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Nokia Lumia 530: A Windows Phone... for under £50

Has Nokia's cut price cheapie cut too deep?

The camera is decent in the right conditions...
(click to enlarge)

So what has been compromised, exactly?

The 520 dispensed with a front-facing camera and LED camera flash, but still gave users a zippy ride, a plenty good enough basic 5MP camera (HD recording at 30fps) and the ability to use expandable storage for songs and photos. The 530 also dispenses with the selfie camera, and the flash.

If this was a Russ Meyer movie, it would be called Beyond the Valley of the Cheapies – for the Nokia designers have chopped even more out. The 5MP camera is fixed focus only, meaning you can't take snapshots of printed material, such as business cards.

The internal storage has been slashed to 4GB and the screen, while sharp and legible indoors when using strong contrasting colours, can look washed out.

... Not the best in poorly lit conditions

It proved much harder to use outdoors, because of the lack of greaseproof (oleophobic) coating on the display glass. The 530 isn't quite the fingerprint magnet as some other displays, but because the TFT screen is weaker, a little grease really significantly impairs the clarity.

I found it hard to read, even with no direct sunlight around to cause reflections on a cloudy August day. For me, this was the biggest compromise. And while you'll struggle outdoors with some much more expensive phones, it's one thing you can't really ameliorate with an add-on. As with the 630, you'll need to set the screen display manually, as there's no ambient light sensor. That annoyed me with the 630 too.

The other drawback is that the 530 has just 4GB of onboard storage, and it's absolutely essential in practice to load up with an SD card before getting going. The latest cut of Windows Phone, unlike last year's, allows you to run apps from the microSD card, so long as it's Class 10. But if you're getting a 520, check there's a card provided by the carrier. If not, you must drop one in before you do anything.

I found out what happens if you don't.

40 apps stall simultaneously

I attempted to restore from a backup of a previous Lumia, and the Store duly began to download the apps I had installed on the other Lumia. And then, just as promptly, the process stalled, with over 40 apps still waiting in the download queue. The phone had run out of room.

It took two or three more attempts, cancelling apps from the Download list one by one, before I had a basic working set of essential apps. (This is something Microsoft should address by warning ahead of time, and allowing me to choose a subset of apps I really need from a list). As it is, this constant "Out of Memory error" may befuddle newbies, particularly if they're coming from a 520.

You can now transfer apps from the internal memory to the SD card one by one, but this might not be apparent to newbies. A Wizard-style prompt would be helpful here – I only found it by poking around the storage settings at random.

Photos are comparable to a phone from about three or four years ago, but the high end has moved on and this is strictly basic. There's no autofocus, and forget about HD video capture, the 530 will only record 480pixel wide video at 30fps.

On the plus side, and this phone is mostly pluses, it's a very decent and reliable performer. Call quality was loud, and the ringer exuberant. No corners cut here.

Next page: Under the hood

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