Nokia Lumia 830 review

We approach this review of the Nokia Lumia 830 with a tinge of sadness; although the Nokia DNA will live on in Microsoft’s future smartphones, this is could well be the last time we review a Nokia-branded device.

It’s somewhat ironic, then, that although it is the last of a dying breed, the Lumia 830 marks a couple of firsts: it’s the first new handset we’ve seen to come pre-loaded with Windows Phone 8.1, and it’s the first in the UK to run Cortana, Microsoft’s version of a Siri-style digital assistant.

Nokia Lumia 830 review

Available for less than £300 SIM-free or around £20 on a contract, the Lumia 830 is affordable, too. However, the big question is: can it compete with the more current smartphones, such as the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact?

Nokia Lumia 830: design

In the same vein as the Windows operating system with which it works, the Nokia Lumia range has been built on a foundation of visual simplicity. The 830 is no different, with clear, elegant lines.

Unlike some 5in phones that can have a tendency to feel a little unwieldy, the Lumia 830 feels well-thought through. It’s reasonably slim, the screen is compact enough to be usable one-handed, and it has just enough weight to give it a pleasing heft.

The frame is solid aluminium, which lends the handset a sturdy feel, and the sculpted Gorilla Glass 3 topping on the front is a nice touch as well. This phone feels built to last. The bright plastic backplate may not be to your taste, but it’s interchangeable for different colours, and underneath it sits a microSD slot and a user-replaceable battery.

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Switch on the Nokia Lumia 830, and the good initial impressions continue. It’s fitted with a big 5in IPS display, and although the resolution doesn’t look that high, at 720 x 1,280 its 296ppi pixel density is perfectly acceptable.

It isn’t the best display we’ve seen, but neither does it have any serious flaws. Maximum brightness reaches 371cd/m2, which means it won’t be quite as easy to read in bright light as, say, an iPhone 6. However, contrast is 1,004:1, so images pop nicely off the screen, and colour accuracy is good too, with an average Delta E of 1.93.

Nokia Lumia 830 review: software

One of the biggest selling points of the 830 isn’t its looks or display, but Windows Phone 8.1 and Cortana. Although we’ve tried out Cortana before, this the first time we’ve met on an officially sanctioned device. Alas, it turns out that she isn’t that good. Naturally, any voice-based digital assistant is going to face comparisons with Siri and Google Now, and in this regard Cortana falls a little short.

The load times while Cortana fetches search results can be horribly long compared to similar software, and Microsoft’s new-kid-on-the-block status in the realm of voice control means Cortana can have trouble recognising words and phrases, especially if not clearly enunciated in your best Received Pronunciation.

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The range of tasks Cortana can perform is also slightly truncated: while Google Now will work with all your apps, the list of apps with which Cortana will deign to interface with is limited. The compatibility with Microsoft’s existing cloud platform is pretty good, however, and Cortana will happily use your Outlook, OneNote and Calendar apps to help organise your daily routine.

She’s also enabled for use with a range of wearables, including the Fitbit Surge and the forthcoming Microsoft Band.

Nokia Lumia 830 review: camera

The Lumia 830’s other major feature is its PureView camera. Boasting a 10-megapixel resolution, optical image stabilisation and 1080p video capture, it looks good on paper.

It performs well, too, capturing bright, reasonably clean images in low light, and well-exposed, detailed photographs when the conditions are more favourable. A two-stage camera button makes it easy to instantly flick to the camera app and snap off a few speedy shots, and it compares well with its main rival, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, despite the latter’s much higher-resolution sensor. The only major thing missing is an in-built HDR mode.

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Video quality is decent as well, with particularly good image stabilisation, but it does tend to blow out highlights pretty badly. This is particularly distracting if you’re trying to capture footage indoors, where there are extremes of light and dark.

Nokia Lumia 830 review: hardware and performance

One downside of this handset is that the “affordable” aspect of Nokia’s “affordable flagship” means that the components of the Lumia 830 aren’t quite as bleeding-edge as you might find in other smartphones, and our test results weren’t particularly flattering.

The processor is a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, which is a long way behind the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact’s 2.5GHz SnapDragon 801. When we put it through the GFXBench T-Rex HD gaming test, it produced a rather disappointing result of 7.2fps, a figure that’s on a par with last year’s Sony Xperia C, and its browser test results were similarly poor. We’d no longer consider a score of 1,240ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test respectable.

It’s a perfectly usable phone in most respects, though. Windows Phone 8.1 feels as slick and responsive as ever, and despite having only 16GB of storage (with no higher capacity options), a microSD slot allows that to be expanded by up to 128GB. The phone also comes with 15GB of cloud storage through Microsoft’s OneDrive platform to provide a bit of extra room.

Once again, though, when it comes to battery life, the Nokia Lumia 830 lags behind. It’s smaller in capacity, with only a 2,200mAh power pack under the hood compared with the Z3 Compact’s 2,600mAh unit – and, as expected, it doesn’t perform as well in our tests.

In the video playback test, with the screen set as close to 120cd/m2 as we could manage (it’s impossible to set it accurately, since the OS gives you only three settings – Low, Medium and High), it depleted at a high 11.7% per hour, where the Z3 Compact drained at a more reasonable 7.3% per hour. In the 3G audio streaming test, which is designed to give an idea of how the phone performs when downloading data over a cellular connection, it ate up 3.9% of the battery’s capacity per hour. Again, the Z3 is more impressive, draining at 3.3% per hour, but the difference is less marked.

One advantage the Nokia Lumia 830 does have, however, is that it comes equipped for wireless charging, and it complements that with NFC and all the connectivity you’d expect of any modern smartphone: NFC, Cat 4 4G, Bluetooth 4 and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Nokia Lumia 830 review: verdict

In all, the Nokia Lumia 830 isn’t a bad smartphone. It has a very good camera, a decent screen, we like the design – for a phone costing less than £300 its line-up of features isn’t half bad. The wireless charging, microSD expansion and user-replaceable battery are all well worth having.

However, the Lumia 830 has two major problems: first, although the OS itself is getting there, the Windows Phone Store still suffers from a lack of quality third-party apps and games; and second, its main rival in this price bracket – the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact – happens to have it beaten in almost every area. It’s the end of an era for Nokia; it’s a shame it hasn’t gone out with a more of a bang.

Details

Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £18.00
Contract period 24 months

Physical

Dimensions 71 x 8.5 x 139mm (WDH)
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 1.00GB
Camera megapixel rating 10.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 5.0in
Resolution 720 x 1280
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Other

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