The Nokia Lumia 830 is the latest in a long line of mid-range Lumia handsets, but it’s one that struggles to really stand out, despite its lurid colour scheme.
I’ve commented before that Windows Phone holds an interesting place in the market. Defend it as vociferously as its fans might, there’s not much doubt that it wouldn’t exist at all if Microsoft wasn’t willing to prop it up as a going smartphone concern, but that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s an smartphone OS without a purpose. It’s essentially an information-centric take on smartphone design with its tile approach closely matching that of Windows 8.1 and apps that throw your information front and centre.
The issue that Windows Phone has had as an operating environment is that it’s largely been a one-man band, and that can breed a certain degree of conformity. Apple gets around this problem by only releasing a few handsets, whereas Android gets around this problem by releasing hundreds of handsets, but from a variety of handset developers, which encourages diversity in terms of sizes, specifications and form factors. Microsoft hasn’t had that particular luxury (more or less), but that hasn’t stopped Nokia from pumping out seemingly endless Lumia variants. This is especially problematic in the mid-range space, because the very entry level Lumias tend to be excellent value, and the high-end Lumias tend to concentrate on things like camera specs. Where does that leave the mid-range in terms of notable features?
The $579 Nokia Lumia 830 is notable in that it’s the last Windows Phone device that we’ll see with “Nokia” branding on it, if that’s important to you. In design terms it plays it fairly safe with the same squared-off design seen in other premium Lumia handsets. That’s totally an aesthetic play; you’ll either like or loathe the style choice here.
The lime green Lumia 830 I tested (for once, I had a choice, which was appreciated, so I went for the non-black model) certainly stands out, and it has a decent feel in your hand, although you will notice the camera bump on the rear of the Lumia 830. The entire back panel is removable for access to MicroSD and Nano SIM slots. On the body of the Lumia 830 there are simple volume, power and camera shutter buttons running down the right hand side, and a headphone jack and microUSB port for charging at the top of the phone. It still feels a little odd to me to charge a phone from the top, but that’s totally a personal quirk of mine.
The Nokia Lumia 830 is a mid-range device, which means that its 5 inch display doesn’t come with Full HD credentials. This is strictly 720p space, with a 1280×720 226ppi LCD to play with. Within the general Windows Phone space that’s not woeful, but it does show up a little when watching video or reviewing camera phone shots.
In processor terms, the Nokia Lumia 830 runs on a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU with 1GB RAM on Windows Phone 8.1 (“Denim”). With a certain degree of futureproofing in mind, it’s also 700Mhz capable, and possibly the first mid-range phone to work on those frequencies. Microsoft supplied me with a Telstra SIM for testing in the Sydney region, and speed results were generally quite good. Performance on any network can vary widely, but it does make some sense to have as much connection flexibility as possible.
The Nokia Lumia 830 supplied to me was technically running Denim, but it didn’t have either the full Cortana voice assistant, because apparently Australian English is hard, or the 4K-capable “Lumia” camera app. Those are apparently due to come later, but as always I can only review what’s in front of me at the time of review; assessing on what might be can be a swift road to disappointment.
That being said, there’s not too much that’s all that disappointing with the Nokia Lumia 830 as it stands. The underlying hardware isn’t exactly top-notch, but Windows Phone has always been rather good at getting a lot out of a little when it comes to hardware, and like the true budget Lumias, you’ll be hard pressed to hit too much genuinely objectionable lag. The onboard 10MP optically stabilised PureView camera works quite well in most lighting situations, and I’m a big fan of smartphones with dedicated camera buttons on them. I’m not quite as much of a fan of the colour scheme used for some Windows Phone apps, as it can lead to a really discordant spray of random colours — even despite your chosen phone theme — across the tile display, but again, that’s personal taste for you.
All of this adds up to a mid-range phone that acts exactly like it’s a mid-range phone, and normally that wouldn’t be a particular problem per se. The issue isn’t that Windows Phone is predictably a little behind the times when it comes to apps, although that’s still something of a concern. Right now, if you’re a Windows Phone fan, you’re probably quite happy with the OS as it stands.
The issue is that the one-man-band constant releases of Nokia handsets leaves the Nokia Lumia 830 with very little room to really stand out, even at its mid-range $579 price point. If you just want basic Windows Phone, there are some real bargains at the cheap end of the pool for you to take advantage of, some of which run rings around comparable cheap Android handsets. If you want full-fledged performance in areas like camera performance, there’s handsets like the 930 or even the now quite elderly Lumia 1020. That leaves the Nokia Lumia 830 as a solid handset that addresses the mid-range price point, but without all that much to make it really stand out as genuinely worthwhile.