Nokia Lumia 830 Review

Overview

Microsoft calls it the affordable flagship, but can the Lumia 830 really live up to its name? And does it give more value for your money compared to its more premium sibling, the Lumia 930? Our Windows Phone Editor Nicholas finds out.

Pros

  • Slimmer and lighter than the Lumia 930
  • Great PureView camera with Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Premium build quality with stylish metal frame
  • Decent all-day battery life

Cons

  • Still pretty darn heavy
  • Snapdragon 400 processor doesn’t actually provide a flagship-like performance
  • Poor viewing angles

Introduction

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It took nearly 2 years, but the successor to the popular Lumia 820 is finally here, and the next generation family of Lumias is complete (other than the niche 10xx, 13xx and 15xx of course). The 830 boasts a larger IPS LCD screen, comes with a better camera, and a premium metal build. But is this enough to secure the high end mid-range segment?

First let’s take a look at the specs.

  Nokia Lumia 830
Body 139.4 x 70.7 x 8.5 mm; 150g
Display 5 inches, 720p IPS LCD (294ppi)
Camera 10 MP PureView, optical image stabilisation, Carl Zeiss [email protected] MP, 720p front facing
Processor 1.2 GHz quad core Snapdragon 400
GPU Adreno 305
RAM 1GB
Storage 16GB, MicroSD expansion of up to 128GB
Battery 2200mAh, wireless charging

On paper, the Snapdragon 400 processor may prove to be disappointing, but Microsoft has proven time and time again that its operating system can run smoothly on the most basic of hardware, so perhaps the 830’s performance may be able to exceed our expectations. We’ll get back to this later.

Design and Build Quality

The Lumia 830 looks almost identical to its flagship sibling, the 930. It has the same flat metal sides and polycarbonate back, same button placements, and has an identical screen size.

However, pick the two phones up and you’ll notice the difference immediately. While the 930 retains some of its tankish nature from the venerable 920, the 830 has managed to shed some bulk – and at 8.5mm it’s the thinnest Lumia yet (other than the 925 which is of the same thickness other than the camera hump). At 150g it’s also considerably lighter than the 930 (167g) and 820 (160g).

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Lumia 925 (top) vs Lumia 830 (bottom)

All these have added up to a phone that manages to feel sturdy but not heavy enough to be noticeable in your pocket. The metal rims add to a premium look while the matte polycarbonate back feels great in the hand. Build quality, as always with Nokia, is top-notch. Based on aesthetics alone, the 830 can certainly be mistaken for a top-of-the-line flagship.

Unlike the 930, the 830’s polycarbonate back is removeable, and underneath you’ll be able to access the 2200mAh battery, SIM and MicroSD card slots. The polycarbonate back comes in an array of colours, including orange, green, black and white (all matte). They all come with a silver metallic rim while the black one comes with a black rim.

Touring the device, you’ll find the 5″ IPS LCD display, standard capacitive keys at the bottom, and 0.9MP camera at the top. The right of the device has Nokia’s standard configuration of volume rocker, lock/power key, and camera shutter key. You’ll find both the micro USB port and standard headphone jack at the top. The back houses the 10MP PureView camera and speakers at the bottom.

Overall, the design takes the best of the 930 and puts it on a diet. And that’s definitely a good thing. Does it beat the Lumia 925 in terms of aesthetics? Maybe. But that’s up to personal preference.

Handling

The subtle curves on the back and metal sides make for a rather comfortable user experience, though I find the flat metal sides more uncomfortable to hold than say, the rounded metal frame of the Lumia 925.IMG_0658

The only gripe that I have with the build of the phone is that 150g is still rather heavy, and you might experience some strain on your arm after prolonged periods of use. Furthermore, the weight distribution of the phone is uneven, with the top being heavier than the rest of the phone (possibly due to the large camera module). This makes the phone feel as though it might topple over when you’re holding the phone at certain orientations.

Display

iPhone 4s, Xperia Z3 Compact, Lumia 925, Lumia 830
iPhone 4s, Xperia Z3 Compact, Lumia 925, Lumia 830

Nokia surprisingly decided to go for an LCD screen for the Lumia 830, a departure from the trusty AMOLED that was present on the Lumia 820. And this is queer because if Nokia really wanted to produce the slimmest Lumia, an AMOLED panel would certainly have helped. Also the 8xx series have traditionally had AMOLED displays, since the Lumia 800. Many people agree that Windows Phone looks best with AMOLED, thanks to its dark interface, and I tend to agree with them.

Overall though, this LCD panel isn’t half bad. The 720p resolution adds up to 294ppi, which, by my standards, is sharp enough. You won’t be able to see any pixels unless you stare at it up close. Some would argue that if it were a true flagship, it should be sporting a 1080p display, but you should note:

  1. Nokia had to cut corners somewhere to make this an “affordable flagship”.
  2. 720p actually helps a lot in terms of battery life.
  3. The Xperia Z3 Compact, which has flagship-par specs, also sports a 720p display.

The only issue that I have with the screen is its poor viewing angles. This is an issue with LCD displays, but it seems especially terrible on the 830 in particular. This shouldn’t be a problem for most people since you view your phone head-on anyway. But it certainly is noticeable.

Performance

The Lumia 830 sports the same 1.2 GHz quad core Snapdragon 400 processor as the Lumia 730/735 and 630/635. This is where people immediately begin to question the “flagship” status of the 830. I initially thought that the processor was clocked at 1.4 GHz – that’s the typical clock speed with most Android devices running on the same S400 processor – but instead it’s clocked at a miserable 1.2 GHz. And that’s really a shame because clocking it to 1.7 GHz like on the HTC Desire 816 can really lead to a huge boost in performance.

Fortunately though, Windows Phone has always been running smoothly on all kinds of hardware, and the Lumia 830’s performance does not disappoint on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it consistently outperforms previous Windows Phone flagships such as the Lumia 920, 925, and 1020 in terms of speed and lag, due to the increased number of cores and the better GPU.

Games do take some time to load (though it still loads faster than my 925), but once it’s loaded games run buttery smooth, most of the time at least. Tentacles: Enter The Mind played without any noticeable lag, but other games like Rayman Fiesta Run and Hungry Shark Evolution do lag at times. They are still largely bearable though, but certainly not what you’d expect from a self-proclaimed flagship.

Battery Life

It is a known fact that Windows Phones have terrible battery life, with a few exceptions. Thankfully, the Lumia 830 is one of those exceptions. Throughout the two weeks of using the device as my daily driver, I haven’t once run out of battery before I retired for the night. The lowest I’ve gotten to was about 30% at the end of the day. And this is with LTE and Wi-Fi constantly switched on, with frequent whatsapping, web browsing, YouTube watching and gaming. Oh and this entire review was written on the Lumia 830 itself during pockets of spare time while I was going about my day. Perhaps it’s the Snapdragon 400 (which would explain why the Lumia 635 also had rather good battery life), or the Lumia Denim firmware, but we’ll never know.

However, being a Windows Phone, it can’t escape from the clutches of random overheating which plagues all Windows Phones. Admittedly a rare occurrence on the 830 (though an everyday occurrence on my 925) the phone will start to overheat when idle and connected to LTE, and the battery will drain extremely fast. This has been an issue since WP7, and to think that Microsoft still hasn’t solved it is ridiculous. Thankfully, throughout my two weeks of using the device such an incident only occurred once.

The battery is one hell of a fighter, and is certainly a welcome departure from the terrible battery life of the Lumia 930/925/1020.

Software

The Lumia 830 is one of the first devices from Microsoft Mobile to run on the latest Lumia Denim firmware, which (once again) doesn’t do much other than providing an “improved camera performance”. Looking past the firmware, the 830 is loaded with the latest Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, which includes improvements such as the ability to pin folders on the start screen.

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Windows Phone is a rather enjoyable mobile operating system if simplicity and flow is what you’re looking for. It makes ordinary everyday tasks enjoyable thanks to the fluidity and consistency of the UI. But if you’re heavily reliant on getting the latest apps and app updates, don’t count on Windows Phone. Just don’t.

Due to the different aspect ratio of the screen, some apps which aren’t updated have a black bar at the top, which looks weird. There are very few of such apps though. (below)

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Read more: The tale of Flipboard: Why Windows Phone is still struggling to catch up

What’s new in Windows Phone 8.1

CameraIMG_0661

Nokia calls this its thinnest PureView OIS module yet. The 10 MP shooter on the 830 is, overall, an upgrade from the 925’s. It has the same 6 element lens and optical image stabilization, but the resolution has been bumped to 10 MP.

Photos taken with the camera are crisp and the colors are vivid and natural. There’s plenty of detail due to the higher resolution as well. There are times when the color comes out a little duller than I expect though, but that’s probably a software I issue.

Night shots look pretty decent, as with the Lumia 925. Photos aren’t too grainy, and there’s quite a lot of detail even in low light.

And as always, Nokia has provided its own camera software, Lumia Camera, which comes with interesting functionality such as Living Images (which turns each photo you take into an animated 1 second gif). Camera startup and shutter speed has always been an issue on this app, though it seems to have been significantly improved with the Lumia Denim firmware.

Pricing and ConclusionIMG_0652

So has the Lumia 830 lived up to its expectations? I would say yes. At $198 on Singtel’s $42/month plan, the Lumia 830 is able to provide a rather comfortable smartphone experience. Personally I’m not terribly fond of the sharp edges or its height, and the processor could certainly have been more powerful, but the average consumer probably won’t notice that their “affordable flagship” is running on a processor found in budget phones anyway. If you want real flagship performance, the HTC One E8 is selling for exactly the same price on the same plan (our review is coming shortly). Now this makes it much harder for us to recommend the Lumia 830 as the E8 looks like a steal at this price with its Snapdragon 801 processor, 1080p screen, larger battery, and Boomsound speakers. The E8 doesn’t come in metal though, it’s all plastic.

HTC One E8
HTC One E8

If you’re happy with the design, satisfied with the Windows Phone ecosystem, and don’t mind the lackluster processor, you’ll most likely be pretty satisfied with the 830. But if you’re anything like me and want something more in your smartphone, either look beyond Windows Phone, or wait for the next generation of smartphones running on Windows 10.

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