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James Norton

Nokia Lumia 530 thoughts

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James Norton    24

We have recently reviewed both the Nokia Lumia 930 and the Nokia Lumia 635, so when the Lumia 530 came across my doorstep I wondered if there was any value in doing a full review of yet another Nokia Lumia phone. All the Nokia Lumia phones run basically the same software, Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Cyan software. All the apps that run on the Lumia 635 also run on the 530. Nonetheless, I wanted to convey to you dear reader what the Lumia 530 is all about. It is inherently an interesting device on many levels. But is it worth considering instead of the Lumia 635 or its cheaper, non-LTE version, the 630?

For starters, it is already available in the UK for just £49. Admittedly you can only get it at this price as a Pay As You Go upgrade, but it is still an astonishingly low price for a full smartphone with a wide variety of capabilities. The Lumia 530 is a cheap phone. And cheap phones are very interesting.

As Moore's law continues to apply to technology, the low end of the mobile phone market has gotten so much better so quickly that it has become the most exciting and interesting part of market. There are a plethora of phones being released at around £100 right now but the Lumia 530 manages to come in a lot cheaper still.

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So what do you get for your hard earned cash? Well, the 530 packs a 4" FWVGA (854x480) LCD screen, a quad-core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 200 SoC, 512Mb RAM, 4Gb storage with microSD card expansion and a 5mp camera. There is no flash. There is no front facing camera. There is no proximity sensor and there is no light sensor.

On the software side, it is the same Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Cyan we have seen on the 930 and 635. There is nothing really different to discuss, so instead lets ask if it is any different to the Lumia 635 and see whether the Lumia 635 has a place in the line-up. In fact, we should probably compare more to the 630, the cheaper, non-LTE version of the 635 that is identical in every other way.

In general, the experience of using the 530 is exactly the same as using the 630 but about 10% slower in every way. The difference in speed is noticeable when opening apps and switching between apps. The keyboard is slower to appear when you need it. The device is slower to unlock when typing in a passcode. But everything that runs on the 630 also runs on the 530. And I mean everything. It is worth checking out the reviews mentioned above and our preview of Windows Phone 8.1 for more information on the software.

Once an app is open or the keyboard is displayed, everything works and the important parts of the experience seem to be the same all the way from the lowly Lumia 530 up to even the flagship Lumia 930. It is quite incredible how well everything runs on the meagre hardware that the 530 offers. Typing is an example where on cheap Android phones, the experience suffers, but not so on the 530.

At the same time though, it is noticeably slower than the 630, enough that it became grating and I longed for the relative speed and smoothness of the more powerful handset. With today's hardware, Windows Phone runs at around 95% the same speed on the 630 as it does on the 930, and the 530 runs at about 90% of the speed of the 630. Well, it is complicated, but if you extrapolate, there is a big difference between the 530 and anything else.

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So what of the rest of the package? Well, the fixed focus 5mp camera is seriously poor. It will do for capturing something in a pinch, but it is pretty bad. The auto-focus shooter on the Lumia 630 blows it out of the water. In addition, the one app that is much slower even in general operation on the 530 is Nokia Camera. I gave up using it and instead used the rather fast built-in Windows Phone camera app. The options the Nokia Camera app gives are not needed on the 530 frankly.

Battery life is ok on the 530, but noticeably worse than on the 630 or 930. It will last a light user a day quite comfortably, but any sort of serious use drains that battery fast, very fast.

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The biggest problem with the hardware on the Lumia 530 though is the screen. It may have the same resolution and a higher pixel density as its larger brother, the 630, but the 4" TFT LCD screen on the 530 is as close to unusable as I have seen in a long time. It has no problem with brightness but there is a weird reflectivity and almost a muddiness to the screen. The glass is highly reflective and blacks far from deep in their reproduction. It is like looking at a screen through a glass of water. It is hard to explain or capture in pictures, but there is a problem here.

Is this screen ok given the phone's price point? Well, the Moto E and Asus Zenfone 4, both phones costing under £100 and both with basic screens manage to be far more usable. They are both brighter and have better colour reproduction with less reflective glass than the 530. The 530 is the least usable in bright sunlight too. Compared to the IPS ClearBlack screen on the Lumia 630, it is in a completely different ballpark. The difference is huge and for me, I couldn't contemplate using the 530 on a daily basis just because of the screen. At £49, the screen is fine. At around £80 - the actual price of the handset at launch if bought outright - I am not so sure.

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Leaving aside the technical specs for a moment, the Lumia 530 is a fantastically well built and designed phone. It is a great size and fits in the hand really well. The plastics used are pretty good considering the price point the 530 hits and the bright colours suit it really well. It has a really solid feeling to it and I prefer the matt finish to the glossy 630.

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Yes, the Lumia 530 is quite a thick phone, but it just doesn't matter. It feels great and is really well designed.

In addition to these positives, signal strength on the 530 is excellent and call quality surprisingly decent. The mono speaker is fairly loud and of good enough quality too.

I started off wondering if the Lumia 630 has a place given how close to it the Lumia 530 comes. In actual fact, there is a place for all these devices. I couldn't recommend the 530 easily, its screen is just too poor, but I much prefer the way it feels and the way it looks to its slightly bigger brother. Worryingly, what I have to question is the existence of the Lumia 930 in the range. The 630 is closer to that flagship device than the 530 is to the 630. Yet the pricing doesn't reflect that at all. Perhaps Nokia can get another flagship out that is somewhat more worthy of that title than the 930 feels having tried the cheaper members of the Lumia range.

At the end of the day what I want is a device with the specs of the Lumia 630 and the body of the Lumia 530 and the camera of the Lumia 930. It doesn't exist unfortunately so I will continue to suggest for now that the Lumia 630 is the pick of the range at the time of writing. Of course new Lumia devices are coming very soon that might change this conclusion and the recently announced Lumia 730 might fit the bill perfectly.

This is not a surprising conclusion given what happened with the last generation of Lumia devices where the 520 was the pick of the range in so many ways. The Lumia 530 is not a replacement for the 520. It is slower and has a worse screen and camera. In fact, I believe that Nokia have moved all their devices down a notch such that the 630 replaces the 520 and the new 530 sits at a level below. In this context, the 530 makes more sense, but it doesn't change my feelings that the 530 is asking too much of a compromise for most.

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bitbank    2

The sad thing is that all of the new Lumias seem to miss the mark in some way (at all price points). I'm looking to get a new "flagship" device (I already own the Lumia 928 and Lumia 1520). None of the new devices are worth buying over what I've already got. My ideal device (Lumia 940?) would be:

 

4.7 - 5.0" 1080p super AMOLED display with glance

10-20MP rear camera with OIS and good lens

2+MP front facing camera

Wireless charging

32GB internal memory

MicroSD slot

Top/New CPU (e.g. 64-bit nVidia K1)

 

As much as Microsoft/Nokia try, the hardware is always a step behind the best in the market.

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glossywhite    243

I've just checked CPW's website, and I can get the Lumia 630 on Virgin PAYG upgrade for £59.95 - a mere tenner more than the 530, so it seems silly to even consider the 530... but since WinPhones are a new arena to me, I'll consider anything - I may be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you for your review. Matt.

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