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Nokia Lumia 830 review: Affable, affordable Lumia 830 does the 'Nokia' name proud

If "affordable flagship" sounds like an oxymoron to you, you haven't met the Lumia 830. It's a fine ending for the former Finnish phone-maker.

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Nic Healey
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Nic Healey

Senior Editor / Australia

Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.

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The Nokia Lumia 830 is an affordable flagship smartphone, but it's also a swansong for the venerable Finnish company. Nokia's name is on the way out, and Microsoft will be the brand of choice for the next generation of Lumia phones, with the Microsoft Lumia 535 to be the first successor to the Nokia line.

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7.7

Nokia Lumia 830

The Good

Smart-looking with satisfying mid-range power, the Lumia 830 packs in more features than you'd expect at this price range, including the impressive PureView camera.

The Bad

A 720p screen seems a little disappointing on anything with the title 'flagship'. Windows, as always, suffers when it comes to your choice of apps in the marketplace.

The Bottom Line

A great example of a Windows-based smartphone and a killer option for what it costs, although there's still not quite enough going on with Windows Phone to pull people away from Android or iOS.

As far as legacy is concerned, there are worse notes to end on. The Lumia 830 is pitched as "the affordable flagship" and it's hard to argue with that. A good combination of solid design, a well-rounded feature set, the 10-megapixel PureView camera and a mid-range price tag all make this phone a welcome addition to the Windows Phone family.

That price, by the way, is $99 on contract with AT&T in the US ($450 outright), AU$579 in Australia, and in the UK you can grab it direct from Microsoft for £287.10. (Carphone Warehouse also have it for £29.99 upfront on a £22.50 per month contract.)

Josh Miller/CNET

Design

The Lumia 830 bears all the usual design hallmarks seen on the premium end of the Lumia range. The plastic back panel is a matte finish while the metal edge harkens back to the bigger sibling, the Lumia 930 .

For my money though, I like the darker metal finish on the model we had in for review more than the brightness of the 930's edge -- it comes off a little less flashy and I'm quite comfortable with that.

With a black rear case and a dark metal rim, the 830 looked quietly competent and every part a premium phone. Of course, if you want, Microsoft will also sell it to you in white, bright orange and a stunningly virulent green, shown above.

Josh Miller/CNET

The slightly rounded edges and slick glass front all add up to a phone that feels great in the hand. The back also offers some actual grip when being held (as opposed to, for example, the Sony Xperia Z3 which may as well be coated in Teflon).

At 150g (5.29 ounces) it weighs a little less than the 930, despite being roughly the same size. Metal buttons to control volume, power and the camera shutter all sit down the right size, while a MicroUSB and headphone jack sit up the top. The rear comes off for access to the SIM and MicroSB slots -- no need to track down that SIM tray key you keep losing.

Display

While the screen is the same size as the 930, sadly it's not Full HD. The Lumia 830's 5-inch screen has 1,280x720 resolution with a pixel density of 226ppi. That's a little lower than what you'd normally expect from a flagship, but the IPS-LCD panel is quite bright, and even when watching videos I didn't find myself pining for Full HD (or beyond). That said, for a phone touting this level of camera quality, some users may find the lack of a 1080p screen on which to review said snap an odd choice.

Readability in direct light was quite impressive thanks to Nokia's ClearBlack filter, although it drops off sharply when you change viewing angles.

Josh Miller/CNET

Windows software

The Lumia 830 is shipping with the Microsoft Windows Denim update, which brings an impressive raft of changes for Windows Phone in general, as well as some tweaks exclusive to the Lumia range.

Many of these revolve around the camera -- handy, given the aforementioned PureView snapper packed in. The update will change the name of the Nokia Camera app to Lumia Camera, but also add some features. For example, a long press on the camera button will kick off Moment Capture and the phone will instantly start recording in 4K video. You'll also get Auto HDR and dynamic flash, as well as better low-light shooting.

Josh Miller/CNET

In the US, Cortana will now wake up just via saying "Hey, Cortana". The voice assistant service still has catching up to do in the rest of the world. It will hit beta in the UK and public alpha in Australia.

Sadly, while our review version said it was running Denim -- and gave us new features like VPN and the ability to create folders -- it didn't have the Lumia Camera installed by default, and there was no 4K option to be seen. It did, however, come with the Lumia Cinemagraph app for creating images with animated areas, Lumia Creative Suite for image manipulation, and even Lumia Selfie, which does what it says on the tin.

As always, Windows Phone feels like a good OS right on the verge of becoming great. It's simple and intuitive with some very nice touches and a great home screen, but the app store still feels like a wild west frontier town full of either devs you've never heard of or outright tumbleweeds where apps should be. In essence, it's still lacking that critical mass to make it worthwhile jumping from Android or iOS.

That said, if you're currently using an older version of Windows Phone (or BBOS), then this will probably rock your socks.

While there's not a huge amount in the way of localised apps, the Nokia Here mapping service is, of course, ready for Australia (where I reviewed the phone), as is the Here Transit app for public transport. A partnership with video streaming service Quickflix also sees that app come preloaded.

Camera

Josh Miller/CNET

The Lumia 830's 10-megapixel camera comes with optical image stabilisation and Zeiss optics, meaning it qualifies under Nokia's PureView banner. It's the first time that PureView has made it on to a phone in this price range and it's a highly welcome addition.

The dedicated camera button opens up the software with a press even when the phone is locked, although it did take a few seconds until it was ready to start snapping in our tests.

There's the standard auto mode, along with several modes for night, night portrait, close-up, sports and backlight. The smart sequence burst mode is there and it's as useful as ever, helping you pick the best shots from a sequence, adjust for motion focus and more.

Playing around on a hot spring day in the country town of Wagga Wagga, I was impressed with how the colours popped, giving the images a really warm feeling. See for yourself in the photos below.

Nic Healey/CNET

Smart sequence was tested using the obligatory red cattle dog, and helped us to locate the exact moment the dog in question managed to completely miss catching a ball.

Nic Healey/CNET
Nic Healey/CNET
Nic Healey/CNET

Testing in the less exciting locale of the CNET office in Sydney, images captured under indoor lighting with a window behind the subject (an 8-foot-tall Space Marine) still look sharp, although the flash definitely creates a bit of a washed out effect.

Nic Healey/CNET
Nic Healey/CNET

In an underground railway station, the 830 definitely managed to make the most of the available artificial light with no flash required.

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Nic Healey/CNET

We've checked in with Microsoft on when the Lumia Camera update might be available and we'll adjust this review for the final version of the software.

Performance

The Lumia 830 packs a quad-core Snapdragon 400 running at 1.2GHz -- quite low-end by today's standards. You wouldn't know it, though, as the phone ticks along quite nicely. Web pages and apps loaded quickly and, as always with Windows Phone, the phone interface felt responsive and swift.

Videos looked fine on the 720p screen, and even gaming apps performed solidly. In fact, as we said before, it was the camera that seemed to take the longest to load -- something also noted by my colleague Andrew in his review of the Lumia 930.

Josh Miller/CNET

Battery life

The Lumia 930 has a 2,420 mAh battery, while the 830 makes do with 2,200mAh. However, the reduced processor speed and lower screen res means there is a lot less to drain the power. The result is amazing battery life. With 48 percent charge remaining and all battery-saving functions turned off, the 830 told me it had 35 hours of life left.

In the course of testing, I'd regularly grab the phone from a bag where I'd realise I'd left it turned on overnight after a full day of use, only to discover plenty of battery life left. Maybe it's just in comparison the Galaxy Note 4 that I was using before, but the battery life alone on the 830 made me wonder if it was time to swap.

Josh Miller/CNET

Conclusion

Holding the unenviable position of being the one of the last scions of Nokia, the Lumia 830 does its dynasty proud. It's a well-made phone, smartly designed and with solid mid-range performance. At the price, you'll be hard pressed to find a better Windows Phone option, no matter where you live. It's one of the best Windows phone I've ever used and better value for money than the 930.

As always, Windows as a mobile operating system remains an acquired taste that's far more on the 'umami' side of the spectrum than the gentle sweetness of, say, iOS. Unless you've been desperate to get your hands on a PureView camera with its excellent low-light shots, there's still not enough in the Windows ecosystem to see many people make the jump from a rival operating system.

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7.7

Nokia Lumia 830

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8