The Nokia Lumia 930 is the first 5 inch flagship smartphone from Nokia to feature Windows Phone 8.1 and features a high-resolution Full HD display, a 20MP Carl Zeiss camera and high-end processing thanks to a Qualcomm SoC. Can the new Microsoft/Nokia device truly compete with today’s top flagship Android phones? Mobile Geeks reveal all.
There has doubtless been a significant and gaping hole in Nokia’s smartphone line-up for some time now. The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a phablet sized 6 inch device, while the Lumia 925 at 4.7 inches would be too small and affordable and to be considered flagship. A 5 inch offering with top, top specs has been missing for too long, so it is great to see Nokia now grace us with the Lumia 930, a Windows Phone 8.1 device that is designed to compete with the big hitters in the 5 inch smartphone space; the Galaxy S5 from Samsung, the HTC One M8 and the Sony Xperia Z2.
Before you read the full Nokia Lumia 930 review, don’t forget to check out this detailed video review from our buddy Roland:
With the Nokia Lumia 930 we have a genuine top tier specification sheet. A five-inch OLED panel with a Full HD resolution of 1920 × 1080, 2GB of RAM, 32 GB of flash memory storage and a Pure View camera with Carl Zeiss optics and 20.7-megapixel sensor represent the cornerstones of a high- end smartphone. The Lumia 930 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 with its four 2.2GHz Krait cores and the top performing Adreno 330 graphics processor.
You could argue that in fact flagship smartphones are currently moving beyond the specs listed above – the LG G3 has a 5.5″ QHD display and 3GB of RAM for example, and the Snapdragon 801 will soon give way for the Snapdragon 805. Regardless, the Nokia Lumia 930 must be considered a flagship contender based on the hardware used to create it, even if you consider the device to not be cutting edge. In fact we fully expect the computing power of the Lumia 930’s Snapdragon processor to be very impressive, simply because Nokia, Microsoft and Qualcomm have worked very hard in recent years to ensure really solid performance optimization. Cat.4 LTE, NFC and Wireless Qi standard charging are also integrated in the Nokia Lumia 930 as well as a fairly unique surround sound recording feature, thanks to the phone’s four high-end microphones.
The Lumia 930, like the majority of smartphones in this category, integrates 2GB of RAM, or system memory, a configuration which we consider to be totally sufficient in most circumstances. Along with the OnePlus One and the Oppo Find 7, the LG G3 is available with 3GB of memory. However I would still regard these devices as being the exception rather than the norm, although the future definitely points towards 3GB soon becoming the standard high-end configuration.
The 32GB of on-board flash memory storage may seem to be pretty generous at first, but perhaps less so we tell you that you will not be able to expand storage with a microSD card. The Nokia Lumia 930 does not support microSD cards, so the 32GB will have to suffice for the Windows Phone 8.1 install, all your apps, data and files. High-resolution photos can take up plenty of space, and although storing music or video files on the phone will also be possible, you will have to manage your space with some care. You end up with around 25GB to play with, which will be plenty for most users. Regardless, I still find it difficult to understand the decision to not include microSD support, and consider the omission to be misstep.
Nokia’s design philosophy continues to evolve, and in all fairness, it is looking as good as ever. The design of the Lumia 930 revolves around three major elements; a thin aluminum frame with a display that has reasonable bezels and polycarbonate back cover that comes in a choice of orange, green, black and white. The headphone jack is located on the top edge, in the middle. A micro USB 2.0 port is located squarely in the middle of the bottom edge, while the power button, volume rocker and signature photo snap button are located on the right side edge – the power button in the middle with the volume rocker above. This is not the ideal configuration for me personally – I’d prefer the power button further up for starters – but Nokia have been quite consistent with button positioning for some time now. Consistency is a worthy consideration and one that previous and current Nokia users will appreciate. Take note HTC.
The choice of plastic might not scream class, but Nokia will point out that helps with wireless charging and radio reception overall. The plastic used feels good to the touch and certainly not as cheap as some plastic phones. The use of plastic also allows for some garishly loud color options, that have actually started to grow on me. The orange and green options really do look pretty good. The plastic cover is solid with very little ‘give’ apparent if you give it a squeeze, and has been treated to make it oleophobic, or oil resistant. You will find very few finger or thumb prints on this baby. Both the back and the display are slightly convex, with rounded corners on the display that reflect the light in a tapered and attractive way. The display features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and is thusly scratch resistant. The tapered convex display means that swiping gestures are smooth and feel good.
The buttons I mentioned earlier are well made with only slight movement detectable. The dedicated photo shooting button has two stages, first for auto-focus, the second to trigger the shot. The dedicated button is in fact a good feature in our opinion and one that improves the overall camera experience. In terms of simple ergonomics, the button makes sense for taking photos – let’s be honest taking photos using a prod of your finger on the screen is completely inferior to a button placed where your finger actually is. The dedicated snap button feels very natural.
The Lumia 930 is not the thinnest of devices at 9.8mm. Many flagship competitors are somewhere between 8 and 9mm, so at almost 10mm the new Nokia flagship is a thicker phone than most. At 167 grams in weight, the Lumia 930 is also occupying the heavier end of the smartphone scale, being marginally heavier than virtually all other flagships out there. When you consider that the Lumia 930 is has a smaller screen and smaller battery than the LG G3 which is 12 grams lighter, the Lumia 930 kind of feels a bit hefty. Personally however, the device feels good in hand, very solidly built, almost like it could take a drop or two in its stride. This is good build quality.
The Nokia 930 uses a 1080p OLED panel of exactly 5 inches along the diagonal. The panel itself has excellent contrast ratio but although Nokia claims it to be the brightest display they have ever used on a Lumia device, in reality we detected a luminescence of only 280 lumens, which is in fact a pretty disappointing value. However this kind of analysis can be a little misleading. In normal conditions on auto adjust the brightness is always sufficient, making the screen crisp and clear from all angles, but when you head outdoors you can then appreciate just how bright and luminous the screen is. Manually turning the brightness up to maximum pushes the brightness higher than you would actually need in all but the sunniest situations.
As for the colors reproduced by the display, the panel on the Lumia 930 is is definitely one of the better displays we have come across, but there are one or two issues nonetheless. On the review unit that we used, we noticed on closer inspection that the blacks were actually kind of brownish in color rather than a true deep, dark black. Also it was interesting to note that the upper right region of the display was somewhat unevenly lit, an issue that we have experienced before on LCD panels, but not on AMOLED or OLED panels. My guess is that in terms of color reproduction and uneven brightness, the Lumia 930 suffers from some slightly faulty calibration, a problem that could theoretically be resolved by a software update.
One Nokia feature that has proved to be popular with previous models is the Glance screen option which allows the user to have key information (time, notifications, texts and emails for example) displayed on the lock screen. You can configure the Glance function to detect when the phone is being used and present the information on the lock screen, or at intervals throughout the day, or simply always on. This was a neat way to receive messages without having to bring the phone out of standby mode, so it didn’t actually interfere with battery life. It is a real shame and disappointment to see that Glance is not implemented on the Lumia 930. Apparently the kind of OLED display that is used on the 930 is not suited to this kind of usage.
The Lumia 930 has a powerful Pure View camera with a 20 megapixel sensor backed by a Carl Zeiss lens. The 930 follows Nokia’s philosophy of adding some outstanding camera technologies to their flagship devices, with a very large sensor and combination of six lenses. The built-in optical image stabilizer effectively prevents stuttering and shaking and works well with Full HD videos and also helps to take steady photos. Overall the camera on the Lumia 930 is nothing short of outstanding.
The camera app developed by Nokia offers a wide range of common functions that come together in a simple and effective interface. The user can easily access ISO, white balance and the like, and adjust the settings as needed. However, even in automatic mode, the Nokia Lumia 930 has been configured so that in most cases, it is able to shoot decent photos without any manual adjustment.
In low light conditions the Lumia 930 produces better images than many of its competitors. Images usually come out looking well lit but you also have to remember that as with other vendors, Nokia has been quite aggressive in configuring the software to lighten darker images which can actually raise the noise levels and look a little exaggerated. Overall however, Nokia have done a fantastic job in low light compared to most cameras we have tested. Image Stabilization is also solid and helps a great deal.
One feature of the Lumia 930 camera that I want emphasize again, is the integration of the separate shutter button on the edge of the device. This simple addition really makes it easier to take photos and is much more effective than either using on screen buttons or re-purposing the volume rocker. The two stage implementation is equally good and makes it possible to take snaps using just one hand or in slightly awkward positions.
The Lumia 930 just has a single mono speaker on the back of the device which, as with several smartphone designs, is very easily covered by the users hand. The ringtones can be cranked up to quite a loud level, while audio playback is okay, but actually not necessarily clearer than average, or indeed louder. The audio sounds solid is probably just beyond what we would expect from a smartphone speaker. Solid, but unexceptional.
It is also interesting that the Lumia 930 has four high-end microphones that allow shots in extremely noisy environments such as at concerts. It could even be described as “surround sound” because the rear-facing microphones are reduced in recording volume when filming, so only the things that are happening in front of the camera will be recorded at full volume.
In terms of performance, the Nokia Lumia 930 does of course not to hide from the competition. It offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core SoC, which is clocked at 2.2 GHz and has a Adreno 330 graphics unit – this is going to give you plenty of computing power. While the Snapdragon 800 is no longer the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, we now see other flagships with the newer Snapdragon 801 and will soon spy the Snapdragon 805 later this year, the 800 chip still has masses of power. It seems almost over-powered running Windows Phone 8.1, because Microsoft’s mobile operating system works quite economically, and has been highly optimized to work with the Snapdragon platform.
In benchmarks the Lumia 930 is showing solid results. In AnTuTu for example we see 27,000 points which is about where we expect the Snapdragon 800 to be. In other tests, the device achieved values we have seen with other 800-based devices and in games, there were no problems. The Lumia 930 performed well in all titles we tested which included Asphalt 8: Airborne for example, and showed no stuttering or lagginess. The installed 2GB of RAM was sufficient for dealing with some vigorous app switching and we detected virtually no delays or inconsistencies.
We did notice that the device would get quite hot in persistent use when the Qualcomm SoC was under heavy load. This tended to make extended gaming sessions a little uncomfortable at times, especially at high ambient temperatures. The heat seemed to be an issue especially in the region of the lower part of the back with also the aluminum frame getting very warm. It is probable that the latter acts as a kind of radiator to dissipate the waste heat the processor produces more evenly to the outside. This makes the phone warm but it also cools very quickly again.
The Lumia 930 has plenty of power under the hood but this comes at a price in the form of high heat levels that can make it a little too hot to handle at times.
The battery life of the Lumia 930 involves the devices 2420mAh lithium-ion battery which considering the weight and proportions of the 930, is not really all that big. Despite these misgivings the battery performs well considering that it has to power a real performance monster in the form of the Snapdragon 800, a processor that can soon drain a battery of its life when playing games in a surprisingly short space of time. Straight gaming will leave you needing a charger after about 4 hours. Web browsing on Wi-Fi, plus streaming video at full brightness will keep going for around 6 hours.
In everyday life and moderate usage, there is no reason for the Lumia 930 to not get you through the entire day on a single charge. With a regular day on automatic brightness involving a few phone calls, web surfing, some light camera use we saw the 930 last for 14 hours without charging. Including no activity during the night you can expect the device to keep going for about 1.5 days. There is no Ultra Power Saving mode as we have seen with the Galaxy S5, but the Windows Phone OS seems quite capable of conserving energy when needed.
When it comes to the operating system the Nokia Lumia 930 is of course a very particular beast as it sports the latest software platform from Microsoft, who now of course own the Nokia business. Windows Phone 8.1 is very similar to 8 with the signature tiled interface employed as before. If you have used a Windows Phone 8 device before, you will not find there to be too much difference here. To me, the settings menu still feels messy and poorly implemented but if you have gotten used to the Windows Phone experience – and I know many who have – you will enjoy the Lumia 930.
On a positive note, there are improvements in terms of functionality and design, one of which is the Notification Center, which not only informs you of notifications, but also offers access to Quick Settings. It’s a bit closer to Android in this regard but I think it makes sense. You can also do more with the phone’s start screen including customizing the background plus plenty of other options that helps the user to modify and customize the experience.
Nokia again provides a great selection of proprietary apps, including the Nokia camera app and some other camera-related tools. Windows Phone has been criticized for its limited app eco-system but to be fair, Nokia are making sure you are getting almost everything you would need right from the get go. There are some really outstanding offerings that really stand up well against Google alternatives, one of which is the absolute killer Maps app which allows you to download maps for offline use – fantastic when you are traveling abroad and don’t want to rely on having a Wi-Fi connection. One gripe I have however is that the offline maps are currently not supported for Taiwan. Come on guys, Taiwan is a place well worth visiting and well worth having maps for.
Overall the Windows Phone experience is well implemented on the Nokia Lumia 930. The larger question is whether or not you like Microsoft’s mobile OS and all those damn tiles. For regular Android users it will take some time to adjust, that is for certain.
The Nokia Lumia 930 represents the logical progression of the Nokia Lumia series, showcasing the pinnacle of what Nokia as a hardware manufacturer are capable of. Once more they are delivering a solid piece of smartphone that is also presented quite an attractive design. The hardware matches step by step the top Android smartphones, even though it kind of feels that Windows Phone 8.1 doesn’t actually need it all.
Written by Roland Quandt, translated and edited by Stewart Haston.