Nokia Lumia 930 Review: The best Windows Phone yet

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Dubbed to be the best Windows Phone of 2014 – the Nokia Lumia 930 is the newest edition from Nokia. Being the flagship phone of 2014, the Lumia 930 certainly packs a punch. There’s a lot riding on this phone, it’s one of the first to run Windows Phone 8.1 out of the box and the first phone released under the “Microsoft Devices” brand.

The Lumia 930 has a 5” Full HD OLED display, a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, Windows Phone 8.1 with Nokia Cyan, 32GB of internal storage and the 20 megapixel PureView camera – of course, supported by Nokia’s excellent suite of photography applications.

While the phone is seen as an upgrade from the Lumia 920 – you’ll find that it’s more like a Lumia 925 or the “Lumia Icon” you’ll find in the states. It’s got a fantastic design, a great camera and with the Windows Phone 8.1 update – the OS is even better than before.

Nokia Lumia 930 Review: The best Windows Phone yet

Design

The Lumia 930 is frankly an unmissable device, assuming you haven’t gone for a black or white version of the device. From the front, you’ll find the 5” lightly curved display which takes 70 minutes to form and polish while in production. It’s surrounded by a think milled aluminium strip which resembles the Lumia 925. From the back, you’ll be hit in the face with the vibrant polycarbonate back (in this case, we received Orange) which also encompasses the camera and speaker.

The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass meaning it’s a little more resistant than other screens (and hey, it’s Nokia – so it’s bound to be able to take a beating) and the plastic backing has a soft feel to it while making it easier to hold the phone. The metal casing on the phone also acts as the antenna of the phone separated by split lines at the top and bottom of the phone which draw your eyes to the headphone jack (top) and the Micro USB port (bottom).

Due to the material used on the back of the phone, it picks up almost every smudge, mark or scratch you can find – which is disappointing since it really does degrade the quality a little. Some of the marks are quite easy to remove by just using your thumb, however, some smudges are rather tough to remove. Even when putting the phone in my pocket for the first 10 minutes of receiving the phone, it already had marks.

On the right hand side of the phone you’ll find the physical volume, power and camera buttons. The camera button will allow you to quickly launch the camera from sleep and is dual-detent, meaning pushing half way will initiate the focus and a full press will take the photo. Looking around the body of the phone, you’ll find tiny little holes which are microphones – offering the best audio capture possible and this feature was pressed hard at the launch event. The best audio is captured from the front of the phone.

Display

The screen is fantastic. Featuring a 5-inch Full HD OLED AMOLED display, it’s bright, beautiful and packs a resolution of 1920 by 1080 (1080p). The display can reproduce blacks quite well (one of the best we’ve seen) and the screen almost fills up the entire device thanks to the piece of curved glass ontop. Underneath the display, you’ll find three capacitive buttons which act as Back, Start and the Search button.

Business at the front, Party at the back.

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Performance

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor isn’t a recent model, however, the phone is still a work horse. The phone is responsive, instantaneous and snappy – something that you won’t experience with other models. Opening apps is almost instant and browsing the web (when on WiFi or reliable 4G connection) is snappy and quick – everything that you could ask for in a smartphone.

The only issue with this however is heat. You’ll find that the lower portion of the phone can be a little warm when you’ve used it for a long period of time. This also happens if you’re playing a game on the phone or syncing a few email accounts. It’s certainly nothing alarming but be mindful of it.

You’ll have 32GB of internal storage to fill up (including the OS and included applications) which is enough for some people but you’ll also get 7GB of OneDrive space to use as well. Unfortunately, Nokia decided to omit expandable storage in the Lumia 930 which is disappointing especially because of the recent improvements to SD card handling in Windows Phone 8.1.

The phone has a 2420mAh battery and it does a good job of keeping the phone on for a full day, however, you won’t be able to get much more than that. This was with moderate usage including using the camera, the odd game, web browsing (via 4G and WiFi) and a few phone calls. If you’re looking to squeeze a little more out of the battery then you can use the Battery Saver feature.

Nokia Lumia 930 Review: The best Windows Phone yet

Camera

So now we get to the camera. The best thing about Nokia Lumia phones is the camera. We’ve seen that with the Lumia 1020 which has the best smartphone camera out there – offering 41-megapixels. Plus the Lumia 1520 which has Nokia’s new 20-megapixel camera. The Lumia 930 has the same camera from the Lumia 1520 – offering up to 20-megapixels of quality. Nokia’s efforts to improve smartphone photography haven’t gone unnoticed and it certainly shows with the Lumia 930. Firstly, unlike the Lumia 1020 or 1520, the camera lens doesn’t protrude or bludge out. It’s safely protected behind the casing.

With the Nokia Camera app you get a multitude of manual settings including white balance, exposure and manual focus. The software makes taking photos a breeze with its Full Auto mode, automatically correcting the images to ensure they look their best. When you take a photo, two images will be saved onto the phone memory – one low-res JPG perfect for sharing in emails or social media and one high-res JPG thanks to the 20-megapixel sensor. You even have the option to save a high-res DNG RAW format image instead of a JPG to make editing easier in post.

Nokia Lumia 930 Review: The best Windows Phone yet
Nokia Lumia 930 Review: The best Windows Phone yet

From our testing with the camera, in multiple situations, we’ve found that the phone will get the exposure wrong. It will either underexpose or overexpose images which make them look washed out or too dark. Of course, this can be corrected by manually setting the exposure but this shouldn’t really be done. Additionally, in some low-light situations, the camera does have issues focusing on far objects. Again, performing a manual focus will resolve this, however, for a camera platform which is praised for its low-light photo quality, it is disappointing.

An update to the Nokia Camera software (and a feature to Lumia Cyan) has brought a feature called Living Image. When you take a photo, it will also capture a small 3 second video which will play at the start – making it appear as so the image was living. It’s a very cool feature and will make it to some selected Lumia models in the future as well.

For video, it can record up to 1080p in resolution and can do it quite well. Unlike some other phones on the market at the moment, it cannot record in 4K. However, since this format isn’t prevalent right now, we don’t see it as a downside. The phone also has a number of microphones positioned around the phone to ensure the best sound is captured and this works very well. Check out the video below for a sample.

Video Sample

Software

The phone is one of the first to feature Windows Phone 8.1 in Australia. It comes with a host of improvements including Notification Centre, SD card improvements, Start Screen background support and much much more. These changes are certainly a welcome improvement and improve your Windows Phone experience. However, it always comes down to apps. Even though the app situation is getting better for Windows Phone – there is still a lack of popular applications.

For example, we’ve got the “essential apps” such as Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify, however, you’ll find others like Snapchat, Tinder, Hangouts (or any Google apps for that matter), Uber, Pocket and more are missing. Of course, there are plenty of third party apps to fill the void including 6snap for Snapchat, 6tindr for Tinder and Nextgen Reader for Feedly but they don’t always provide the authentic experience you’re used to.

Of course, it also seems Nokia and Microsoft are trying to fill this void with creating apps of their own to replace services. Nokia alone has pushed out many apps such as Nokia Panorama, Nokia Storyteller, Nokia Video Trimmer and Nokia Video Upload to ensure users can still perform all the normal tasks. Additionally, developers that are committed to the platform are constantly creating new and fun applications.

I’m sure the situation will get better and especially now that Nokia is now owned by Microsoft. However, for the moment, the third party apps make up for the holes and new apps are being released everyday.

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Notification Centre

Nokia Lumia 930 Review: The best Windows Phone yet

Review Breakdown

Nokia Lumia 930

Microsoft Devices

From $729.00

Score

9.0

Good
  • Full HD Screen
  • Solid Design
  • Impressive Performance
  • Windows Phone 8.1
Bad
  • Heat issues
  • No expandable storage
  • Low-light camera issues
Bottom Line

The best Windows Phone yet – if you’re looking to purchase a Windows Phone this year, you’d be crazy if you didn’t grab this.

Conclusion

The Lumia 930 is very exciting phone. It’s the first phone in Australia to feature Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Cyan update, it’s the first phone to be released under the command of Microsoft Devices and it’s the flagship phone for 2014. The 5-inch Full HD screen, the 20-megapixel camera and amazing build quality and finish set the device apart from the competitors that offer plastic phones with removable back covers (looking at you Samsung). The vibrant colours that the phone comes in (Orange, Green, Black and White) certainly makes the phone unmissable.

The Windows Phone experience has been improved with the 8.1 update and certainly completes the OS more than before – however, it’s still very much a catch up game for Microsoft to offer the same features as Android and iOS. Additionally, the lack of apps (other than the essentials) may disappoint some but for those that don’t use a lot of apps or don’t mind waiting – then it’s perfect.

I loved the Lumia 930 and if I hadn’t just purchased a Lumia 1520, it certainly would’ve been my next phone. This phone is the best piece of hardware we’ve seen from Nokia so far and you’d be mad if you didn’t grab this if you were looking to purchase a Windows Phone this year.

Note: The majority of pictures used in this review were taken using either a Lumia 930 or Lumia 1520 – both have the same camera. This just goes to show how awesome the camera really is.

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