Lumia 830 Review – Time to Stop Using the Term “Flagship” Incorrectly

The moment the Lumia 830 – with it’s Snapdragon 400 was called “The Affordable Flagship” it lit the Windows Phone community ablaze. I don’t entirely plan on talking too much about the Lumia 830 itself… and that’s a decision that’s purposefully made. What I will elaborate on greatly is it’s title of “The Affordable Flagship,” and the controversy that sparked.

Lumia-830-golden-1_djlftuBut first… it’s something we can’t avoid, so let’s talk specs. The Nokia Lumia 830 is what I like to think of as a *refined* Nokia Lumia Icon… which will sound absolutely ridiculous if you’ve taken the liberty to compare the specs, but keep reading. Whereas the Lumia Icon dropped the ball on expandable storage for all that power and photography potential; the 830 comes with both 16GB internal and the capacity to expand up to 128GB more at the user’s discretion. The impact of this is huge because it allows you to install all the high-resource games and shoot as much pictures/video as you want without ever feeling like all your activities are competing for a locked amount of space. In our world, 32GB means less than it ever did. High quality video taxes it heavily and games nowadays can easily attack your storage in increments of 2GB at a time… oh, and that’s after formatting, the recovery partition, and the ever-so-mysterious “other” space consumption have turned your 32GB into 25GB. Expandable storage is a very good move here. It’s also noticeably (and thankfully) thinner than the Icon while having a strikingly similar form factor.

This flair-overflowing square is – much like the Lumia Icon – encased in an aluminum frame that makes it feel solid and sturdy. Pushing anywhere on the device doesn’t give way for any squeaks or creaks that make it feel any less than premium. It brandishes a Gorilla Glass 3 protected 5 inch screen and follows the same philosophy of the Moto G in the sense that it ignores conventions of a 1080p screen for a 720p panel – and that’s okay. While you can push your eyes to unnatural extents to see a pixel if you so desired; the screen looks undeniably great, has accurate colors and in-plane-switching so that our viewing angles are vast. Users burned by the lack of Glance in the Lumia Icon will be glad to know it made it’s way into the Lumia 830 as well, and the colors of the operating system look vibrant, alive and attractive on it’s screen.

Call quality and signal strength brought no complaints, the phone’s speakers can be loud – yet crisp and free of distortion, it’s LTE-capable even if you imported the rare RM-985 variant, and the screen is very responsive for typed input regardless of whether you’re a thumb-tapper or a swipe-typer (these days, I find the latter to be more efficient).


It packs a Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, an Adreno 305 GPU, 1GB RAM, NFC (yes – it made the Softcard exclusivity list: so you can use it at one of the many places that accept NFC payments), 10MP back-facing shooter with some crazy good optics, a decent 720p front-facing camera and Qi-enabled wireless charging right out of the box. I’ll have to take a moment just to emphasize how impressed I was by the camera. Paired with Lumia Camera or ProShot as the software ally, it’s 1/3.4 sensor really gets to shine.

That’s all fine and dandy… but the real story here is the particular choice of words used to represent this phone: “The Affordable Flagship”… or rather; the user reactions to the aforementioned.

If there’s one thing Android’s done in it’s lifetime, it’s getting people to focus on numbers… even in the oh-so-numerous cases where they can’t explain why. For every one guy who knows what’s important in technology, there’s still fifty scrubs that think they can rank machines by their clock speed instead of considering memory type, GPU, core optimization and the “under-the-hoods” that really matter… this is the person who wants an octa-core and can’t explain or understand why… they just want it because it’s a bigger number than quad-core or dual-core.

I actually take no issue with that user because that’s free comedy to an IT guy… but the wrongful association with high specs and “flagship” is inexcusable… because a flagship is so much more than big numbers.

But what exactly is a flagship? Simple: it’s a device that best represents the operating system.

So long as the phone is smooth enough to run everything without struggling, it can do without having a Snapdragon 805 with an Adreno 420. On a similar note I’ll also let you in on another secret: if the operating system’s core optimization is good enough, all that is unnecessary. In the eyes of the public; however, it’s widely thought that the flagship of any given generation just has the biggest numbers under it… so you can only imagine just how the Windows Phone communities exploded when they heard a purported flagship would only have a Snapdragon 400.


The Lumia 830 actually does an exceptional job at representing how many things can be more important than “big numbers”. Despite the outcry of disappointment expressed when a phone with a SD400 was also called a “flagship,” it performs extremely well even in those high resource 3D games… and stays relatively cool while doing so thanks to it’s 22nm SoC (system-on-a-chip). The SD400 is also the entry point for the “Project my Screen” feature, so if you have a fully upgraded Roku 3, 2014 Roku Stick, Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, Microsoft HD-10, or any other form of WiDi receiver – you can take what you’re doing to the big screen – no strings attached.

There’s actually a lot of great choices made in the construction of the Lumia 830. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s one of few Windows Phones that can utilize Softcard’s tap-to-pay, it’s got a wonderful camera, it’s expansive such that you can do however much (or little) you want, it’s thin, light, cool to the touch, it’s got incredible battery life (I often got through two and some change days without a charge), it’s got all the sensors in place for those invested in Microsoft’s HealthVault, and while we’ll be without “Hey Cortana!” and 4K recording, it’s about the best all-around device usable to represent the features of Windows Phone.

Where the Lumia Icon felt inappropriately thick for something that couldn’t even handle an SD card, and the Lumia 1520 was a behemoth that felt both too big to be a phone and too small to be a tablet – the Lumia 830 feels just right – and is the first Windows Phone since the Lumia 820 that’s felt like a truly balanced experience.

Considering that a flagship only must be the phone that represents the core operating system well, the Lumia 830 is every bit a flagship – and I can recommend it to most anyone who’s interested in Windows Phone.

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