Nokia Lumia 930 Review: King Of The Windows Phones

Reviews Paul Briden 17:00, 22 Oct 2014

Nokia's Lumia 930 has an impressive spec list - does the experience match up?

Rating: 
4
Typical Price: 
£480.00
Pros: 
Slick design (radioactive colour choices notwithstanding), Fantastic camera, Gorgeous display, Speedy performance, Excellent battery life, Windows Phone 8.1 is a big improvement
Cons: 
Still plenty of room for Windows Phone 8.1 to grow - not yet a 100% comprehensive OS experience, No microSD, Only one storage variant
Verdict: 
A great achievement by Nokia and a big breakthrough for Microsoft. Windows Phone can get better from here but at the moment this is the very best WP experience available and a compelling device in its own right

Microsoft now owns the Lumia brand, but at the moment is still launching phones with the Nokia name etched into the bodywork. The latest addition to the only significant brand in the Windows Phone space is the Lumia 930, a flagship device with Nokia's typical premium build, high-grade imaging capabilities, and of course, the very latest version of Windows Phone 8.1.

The device is essentially the Lumia 1520 phablet in terms of spec, except it has been zapped with a shrink ray to bring it down to a more manageable 5-inch display size. You still get the same great 20MP PureView camera and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, as well as oodles of storage space and connectivity options. On paper at least, there's a lot to like here.

Does the Lumia 930 carry the Windows Phone torch forward, or is it more of the same?

Nokia Lumia 930 Design

Nokia was never one to shy away from slightly ostentatious design, but that seems to have been turned up a notch with recent devices. There’s certainly something to be said about crowdsourcing some ideas for new consumer products, but it can create some unexpected results.

Microsoft’s focus groups, which seem to have been composed largely of some species of Moth People, apparently are rather fond of “Oh Sweet Mercy My Eyes Have Melted, I’ve Actually Been Exposed To Plutonium Green”, and “Aaah! It Burns With The Power Of A Thousand Suns Orange”. I’m grateful for the sunglasses included in the review unit Goody Bag, but it seems their addition was not merely a friendly gesture, more likely advised by health and safety professionals. Thankfully, for the rest of us, you can also get good old black and white versions too.

Radioactive colour options aside, the overall design of the Lumia 930 is both familiar and new at the same time. Anyone who’s handled a Lumia 920 will recognise the composite aluminium and polycarbonate approach making a return, but it is a little different as the metallic bezel is wider, flatter and hugs closer to the bodywork – the whole device is a wee bit fatter than earlier Lumia flagships but this seems intentional to make the edges wider and thus easier to grip.

The shape is quite angular as we’ve come to expect from Nokia’s high-end models, although the corners have been softened slightly – which is good news as I know a few people who’ve had pockets ripped by Nokia’s older, pointier designs.

The back panel is Nokia’s usual matte finish high-end polycarbonate with a premium feel and a slightly contoured shape towards the edges, while the glass display on the front gets a similar, slightly chiselled treatment, being raised a little from the bodywork. It’s a sharp look overall and rewarding to handle.

Despite a chunkier profile and a not insubstantial 5-inch display (admittedly with rather narrow bezels) I found the Lumia 930 quite easy to get to grips with, although my hands are fairly large. Certainly it sits with other 5-inch rivals in terms of operation. In-line with the rest of Nokia’s range, the controls are all positioned on the right-hand side; volume at the top, power below this, and a dedicated camera key further down to act as the shutter in landscape mode.

There’s really not a lot more to say about the Lumia 930’s design – once again, Nokia delivers the goods, but then we always knew it could, it’s been churning out fantastic looking phones for a long time.

Nokia Lumia 930 Display

Impressive touchscreens are another area where the Finnish Windows Phone maker has been generally quite consistent, and the Lumia 930 certainly lives up to this legacy. The screen is a 5-inch AMOLED panel using Nokia’s ClearBlack technology and a 1920x1080 pixel full HD resolution. Meanwhile the pixel density clocks in at 441 pixels-per-inch (ppi).

That of course means it’s just as sharp as many of its Android counterparts, but typically of Nokia OLED setups it has excellent contrast, brightness, and colour, whites are very pure, dark tones very deep, and in particular the viewing angles are extremely wide, while readability in bright sunlight is some of the best I’ve seen in recent months. The display makes an ideal setup for watching films and TV shows as the quality is really sharp with fantastic colour reproduction.

Ostensibly there appear to be no downsides to the Lumia 930’s display. However, since its launch reports have emerged regarding the colour accuracy. A number of users have reported a purple tint to the touchscreen, specifically this appears to be caused by the auto brightness or a low brightness setting showing up purple.

But, thankfully, this is apparently a software calibration problem and it’s possible to fix simply by going into the Settings>Display>Adjust Colour Profile menu and nudging the slider around a bit.

Despite this, Microsoft has quite rightly recognised the issue and is currently making efforts to correct it. The company has recalled some test units and it’s likely a software patch will follow to fix things properly.

“Microsoft Devices is taking quality issues on our products very seriously.
To address the possible concerns with Lumia 930 display, we have recalled some test samples from …the Norwegian market to be investigated further in our R/D site in Finland,” the company said in a statement.

In other words, you probably shouldn’t let this put you off picking up a Lumia 930 as it appears to be a minor issue with a fix in the works.

Nokia Lumia 930 User Experience & Performance

The Lumia 930 uses the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows Phone software, version 8.1. While it’s fair to say the new update makes some welcome changes to the Windows Phone formula, it’s not exactly a massive overhaul and really I feel it hasn’t gone far enough.

The new notifications centre is great and features a Quick Settings panel, which is also good to have. I particularly like the way unchecked notifications, such as those from Facebook chat, will aggregate into a single thread over time. However, there are some setbacks, for example, on rival platforms you can swipe notifications away to either side, where Windows Phone, rather counter-intuitively, only lets you dismiss by swiping in one particular direction.

Additionally, you only get a set of four quick settings toggles, these can be customised, but your choice of options to switch around is annoyingly limited, and four doesn’t really feel like enough, especially as the brightness adjuster is not independent as it commonly is on rival devices. You still can’t pin toggles to the Start screen either, which I feel is a significant let-down.

Windows Phone has steadily increased its customisation capabilities and the opportunity is certainly there to make your handset very much your own with tiles, backgrounds, colours and themes. It looks really good too, and is fairly intuitive on the whole – the ability to pin individual contacts to the start screen is a tremendous boon and is particularly helpful for new smartphone users.

The People Hub remains lacklustre enough not to be worth bothering with despite being a good idea in principal, much of the functionality feels too disconnected and choppy rather than the seamlessly integrated ideal – which means you really are better off with the pinning individual contacts trick. Meanwhile, although the app drawer now has a handy alphabetical sorting function, the main settings menu has not been improved and remains a massive, cumbersome list of sub-menus which can be somewhat irritating to use. Something a bit more streamlined would be welcome here.

A major improvement is the Word Flow keyboard, which operates in the now familiar Swype style, offering a very fast and impressively accurate typing experience, particularly on the Lumia 930’s generously sized touchscreen. Windows Phone 8.1 will also see the debut of Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant – its answer to Siri and Google Now’s voice component – however, at present it is dormant and will be coming to UK handsets in an update later on.

 The app ecosystem is much more vibrant than before with many leading titles present and correct, one or two big names are still missing and the gaming side generally, while improved, is not exactly thrillingly diverse – although some major titles from rival platforms are now around, there is a lot of dross here.

Crucially though, there’s the gap between Microsoft and its rivals – Google and Apple. Those two do actually cooperate to an extent with key apps and content from each appearing on the other’s platform (it’s possible to get an official Gmail app on iOS, for instance) or having some other level of cross-compatibility (there are ways of moving your iTunes collection to Android, for example). That same level of cooperation isn’t there with Microsoft’s platform.

The blame can be laid at several doors really including both Microsoft itself and Google, but either way the hard truth of the matter is that many users (or potential users) of Windows Phone, will be coming from one of these other platforms and will have accounts, email, messaging, apps, music, and a host of other content already over there. Without some helpful method of accessing much of this from Windows Phone, the prospect of starting from scratch is pretty off-putting.

But, if you’re not already entrenched in one of the other major operating systems, or if for some reason you just don’t care (perhaps a fresh start is actually appealing?), then there’s not a lot wrong with Windows Phone and its healthy, though comparatively small, ecosystem. There are a few minor gripes here and there but it’s definitely heading in the right direction in terms of overall design and functionality. Compatibility needs to come on leaps and bounds via some kind of olive branch between Microsoft and its rivals though.

On the performance front the general operation of the UI is about as smooth as you could hope for, seamlessly gliding around just like Android and iOS, albeit with its own flair which is very appealing.  Thanks to the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor (2.2GHZ Krait 400, 2GB RAM, Adreno 320 graphics processing unit), the exact same setup found in the Lumia 1520, the clunky app load speeds are now a thing of the past, and everything loads up speedily. Multitasking is also much better than before both in performance and operation.

Intensive games such as Asphalt 8 run quite happily on the Lumia 930, just as they do on Android iOS devices – the top-range hardware does just as good a job and is well-optimised with the Windows Phone platform.

Lumia 930 Now Rocks "Lumia Denim" Update & Cortana Voice Assistant

Microsoft has rolled out its latest Windows Phone 8.1.1 build to the Lumia 930 as part of the "Lumia Denim" update.

The most significant change is the full activation of Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant, which with the update can be activated from any part of the Windows interface by saying the keyphrase "Hey Cortana".

Nokia's Camera App has also received an overhaul, with many new features that the Lumia 930 can take full advantage of. Activation and shutter speed are much quicker and you'll be able to activate the camera from the phone's sleep state by pressing and holding the dedicated camera key - Microsoft says it can take a picture from this state in less than 1.5 seconds.

Another press and hold begins recording 4K video. A Live Images feature can capture pictures a few moments before video capture. There's also a Rich Capture mode which allows you to adjust flash strength after a shot has been captured using the flash.

You can find out more about Windows Phone 8.1 from our full review here. However, to give you and idea of how it functions and what it's like using Cortana, here's an excerpt:

"Cortana can currently do most of the things any virtual assistant should be capable of, including placing phone calls, sending text messages, adding calendar appointments, setting reminders and alarms, creating notes, and performing searches. One clever thing Microsoft built into Cortana is its “Notebook” feature. This is the personal digital assistant’s notebook that contains notes about you: what you like, who’s in your family, and your favourite places to eat, etc. Cortana uses this information to give you more accurate results. But though it’s Cortana’s notebook, you’re the one in charge of it, so if you don’t want Cortana knowing something about you, you can delete that information from her Notebook. It’s this notebook feature of Cortana that allows the AI to give your more contextually aware feedback to requests you ask. This is something Siri can’t do." 

"Another thing Cortana does that Siri can’t is offer integration with third-party apps. For example, you can ask Cortana, “What’s up with [a certain friend]?” and she’ll return results about that friend from your Facebook or Twitter feed. It’s a cool feature and just another example of how Cortana seems like a more “whole” virtual assistant than Siri."

Nokia Lumia 930 Hardware, Storage & Connectivity

The Lumia 930 only comes in one storage variant with 32GB onboard and no card slot, which is a bit disappointing all round in terms of flexibility, though 32GB is certainly a decent amount for onboard space. Users also get 7GB of free cloud storage via Microsoft’s OneDrive.

For connectivity it has full 4G and 3G capabilities and the supported SIM type is Nano-SIM, and there’s also dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot, A2DP, DLNA, NFC, GPS, an FM Radio, and microUSB

Nokia Lumia 930 Battery

On battery life the Lumia 930 is, quite simply, superb. In our video test playing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for its full 2 hour 50 minute runtime, from 100% charge, on full brightness and with Wi-Fi on, the phone had 71% charge remaining.  That’s from a 2,420mAh cell, which compares rather  favourably with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s 3,000mAh battery chalking up 64% on our similar test on Android, and the Galaxy S5 achieving 61% on a 2,800mAh cell. To put it another way, we’ve not reviewed many phones which have come out with over 70% charge from our video testing.

In general operation the Lumia 930 will easily last a couple of days with moderate use, and if you’re really sparing you can expect to get plenty of time out of a single charge.

There is a battery saver function aboard the phone, which should help it last longer when you need it to, but of course it’s not going to offer anything like the same lifespan as Samsung’s excellent Ultra Power Saving on the Galaxy S5 (12 days from 100%).

I should add that I've heard a lot of talk from other journos of fairly poor battery life from the Lumia 930, as well as weird battery behaviour (sudden drain, for exmaple). I can only say that I have not experienced this at all, and can only assume some units may have been buggy in some way.

Nokia Lumia 930 Camera

Nokia still leads the way in the phone camera space thanks to its PureView technology. As we’ve shown elsewhere, the Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel PureView setup is still the best on the market, but the Lumia 930 isn’t far behind because it uses the same gear found in the Lumia 1520.

That means it has a 20-megapixel PureView back-illuminated sensor (BSI) with a 1/2.5” sensor size, Carl Zeiss lens, f/2.4 aperture, and dual-LED flash. It also features optical image stabilisation (OIS), 1080p video, and Nokia’s clever oversampling, which allows for the digital zoom with no loss of quality – you can crop in close and zoom macro shots for some fantastic results other camera phones simply can’t manage.

While it is second-fiddle to the 41MP hardware, there’s no denying that the results from the Lumia 930 are superb and some of the best on the mobile market at present – better than anything on Android by a country mile. Images are packed with detail and have excellent dynamic range and colour accuracy. It’s also extremely capable when it comes to video, with the optical stabilisation working wonders to produce smooth, detail-rich footage while on the move.

The interface is also easy-to-use, whether you’re looking to snap a quick, no-fuss shot with as much on Auto as possible, or if you’re a grizzled photography veteran tweaking the individual settings to your liking. As a quick point-n-shoot it’s as good as it gets on rival devices such as Samsung and LG in terms of ease-of-use, but the results are far better due to the advanced optics.

We pitched the Lumia 1520 (which uses much the same camera hardware and delivers near identical results) against a range of other top-end competitors in a camera comparison. The Lumia 1520 came out towards the top of the pack, just behind the Lumia 1020 and its 41-megapixel sensor. As the imaging is much the same, you can also consider the Lumia 930 to be the joint second-best camera phone from a long list of very impressive devices. Head over to the full article to see the difference.

Nokia Lumia 930 Conclusion

Once again, Nokia proves it can produce an absolutely stellar smartphone and this one is bang up-to-date in the hardware stakes. More than that, it’s a far more practical design as a high-end, super-powered Nokia Lumia than what was provided by the Lumia 1520’s cumbersome, over-sized bodyshell – and that’s really the only other taste we’ve had of a quad-core, 1080p Windows Phone. As well as being a looker and rewarding to handle, the performance is smooth, battery life is some of the best in the current market, and, as usual, the camera is also one of the best available thanks to PureView.

Again though, the stumbling block is the Windows Phone software. Windows Phone 8.1 is undoubtedly the best build to date, and arguably offers enough improvements that we can overlook some of its foibles – it’s more viable than it’s ever been. There is plenty of work still to be done on Microsoft’s software, but this handset is a pretty slick package all round.

Nokia Lumia 930 Specs Sheet

  • Main camera sensor: 20 MP, PureView
  • Display size: 5-inches
  • Display resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Processor name: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (2.2GHz Quad-core)
  • Maximum talk time (3G): 16.4h
  • Battery capacity: 2420mAh
  • Wireless charging: Built-in (Qi standard)
  • SIM card type: Nano SIM
  • Charging connectors: Micro-USB
  • AV connectors: 3.5 mm audio connector
  • System connectors: Micro-USB-B
  • USB: USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wi-Fi: WLAN IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Wi-Fi security modes: WPA, WEP, EAP-AKA, EAP-SIM, PEAP-MSCHAPv2, WPA-Enterprise, WPA-Personal, WPA2 (AES/TKIP), WPA2-Enterprise, WPA2-Personal
  • NFC: Secure NFC for payment, Sharing, Pairing, Tagging
  • Other wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi Channel bonding

Nokia Lumia 930 Price, Contracts & Availability

If you fancy picking up a Nokia Lumia 930 you're in luck, Carphone Warehouse is already taking pre-orders on the new Windows Phone handset.

As with previous Lumia launches, some of the colour variants are carrier or retailer exclusives, Phones4U has dibs on the white variant for now, so that leaves the Warehouse with black, green, and orange.

Your cheapest option here is a 24 month Vodafone contract at £30.50 per month for 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB of mobile data. Other options come courtesy of O2 and EE. The former will give you 1GB of 4G per month on a £33 per month contract while the latter gives you 2GB of the same for £34.99 per month.

EE is sweetening the deal with the Nokia bundle, valued at £130, which includes a wireless charger, portable speaker and Windows Phone Store voucher for £20 worth of app and game content. Any other package just gets you the wireless charger.

Specifications

Length 137mm
Width 71mm
Thickness 9.8mm
Weight 167g
Screen Colours 16 million
Screen Size 5-inches
UK Launch Available now
Phone Style Touchscreen
Typical Price £480
Designer Lens Carl Zeiss
Camera Resolution 20-megapixels
Video Resolution 1080p
Flash dual-LED
Zoom Lossless zoom
Music Formats MP3/WAV/eAAC+/WMA
Music Player Yes
Song Storage Yes
Speaker Yes
Radio Yes

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