Nokia Lumia 930 review

6 Aug 2014

A well-priced, well-made Windows 8.1 smartphone that performs well where it counts

Price when reviewed: 
414(£345 exc VAT)
Buy it now for 
5

The Nokia Lumia 930 was launched back in April as one of the first Windows Phone 8.1 devices, but it’s taken a lot longer than its cheaper siblings – the Lumia 630 and 635 – to arrive on shop shelves. This is by far the most interesting of the three, however. See also: what's the best smartphone of 2014?

As with the Lumia 630, Windows Phone 8.1 is definite plus point on the Lumia 930. The new dropdown Action Center makes it much easier to keep on top of notifications such as new email and missed calls. The extra column of tiles means you can squeeze a huge number of apps onto the homescreen, while a host of small touches genuinely enhance the user experience. We particularly like the ability for third-party apps, such as Facebook, to take control of the lockscreen background: having a different image displayed each time the phone is turned on – and one that’s personal to you – is a great feature.

Unfortunately, for potential UK Lumia 930 customers, there’s no sign of Microsoft’s Siri-like Cortana digital assistant yet; she isn’t slated to make an appearance until “late 2014”.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 review: design and connectivity

Still, Windows Phone 8.1 is a big improvement on what went before it, and the hardware isn’t half bad either. As with most recent Nokia flagships, the design is sumptuous. It’s an evolution of the Lumia 925, with the smooth, matte-plastic rear framed by cool-to-the-touch aluminium, and an OLED display topped by gently curved Gorilla Glass 3.

It’s a much cleaner, tighter, more luxurious design than the 925, though, with a much thinner strip of exposed aluminium edges. At 166g, it’s one of the heavier smartphones we’ve come across recently, but the build is excellent. Tough and unyielding, the Lumia 930 gave nary a creak or flex when twisted.

Scattered around those squared-off edges, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB charging port. Disappointingly, there’s no microSD slot, but there is both 4G and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, plus NFC and Bluetooth 4. There’s also built-in support for wireless charging, and in further good news, Nokia is throwing in a charging plate, free for anyone who buys one of these phones.

The only thing we weren't not convinced by is the green rear panel of our review unit, which looks odd surrounded by silver with black bezels at the front. Fortunately, the Lumia 930 is also available in orange (pictured), white and black, which all look far more handsome.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 review: display

Switch it on, however, and your attention will switch from the luminous colour of the rear, to the 1,080 x 1,920 OLED screen on the front. Windows 8.1 may be a less multicoloured OS than Android or iOS, but we were startled at how vivid it looked on the 930. Out of the box, we found it a little too lurid, but that’s simple to rectify using the phone’s colour-profile settings. Once we’d pulled the saturation slider over to the left, the display was even quite colour-accurate. Measured with our X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter, the average Delta E was 3.68.

The AMOLED screen’s perfect contrast ratio means that images have plenty of punch and the 441ppi pixel density allowed it to deliver crisp, sharp image quality with no hint of pixellation. Its one and only failing is that its maximum brightness is only 277cd/m2; Nokia’s ClearBlack series of polarising filters do a decent job of making the screen readable in bright sunshine, though.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 review: performance and core hardware

Inside, the Lumia 930 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 running at 2.2GHz, supported by 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It’s a pretty quick phone as a result, with Windows Phone 8.1 feeling particularly spry, and web pages scrolling and panning around like a dream.

In the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, a time of 520ms puts it ahead of the Sony Xperia Z2 and slightly behind the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Apple iPhone 5s. A result of 20fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD test, meanwhile, marks it out as a handy pocket gaming machine, and it delivered a super-smooth performance in Asphalt 8: Airborne.

The 930’s 2,420mAh battery was distinctly less inspiring. In our looping-video test, with the screen set to 120cd/m2, it used up capacity at a rate of 11.3% per hour; meanwhile, streaming audio over 4G with the screen off dropped capacity at 7% per hour. These aren’t terrible results, by any means, but in both tests the Lumia 930 falls well behind the Android competition: the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One (M8), and the Sony Xperia Z2 will all last longer between charging sessions.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 review: camera

Things pick up again with the Lumia 930’s 20-megapixel PureView camera, however. It produces fantastic pictures: crisp, clear and packed with detail in both good and poor light. When it gets really dark, you can use the dual-LED flash without worrying about it spoiling image quality. It’s powerful yet unobtrusive, illuminating images evenly without going overboard and creating a horrible ghostly glare.

The video camera can’t record at 4K as those on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 can, but quality is still excellent. Optical stabilisation helps to smooth out shaky hands and the resultant footage is sharp and vibrant.

Our one major gripe with the camera is that, although the Nokia Camera app is largely excellent, providing quick access to advanced settings such as exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity and white balance, there’s still no means of locking exposure down in video mode.

Nokia Lumia 930 review: verdict

The Nokia Lumia 930 is the best Windows Phone-based smartphone yet. Windows Phone 8.1 provides a welcome boost, the design is among the best in the business – as long as you don’t choose the green version – and the camera is a real cracker.

The OS update can’t help with Windows Phone’s one critical flaw, though – its lack of apps and games. And nice as the hardware is, there are a couple of weak spots, notably a lack of microSD expansion and average battery life. Ultimately, we can’t quite find it in our heart to recommend the Lumia 930 over any of its major Android rivals.

Details

Contract monthly charge £28.00
Contract period 24 months

Physical

Dimensions 71 x 11 x 136mm (WDH)
Weight 166.000kg
Touchscreen yes

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 2MB
Camera megapixel rating 20.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes

Display

Screen size 5.0in
Resolution 1080 x 1920

Software

OS family Other

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