In the course of IFA in Berlin, where Microsoft announced two, pardon three new phones, they invited a few people the day after the keynote to the Digital Eatery in Berlin Unter den Linden, which basically is a pretty cool Microsoft Café where you can drink, eat and try out all kinds of Windows devices. Yes, they even have an Xbox one standing in one corner, and Surface Pro 3 tablets were also usable. Anyway, that is not what this meeting was about, since we went upstairs into the bureaus of Microsoft Germany. We then have been presented all the cool new stuff Microsoft announced yesterday – outside the all stressful and noisy IFA ground, so we were able to take a very close look at everything. Read what our thoughts about these devices were after the break.
When you have held a Lumia 930 in your hand before, you will not find the Lumia 830 to be much different. Except for being thinner an much lighter, the materials used are the same, and so is the design. The reduction of weight is definitely noticeable and so is the thinner body, but in general both devices feel more or less the same. Still, the 830’s body has one advantage over the 930’s: The back cover is removable (but has QI integrated) and the battery replaceable. This means you can not only change the battery when it is broken, but you can also change the color of your phone whenever you like to; really cool considering the shiny colors which are available.
The display used seems to be of a high quality. I am generally no fan of OLED screens, but that does not mean they are low-quality to me. In fact, I think OLED screens are very high quality, I just prefer IPS. However, the OLED panel used in the 830 is really good. The device is cheaper than the 930 and so there need to be deductions, but those are nothing major. For example the screen resolution is no longer 1080p but 720p now, at the same screen size. Also viewing angles are not that good – to not say bad. The lower resolution is barely visible. In a direct comparison the 1080p screen will look much sharper, but the 720p screen does a good job and without putting a 1080p phone besides it it is absolutely not pixelated or unclear. Then, OLED typically the contrast is top notch and colors just shine out the curved glass the screen is protected by, at least as long as you are looking at it frontally.
In terms of performance the Snapdragon 400 Quadcore processor does a good job. It is slower than a 930, but not slow. Together with 1 gig of RAM you will get your work done and games should be no problem, at least for now. Of course with a weaker processor comes less “future proof-nes”, but the OS performance will be more than enough trough the life cycle of this device. Maybe, and only games will be an issue in a year or so, but as for now you will probably be happy with what you get.
Another “big” feature of the 830 is the camera. It is not the same as inside the 930 or 1520, and of course not the one the 1020 sports, but a pretty decent one if you ask me. You do not get lossless zoom (digital zoom trough the old-fashioned upscaling method worked surprisingly well, though) but the thinnest OIS and a 10 MPX PureView shooter which will get more than just usable results in almost every condition. What I found cool is the fact that the back cover surrounds the camera objective with a ledge, so the camera glass never touches the surface the phone is laying on. However, unfortunately I cannot give you sample pictures as we were not allowed to transfer the pictures to our computers and upload them due to the camera software not being final yet. What I can tell you is that the pictures just looked very good.
The Lumia 730 is one class below the 830 and can be considered the “selfie phone”. With a design similar to the old Lumia 800 and a 5MPX front camera the device sets itself apart from the rest of the Lumia family. In fact, the quality of selfie shots was quite impressive. Pictures looked much clearer and less blurry than those of a conventional front facing camera, but – of course – they are not as good as rear-camera pictures. However, if you would compare the front facing camera of the 730 to the rear (and only) camera of the 630, you will get better or at least the same results. Compared to my 1520 the sensor did not seem to be any more wide angle as the motive was exactly the same, but you will get selfies in a much better quality, which is great for the younger smartphone buyers; except me, I don’t do selfies of course… o.O The rear camera was good too, just nothing special. Instantly I would say it is the same as the 720’s camera, but I could not compare so maybe I am wrong on this. Again, due to the camera software not being final I am not allowed to post the pictures taken. In terms of built quality it can be said the phone is different looking, but not any worse when it comes to durability. The cover, what first seemed to be an unibody made of polycarbonate, is changeable just as the 830’s, there is just no aluminum frame around the device. Wireless charging is on board, too. Anyhow, I found there is much space wasted on top and bottom of the phone. The screen is 4.7 inch but there could be a 5inch screen built into that body; also the device looks rather long, which some may find a little bit weird.
The screen seemed to be exactly the same as the 830’s, just a bit smaller (4.7 inches) so minimally sharper. Only does the 730 not have capacitive buttons below the screen but on-screen buttons, which can be hid by swiping over the edge of the screen, very similar to the charms bar on Windows 8 tablets.
New Camera features
Of course we have also been presented the new camera features. The possibly most impressive improvement is the new start up speed. David Akinijse, product manager at Nokia Germany, has told us, that it would be theoretically possible to shot five pictures within the blink of the eye now. The prototype he had with him was not that fast yet, but it was not the final software. When I tested it myself I pressed the camera shutter key and in less than half a second the app was opened, and in the second half of the second the camera focused and shot the picture. A HUGE improvement to what we got now.
Then the 4K “video” recording feature is also pretty neat. I have put the quotation marks there because actually, this should not be seen as a video recording feature but more of an addition to smart shot. There is also audio recorded, so it can be used as a video recorder of course, but the actual use case is for example the following: You are at a football (for our American readers: soccer) match and there is a corner kick shot into the goal. Other than having to hope to shot a picture in exactly the right moment, you can record the full scene in 8MPX at 24 frames and pick out exactly the frame when the ball gets behind the line. You can also edit it with the action mode you know from smart cam already. However, smart camera will not be completely replaced, as for example the change faces feature will still be part of the smart cam lens.
The most innovative feature I have seen, however, is definitely rich shot. You can add filters and change the flash afterwards for example, which works so well. It really looks like it has been shot with a flash although it has not. I have no idea how this works, and frankly, I do not care, I just want this feature to arrive as soon as possible. I am not exaggerating when I say the results were simply impressive! However, we have only been showed the demo shot, so let us just cross fingers the final results will be just as that.
Besides these new phones and firmware features there have also been some accessories announced. The first one is a flip cover for the 830. Unlike the 1520’s this time it is not a cover which needs to be clipped on the phone, but it actually is a back shell with a cover on it, which means you do not have a bumper which makes your phone bulky, but a sleek normal battery cover as always (almost; it actually is a very little bit thicker) with a flip cover integrated. The flip cover also has wireless charging integrated.
Also, the HD-10 Miracast adapter was presented. It can be connected to the TV via HDMI and then to the phone via NFC, which is integrated inside a plate which can be detached of the actual device, so you can place it anywhere in your room. There was a small latency in the mirroring of the screen, so it is not the best choice if you want to play games on your big screen, but video playback (if they improve the framerate in the final product, which they surely will) or just a simple presentation should be possible. The device itself looks good and fits well into the average living room.
What about our readers? Have some of you had the chance to take a look themselves? What are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!