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Nokia Lumia 930 Review: Excellent Multimedia-Based “Brick” Phone With Great Low Light Camera (Video)

The Nokia Lumia 930 is the first flagship from Microsoft/Nokia in this time and age, after the two companies have become a single entity. The device was announced at BUILD 2014 in April and it was launched this summer. It’s priced at around $800 in the UK on Carphone Warehouse and it comes in green, orange, white or black.

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This model’s design is pretty bulky, since it measures 9.8 mm in thickness and it weighs 167 grams, which is 1 gram lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. This device is a WP 8.1 5 inch model, with a matte back and a squared design. It has a polycarbonate back, good grip and an aluminum band around the edges. The profile shows us a slightly curved screen and back side. The build quality is good and we’ve got an angular design here. The glass meets the metal in a very nicely designed way at the front and it all looks like a luxury car.

At the front we’ve got the camera and earpiece, plus Windows Phone buttons and sensors at the top right area. There’s also a hole under the Home button, probably for a microphone. At the top of the phone there’s a nano SIM tray, that you can remove with the nail and access the SIM, plus the audio jack. At the right we find the volume buttons, On/Off button and camera button, all of them with good feedback. At the bottom we’ve got a microUSB port, while at the back there’s a microphone at the top, one at the bottom and a Pureview camera with dual LED flash and a speaker.

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Overall this is a nice design, but it gives out the vibe of “premium brick”. On the hardware side we’ve got a 5 inch Full HD AMOLED screen, with Gorilla Glass 3 protection and Clear Black technology. Inside there’s a quad core Snapdragon 800 2.2 GHz processor, an Adreno 330 GPU, 32 GB of storage, but no microSD, while the RAM quantity is 2 GB. We also get a 20 megapixel back camera, a 1.2 MP front camera and on the connectivity side, we’re completely covered, with a nano SIM card slot, GPS, HSDPA with 42.2 Mbps download speed, LTE, WiFi dual band, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and microUSB 2.0.

In the section I like to call “and others”, there’s Dolby Audio, an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, compass and FM radio. The battery here is a Li-Ion 2420 mAh unit, that on paper provides 432 hours of standby, 15 hours of talk time or 75 hours of music playback. In our test with WiFi on and brightness at 50% we achieved 7 hours of video playback, which compared to other flagships is kind of weak. For example, the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 achieve 11 hours without problems. However, the Nexus 5 gets 5 hours, so it could be worse…

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Overall, the battery of Lumia 930 is so-so, but the charging is decent, lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes. There’s a battery saver option in the mix as well, with an app usage feature, showing which apps can be used in the background during power saving or not. You can activate Power Saving to kick in when the battery is low, Now or Always. Overall I would call the battery OK-ish, but nothing more than that.

On the audio side of things, the Xbox Music app has been separated from the Xbox Video app and you should know that there are no headphones bundled with this product. There’s Dolby Digital Plus technology in the mix and Xbox Music finally allows you to skip through the song forward or backward without having to keep an arrow pressed for that. You can organize music by Artists, Genres, Albums, Songs, create Playlists and access a Radio feature.

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Finally, there’s also a music store integrated here and the speaker at the back offers a loud experience, nice bass and a full sound. The percution is slightly off and the settings include an equalizer with either preset options or custom options. There’s Bass Boost, Bass Cut, Treble Boost, Treble Cut, Acoustic, Jazz, Hip Hop and many more. Enhancements include Virtual 5.1 Surround for headphones and Dolby Audio Leveling, that offers the same volume for all tracks. Finally, we’ve got a Dolby Dialog enhancer, that’s useful for movie dialogs. Overall I’d say acoustics are excellent and our decibelmeter confirms it, with 87.3 dBA at the front and 89 dBA at the back, a very good result, higher than all the flagships tested so far with a decibelmeter.

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The display here is a 5 incher with a Super AMOLED ClearBlack panel and Full HD resolution. The screen offers deep blacks, it’s very, very bright and it’s also good in sunlight. It offers good contrast and some users have been complaining about a purple tint, but that hasn’t been a problem for me. The video player showed us that the colors are a bit oversaturated, view angles are perfectly wide and overall, the screen is bright and crisp.

The Xbox Video area also includes a TV store and the player’s options include subtitles and repeat. The pixels of the display are of the Pentile Matrix type and on the brightness side, we achieved 420 lux units here, which is very nice. For the sake of comparison, the Galaxy S5 reaches 480 lux, HTC One M8 463 lux and Xperia Z2 366 lux, so I’d say we’re doing fine. The screen is so bright, that I kept it on medium the whole time, not on high brightness.

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There are also special Settings for the display, like ease of access, with the ability to increase test size and pull off a higher contrast. Then there’s the Touch section, with a high sensitivity of the screen and double tap to wake and finally the standard Display options. Those include sunlight readability, reduced brightness when the battery saver is not and Color Profile. This last option rids you of the purple hue or oversaturation, if you’re having these problems. There’s the 3 basic modes to choose from: standard, vivid and cool, plus an Advanced section, where you tweak your own Color Saturation, Color Temperature and Tint with sliders.

You can also tweak various brightness levels, for the low, medium and high settings, also with sliders. I would say that overall, this one is an excellent display. The back camera is a 20 megapixel Pureview shooter, with Carl Zeiss optics, F/2.4 aperture, BSI and a 1/2.5 inch sensor in the mix. There’s a dual LED flash available, optical image stabilization, a 6 element lens and this cam creates 1.12 micron pixels.

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The minimum focus range for macros is 10 cm by the way. The UI of the Nokia Camera app includes a gallery shortcut on the left and a bunch of top options that can be turned into semicircles on the screen with the trademark Nokia UI. You can use the top options in the Auto mode, with only 2 or 3 tweakable settings or Pro, with a half a dozen things to tweak. I’m talking about exposure, shutter, ISO, focus and white balance. The physical camera button works in two steps and the camera’s options include Lenses (Panorama, Cinemagraph, Refocus, Office Lens, Vine and many more), Front Cam, Timer, Bracket (5 shots with various exposures, basically HDR replacement) and more Settings. The Refocus feature was demoed in the video review and it comes with features like Color Pop, All in Focus or social network sharing.

The settings include focus assist light, grille, 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio, 16 or 19 MP resolutions, in tandem with a 5 MP JPEG that’s easier to share online. There’s also the option to create a 20 MB RAW file to enjoy later, in full high resolution. Then there’s the Living Images option, that makes your shots come to live in the Gallery. Video options include Full HD or HD video capture in 30, 25 or 24 FPS and there’s also directional stereo surround 5.1 and audio bass filter.

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Aside from the Video and Photo capture, there’s something called Smart Sequence, that takes a series of shots and then lets you pick the Best Shot, Change Faces, Remove Moving Objects or play with motion focus options. We also showed you the standard camera app in Windows Phone 8.1, that can be used instead of the Nokia Camera app. There are 5 shortcuts here, on the left side of the screen, all of them customizable with features like Lenses, Front/Back camera, Flash, scenes, ISO, exposure or white balance.

Now, moving to the actual pictures, Nokia Lumia 930 is a bit slower than the Lumia 925 to take shots and it also doesn’t focus as good in macros. The slow picture taking may be caused by the fact that this model creates two shots at once and one of them is RAW sometimes. Macros look superb, as you can see in those beautiful flower pictures we’ve taken. Sometimes there’s oversaturation in the mix, but I’d say the images are crisp, contrast and exposure are good, but sadly the panorama is not very wide. The zoom is lossless and we’ve got a flag picture or two to prove it.

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Once you scroll through pics you’ll see a special option saying Open in Nokia Camera, that allows you to quickly crop, rotate and see picture details. Every type of picture taken with this model is excellent, maybe aside from the ones taken from a distance, the landscapes. During the night shots, the flash works wonders and shots don’t even come out yellow-ish without a flash. Even the flower macro was excellent at night and this model is on par with the Xperia Z2 when it comes to night capture, behaving very well in low light conditions. The level of noise is very low even in these conditions.

As far as video capture is concerned, I’ve taken these videos on a cloudy day and I’d say I’m happy with them. There’s a bit of flickering and focus loss at some point, but overall, the image is crisp and the colors are realistic. The white balance and exposure are also good and we’ve got a Nokia Trimmer to do a bit of fast video editing if need be. The quality remains top notch even when zooming in, as shown in the video with the geese that we included in the review.

I also filmed a video while walking, to demonstrate the stabilization abilities of the device and I’d say it’s doing pretty well, in spite of the slight focus loss in this case. The filming is done in MP4 format, with 20 Mbps bitrate and the night capture is also pretty good. There’s no yellow-ish hue and when using the flash image is very clear, considering it was night when it took the vis.

Overall, I’d say this is a very good camera, but it’s not a huge leap from the Lumia 925 for example. Xperia Z2 is overall a better package and with more varied options. Even the Galaxy S5 stands out more in some of the day time shots. However, the low light shots are stellar here and the RAW photo quality is great. Moving on to performance, this device reaches 45.9 degrees Celsius, after about 15 minutes of playing Asphalt 8, so there’s a bit of overheating going on here.

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The web browser is very fast and we’ve got that InPrivate Tab option, plus the ability to keep browsing from where we left off on the Windows 8 PC or tablet. Then there’s the Word Flow keyboard, that’s very fast and efficient. Windows Phone 8.1 is the OS of choice here, with its already known features like Action Center, Cortana, the transparency of homescreen tiles and the “X” to close apps in multitasking. The phone calls are loud and crisp and we’ve got speed dial in the dialer area now.

As far as benchmarks are concerned, we compared some Lumias amongst themselves, the latest ones we’ve tested. So, in AnTuTu, we the Lumia 930 scores 25375 points, beating the 24k points of the Lumia 1520, but being below the 34440 of the Xperia Z1. In MultiBench 2we scored double the CPU score of the Lumia 1020 and did the same thing in the storage area. The RAM score was three times bigger than the one of the Lumia 1020 and the GPU score was in the range of the Samsung Ativ S. In PhoneMark, we got 1892 points overall with the Lumia 930, while a Lumia 1520 gets 1771, a Lumia 929 1782 and a Lumia 1320 a 1240 score.

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In the memory test in this benchmark we were equal to the Lumia 1520. As far as Speedtest goes, we achieved 19 Mbps/16 in download/upload and compared to the values we usually get, the upload was kind of slow. In WPBench we scored 523 points with the Lumia 930, 441 with the Lumia 1520 and 223 with the Lumia 1020. In BrowserMark 2.1 we had a score of 829 with the Lumia 930, 1187 with the LG G3 for example 818 with the Allview X2 Soul.

In SunSpider we were quite good, with 514 on the Lumia 930 and since it’s the lower the better here, we beat the Lumia 1520 and its 558 points, but also the Lumia 1020 with its 911 points. Basically, this is the most powerful Windows Phone device now, benchmark-wise. We also took a glance at the Settings area, where you can customize the notification area and Action Center with custom toggles, plus you can set up WiFi Sense to connect to certain access points automatically. There’s also a Project Screen feature, a Find My Phone function, Driving Mode, Quiet Hours, Call plus SMS filter, Device Hub and Motion Data collection.

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Nokia Lumia 930 also comes with a large collection of apps to install or already installed. Those include Bing Food and Drink, Health and Fitness, Here Drive+, Here Maps, Nokia Creative Studio with enhancements, filters, color pop and all that, plus Nokia Story Teller. The latter will allow you to create videos that sum up your latest clips and photos, pretty much like HTC Zoe.

The content is organized by location or date. The previously mentioned Health and Fitness Bing app is more than a collection of news about health and fitness. It’s also a hub that monitors your steps, workouts, calorie intake and much more, a feature welcome on Windows Phone. Other installed apps include Nokia Video Trimmer, the usual Office, OneDrive, OneNote, Podcasts and Skype. I also discussed Office Lens, one of the camera Lenses that is used to capture text, whiteboards and other things that students use in their activity.

Now let’s see the Pros and Cons of this device!

Here are the Pros:

  • excellent low light camera
  • premium materials
  • very good audio
  • good display (Very bright)
  • RAW picture taking
  • good macros
  • good hardware
  • lots of camera options
  • good stabilization

And the Cons:

  • battery could be better
  • not a big update from the Lumia 925
  • slow capture
  • focus problems sometimes
  • massive, thick and heavy
  • overheats
  • no headphones

Nokia Lumia 930 gets from us an 8.5 out of 10 for design, a 9.4 for hardware and a 9.1 for OS and UI. The final grade is 9 out of 10 and basically if you have a Lumia 1520 or Lumia 925, there’s no reason to update to this phone. If you have the Xperia Z2, it’s even better, since it’s superior to this model, even in the camera area. If you want Windows Phone 8.1, great photo features and a massive premium “brick” that’s solid, the Lumia 930 is the phone for you.