

Nokia, AT&T, and Microsoft are pulling out all the stops to help the Lumia 900 succeed. And given my experience with the device, it has a chance. The phone is available for pre-order now, and goes on sale in the U.S. on April 8th.

Internal hardware

Our Lumia 900 test unit has the following hardware:

  • 1.4 GHz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 (APQ8055) processor (with Adreno 205 GPU)
  • Elpida B4064B2PD-6D-F 2Gb LP DDR2 DRAM (512 MB)
  • 16GB NAND flash chip
  • Qualcomm MDM9200 3G/4G wireless modem
  • 4.3″ AMOLED display (800 x 480)
  • 8MP rear-facing camera
  • 1MP front-facing camera
  • 3.7V, 1,830 mAh Li-Ion battery (BP-6EW)
  • Atmel mXT224 touchscreen controller (MXT-N0K1 CCU-1R0 1G3818B)
  • Unknown A926 T44V 10MUCP 8F1586
  • Unknown PPGC TI 1B1 A7L8
  • Broadcom BCM4329 Low-Power 802.11n with Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and FM (BCM4329EKUBG)
  • Qualcomm PM8058 power management IC
  • Qualcomm QTR8600 RF Transceiver (QTR8615L ACV313.0 H41470A7)
  • Avago ACPM-7868 Power Amplifier Module Linear Quad-Band GSM/EDGE
  • COPAL C17 A1 6800058
  • SMSC USB2512B USB 2.0 Hi-Speed Hub Controller
  • Unknown AGD2 2135 LVPET
  • Qualcomm PM8028 power management IC
  • A5005 K1143 0AGHVY
  • A5017 Kee47 ECO44
  • A5001 K1150 0A6SKH
  • A5002 K1144 0AGJZ3
  • TDK-EPC QRF3001F 151158-48B
Updated April 4 and 5, 8:12AM: Corrected retail sale date and one reference that listed the Lumia 900’s screen as 3.7 inches.