Is the Lumia 530 the best Windows Phone you can buy on a budget? Let's find out.
The Lumia 520 is the best-selling Windows Phone of all time. Announced during Mobile World Congress 2013 by Nokia, as of a few months ago the Lumia 520 has over 12 million activations. The Lumia 520 represented tremendous value when it launched, and it is still the most popular Windows Phone in the majority of markets. This reason is why its successor, the Lumia 530, has a high bar to reach.At launch, you'll find the Lumia 530 for well under $100 in the United States and in Europe for about €85. This price-point makes it the cheapest Lumia to date and one of the most affordable Windows Phones in general. However, in 2014, does the Lumia 530 live up to the Lumia 520?
Low-cost phone with quality hardware from Nokia. Dedicated support from Microsoft in the future for updates. Access to Lumia software. Widespread availability.
Although it is the cheapest Lumia, it is not the best-value for a Windows Phone anymore. Weak display, low storage space, no front-facing camera.
The Lumia 530 is the cheapest Lumia you can buy today and you get some excellent support from Microsoft. However, new 'white label' Windows Phone like the BLU Win JR. give the Lumia 530 some competition for value. Although more expensive, the Lumia 635 is a much better choice if you can spend the extra cash.
Holding the Lumia 530 will remind you more of the Lumia 620 than the Lumia 520. The corners are rounded as is the back as opposed to the Lumia 520's sharper corners. We have a bright green shell, but you can swap the back cover with other colors to match your outfit or mood. In addition to bright green, we have white, black, and bright orange. In the US, Cricket offers the Lumia 530 in an exclusive blue color. The polycarbonate plastic is smooth to the touch and it should prove to be highly durable, withstanding drops and bangs with ease.
Since the back is removable, there's an option to get a shell with a flip cover attached direct from Microsoft for just $15. This accessory, see above, allows you to protect the display of your device without having to add a case. The flip shell is an accessory you're going to want to get if you pick up the Lumia 530. You can also replace the battery if you need extra power during the day.
The Lumia 530 itself is small, especially when you've been using devices like the 6-inch Lumia 1520 or 5-inch Lumia 930. The Lumia 530 will have no problem fitting in your pockets since its wrapped in a package 4.7-inches tall, 2.45 inches wide and 0.46 inches thin (62.3 mm x 119.7 mm x 11.7 mm). It's a comfortable device in your hand. Weighing in at just 129 grams, the Lumia 530 is certainly very light.
Lumia 530 Specifications
- Windows Phone 8.1 (build12400) with Lumia Cyan
- Quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200
- Single or Dual-SIM
- 512 MB of RAM
- 4 GB of internal memory; expandable up to 128 GB with micro SD
- 4-inch LCD FWVGA (854 x 480)
- 5 MP main camera
- 1430 mAh replaceable battery
- 10-hour talk-time
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Wi-Fi: WLAN IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
- 119.7 mm x 62.3 mm x 11.7 mm
- Weight: 129 g
Up front on the Lumia 530, you'll find a 4-inch LCD display and a resolution of 480 x 854, which results in a 245 PPI. You're probably looking at the resolution and wondering why there're an extra 54 pixels in the vertical direction (480 x 800 is more common). That's because the Lumia 530 eschews hardware keys and instead gives you on-screen keys thanks to Windows Phone 8.1. You won't find the ClearBlack polarizer found in other Lumia phones. The Lumia 530 is a budget phone, so the omission of ClearBlack shouldn't be a surprise, but you'll notice its absence. As a result, the colors on the screen are a bit washed out with the blacks not as deep as more high-end Lumias.
ClearBlack helps make the display readable outdoors and improves the contrast. And while you're expecting some compromises with a phone that costs less than $100, the display isn't the place to make it. It is better than its predecessor the Lumia 520 but not quite as good as the Lumia 630 where you get a slightly larger screen and ClearBlack. There's no proximity sensor on this device either, so you'll need to adjust your display brightness manually. Thankfully, that's not too hard if you add a quick-action key to the Action Center, where you can quickly toggle through low, medium and high brightness settings.
Powering the display and the Lumia 530 itself is a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor with 512 MB of RAM. It might not seem like much, but it's easily able to power through Windows Phone and some fairly demanding games. Loading times might be a few seconds longer than on more expensive smartphones, but you're at least able to play some graphically demanding games like Subway Surfers and Age of Empires: Castle Siege without any problems. With only 512 MB of RAM, there are some games you will not be able to install as they require 1 GB of RAM for peak performance. However, this list of exceptions is increasingly small these days.
Those are fairly big games though, and you'll quickly run into storage space woes with the included 4 GB of storage. Nevertheless, you can grab a microSD card (up to 128 GB) and have more space for apps, games, music, videos and more.
Some other features found in Windows Phone you won't be getting with the Lumia 530 include NFC, Qi wireless charging, SensorCore for motion tracking, and a front-facing camera. The phone is also limited to just 3G, with no support for LTE.
However, the Lumia 530 can optionally come with a dual-SIM design, which is ideal for those in emerging markets where carrying multiple SIMs is the norm.
The Lumia 530 does not have a great camera, though it is adequate for the price. You get a 5 MP rear camera with the Lumia 530, but a few pieces of technology are missing. There's no auto-focus (it is fixed), no dedicated camera button, and there is no flash. These are the imaging trade-offs for the most affordable Lumia.
Below you can check out some Lumia 530 camera samples.
Primarily, the Lumia 530 is a phone for making calls. Here, the Lumia 530 does live up to the expected quality of previous Nokia devices, although you are dealing with less bass and a more tin-like sound. Since the Lumia 530 does not have a proximity sensor, it relies on the display touching your face to turn off the screen during calls. It may be a bit it odd, but it works and most users will not notice the difference.
Reception was also better than expected, letting us grab a T-Mobile signal where normally we could not.
The rear speaker is small but much louder than anticipated. Sure, it is not a fantastic speaker for quality when compared to high-end phones, but it is loud, crisp, and adequate for use as a speakerphone or playing music. This feature is one of the more pleasant surprises packed into this nimble Windows Phone making the Lumia 530 a solid - but low cost - MP3 music player.
Battery life is average with the Lumia 530. Inside you'll find a 1430 mAh battery, which is somewhat expected at this price point. We used the Lumia 530 for a week and had the phone last the majority of the day. Take it off the charger in the morning as you leave for work and you should be able to make it home with moderate to heavy use. Though you're going to want to juice up mid-day if you have plans that night. Expect about 10-12 hours with regular use, which is about what Microsoft gives as the battery estimate.
The bottom line
When the Lumia 520 came out, it was the first of its kind. A low-end device that was easy on the budget, but paired with an operating system that didn't slow down performance. It was a unique phone at the time and had a recipe for success others have since copied.
It's harder today for the Lumia 530 to stand out on its own. For just a little bit more money, you can get the superior Lumia 635. While the two are similar the display on the Lumia 635 easily outclasses the one on the Lumia 530. Additionally, the Lumia 635 has an improved GPU for graphics with the Snapdragon 400 chipset.
- Related: Lumia 530 vs. Lumia 635
And then there's the BLU Win JR - a new, $89 Windows Phone that is selling on http://Amazon.com?tag=wpcentralb-20&ascsubtag=UUwpUdUnU26341 and the Microsoft Stores in North America. We haven't reviewed the Blu WIN JR yet, but our hands-on of the device left us impressed. It's a little more expensive than the Lumia 530, but it has a few extra hardware specs, like proximity sensor, that you can't get on the Lumia 530. Plus we might prefer the build quality of the BLU Win JR over the Lumia 530.
The Lumia 530 does remain the most affordable way to get a Lumia, but there are also more options out there today. The BLU Win JR costs slightly more and does more. The display on the Lumia 630 (dual-SIM) or Lumia 635 (LTE) is worth the small premium. That leaves the Lumia 530 in an awkward position. It's not a bad Windows Phone at all; it's just a hard sell when there's better value for your money. Something that didn't exist when the original Lumia 520 launched last year.
Still, with the Lumia 530 you do get access to exclusive apps like Lumia StoryTeller, Cinemagraph, Creative Studio, Lumia Camera and likely better support direct from Microsoft, including updates. For some people, this matters.
Is the Lumia 530 for you? If you need a low-cost Windows Phone as your only device and want a Lumia, we'd recommend the Lumia 635. Again, similar performance and specs, but a much better display thanks to ClearBlack technology. With the Lumia 635, you can also get LTE in select markets for better internet speeds.
If you just need a cheap Windows Phone, you're going to have to decide between the Lumia 530 and BLU Win JR (depending on availability). Two phones that are significant when considering their price points, and it'll come down to personal preference. That said, it's hard to go wrong with a Windows Phone that you can pick up for $69 at the Microsoft Store.
In the US, you can find the Lumia 530 on T-Mobile, Cricket and the Microsoft Store. More information, including experience from owners of the Lumia 530, can be found in our dedicated support forums.
- Windows Central Forums: Lumia 530
- All our coverage on the Lumia 530 can be found here: Lumia 530: All you need to know
Look for our reviews later this week for the Lumia 635, Lumia 735, and Lumia 830!