Review: Nokia Lumia 830 for AT&T
The Lumia 830 includes a standard selection of media apps, with a few extras from Nokia and AT&T for good measure.
The native WP 8.1 Music app is on board. It's a one-stop-shop for most of your music needs. For example, the Music App is where you'll find tunes you've side-loaded directly to the device or added to a memory card. The Music app also acts as a storefront for Microsoft's XBox Music service, which offers both music and movies.
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The 830 includes Nokia MixRadio, Nokia's own content store. Its defining feature is its 150 streamable radio stations, personalized music recommendations, and a tool for searching local live performances. Premium features — such as an unlimited number of track downloads — carry a nominal monthly fee.
The 830 also has AT&T's Live TV app. This app streams TV shows and movies to the handset. It works best over LTE, but requires a monthly fee. Lastly, the 830 has a stand-alone FM radio app. It's basic to a fault and requires headphones.
I was pleased with the quality of music playback through my headphones and speakers, but you won't get much from the 830's speaker itself.
The 830 includes both the base Windows Phone camera app and the more feature-rich Nokia Camera app, along with several of Nokia's “lenses”. You can set either as the default camera app.
I imagine most people will choose the Windows Phone camera over the Nokia camera simply because it's easier to use. Some of the newest features include burst mode and a customizable viewfinder. The burst mode begins to capture images before you press the button and then lets you select your favorite from the bunch. The viewfinder tool lets you arrange the camera controls so that your five favorite settings are always under your fingers.
The Nokia Camera app is more advanced and gives users full control over settings. For example, users can set the ISO anywhere from 100 to 4000, set shutter speed from 1/16,000th of a second to 4 seconds, or toggle focus between macro and infinity. The long exposure tool is particularly interesting because it opens up a wide range of creative nighttime imaging. These tools aren't for newbies and can take time to master. Having both apps available on the same handset allows people to pick the one best for their skill level and patience.
Both camera apps are quick and work well.
The 830 also includes several software “lenses”, such as Bing Search and Cinemagraph. Bing Search lets you perform image-based searches and Cinemagraph lets you create animated GIFs. You can install more lenses from the Windows Store if you want.
The 830 has a 10-megapixel camera sensor and I was pleased with the results. Focus, exposure, and white balance are almost always spot-on. It doesn't matter which of the two camera apps you use, the results are the same. I'd recommend using the flash when indoors to avoid grain. Most people should be able to rely on the 830 as both their everyday camera as well as their vacation partner.
The 830 captures video in either 720p or 1080p HD, and even offers frame rate options of 24, 25, and 30 fps. The default setting is 1080p at 30 fps, and you should probably just leave it set that way. I was very happy with the video footage I captured with the 830. Focus, white balance, and exposure were consistently good. Using the video light really helps when shooting in dark spaces, as long as your subject is within about 10 feet.
Interestingly, the 830 offers a handful of different sound-capture profiles, too. For example, you can record in either stereo or Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, as well as control how the 830 handles low frequencies thanks to a bass filter. Quite honestly, after playing the audio track through my home theater speakers, I couldn't discern any difference between stereo and 5.1 recordings, but the bass filter can come in handy for cancelling out sound that might otherwise interfere with your video (think diesel engines or other low-frequency background noise).
Windows Phone handsets have some powerful photo management and editing tools. First up is the Photo Hub. It stores all images captured on the phone itself, and also syncs with social media accounts, such as Facebook. The Hub makes it fun to peruse your own images as well as scan through those of your Facebook friends.
The 830 can sort images into groups based on data, location, and activity. I find this is really helpful when trying to find a particular event. Editing features in the Photo Hub are limited to rotate and crop. Windows Phones' most useful photo feature, however, is integration with OneDrive. It's a snap to back up and store all your photos/videos in the cloud thanks to OneDrive.
If you're interested in more advanced editing features, you need to turn to Creative Studio. It lets you apply various filters and effects (think Instagram) to change the tone/appearance of photos. Moreover, you can add blur effects; dial in specific changes to exposure, brightness, contrast, and temperature; as well as use color pop to automatically set the background to black and white while keeping the subject in full color.
I would have been happy to see fewer apps preinstalled on the 830. There's the typical set of Windows Phone basics from Microsoft, which are joined by a handful of Lumia-branded apps. AT&T went a bit overboard, though. You'll find AT&T Address Book, FamilyMap, Locker, Mark the Spot, and Navigator on board, in addition to Amazon, Kindle, Keeper, Mobile TV, myAT&T, and, yes, Yellow Pages. One thing I like about Windows Phones is that you can easily delete any app that you might consider to be junk.
The 830's Bluetooth radio performed flawlessly. Not only did it easily accept pairings with other devices, but the supported profiles functioned as they should. I was pleased with the quality of calls sent to a mono headset and to my car's hands-free system. Music sounded decent via my favorite Bluetooth speaker, but since the 830 lacks the aptX sound profile, it could have been better.
Internet Explorer is a solid competitor to Chrome and Safari, and performed very well on the 830 and AT&T's network. Web sites load swiftly, and the browser does a solid job with both mobile-optimized and full HTML sites. Some of the newer features you may enjoy include private browsing and syncing favorites, tabs, and history between desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Last, if you pin your favorite web site to the home screen, it can update with new content throughout the day.
Nokia added Glance to its Windows Phone handsets more than a year ago, and the feature is most helpful when checking the time. With Glance running, the 830 will occasionally show the time floating on the screen. It automatically lights up when there are notifications, but also if you wave your hand over the screen or move the phone. The clock is most easily viewed, however, when you press the screen lock button and the display jumps to full brightness.
Like all WP8.1 handsets, the 830 includes Cortana. Cortana is similar to Google Now in Android and Siri on the iPhone. You can use Cortana to perform voice searches, dictate messages, and keep track of your flights and/or calendar. Cortana isn't quite as good as Google Now, but it's far better than Siri. The reminders feature is one of the best. For example, you can have Cortana remind you to ask about a friend's health the next time you talk to them. When you call that person, the reminder will pop up. Cortana also parses the Internet for items related to your interests, such as news headlines, sport scores, the local weather, and more. Cortana controls quiet hours and inner circle. Quiet hours are used to silence notifications during set periods of time, such as at night. The inner circle represents the closest of close contacts, typically family members. You can use Cortana to offer the inner circle access to you even during quiet hours. Last, Cortana can be used to listen to a song and search for it on the internet. I find Cortana isn't as good at this as other third-party apps, though. In sum, Cortana is a great feature worth exploring. It worked perfectly on the 830. What's better, since I signed in using my Microsoft account, it synced my settings from other Windows devices.
Nokia's HERE navigation suite is a powerful set of tools that not only helps map out directions, but lets you search your surroundings. HERE Maps offers a wealth of features that go head-to-head with Google Maps. Some of the associated apps include HERE Drive and HERE Transit. These are individual apps that perform specific functions. HERE Drive plots point-to-point driving directions, while HERE Transit helps manage mass transit route planning. My favorite feature is that you can download maps for specific areas (entire US states) for offline use.
The GPS radio of the 830 itself performs perfectly. It pinpointed me quickly and accurately no matter where I was.
I wouldn't bother with AT&T Navigator.
For the productivity minded, MS Office and OneNote are useful tools. The 830 lets users open/edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as sync them to their personal (or corporate) computers. OneNote is Microsoft's extensive note-taking and -managing app. It functions similarly to EverNote.
The 830 also includes Storage Sense and Data Sense for managing your internal storage and wireless data consumption, respectively.
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