The Nokia Lumia 530 is an important phone for the new Nokia/Microsoft. It follows the successfulLumia 520 - the first sub-£100 phone that was worth owning, and a real success for Nokia as was. And the price has dropped again. (Still not sure which is the best budget phone? Check out the 16 best budget smartphones of 2014.)
The Lumia 530 retails for just £60. It will be the first smartphone for a multitude of people, at that price it will fly off the shelves of every high-street phone store. And it will be available just about everywhere.
At £60 it is cheaper again than the already great value Moto G and Moto E phones from Motorola, and a similar price to EE's super cheap 4G phone the Kestrel. All of which means that the sub-£100 smartphone has become a key battleground for manufacturers, and for platforms such as Android and Windows Phone. And that means than in order to compete, even at £60, the Lumia 530 needs to be good.
You'd never mistake any Nokia Lumia phone for anything other than, well, a Lumia phone. The Lumia 530 is straight out of central casting as a Nokia Windows Phone.
The detachable back is made of brightly coloured plastic (technically, 'polycarbonate'). Our test unit is green, but as ever a variety of colours is available: everything from a lurid orange, through a bright powedery blue to more staid white and black options. Flick the rigid plastic case off the back and you gian access to the battery and SIM slots. A removable battery is always a good thing, and we commend the Lumia lineup for sticking with this option.
That plastic back is curved, meaning that even though the Lumia 530 is noticably thick and chunky, it is not uncomfortable in use. The Lumia 530 measures 120x62x12mm and weighs in at 129g. Thus it is neither particularly thin nor light for a phone with a display of this size, it's not outrageously heavy. And on the plus side it feels solid and well put together. As with all of the Lumia phones we are confident the Lumia 530 will stand up to life in a pocket, and the occasional mishap. You certainly won't need to add in the expense of a case to protect your budget phone.
Cut into the back cover are holes for camera aperture and rear-facing speaker. Along the bottom is a USB charging and connector port, and at the top is a 3.5mm jack for your headphones. Rounding out the back and sides of the Lumia 530 are a volume rocker, and an on/off button that doubles as the camera shutter switch when you are in camera mode.
The front of the Lumia 530 is a single black panel with a Nokia logo at the top. Here we find our first hints of the Lumia 530's cheapness, as the bezels are a litle larger than we would expect for a phone with a display of this size. Top and bottom it is standard to have large bezels on a cheaper phone, but even down the sides there is a couple of milimetres of wasted space.
Let's talk tech, first. The Lumia 530 has a 4in display. It's a TFT capacitive touchscreen, boasting 16M colours. Critically, on that 4in screen we get a 480 x 854 pixel resolution, making for a pixel density of 245ppi. So far so reasonable. The Lumia 530's display is toughened, and the touchscreen responsive.
And yet we hate the Lumia 530's display. Even though its pixel density is better than that of the Lumia 520, we can honestly say we found that phone's display more satisfying. And the Lumia 530 cannot compete with the Moto E in this regard. It really is a poor looking display, in our view. And we can't really fathom why.
Even on budget phones display quality is rapidly improving, but the Lumia 530's looks dull. Washed out, even. We are used to Windows Phone 8's interface popping off the screen with bright colours and flashing transitions, but on the Lumia 530 it looks flat and bland. Even worse, we thought text looked slightly blocky and blurry close up. The Lumia 530 does no justice to photos, movies or games, either. If you are used to the Samsung Galaxy Ace level of colour display, you may not mind the Lumia 530's screen. But unless this is your first smartphone the display may put you off. A shame. (See also: Nokia Lumia 530 vs Motorola Moto E: Windows vs Android for best budget phone.)
Lumia 530 review: specs and performance
We've yet to come across a Windows phone that doesn't perform at least well enough. Almost always they are snappy and responsive, zippy in use. The Lumia 530 certainly keeps up this tradition, without ever threatening the record books.
Here the Lumia 530 scored a mediocre but in-no-way disastrous average of 1486ms. The Moto E is marginally slower here, and that seems about right. The 512MB RAM really isn't a problem in terms of general performance. (See also: best smartphones of 2014 UK.)
Lumia 530 review: storage and connectivity
However, in terms of onboard storage the Lumia 530 really does disappoint. You get only 4GB onboard storage, in theory. In practice that is reduced to just over 3.6GB, and on our virgin Lumia 530 we had only 1.21GB free to use. If you like to store music, video or photos you will need to expand that storage. You can do so using an SD card slot that will accept up to 128GB, fortunately. And, of course, you can store things in OneDrive.
The Lumia 530 comes with a Li-Ion 1430 mAh battery. It's rated for up to 13 hours of talk time, and we certainly had no problem getting through a whole day of email, web browsing, social media and camera use.
Lumia 530 review: software
The Nokia Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1. You can expect any Windows Phone updates to be available to the Lumia 530 when they come out, too. If you haven't used Windows Phone before, you don't need to be afraid. It lacks the app support of Android or iOS, but you'll find all the big name apps you need in the Windows Store these days.
Indeed, the recent Windows Phone 8.1 update turns Windows Phone into a tempting proposition. We've always been fans of its colourful tiled interface, but the addition of proper notifications and the Cortana voice assistant, among other upgrades, is welcome.
The Nokia Lumia 530 has some very decent preinstalled software - albeit this must be what is eating up the meagre storage on the device. We particularly like the excellent Nokia Maps application with HERE Drive for free navigation, as well as MixRadio, which offers unlimited ad-free music streaming, even offline.
Lumia 530 review: camera
There's only one camera on the Lumia 530, and it is rear facing. So if you are buying a phone for video calling this isn't the one for you. That camera is a 5Mp snapper, with a 1/4in sensor. So if you are buying a phone to use as your primary camera... You get the picture. As a camera the Lumia 530 is nothing more than a half-decent smartphone camera, which is exactly what you would expect at this price. It captures 480p video at 30 fps.
Here are some Lumia 530 test shots:
Click to view full size.
Buying Advice The disappointing thing about the Lumia 530 is that it feels like a worse phone than the Lumia 520 it replaces (albeit with a price cut). The display is a deal breaker for us, undoing the good work of the Lumia 530's performance and build quality. We want to see more storage, and the camera is no better than it ought to be. If you really are limited in budget, it is worth considering. But we hoped for more.