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Nokia's Lumia 930 is Windows Phone's strongest competitor yet

By James Lu - 13 Aug 2014
Launch SRP: S$789

Performance Benchmarks, Imaging, Battery Life & Conclusion

Performance Benchmarks

While most flagship smartphones have moved onto some version of the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, Nokia has stuck to the year-old Snapdragon 800, clocked at 2.2 GHz.. While that processor is still adequate for all needs and purposes, it's just not as competitive when you peg the Lumia 930 against faster devices. For this review, we'll be seeing how it does compared to the rest of the 5-inch flagship smartphones released this year.

  Nokia Lumia 930 HTC One (M8) LG G3 Samsung Galaxy S5
  Nokia Lumia 930 HTC One (M8) LG G3 Samsung Galaxy S5
Launch SRP
  • From S$789
  • From S$998
  • From S$868
  • From S$1068
Operating system
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.2GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core up to 2.5GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2GB/3GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
Display
  • 5-inch / 1,920 x 1080 pixels (441ppi) / OLED
  • 5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super LCD 3
  • 5.5-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.1-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: PureView 20 MP with Optical Image Stabilization
  • Front: 1.2MP
  • Rear: Duo Camera (Primary 4-megapixel UltraPixel with BSI sensor, pixel size 2um, sensor size 1/3-inch, f/2.0 aperture, 28mm wide angle lens and HTC ImageChip 2; Secondary camera for capturing depth information)
  • Front: 5-megapixel with BSI sensor, F2.0 aperture, wide angle lens and HDR
  • Rear: 13-megapixel with optical image stabilization plus and laser autofocus
  • Front: 2.1-megapixel
  • Rear: 16MP f/2.2, 0.3 second autofocus, LED flash
  • Front: 2.0MP
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, micro-USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX enabled, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5GHz), NFC, DLNA, Micro-USB 2.0,
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth Smart Ready (Apt-X), NFC, A-GPS/Glonass
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO, GPS/GLONASS, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, IR LED, micro-USB 2.0 (MHL 2.0), 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage (non-expandable)
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 16GB/32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
Battery
  • 2,420mAh (non-removable)
  • 2,600mAh
  • 3,000mAh
  • 2,800mAh
Dimensions
  • 137 x 71 x 9.8mm
  • 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35mm
  • 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm
  • 142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm
Weight
  • 167g
  • 160g
  • 149g
  • 145g

 

Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider Javascript measures the browsing performance of a device. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. Windows Phones have done well in the past with Sunspider, and the Lumia 930 is no exception, losing out only to the Samsung Galaxy S5 (which we suspect is an optimization on Samsung's part). In our usage experience, the Lumia 930 was quite smooth, but didn't seem noticeably better than any of the Android phones tested.

 

Basemark OS 2

Basemark OS II is a cross-platform suite of synthetic tests designed to stress the whole platform at a variety of workloads. Overall, the Lumia 930 didn't perform badly here, doing especially well on the memory test. However, the Windows Phone 8.1 OS seems to be quite poor in the graphics department, scoring vastly lower than all three Android devices. It's also worth noting that in the Web benchmark, the Lumia 930 actually had the lowest score, contrary to its Sunspider javascript score.

 

Basemark X 1.1

Based on the Unity 4.0 game engine, Basemark X is a cross-platform graphics benchmark utilizing OpenGL ES 2.0. Features like high poly count models, shaders with normal maps, complex LoD algorithms, extensive per-pixel lighting (including directional and point light), along with a comprehensive set of post process, particle systems, and physics effects test how a modern game might look and run.

Windows Phone 8 is limited to Basemark's medium detail setting, which developer Rightware actually designed specifically to accommodate Microsoft's mobile operating system. It is less demanding than the high detail setting, but remains visually impressive. The Lumia 930 didn't perform as poorly as expected, based on its Graphics score in Basemark OS II, but still scored notably lower than all three Android smartphones.

 

Camera Performance

Lumia phones have had good cameras in the past and the 930 looks to maintain that tradition. Armed with a 20MP PureView camera module with Zeiss optics, a 1/2.5 inch sensor and an f/2.4 aperture lens, the Lumia 930 certainly impresses on paper. 

As with all PureView cameras, while the sensor itself captures data at 16MP (the 20MP sensor is square, but the lens itself is round), it then down-samples or pixel-bins the image to 5MP. It does this by combining the information from several pixels to create a single pixel, in the case of 20MP to 5MP, four pixels are combined into one. This technique retains image detail but reduces image noise, and also allows for lossless digital zoom. For a full walkthrough on how Nokia's PureView technology works, check out our PureView feature.

It's worth noting that, somewhat confusingly, there are actually two camera apps on the 930: "Camera" and "Nokia Camera". The regular camera app is the Windows Phone 8 one, and is fairly basic. The one you should be using at all times is the Nokia Camera app, which includes plenty of useful pro-like options that let you manually adjust settings like white balance, ISO and shutter speed.

The Nokia Camera app gives you manual control over a number of variables including shutter speed, ISO and white balance.

Microsoft has also included a new Living Images mode that's very similar to HTC's Zoe shooting mode, creating three second videos whenever you take a shot. It's nice for capturing movement, or for adding some context to your shot.

In our testing, we found the Lumia 930 camera module to be very competitive with the shooters found in other flagship smartphones, including the 20.7 MP Sony Xperia Z2 and 16MP Samsung Galaxy S5. Our only complaint is that the auto-focus was a little slow at times, especially in low-light. Feature-wise, we liked the manual control afforded by the Nokia camera app, but other than the Living Images option, there aren't many fun or quirky lenses to shoot with - which may or may not be important to you. While most of those features were gimmicky anyway, you might find yourself missing the bokeh (out-of-focus background blur) effect that most of the Android flagship smartphone shooters come with. Fortunately, it's easy enough to edit in later. There's even a WP8 app for it!

Image quality on the 930 is excellent and is super sharp throughout. Colors are bright, but perhaps slightly over saturated. Click to view full photo or check out the below close-up of cropped segments.

 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

As expected, the rather small capacity 2420mAh battery of the Lumia 930 didn't last very long in our video looping test, dying just before the six-hour mark. Not only that, power draw was also calculated to be higher than expected, and it's not far off from LG's G3 and its QHD display.

Having said that, in real world usage, the 930 fared quite well, easily lasting an entire work day, running down to 18% at 11PM. The built-in Windows Phone Battery Saver app is also quite useful for displaying how much juice each of your apps is using, and even gives a fairly accurate estimate of how much power you have left remaining. Tweaking the settings immediately reflects how much power you have left.

 

Portability

We measure the portability of a device by calculating its battery life to (weight x volume) ratio. The Lumia 930 fared the worst in this test due to its chunky profile, above average weight and low battery life.

 

Conclusion

 

The Nokia Lumia 930 does many things right: it has a great display, a generally good camera (though we wish the AF lock was faster), an aesthetically pleasing metal and polycarbonate build, an OS that is customizable and informative, while remaining easy to use, and a lower than expected price point for a premium 5-inch device. On the downside, its battery life is rather unimpressive, its hardware is outdated, and its quite a bit thicker and heavier than most other flagship smartphones. We're also disappointed that one of the best features of Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana, isn't available outside of the US, and there's no timeline for when she'll be supported locally either.

Of course, the biggest issue for the Lumia 930 is one that has faced all Windows Phones: developers just don't seem to care enough about them. This means that apps newly launched on Android and iOS nearly always take forever to get ported to Windows Phone, if they even appear at all. Until this problem gets fixed - and we've already been waiting four years - buying any Windows Phone, no matter how good the hardware may be, is just putting yourself at a slight disadvantage. As such, it's important to browse the Windows Store to ascertain you're comfortable with the available apps before making the leap to a Windows Phone.

If you've lived with the WP OS for a while now, such as a device running WP 7.5 or 7.8, the growing Windows Store can only get better and as long as you are content with the mix of capabilities offered by the Lumia 930, this Windows Phone is a good upgrade option to keep up with the Joneses.

7.5
  • Design 8
  • Features 7.5
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 7
  • Value 8
The Good
Clean aluminum and polycarbonate build
Stunning 5-inch Full HD OLED display
Good PureView camera
Built-in wireless charging
Improved Windows Phone 8.1 OS
Cheaper than most flagship smartphones
The Bad
Average battery life
Thicker and heavier than most flagship phones
Older Snapdragon 800 processor
Cortana not available locally
Windows Store still lacks latest apps/games