Nokia Lumia 930 review: the best Windows Phone yet

Guest Blogger —  July 24, 2014

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Nokia Lumia 930 review: the best Windows Phone yet” was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 24th July 2014 10.07 UTC

Microsoft’s latest Lumia 930 top-end smartphone is still a Nokia for now, and shows promise as a viable competitor in the flagship smartphone battle with Apple, Samsung, HTC and Sony.

Aluminium meets glass and plastic

The Lumia 930 is another example of Nokia’s legendary hardware build quality. It’s solid, gives the impression it could take a knock or two without issue and feels nice in the hand.

An aluminium band around the outside meets Gorilla Glass on the front and a quality soft touch plastic on the back – in this case bright green. The screen has a sculpted edge that tapers down to the aluminium side, which feels nice to the fingers as they slide across it, but makes me worry that the main screen area could get more easily scratched if the 930 was placed on its screen.

Nokia Lumia 930 review
Aluminium edges contain Nokia’s characteristic colourful plastic back, which isn’t removable. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It’s about as different as a black slab smartphone can get, and while I think it looks fresh and interesting not everyone will like the hard aluminium edges and vibrant colour scheme.

The excellent 5in full HD OLED display is vibrant, crisp and bright (although very reflective outdoors making it slightly difficult to read), but makes the 930 a big phone. Those upgrading from an iPhone 5 will feel it’s enormous, but it has a slightly smaller profile than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and other large Android phones.

Weighing 167g it’s also quite heavy compared to all the current crop of competing Android smartphones, 4g heavier than the Sony Xperia Z2, 7g heavier than the HTC One M8, 22g heavier than the Galaxy S5 and 37g heavier than the Google Nexus 5. It’s also heavier than the 139g Lumia 925 that came before it.

The Lumia 930 feels reassuringly weighty, but isn’t too heavy in the hand or pocket, although it might be too big for some.

Specifications

  • Screen: 5in full HD OLED
  • Processor: 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
  • RAM: 2GB of RAM
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Operating system: Windows Phone 8.1
  • Camera: 20-megapixel PureView camera, 1MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi (n/ac), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE and GPS
  • Dimensions: 137 x 71 x 9.8mm
  • Weight: 167g

Wireless charging built-in

One of the benefits of Windows Phone is that almost all Windows Phones feel alike in their operation. The Lumia 930 has a powerful processor, but it doesn’t feel any faster or zippier than previous models.

Multitasking is handled with aplomb and no unintentional lag was noticeable anywhere in while using the phone. Some of Windows Phone’s animations take some time to do their thing, making getting into and out of menus take a bit longer than you’d expect, but that is Microsoft’s choice on the software side.

Nokia Lumia 930 review
Volume, power and a dedicated shutter button sit in the right-hand edge of the Microsoft smartphone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The powerful processor does come into its own when dealing with photos and advanced affects, which are chewed through in record time.

On paper the Lumia 930 has a fairly small 2,420mAh battery compared with its size (the Galaxy S5 has a 2,800mAh cell), but the Windows Phone manages to last a good day in use with lots of email arriving throughout the day, a bit of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as a few short videos and an hour or two of listening to music.

Some other larger smartphones will make it through two days, with most benefiting from more power efficient newer processors, but the Lumia does have built-in Qi wireless charging.

With a wireless charger in the box, there is certainly some joy and convenience to be had just plonking the phone on a pad to charge at night instead of having to scrummage around for a microUSB cable in the dark.

Nokia’s battery-saving mode, which limits the number of apps that can run in the background, helps extend battery life without inhibiting functionality too badly and can be switched on automatically when battery charge is low.

Windows Phone 8.1 – the best yet

The Lumia 930 runs Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone 8.1 software, which is a big step forward to catching up to Android and the iPhone in terms of usability.

Nokia Lumia 930 review
The live tiles on the home screen are a cross between small widgets displaying at-a-glance information and app icons. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The unique cross between app icons and widgets called live tiles are great, showing at-a-glance information. Microsoft has added a proper notifications shade that pulls down from the top of the screen complete with quick settings for turning Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, flight mode and rotation lock on and off.

One particularly nice feature is that the wallpaper on the home screen slides behind the tiles, some of which are transparent giving making them look like little windows. It’s a small thing, but a nice touch.

The majority of the rest of the software works as well as Android or iOS. There aren’t any customisable keyboards, but Microsoft’s built in one is decent. With a lot of apps installed the list of all apps is rather long and tedious to navigate.

Nokia Lumia 930 review
The app list scrolls on forever if you have a decent amount of apps installed. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Microsoft’s worked hard to bring big-name apps to Windows Phone, and for the most part it has succeeded. Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Evernote Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all there. I missed Pocket (the saved for later app), Marvel Unlimited and Google’s apps like Google Maps and Hangouts.

Microsoft’s apps are solid, including Office and OneDrive (the service formerly known as SkyDrive). Nokia’s Here Maps works well, with decent offline maps too, plus Nokia’s MixRadio, which is about to be spun out into a separate company, is a particular standout.

Games, on the other hand, aren’t up to par with Android or Apple’s iOS. There are some games, but the majority of the good ones aren’t available on Windows Phone yet. Microsoft might sort that out with better Xbox integration, but it hasn’t yet.

Great camera

Nokia Lumia 930 review
The Lumia 930’s camera is one of its best features combining Zeiss optics including optical image stabilisation and a 20-megapixel sensor. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Lumia 930 has the same 20-megapixel “Pureview” camera as the Lumia 1520 with a two-stage shutter button like a compact camera. While not quite as powerful as the 41 megapixel monster on the Lumia 1020, it is still one of the best cameras on a smartphone.

Nokia uses “supersampling” to make a 5MP image from a 20MP sensor – which removes artefacts from images – but also gives users the option of accessing the full image. Low light performance is good aided by optical image stabilisation to prevent shake blur, as is detail, saturation and colour accuracy in good light.

Nokia’s Pro Camera app is great, providing both a simple but intelligent point-and-shoot experience, as well as every option a camera phone photographer is likely to want, all clustered under an intuitive ring interface.

Nokia’s Refocus app also allows users to refocus images after taking them, just like every high-end smartphone seems to do these days.

Nokia Lumia 930 review
Outdoors the screen is highly reflective making it quite difficult to see when in direct sunlight, even with the brightness on maximum. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Price

The Lumia 930 is a high-end smartphone – the top of Microsoft’s current lineup – but costs from around £440. Officially it costs £550 direct from Microsoft, Nokia’s website has multiple listings from resellers for £440, which undercuts quite a lot of the competition including the Sony Xperia Z2, iPhone 5S and HTC One M8.

Verdict: solid for something a bit different

Nokia Lumia 930 review
The 5in smartphone is considerably bigger than an iPhone, but is about the same size as the current crop of flagship Android smartphones. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Lumia 930 is the best Windows Phone yet. It looks as unique as a black slab can, is solidly built and will appeal to those looking for something a bit different. It’s even got an FM radio, which is becoming rarer these days.

Windows Phone 8.1 is the best version of Microsoft’s software to date, catching up on some features while most of the biggest apps are there, unless you’re tied into Google’s services. Some users will miss the games and other less mainstream apps, while you’ll also have to put up with coming third when it comes to app updates.

Overall, the Lumia 930 is a solid phone, but not a remarkable one. Worth buying if you’re looking for something different, but there are better smartphones around for the same amount of money.

Pros: Great camera, wireless charging, 32GB of storage, Nokia apps, solid build

Cons: Lack of games, lack of non-mainstream apps, reflective screen makes outdoor viewing more difficult

Other reviews

HTC One M8 review: a lightning-quick, five star phone

Samsung Galaxy S5 review: bigger, faster – but still plastic

Sony Xperia Z2 review: powerful, waterproof, but just a tad too big

Moto G review: the best smartphone you can buy for £135

Google Nexus 5 review: a flagship smartphone that costs the same as a mid-range device

iPhone 5S review: Apple’s best is all about fingerprints and software

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2 responses to Nokia Lumia 930 review: the best Windows Phone yet

  1. Testing The Guardian news feed…

    Personally, I’m more interested in the budget Lumia 635. Seems like a solid phone for about $150. Might be a fun gadget for experimentation while I await the 4.7″ iPhone 6.

  2. I’m thinking about it too. I have the 521 from last year, which this one replaces. I like everything about it, except for no flash on the camera.