Somewhere between the budget Lumia 735 and the flagship Lumia 930, you'll find the Lumia 830. Not quite a flagship, the Lumia 830 aims at the higher end of the middle market, competing against the Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 on contract with prices on EE hitting £33.99pm to get the Lumia 830 for free with 4GB of double speed 4G and free EU roaming.
Alternatively, you can also get it for £19.99 with no extras and a £59.99 upfront fee. In the US, it's available for $99.99 with an AT&T plan. If you're looking for more freedom, the Lumia 830 can found for £280.99 on PAYG or £304.99 SIM free. In the US, you can buy it for US$449.99 without a service plan, while in Australia you can pick it up for AU$535 at JB HiFi.
What does this actually get you though? The Lumia 830 has a metal body and a 5-inch, 294ppi, 720p HD screen. Under the skin, there's a quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU clocked at 1.2GHz backed with 1GB RAM to run Windows Phone 8.1, and it also includes a 10MP PureView camera with Carl Zeiss lenses.
Metal handsets are often commended for their premium feel - a perception driven by the iPhone range and the HTC One M8, But I think that the metal frame is actually detrimental to the Lumia 830.
This is in part because of the plastic back, which detracts from the overall feel, and partly because of the shape. While the HTC One M8 comes with a beautifully ergonomic curved back, and the iPhone 6 is nicely rounded, the Lumia 830 just feels like a metal brick.
The chassis comes in two colours. The silver version is the less attractive: the contrast with the black face exaggerates the overall squareness of the handset. The black version has a more elegant look.
Couple the hard lines with the larger 139.4 x 70.7 x 8.5mm frame and you're left with a phone that sits uncomfortably in the hand. It also feels a little heavy at 150g. Despite the metal build, I would not feel overly confident about the chances of a phone this hefty surviving a drop.
The plastic back plate of the 830 makes it slightly grippier, but comes with its own faults. Being exceptionally thin means that it feels borderline flimsy, especially when I removed it to pop in the SIM. And that's before I get to the colours.
The Lumia 830 comes in four colours: a silver frame with white, orange or green back, and a black frame with black back. My review model was silver and orange, and I'm not a fan. Bright shades are a hallmark of the Lumia range - but whereas the 735 is enveloped in fun and outrageous colours, the orange and green plates on the 830 simply seem unnecessarily garish.
The Lumia 830 has soft back, Windows and search keys below the screen (so there are no on-screen navigation buttons) as well as the traditional hard volume rocker and power/lock key. There is a dedicated shutter key located with the other hard buttons on the right hand edge, which can be used to launch directly into the camera app.
On the top edge, you'll find the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and microUSB port for charging and connecting to a PC. This is perfect for the headphone port, as it means you can slip the Lumia 830 into your pocket while listening to music. However, it's a different story for charging.
There must be a good internal design reason why the microUSB port is on the top, but it makes it awkward to use the Lumia 830 when it's connected to the wall. However, a strong battery performance means this is unlikely to be an issue. With normal usage, you'll only have to charge it at the end of the day.
And with so much to criticise about the look of the Lumia 830, it will need to be a phone of substance over style to succeed. How does it fare? Read on to find out.
Just as with the Galaxy S5 Mini and the HTC One Mini 2, it is clear that one of the major selling points of the Lumia 830 is its cut-down flagship look. Unfortunately, the design of the Lumia 930 hasn't translated well to downsizing.
The squared corners don't fit in alongside the more rounded black glass face, and the plastic back plate can be described as gaudy at best. This is a real shame because, believe it or not, I am quite a fan of the Lumia 930's design, apart from that brightly coloured back of course.
Microsoft has kept in other features that made the Lumia 930 such a good handset, including wireless charging. But because the Lumia 830 doesn't come with the charging pad, you'll need to buy it as an extra - an added expense that defeats the point of choosing a midrange phone. So, nice as the inclusion of wireless charging is, few 830 owners are likely to enjoy its benefits.
PureView camera technology is included to make the most of the 10MP sensor, found in a rather obvious black circle on the back of the Lumia 830. Although the Nokia brand is no more, it still stands behind the Lumia range, and its great history in the camera phone market gives the 830 something to live up to. The Nokia 7650 arguably started the camera phone revolution, while the more modern Nokia N8 (winner of our best camera phone on the market title in 2010), Nokia 808 PureView and the Lumia 1020 show that quality was strong to the end.
And the Lumia 830 lives up to the PureView name. Shots come out clear and bright, although the front facing camera does leave a little to be desired with its sub-1MP sensor. In all, the Lumia 830 camera certainly gives reason to take a second look.
There's one more feature that makes the 830 stand out, and that's Windows Phone 8.1 OS. Windows has come in leaps and bounds since its first real outing in the form of Windows Phone 7, it now features a notifications bar (nicknamed Action Centre on Windows) and allows the input of background images to your Live Tiles, as well as resizing to levels not seen before.
Live Tiles form the crux of the whole OS, and anybody that is familiar with earlier iterations of Windows Phone, or Windows 8 onwards on tablets and PCs, will feel right at home. They work in a similar way to Android's widgets, offering up information without the need to load up the individual app, but in a much more uniform way.
Windows Phone now also offers a Google Now and Siri rivalling assistant called Cortana, something that was sorely missed on Microsoft's mobile OS until now.
Overall though, the lack of apps lets Windows down, and the implementation of things such as the dialler app and settings menu (to be covered later) still leave Windows Phone as the third player in the mobile world, and likely to remain there for some time.
Interface and performance
The Lumia 830 runs Windows Phone 8.1, unsurprising given Nokia's recent acquisition by Microsoft. Navigating Windows Phone is done through the Live Tiles, something that will be very familiar to those that have used any versions of Windows Phone since the relaunch as Windows Phone 7, or Windows 8 or 8.1 on tablets and PCs.
These offer up little snippets of information without the need to launch the actual app, much the same way that widgets work on Android. The lack of a background image to place these tiles over is covered with a rather neat feature that creates a collage with the image being set as backgrounds to the tiles themselves. That said, not all the tiles accept this background so you may have to rejig your tiling layout.
While these tiles work much like widgets, there is a real appeal to the uniformity of these tiles that makes it seem far more organised than its Google counterpart.
This level of organisation doesn't translate further into the WP8.1 OS, with menu's seeming to be a little haphazard. The greatest example of this is the settings menu, one that I found myself endlessly flicking through in order to find what I was looking for.
The same can be said for the dialler app, and is a problem that bothered me perhaps a little more than it should. When launching a phone app, the custom is to be greeted by a standard T9 keypad that allows you to type in any number of your choosing before hitting the call button. In its infinite wisdom, Microsoft has added an extra layer where you have to hit a rather small and inconspicuous button at the bottom of the screen.
In order to navigate this OS, Microsoft has equipped the Lumia 830 with a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 CPU, 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 305 GPU. This puts it on par with the lower priced Lumia 735, and even the Lumia 635, both of which come with smaller and lower resolution screens.
It also sits alongside the HTC One Mini 2 for power, although the use of Android's KitKat OS rather than Microsoft's Windows Phone will govern how powerful each of these seem.
In order to fully gauge and standardise how well each handset performs, the WPBench app was run with the Lumia 830 scoring an average of 233. This score is lower than both the Lumia 530 and the Lumia 635, both of which scored over 250. It also means it scored fairly similarly to the Lumia 735, perhaps thanks to the HD resolution of these screens.
This was a little unsurprising as the 830 always felt a little sluggish whilst moving throughout. This is a problem that I also encountered on the Lumia 735, with apps taking a noticeable amount of time to load, especially from the lock screen.
On the lower priced of the two Lumias this wait can be somewhat forgiven, but as the Lumia 830 comes in with a higher price tag I'm far more sceptical.
With the talk of Windows Phone being more power efficient, hence the refrain from using quad-core CPUs until now, you would expect a Lumia running the latest iteration to be rather battery friendly.
Despite this, Microsoft has fitted a 2200mAh battery beneath the hood of the Lumia 830. This means that it sits above the HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung's Galaxy S5 Mini in terms of sheer battery size, with the Android handsets coming in at 2110 and 2100mAh respectively.
This will be needed though, given that both the HTC and Samsung only have 4.5-inch screens where the Nokia has 5.
Thankfully though, much like with the Lumia 735, I can safely say that the Lumia 830 performs well when it comes to battery performance. Based purely on the figure attained from the standard 90 minute HD movie test at full brightness, the Lumia 830 experienced a drop of only 22%.
This puts it better than the 29% that the One Mini 2 hit and the 25% of the much higher powered Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, but compares badly against the Galaxy S5 Mini's 16%. It also performs worse than the Lumia 735 which managed to score a rather impressive of 15%.
Throughout my time with the Lumia 830 I found that I could get through a standard days use, although very heavy use of the Skype app and pushing the battery through Temple Run or Asphalt racing games through lunch left the Lumia begging for a little top up before bed.
For those that do want to push the battery life a little further, Microsoft does include a battery saving mode. It is unclear just what this does although limiting data, screen brightness, CPU speed and email refresh seem likely culprits.
This mode can be enabled permanently, until the next charge or whenever the battery gets low. Annoyingly there is no choice of how you define low, is it less than 30% or 15%? Whilst the appeal of being able to preserve battery life is there, the lack of control and explanation is extremely frustrating.
Just look at the work being done by Sony, HTC or Samsung with the Stamina mode, Extreme power saving mode and Ultra power saving mode respectively giving the Android handsets a much greater boost.
It shouldn't be too hard to guess the two vital parts that make up a smartphone, it must be smart and it must also work as a phone. Believe it or not, even today some handsets still fail to live up to their billing as a phone with the Acer Liquid E3 lacking in this department.
Does the Lumia 830 suffer in the same sense though? Thankfully not. This could be down to a lot of factors, such as the decent signal holding, or the three microphones that are located all around the handset.
I was a little surprised at how well the signal was held with the Lumia 830 given its metallic shell, but Microsoft has managed to sort that out thanks to some plastic strips in the casing.
This decent calling though was marred by the poor handling of actually making the call to begin with. For starters, the integration of the dialler app and the contacts book is poor meaning that smart dialling is a no go.
I'm also not a fan of the dialler app itself, why is there two steps in order to load up the number pad that I want to access?
Overall, I have to say that whilst phone section of the Lumia 830 is perfectly functional, it is handled much better software wise on its Android brethren.
As with the calling capabilities of the Lumia 830, messaging is handled well, although it still proves to be a little frustrating. Just take a look at the keyboard for example.
Compared to the stock offerings on iOS and Android, Microsoft's keyboard attempt holds up pretty well, but is still clearly the last choice of the three. Add in manufacturer's own take, the third party offerings that have long been able to be downloaded from Google's Play Store and now with iOS8 on the App Store as well, and you're left way behind.
Yes, auto correct is there but it lags just enough to become noticeable. Slide to text input is also available, but struggles for speed and accuracy when placed against the original Swype app, or even Swiftkey's offering. Microsoft needs to up its game, or at the very least open up the keyboard API to developers to allow third party apps.
The SMS app and email apps are also starting to appear a little dated. Compare them to the older iOS apps and you'd feel that they had been made in the same mould, but iOS has clearly moved on from that whilst Windows seems a little stuck.
Emailing is much the same, with the app feeling a little dated and a tad clunky. Users moving over from Android will be pleased to see that you can use your Gmail as a Windows Live ID if you wish, but even then a lot of Gmail's features are lost.
There are many that will recoil in horror when I point out that in order to surf the worldwide web, one must make use of a program that many have long considered obsolete... Internet Explorer. I admit, I am one such user and have become heavily reliant on Google Chrome across all other ecosystems; my laptop, Android phone and iPad all have it installed.
Thanks in part to a lack of other options, I found myself using IE and was pleasantly surprised. For those that have long ignored Microsoft's browser, you'll be rather surprised at just how far it has come since IE6.
IE now includes all the features that you would expect from a standard mobile browser; tabbed browsing, full page views, the ability to disable pictures and even Do Not Track. It does place the URL bar at the bottom of the page though, something that I have never really gotten my head around thanks to 14 years of always finding it at the top.
Pages loaded swiftly over both a 3G and WiFi connection, both mobile and desktop sites. Things will only get faster if you happen to live in a 4G enabled area too.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that you might opt for the Lumia 830 over either of its cut down rivals is the whopping camera that has been placed on the back. This 10MP sensor dwarves the 8MP snapper on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, but lacks against the 13MP of the One Mini 2.
Both of these camera's take some pretty decent shots, with a further battle being launched against Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact that comes packing a 20MP sensor.
Thankfully the 830 has been blessed with the right weapons: it comes with a decent sized sensor, the PureView technology that has graced higher end Lumia handsets for a while, as well as a Nokia standard in the form of its Carl Zeiss lens. There is even a dedicated shutter button which gains a massive thumbs up.
All of these add up on paper to give a pretty decent snapping experience.
There is a slight issue for the Lumia 830's camera though: where the hardware excels the software falls short.
The whole camera app seems a little confused with the ability to download extra lenses, in the same fashion as the Sony Xperia Z range, being a novelty that soon wears off thanks to its poor integration. These are okay when you're lining up a perfect shot and have all the time in the world, but make no sense when it comes to quick point and shoot.
That said, there are a few options that you can make use of in order to try and improve your shot.
For starters, you can take what Microsoft calls a Smart Sequence. In essence this takes a series of photos that you can edit later, such as removing moving objects, changing faces to ensure that your whole group is smiling, select what the software thinks is the best shot or the auto selected action or motion shot.
Elsewhere within the camera app is the standard ability to change the flash, set a timer or add framing grids. You can also take multiple images at different exposures. I found this latter feature to be a little annoying, as the three images aren't all captured in one go. Instead it takes three images one after the other so you will have to stand steady for a while.
Loading the camera can be done one of two ways, either via long pressing the shutter button or by selecting the app in the menu or live tile. I found myself instinctively going for the shutter key, as it was much quicker to launch.
Even then it still took a good second to load, with the 'resuming' page that is all too familiar popping up from every screen I tried loading the camera from. Whilst this isn't really a problem for taking a perfectly framed portrait or landscape shot, it will prove a problem of snapping your cat being a little silly.
As for the forward facing camera, those that have bought heavily into the selfie craze like myself will want to avoid the Lumia 830. Equipped only with a 0.9MP sensor, it lags heavily behind the other 'Mini' handsets with the Galaxy S5 Mini managing 2.1MP and the One Mini 2 managing 5MP.
Even the cheaper Lumia 735 comes with a 5MP front sensor, but that is its key selling point.
Given that the Lumia 830 comes with a 5-inch screen, it can easily be argued that the 830 is handset that is far more targeted to the consumption of media than its smaller Lumia brethren. It is much less suited than its bigger brother the Lumia 930 though, for a number of reasons.
Looking only at the Lumia 830, the 5-inch IPS LCD screen comes packing a HD 720 x 1,280 resolution giving a density of 294ppi. This gives a lower density than its smaller rivals (326ppi), with both the HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini offering 4.5-inch screens at the same resolution. Which of the density or size is most important to you is something you'll have to decide.
I never found that lower resolution was all that problematic, but is heavily highlighted compared against the 5-inch Full HD (441ppi) Lumia 930. The 930 flagship also has another trick up its sleeve that is missed on the 830, with the bright AMOLED screen replaced with an LCD option to save money.
Normally I would accept this as a given, but as the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini comes with a Super AMOLED option, I do wonder just how much Microsoft is pushing its profit margins here.
The other key hardware here is the loud speaker located on the back of the Lumia 830, which thankfully worked rather well. Compared with the likes of the One Mini 2, the 830 is a definite step down, but unlike many handsets the Lumia 830 doesn't suffer from any problems at higher pitches or louder volumes.
With the hardware performing well, it is a shame that the software doesn't appear to hold up as well. Again those that have used any of Microsoft's other products, such as Windows 8.1 on a PC or even the Xbox One or Xbox 360, will feel at home with the video, music and photos app.
On the surface it seems that this might be a good move by the Redmond firm, but I would argue to the contrary. It might ensure a uniformity and continuity across all platforms, but the apps themselves have always been poor, and push the sale of video and music more than most users will appreciate.
Neither app comes with any functionality worth mentioning above the standard options, which is a real disappointment because competitors are making strides in this area. Samsung might not have hit on a winner with its music square, but it shows some effort to innovate.
Gaming is handled through the Xbox Games app, which is much the same as the aforementioned media apps. This app will prove far more useful to those that play across platforms, especially those with an Xbox console.
In truth though, I found it to be a little pointless as all games can be found via the Microsoft app store and then accessed via the menu.
With its stripped down flagship, Microsoft is pushing the Lumia 830 against some very well established handsets with an arguably better OS. Just how does it fare against its Android opposition?
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini
Perhaps the more famous of the 'Mini' generation, the Galaxy S5 Mini is the third iteration of Samsung's cut down flagships. It should be expected that Samsung has worked out how to produce a smaller, more budget friendly flagship and the S5 Mini is a very good example.
In terms of specs the Galaxy S5 Mini compares extremely favourably against the Lumia 830; better screen technology, a more powerful CPU and front camera, even a fingerprint scanner built into the home key.
The latter of these is PayPal certified meaning that it can be used on your favourite sites to buy a variety of items, as well as being used to secure information within your handset.
The Galaxy S5 Mini also comes with a skinned Android on board which will appeal more to the masses than the Windows OS.
For those looking for a metal handset though, the Samsung is sadly lacking.
A metal frame is something that the Lumia 830 doesn't have over the HTC One Mini 2, as it follows the design of the larger all metal HTC One M8. The curved back makes it much easier to hold, and doesn't come with that plastic backing.
HTC has also given the One Mini 2 a superb 5MP front facing camera that smashes the Lumia 830's 0.9MP, and matches the 830 in terms of power with an identical 1.2GHz Snapdragon CPU, 1GB RAM and Adreno 305 GPU.
Again, the One Mini 2 runs Android although packs in HTC's Blinkfeed home screen to add in a customised news feed.
The Lumia 830 wins hands down here on battery life, with that extra screen size not providing the drain that might have been expected.
The big battle between the Lumia 830 and the Sony here rests with the camera. Sony will win any competition on size, with its 20MP sensor doubling that of Microsoft's 10MP snapper. Both cameras come with the ability to download new lenses so will appeal to budding photographers.
Sony also comes with far more power being a smaller flagship, rather than a stripped down version of the Xperia Z1. The Xperia comes with a 2.2GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM, as well as an Adreno 330 GPU.
However, the Xperia Z1 Compact might feel a little dated having been usurped, the Japanese firm now offers the Xperia Z3 Compact.
Those looking for a media experience though may want to direct their eyes in the direction of the Lumia 830, with its 5-inch screen being a massive 0.7-inches larger making it easier to view videos whilst on the go.
Taking many clues from its flagship brother, the Lumia 830 comes with a metallic frame and 5-inch screen as well as a cut down 10MP PureView camera in a bid to help it compete against its biggest 'Mini' rivals; the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2.
That 10MP PureView camera is certainly one of the better options on the market, able to make the most of some really decent optics and that PureView technology. A dedicated shutter button is also very welcome
Battery life is also much appreciated. It might not be the best on the market but I never once found that I was left wanting for my charger at any point during this review. The Lumia 830 should be able to make it through 2 days of light to medium use, but will easily make it through a standard day with heavy text and calling.
Media consumption is also well catered for with the Lumia 830; its larger screen makes movie viewing easier (although does detract slightly from the clarity), the external speaker is loud and clear, and storage is well catered for with the ability to throw in 128GB of microSD storage.
Going right back to basics, one of my biggest qualms with the Lumia 830 is the design. It borrows a lot from the Lumia 930 with the metal frame and bright back, but is implemented really poorly. The colour scheme of the back is far too showy, the metal frame doesn't follow the glass front well and the positioning of the charging port on the top means it gets in the way.
The Lumia 830 also felt extremely sluggish throughout my time with it. Using the same 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB RAM and Adreno 305 GPU as the lower powered Lumia 635 and 735 is nothing short of a mistake when it has a larger screen to cope with and commands a higher price tag.
Finally, I still have real problems with the Windows Phone 8.1 OS. On its face the Live Tiles give a styled sense of organisation, but dig just a little deeper and Microsoft's mobile operating system stutters. The settings menu felt all over the place, as did the contacts integration. Elsewhere Microsoft suffers from a poor keyboard, and a real lack of apps.
With a cheaper price tag than its flagship brother, the Lumia 830 can be forgiven for taken a few cuts in performance. One of the key features of these being the internal grunt, but it seems Microsoft has given it a cut too far.
How Microsoft can justify the inclusion of identical internals to cheaper handsets is beyond me, especially as there is a middle step between the Snapdragon 400 and 800 SoC's. This lower power leaves the Lumia 830 struggling, with a very noticeable lag whilst moving between different areas of the handset.
It is also let down heavily by a poor design and equally poor operating system, with neither living up the quality of the Android powered HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini. With the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact also coming in at a similar price bracket, I really struggle to see how the Lumia 830 will compete.