Lumia 830: 90 percent of what I want in a smartphone at half the price

Not everyone wants to pay the premium $650 entry price of an iPhone 6. For about half the price, the Nokia Lumia 830 offers up an amazing design, solid camera, and great performance.

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Back in November I wrote about my disappointment with Microsoft's non-existent high end Windows Phone lineup. Until the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft looks to be focused on the 'affordable flagship' and I thought that was a serious problem.

A few weeks ago, I decided to buy a Nokia Lumia 830, check out the ZDNet review, to see if there was any reason for a consumer to consider a mid-range device. It turns out I was wrong about the affordable flagship and you really can get by with a phone like the Lumia 830, at about half the price of an iPhone 6.

CNET awarded the Nokia Lumia 830 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Since I am a T-Mobile US customer I had to find a device with appropriate LTE and HSPA+ bands support. While there is no such Lumia 930, you can find the Nokia Lumia 830 with such support, it's model number RM-985. I picked up an orange one since that is one of my favorite colors and I get tired of just black and white phones.

Hardware

This was the first Nokia Lumia 830 I have seen in person and I was immediately impressed by the fantastic build quality, size in my hand, and presence of a microSD card, removable battery, and replaceable back cover.

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Honestly, the Lumia 830 feels like a flagship with a five inch Gorilla Glass 3 display that curves along the edgs into a solid brushed aluminum frame. Distinct metal buttons adorn just the right side with the left side and bottom completely void of buttons or ports. The headphone jack and microUSB port are located on the top.

A 10 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera with 6 lenses and optical image stabilization is found on the back with interchangeable back covers hiding the 2200 mAh battery, microSD card, and SIM card. The AT&T model has support for PMA and Qi wireless charging in the back cover, while the SIM unlocked one I bought supports only Qi wireless charging.

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The design and exterior make the Lumia 830 feel like a true flagship, the internal specs are where you will find mid-range features. The Lumia 830 is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage, and 1280 x 720 pixels display resolution.

The unlocked Lumia 830 with T-Mobile bands can be purchased for about $380 with the AT&T-compatible one for about $300 on Amazon. The locked, official AT&T version is available for $399.99. When you consider the lowest cost iPhone 6 is $649, it's tough not to at least consider the Lumia 830. Motorola offers the Moto X at just $399.99 so that is a bit tougher choice to make.

Fans of Nokia may also want to pick up the 830 since it looks to be the last device branded by the old Nokia.

Software

As soon as I turned on the Lumia 830, I was prompted to update it to the latest Lumia Denim software. Microsoft also stated that Windows 10 will be coming to the Lumia 830 so I'm keeping it as my future test platform.

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Captured with the Lumia 830 (Image: Matthew Miller, ZDNet)
I went through all of the apps I have loaded on my iPhone 6 Plus and Sony Xperia Z3 then installed the same ones on my Lumia 830. There were only a few apps missing, primarily Google Services apps, and when I went a few days with just the Lumia 830 I found I was able to function just fine. Actually, the Fitbit app on Windows Phone has the most functionality and is more stable than the experience on iOS and Android.

The camera blew me away and when I went hiking with my family I use the Lumia 830 with impressive results. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 may be the only Android phone that can beat the Lumia 830 so if you buy one you should be more than satisfied with camera performance.

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Captured with the Lumia 830 (Image: Matthew Miller, ZDNet)
Cortana performs extremely well, the Action Center helps with productivity, and everything is zippy even with the Snapdragon 400 processor. I am even able to play Halo Spartan Assault flawlessly on the Lumia 830. For some reason Netflix doesn't work as it seems to get hung up on the stream.

Final thoughts

As ZDNet's Steve Ranger wrote, the Lumia 830 is an elegant and fun piece of hardware. I don't have issues with missing apps and am satisfied with what is now available.

Getting such impressive performance from a sub-$400 smartphone definitely has me thinking twice about future purchases. I bought my 64GB iPhone 6 Plus for about $900 and as great as it is, it's not worth almost three Nokia Lumia 830s. If you want an affordable, functional smartphone then I highly recommend the Lumia 830.

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