To date, the Nokia Lumia Icon has topped the list of my favorite Windows Phones. But if you invest $99 to buy the new Microsoft Nokia Lumia 830 via AT&T, you'll be handed a thinner, lighter phone that's equally robust, which you may even prefer to the older model.
My one disappointment is that the global version of the phone that Microsoft loaned me did not include some of the best features of Lumia Denim, the firmware update that debuts on the 830 and similar phones. And on paper, the 830 is a step down from the Icon in display quality and camera resolution.
Still, the 830 is a quality midrange phone with an upgrade path to some of Denim, backed by solid performance under the hood. And this is Microsoft's newfound strategy: Attack the midrange and low end to increase its market share, with decent phones for everyday use. And if you act fast, you'll get a free Fitbit, too.
Like the Icon, the Lumia 830 appears cut from a solid slab of aluminum, but with a plastic backing carved out of Microsoft's electric Lumia colors. Underneath hides one advantage over the Icon: an easily accessible (128 GB) microSD slot, supplementing the 16GB built-in memory.
While the 830 measures 139.4 mm x 70.7 mm, about the same size as the Icon, the difference is the thickness and weight: It's 1.3 mm thinner, and at 150 grams, noticeably lighter than the Icon's 167 grams. And yes, there's a dedicated camera button. (Microsoft has published the full specs of the Lumia 830 here.)
The differences extend to the internals. While both phones sport 5-inch screens, the 830 uses a 1,280x720 IPS display, a relatively archaic resolution in a generation where premium displays are moving to quad-HD resolutions. And Microsoft's 830 also uses a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip alongside 1GB of RAM, a step or two down from the 800 chip the Icon uses. I wasn't pleased with the effect that 512MB of RAM had on the Lumia 635, but right now Windows Phone apps running in 1GB of memory seem like an acceptable compromise. The transition between apps and the home screen staggered occasionally, but that seemed anomalous compared against the overall, smooth experience.
Performance and battery life
Surprisingly, that extended to games as well. Windows Phone doesn't have too many games that push the hardware to the limits, but Gameloft's Asphalt 8: Airborne does. While the Icon powers the game fluidly, you'll notice a tiny bit of stuttering with the 830. In all, however, the game plays more than acceptably. Ditto for games like Beach Buggy Racing and the like.
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