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Microsoft Nokia Lumia 830 review: A midrange phone with few regrets

Mark Hachman | Nov. 11, 2014
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.

Although the front-facing camera on the Lumia 830 is a paltry 0.9MP, a new app, called Lumia Selfie, helps solve that shortcoming. With Lumia Selfie, you can shoot a selfie with the external camera, pointing it at your face. You can't see yourself in the viewfinder, but the camera looks for your face, alerts you with a rapid series of beeps, then snaps the shot. Aside from a tendency to focus on the background, the app works well, putting your face front-and-center in the frame.

Additional camera-specific apps include Bing Vision, Lumia Cinemagraph, Lumia Panorama, and Lumia Refocus. The latter three didn't come with the phone, but I could download them from the Store.

Not the Denim phone you might be expecting

As I mentioned before, the Lumia 830 does include Denim, just not the fun stuff. Lumia Camera has been left out. And the other feature I'd like to try out, Cortana's active listening mode, will not appear on the Lumia 830 (but will on the Icon, the 930, and the 1520.) Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant, normally requires a keypress to trigger it. When the feature goes live on the other phones, you'll be able to say "Hey, Cortana!" and ask her to do your bidding.

Otherwise, the Lumia 830 also ships with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, which offers the opportunity to group applications into folders, set up a VPN, and group SMS messages for easy processing. 

However, I do like one Lumia-specific Denim feature, the integration of either Bing Health & Fitness or Bing Weather onto the lock screen. I still think it's odd that Microsoft chose to bundle the Fitbit Flex, not its competing Microsoft Band, with the phone. But if you're a walker, you don't need either; the Lumia 830 is one of the few with the SensorCore package, which has a built-in pedometer. In lock mode, you can automatically see how many steps you've taken, which is handy.

An affordable flagship, indeed

As I've noted elsewhere, I usually carry two phones: a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and one of several Windows Phones, swapping SIMs back and forth as needed. The Android ecosystem seems obsessed with specs, dissecting screen size, display resolution, memory, and CPU speeds to determine the best solution. Move to a Windows Phone, though, and those distinctions just don't seem that relevant. As the benchmarks showed, the Lumia 830 is a substantial step down on paper. But in real-world testing, the differences weren't that noticeable.

I really liked the Lumia Icon, and HTC has done a fine job with the One (M8). But the Lumia 830 is very good phone, and a relative bargain to boot.


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