Nokia Lumia 930 review

Nokia's reclaim to fame

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Nokia Lumia 930
  • Nokia Lumia 930
  • Nokia Lumia 930
  • Nokia Lumia 930

Pros

  • Premium build
  • 20MP camera
  • Bing Health

Cons

  • No notification light
  • Limited camera modes
  • Windows Store has less apps than rivals

Bottom Line

All of the things a smartphone should do, from phone calls to streaming a movie over 4G, the Lumia 930 will do without fault. It is Windows Phone refined, the quintessential incarnate of the promising software thus far.

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Remember the days Nokia reigned as mobile King? Much time has passed since then, but now the Microsoft-owned company is readying for a comeback with its Lumia 930, the first Nokia flagship to have a quad-core CPU, run Windows Phone 8.1 and come with a 20 megapixel camera.

Premium build

The Lumia 930 is basically a rectangle and that’s a shape that never goes out of fashion. The quadrilateral form factor resonates with the thematically square interface of the Lumia’s Windows Phone software. The result it software-hardware experience that feels tightly integrated.

Fanatical attention to detail is one way Nokia has made its flagship charismatic

Don’t be fooled into thinking the cubic form makes for an uncomfortable fit in the hand. Nokia has chamfered the aluminium edging, subtly rounded the polycarbonate back and shaved the sides of the Gorilla Glass 3 screen to improve the smartphone’s ergonomics. Premium materials and skilled craftsmanship are at play here.

Much of the Lumia’s charm stems from little things, like its pervasive sense of symmetry. The rear camera and flash is balanced by a PureView badge, much in the same way the centred 3.5mm port up-top is offset by a centred microUSB port at the bottom.

Nokia's representatives claim the the Gorilla Glass screen takes 70 minutes per phone to polish
Nokia's representatives claim the the Gorilla Glass screen takes 70 minutes per phone to polish

Mandatory markings are engraved into the aluminium chassis
Mandatory markings are engraved into the aluminium chassis

Then there’s three physical buttons milled from aluminium. Pressing buttons of this quality adds a dash of ‘special’ to increasing the volume or turning on the screen.

This fanatical attention to detail is one way Nokia has made its flagship more charismatic than Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Sony’s Xperia Z2. In our books the Lumia 930 sits on a mantle alongside HTC’s One (M8) and Apple iPhone 5S when it comes to design.

Full disclosure: Not all members of the Good Gear Guide team liked Nokia’s design. Approximately half preferred the year-old Lumia 925 look. This half thinks that half is wrong.

Picturesque display, Jaw-dropping camera

Front-on the Lumia 930 is one solitary shade of back. Even eagle-eye users will struggle to discern the bezel from the screen.

Nokia loyalists who relish the phone’s always-on clock will be disappointed to find out the mode is no longer on the Lumia 930
Nokia loyalists who relish the phone’s always-on clock will be disappointed to find out the mode is no longer on the Lumia 930

Nokia has used a 16 million colour OLED panel for the display. The screen crams the Full HD resolution akin to televisions into a 5in footprint for an astounding 440 pixels-per-inch. Stats this high pit the Lumia 930 against the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8), while it leaves the 326ppi Apple iPhone 5S behind.

The fantastic PureView hardware is short-changed by not having more software support

Slightly recessed on the back of the Lumia 930 is a 20 megapixel ‘PureView’ camera adept at recording videos in the same Full HD standard as the smartphone’s screen. Nokia has been investing in its PureView technology for more than two years now and, in the case of the Lumia 930, the ongoing investment pays dividends.

The camera hardware proves superior to most Nokia rivals, particularly the 4MP HTC One (M8). Using the Lumia 930 reminded us how beneficial it is to have a shutter key. The twin-LED flash earned our respect for illuminating night photos without flushing too much colour.

Sliding the virtual shutter key left opens up manual controls
Sliding the virtual shutter key left opens up manual controls

Photos are captured at a generous 20 megapixels. Colours are rendered with punch and image noise is kept to a minimum, even when photos are viewed in their native resolution. Photos taken in low-light situations are characterised by more image noise, but the high 20MP resolution hedges the effect when photos are posted to social networks.

We used the 930 to take several landscape shots and the pictures dazzled. Unfortunately we could only capture these landscapes in a 16:9 aspect ratio as the Lumia doesn’t have a panoramic mode. Nor does it support HDR photos. And this poses a problem because the fantastic PureView hardware is being short-changed by not having more software support.

Captured with the Nokia Lumia 930
Captured with the Nokia Lumia 930

Captured with the Nokia Lumia 930
Captured with the Nokia Lumia 930

100 per cent crop of the photo above
100 per cent crop of the photo above

The 20 megapixel photos captured with the Lumia 930 measure between 3MB and 8MB in size. To ease sharing a secondary 5MP photo measuring between 1MB and 3MB in size is captured simultaneously. Better yet, the Lumia 930 will only show the high resolution photo when browsing the gallery.

Note: The Lumia 930 ships with standard Windows camera app and the Nokia camera app. We used the Nokia camera app as recommended by Nokia.

Flagship hardware, Battery life

Nokia has long lingered behind Samsung, Sony, HTC and LG when it comes to hardware. Windows Phone software dictated the use of lower resolution screens, less advanced CPUs and no support for expandable memory.

Customers wanting to use the Nokia as a remote control will be disappointed

Times have since progressed and the Lumia 930 is Nokia’s first flagship to have a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU. The smartphone also has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, but users will have to turn to cloud storage as it does not support expandable memory.

Connectivity is strong with 4G, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and GPS. Home entertainment users wanting to use the smartphone as a remote control will be disappointed as the Lumia 930 doesn’t have an IR blaster. (We recommend the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One (M8) or the upcoming LG G3 if you’re looking for remote control capabilities.)

Built into the Lumia 930 is a 2420 milliamp-hour battery. Good Gear Guide used it as our primary smartphone and found battery life fluctuated based on our usage needs.

One weekend the 930 joined us on a three hour hike. We enabled GPS and used the Bing health tracker to monitor our progress. The on-board music player delivered the soundtrack and we stopped often to snap photos of the scenery. On breaks we jumped online and spent some time texting or holding phone calls. During this day the Lumia 930’s battery lasted nine hours, but we believe our prolonged use of GPS is to blame for the stout figure.

Less intensive use delivered far more promising results. One weekend the Nokia flagship squeezed out an impressive 35 hours. On average, however, we found the Lumia 930 needed a charge daily.

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The Nokia has a Bing focus on fitness tracking
The Nokia has a Bing focus on fitness tracking

Windows Phone 8.1, App Store

The Lumia 930 ships with the latest 8.1 version of Windows Phone. Small tweaks measure a marked improvement on how you navigate the software. Notifications are neatly organised in an Android-like drawer, while the live-tile interface can now be dressed in a wallpaper of your choice.

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Microsoft’s smartphone software has reached a point of maturity. No longer do we feel it is deficient in anything on a smartphone level. In fact, a dose of healthy design and rich animations make this one of the most enjoyable operating systems available.

Holding the Lumia 930 back is a lack of application support in the Windows Store. Inroads are being made as the store now hosts 255,000 apps, and often these apps deliver a better experience than their Android and iOS counterparts, but on occasion you will be left wanting an app that simply isn’t available to Windows Phone. At times you will be left unsatisfied — that’s the bottom line.

It is Windows Phone refined, the quintessential incarnate of the promising software thus far

Social networkers will appreciate that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are available on Windows Phone, but the absence of SnapChat might bother a few. Commonwealth Bank customers will feel spoiled by the detailed banking app, but customers of other banks will have to resort to mobile versions. Users of the SoundHound music recognition service will have to make do with Shazam, while Chrome users will have to settle for Internet Explorer. Most of the time users will have to settle for another Windows Phone application that will make do.

Another drawback is the software’s propensity to force Microsoft services on Windows Phone customers. Three capacitive buttons line the base of the 930 and one of them is a search key. The only engine this programmed button can search is Microsoft’s Bing; there’s no way to change it to Google’s widely used search engine. And there’s something bothersome about a company that prioritises its own agenda ahead of the needs of its customers.

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Final thought

Power users who want the versatility of a Swiss army knife from a smartphone won’t buy the Lumia 930 over the Samsung Galaxy S5. Ironically, in spite of the Samsung’s gazillion features, the Lumia 930 is a better phone for being a phone alone.

All of the things a smartphone should do, from phone calls to streaming a movie over 4G, the Lumia 930 will do without fault. It is Windows Phone refined, the quintessential incarnate of the promising software thus far.

Week in and week out we test new smartphones. The Lumia 930 is the most compelling argument yet to jump on the Windows Phone bandwagon. Some people will take the leap of faith and won’t look back, but many will hold from making that jump on account of the limp Windows Store.

Update, 17 Jul: An earlier version of this article claimed Microsoft had implemented an indexed menu. This feature has been around since Windows Phone 7, only it kicks in once a number of apps are installed.

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Read more on these topics: Windows Phone 8.1, Lumia, Windows, Nokia, 930

DMW

1

The app list in Windows Phone has literally ALWAYS been indexed in the manner shown in your image, and why ever would you use Shazam or SoundHound when the phone already has a built in, store-linked music recognition function on the search page? 'Lack' of apps is still the worst reason ever to not get on board with WP.Just sayin'...

Author

2

DMW,

The indexing was previously applied to the contacts list and not the menu. Our office Lumia 1020 and Lumia 925 simply have an alphabetised menu without indexing.

Cheers,

Tony

DMW

3

Tony,
The indexing has always been there, and kicks in after you have a certain number of apps loaded, approximately 15 or so. Until then it is just an alphabetised list, but the function has been there since day 1. My 920 has it, the 520 has it, my old HTC HD7 had it.
Cheers,
DMW

Author

4

DMW,

I stand corrected; the indexing has always been there. I've updated the article to reflect this.

Many thanks for giving us the heads up,

Tony

RobTrickman

5

I have just received my new Nokia 930 in black, it is surprisingly big and fairly thick but is built very well and the screen is very nice to the touch and the sound is excelent.

I am coming from an androd phone and it the windows platform is ok but the app for YouTube is not great and i am getting the impression this is the case for a lot of them. There is also no notification light which i find bizare. having said that i'm going to give it a go and hope to adapt...

Unoffical NRL

6

Another review heavily criticised the camera and the inability to focus 'quickly'? How did you find the camera? Also, what are the known differences between the 930 and the 1030 (yet to be released).

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