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Nokia Lumia 530 review

Nokia Lumia 530 header
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £89
inc VAT SIM-free

The Lumia 530 is a big improvement on its predecessor, but its low price is still false economy against the superior Lumia 630


Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 , Screen Size: 4in, Screen resolution: 854×480, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 4GB, Wireless data: 3G, Size: 119x62x11.7mm, Weight: 129g, Operating system: Windows Phone 8.1

The Lumia 530 may have been replaced by Microsoft’s Lumia 535, but the last entry-level Nokia phone is by far the superior handset. What’s more, it’s now one of the cheapest Windows phones you can by, making it an excellent bargain. At just £60 SIM-free or £40 on O2’s Pay & Go, the Lumia 530 is both cheaper than its predecessor and less than the Lumia 630, which until now was Nokia’s most wallet-friendly Windows Phone 8.1 device. 

It’s incredibly well-built for a £60 phone, but Nokia’s build quality has always been high across the entire Lumia range. At 11.7mm thick, it’s relatively chunky, but its smooth, rounded corners are very comfortable to hold. It feels much tougher than your average budget handset, too, and its range of eye-popping cases make a refreshing change from the usual black and grey handsets that usually populate this end of the market.

Nokia Lumia 530

However, you only need to switch on the Lumia 530 to see where Nokia has cut corners to keep the price down. The phone’s 4in 854×480 display not only has a noticeably grainy-looking finish, but its colour accuracy was also quite low. Our colour calibrator showed it was displaying just 67.1 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, which is below average even by budget phone standards. This meant that colours didn’t look particularly rich or vibrant, and even altering the phone’s colour profile in the settings menu did little to improve its score.

Brightness was also quite low at 271.07cd/m2, which means it may struggle outside. On a sunny day, we could still just about see the Lumia 530’s screen in the right light, but it was still a bit of strain on our eyes and its reflective finish made it almost illegible in direct sunlight. The phone was much clearer indoors, but viewing angles aren’t great, as we noticed when trying to glance at its across our desk. In ideal conditions there was a good level of detail visible in our high contrast test images, thanks to its decent contrast ratio of 804:1. Black levels were also good, measuring 0.33cd/m2. While blacks weren’t nearly as dark as the phone’s black bezels, they were still reasonably deep.

Nokia Lumia 530 side

This is a shame, as the Lumia 530’s performance levels are excellent. With a score of 1,453ms in our SunSpider JavaScript benchmarks, its quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor puts up a good fight against more powerful budget phones, putting it on par with both the Lumia 630 and the new Motorola Moto G. It’s also around 200ms faster than Motorola’s £90 budget Android phone, the Moto E. This is outstanding for a phone of this price and it shows you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get great performance.

Web browsing was beautifully smooth and the Lumia 530 handled The Guardian’s desktop home page with no problem whatsoever. We were able to scroll through news pages without any signs of judder and the page-loading managed to keep up while we were panning around zoomed in as well.

Windows Phone 8.1 was equally responsive and makes the Lumia 530 much easier to use than its predecessor. You can now swipe down from the top of the screen to open up the Action Centre notification bar, and you can add a third row of Live Tiles to the home screen to fit in more apps. You can also set a background image of your choice which then permeates through the home screen’s Live Tiles, making Microsoft’s operating system feel much more personalised than before.

Nokia Lumia 530 Start screen

In terms of apps, Microsoft is constantly improving the Windows Phone Store with new apps being added every week. BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5, Netflix and Spotify are all present for your entertainment needs. There are apps from many banks, but HSBC and Santander asre still missing. Travel apps now include Waze and TripAdvisor and social networking apps cover Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram. There are also Synology’s DS apps for anyone with a Synology NAS and Dropbox. It’s much improved, but ommissions still include Sky Go, Amazon Prime Instant Video or Google cloud services, though these are more understandable.

The Lumia 530’s 5-megapixel rear camera is a cut above most other budget cameras. In our outdoor shots, colours were rich and detailed even in cloudy, overcast weather, and there was only a very small amount of focus deterioration toward the edge of each frame. We’ve seen plenty of 5-megapixel cameras perform much worse in this kind of weather, and we’d say it’s easily as good as the Lumia 630’s 5-megapixel camera.

Nokia Lumia 530 camera test^ There’s a stunning level of detail available here for a 5-megapixel camera

Nokia Lumia 530 camera test01^ The weather was very cloudy and overcast when we took these photos, but colours aren’t too murky or muddy

Nokia Lumia 530 camera test02^ Large patches of cloud are a little noisy, but it’s not very noticeable even at its native resolution

It comes with the Nokia’s Smart Sequence feature as well. This takes a series of photos every time you tap the shutter button and you can use this sequence to create a variety of different images from within the app. For example, Best Shot selects the best picture from the entire sequence, while Action Shot combines several shots together to show how an object moved through the scene. When taking portraits or group shots, you can also pick and choose from a variety of faces, just in case someone blinked, while Motion Focus blurs the background to emphasise the object’s movement.

The Lumia 530 also greatly improves on its predecessor’s battery life. Its 1,430mAh battery lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to half brightness, which is two hours more than the Lumia 520. It’s a shame it couldn’t get anywhre near the Lumia 630’s excellent score of just over 12 hours, but you should still be able to just about get through the working day without needing to recharge it mid-afternoon.

The Nokia Lumia 530 is a good phone for under £60, but now that the Lumia 630‘s SIM-free price has come down to roughly £70, we think that choosing the Lumia 530 over its big brother is a bit of a false economy. While it’s very similar to the Lumia 630, we’d rather pay the extra £10 for a better screen and a longer battery life, making the Lumia 630 our budget Windows phone of choice. 

ProcessorQuad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200
Screen size4in
Screen resolution854×480
Screen typeLCD
Front cameraNone
Rear camera5-megapixel
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
Wireless data3G
Operating systemWindows Phone 8.1
Battery size1,430mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£89
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £8.50-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)£80
Contract/prepay /
Part codeRM-1017

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