It isn’t a strange time to be a potential Windows Phone buyer. It’s a very strange time to be a Windows Phone buyer. The smartphone market and the now Microsoft-owned Nokia Devices business are moving in completely separate directions, if the Nokia Lumia 830 are any indication.
On some level, Microsoft understands this. And that’s why it probably felt compelled to coin the phrase “affordable flagship.” The Lumia 830 is a different kind of phone for a different kind of user. This user wants all of the perks that come with owning a flagship smartphone. Decent processor performance, a nice screen and a great camera are necessities. They also want a price that’s cheap on or off a two-year contract.
Those requirements are diametrically opposite things, and it’s easy for smartphone makers in an admittedly competitive space to get the formula wrong. Whether the Lumia 830 is a decent smartphone, and is worth purchasing, comes down to whether Microsoft used the right math at each and every step in its quest to find an answer for a problem everyone else is trying to solve too.
Lumia 830 Review: Hardware & Design
I can tell you right now that hardware wise Microsoft got the math right. The Lumia 830 is what you get when you add up all of the design flourishes we’ve seen in Lumia Windows Phones these past few years.
On the Lumia 830’s face are the physical Back, Start and Search buttons that Windows Phone makers were required to include on their devices until very recently. At the top of this glass front are a front-facing camera and earpiece. A 5-inch IPS display sits in the middle of all of this, dominating the Lumia 830’s look. The front panel subtly blends into the metal edge frame that’s fresh from the Nokia Lumia Icon and the Nokia Lumia 925. The band acts as the Lumia 830’s antenna, which is why it has stripes an certain intervals.
Running along that band are another set of physical buttons and the Lumia 830’s only two ports. The right edge holds the volume buttons, power button and a physical camera button that’ll have photography lovers singing its praises. Nothing sits on the bottom or left edge because Nokia has opted for a top mounted headphone jack and microUSB port.
Lumia Windows Phones have always been pretty easy to spot from afar. Past Lumia were always dominated by color and the Lumia 830 is no different. What is different is how Nokia is giving users an option this year. The Lumia 830 has a giant black circle around its 10-megapixel rear-facing camera. What surrounds that camera is a sea of polycarbonate plastic. This sea of plastic is actually a interchangeable back that hides the device’s battery, SIM Card slot and MicroSD card slot so that users can add storage. The AT&T Lumia 830 comes with two backs, one that’s bright green and another that’s black. You can switch them out at your leisure and they both come with support for QI and PMA wireless charging.
It’s nice to see such a decent mix of designs from past Lumia devices come together in the Lumia 830. Its nicer still that they add up to a device that feels pretty great in the hand and is comfortable to use. The edges are tapered a bit, but they’re still sharp and you feel them in the palm of your hand. That’s okay though, because those same metal edges give the Lumia 830 a premium feel that other Lumia Windows Phones in its price range completely lack.
HTC kicked off a revolution with the BoomSound speakers in the HTC One. Since then most device makers are adopting front-facing speakers and it’s a shame that the Lumia 830 doesn’t have them. The Lumia 830 weighs 150grams but it feels evenly distributed. That weight lends to the Lumia 830’s premium feel. You won’t pick up this device and think it’s anything less than an iPhone competitor based on looks and feel.
Lumia 830 Review: Display & Internals
I mentioned that with the Lumia 830 Microsoft is trying to find a winning formula for a high-end smartphone with a low-end price tag. I don’t think anyone who looked at just the Lumia 830’s specifications would mistake it for a high-end Android competitor, though.
A Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM sit behind the Lumia 830’s 5-inch 1280 x 720 display. Inside the Lumia 830 has just 16GB of storage, but users can add more.
The IPS display wasn’t a big deal for me. I liked having the spacious 5-inches to move my fingers around in, but I never felt like it was anything special. Adjusting the color temperature helped with this, but I’ve been too spoiled by the dark blacks and bright colors of the AMOLED Displays in other Lumia Windows Phones to be impressed by the one here. That being said, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with this display. Response time on touch input was decent. Viewing angles were excellent.
Nokia doesn’t get a lot of credit for it but, many of its devices come with an outdoor setting that makes the screen more visible in direct sunlight. It definitely helps in the Lumia 830 and it’s something every device should have. Being able to use the device with my gloves on was equally impressive.
I wasn’t impressed by the quad-core processor and RAM. In fact, I’m willing to go on record now that they – and it’s a problem that’s specific to the AT&T Lumia 830 — potentially ruin an otherwise pleasant experience. Until fairly recently, Windows Phones were the only smartphones I used personally. If you would have told me that Windows Phone devices were capable of lag just a year ago, I’d have said you were crazy.
I’m a believer now, though. The Lumia 830 opens apps within a pretty reasonable time. Load a game and you’ll be waiting a bit. Worse still, Windows Phone has all of these transitions that happen as you navigate the interface. I could get the Lumia 830 to stutter simply by going back to the Windows Phone Start Screen, which is pretty crazy. This is where that balance comes in. To cut costs the Lumia 830’s processor is pretty weak and it shows. The lag isn’t so horrible that it’s instantly a bad phone. That being said, it’s there and it is noticeable.
Lumia 830 Review: Cameras & Extras
We’ve talked about the high-end cost and the low end internals of the Lumia 830.
How Nokia manages to call the Lumia 830 a flagship smartphone is thanks to the rear-facing 10 megapixel camera. This camera has all of the things picture takers should love. Optical image stabilization makes it great in situations where you can’t keep your hand steady. There’s also some backside illumination going on. That means that the Lumia 830 can take some pretty good pictures in low light.
Pictures taken with the Lumia 830 were often crisp and bright. Videos were great. Both weren’t obviously any better than pictures and video taken with last year’s Lumia 925 Windows Phone. One thing that did help the Lumia 830 stand out among the pack were Living Images. Simply put thy are small video clips that allow users to capture the movements before and after they would have taken a picture.
Lumia 830 Review: Software
The Lumia 830 runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 operating system and has the latest Lumia Denim firmware. A lot of the advantages don’t warrant repeating here, but a few are notable. For a complete review of Windows Phone 8.1 you should look at our very detailed Windows Phone 8.1 review. It’s worth noting that apps on Windows Phone are slightly harder to come by than they are on iPhone and Android.
FitBit & Cortana
The Lumia Denim firmware that The Lumia 830 runs added support for Bluetooth 4.0. That’s the lower power form of wireless communication that fitness bands and smartwatches use and it’s important because of some Cortana personal assistant integration that’s very relevant for potential AT&T Lumia 830 buyers. While supplies last, AT&T is giving everyone who purchases a Lumia 830 from its stores a FitBit fitness band. Fitbit recently unveiled a Windows Phone app that allows users to log food and sleep through Cortana.
Throughout my time with the Lumia 830 I wore the Fitbit Flex on my wrist and logged sleep using Cortana. It was pretty cool and worked most of the time. The Lumia 830 also has a health app that tracks calories burned and steps taken on its own. It’s a shame that the Lumia 830 didn’t have a faster processor though. More modern Windows Phones would have let me log things with Cortana and the Fitbit Flex with a simple command and no button presses.
Lumia 830 Review: Specifications
- 5-inch 720p Display with Super Sensitive Touch & Sunlight enhancements
- 1.2 Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 Quad-Core Processor
- 1GB of RAM
- 16GB with MicroSD Card Slot
- 2,200mAh battery
- 10MP rear facing camera with Optical Image Stabilization / 0.9MP front camera
- Single Camera Flash
- Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim
- 139.4mm x 70.7 x 8.5mm – 150 grams
Lumia 830 Review: Conclusion
Buyers are going to have to decide for themselves whether the Lumia 830 equation make sense for their needs.
Those who need the most powerful phone that’s going to offer best-in-class performance should definitely look elsewhere. Those stuttering issues are indicative of a deeper problem that anyone who games on their phone a lot is going to have to grapple with. That being said, the Lumia 830 is a terrific phone with a decent camera and nice size screen for what should be a decent price. Most people don’t need a ridiculously powerful phone. For those people the Lumia 830 delivers.
That decent price isn’t entirely being served up by AT&T though. By including a Fitbit Flex with every purchase it feels like America’s second largest carrier is keeping the phone at $449 without a contract when it should really be much, much cheaper. With a two-year contract the AT&T Lumia 830 is $99 down, though, and that’s how most people get their new phone.
The Lumia 830 is terrific. It’d be one of the best smartphones available if it wasn’t for that processor.