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

Has Nokia's cut price cheapie cut too deep?

Under the hood

Equally positive was the performance. It's powered by a low cost 4 core chip, like the Moto E, but the 530 is only marginally slower than the 630. I saw a pause or two for loading web pages, but these were so brief they didn't really register. Windows Phone is efficient and clearly well tuned while running native compiled code in constrained memory devices like this. Give Android a similar specification – and you can find 'droids from manufacturers such as Huawei in the £50 bracket – and the pauses are evident in almost anything you attempt to do.

The device dispenses with the camera button, and Lumias have never featured a "Silent" button, so this one doesn't either.

This year's Windows 8.1 is more functional than last years, but most of the benefits will be appreciated by enterprises rather than consumers, particularly teenagers.

Almost all of "media experience" – music, social media, browsing photos – worked better in last year's Windows 8.0. There are peculiarities like the absence of a "silence" option in the shortcuts panel, and silencing the phone is more cumbersome than on Android or iPhone.

I tried four media syncs (three with different Windows sync clients and one with a Mac), and it was hit and miss. Unless you've configured Windows 8.1 to ignore the cloud, you'll find the phone populated with empty playlists. It's really quite surprising that music is now such a mess, since the heritage of Windows Phone is in music: WP grew out of the Zune HD music player, with the Zune design team originally putting it all together.

Other tweaks also have made Windows Phone a little more conventional but awkward. The People "hub" loses its handy "Recent" view and is now a bog-standard Contacts app.

There's a useful pull-down notification panel, like Android or iOS, but it's pretty basic and poorly integrated. If you get a Facebook notification, it'll throw you into the full-blown Facebook app – but won't take you to the mention. The ancient Twitter application doesn't support the new notifications API yet. All in all, if you're a social networks animal, you're currently better served with Android.

The app store remains a curate's egg. The basics are there, but some big names (like Sky and Virgin) are missing. Then again, if you just want the basics, you're getting a nice deal: especially when it comes to offline HERE Maps, Nokia's excellent navigational tool.

Reg verdict

With its insanely appealing price, and excellent performance, the Lumia makes an attractive option in the sub-£50 smartphone market. The 530 will undercut almost everything else on the market. For the money, it's also excellent value, but represents a relative downgrade for Lumia 520 owners, who get a much better screen, more storage and a better camera.

People who use the phone outdoors frequently may want a device with a better display. And the buying advice that applies to the rival Moto E also applies here: a few pounds more will avoid the compromises and buy a better experience from the same brand. If you're going to be stuck with a cheapie for two years or more, that's worth considering. ®

Microsoft LUMIA NOKIA 530

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

Chuck in a few more pounds to avoid the compromises and get a better experience
Price: From £82.52 SIM-free, £39.95 for a SIM-free upgrade, £69.95 on contract RRP

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