We love the Lumia 520 and so do millions of people worldwide. It is a great and affordable smartphone that sold in record numbers. You can imagine how curious we were about the Lumia 530 when we first heard about it. This new model has big shoes to fill and we couldn't wait to test it. Luckily, we managed to get our hands on it and we have used it for 10 days. Today we are ready to share our conclusions in this review, one of the first in the world for this smartphone.
Hardware Specifications & Packaging
As you can see in the picture below, the packaging for the Lumia 530 is the same as the one used for other models that are sold with Windows Phone 8.1 preinstalled. The box is small, compact and very colorful.
Inside the box you will find the smartphone, its battery, the charger, some manuals and the warranty. Unfortunately, there are no headphones provided and no USB cable.
For the complete unboxing experience, don't hesitate to view the short video below:
In terms of hardware specifications, the Lumia 530 is different from its predecessor and not always for the better. For starters, it features a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, running at 1.2 GHz, which is better than the dual-core processor used on the Lumia 520. Even though it has the same amount of RAM memory - 512 MB, it features only half the storage space - 4 GB instead of 8 GB. The display size is 4" on both smartphones. However, the Lumia 530 does not have an IPS LCD panel with automatic brightness control and super sensitive touch like the Lumia 520 does. It has only a TFT LCD panel with manual brightness control and capacitive multipoint touch. This means that the display quality is lower on the Lumia 530 and you can't really easily use it while wearing gloves like you can use the Lumia 520. The resolution offered by the Lumia 530 is 854 x 480 pixels instead of 800 x 480. Unfortunately, the additional pixels are used only for the software navigation bar that's replacing the hardware buttons from the Lumia 520.
The camera is another area where the Lumia 530 is different in a negative way. It has a 5 megapixel rear camera with fixed focus instead of auto-focus. This makes the camera worse than that of its predecessor because you cannot take macro pictures and set where you want the camera to focus. Also, it has no zoom while the Lumia 520 had 4x zoom. In terms of video recording, the camera on the Lumia 520 was capable of 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) video recordings at 30 frames per second. The Lumia 530 can record video at a maximum of 848x480 pixels and 30 frames per second. Like its predecessor, there is no flash and no front-facing camera on the Lumia 530. Lumia 530 uses the same 1430 mAh and it lasts about the same as on the Lumia 520. We were also happy to see that the FM radio feature still exists and you can use this smartphone to listen to radio without using an Internet connection. But, you must buy yourself a headset in order for it to work.
In terms of size, the Lumia 530 is slightly bigger, at 11.7 x 119.7 x 62.3 mm (0.46 x 4.71 x 2.45 inches) Also, it weighs 129 grams (4.55 ounces). This is 5 grams (0.17 ounces) more than its predecessor.
You can read the full-set of specifications here: Detailed specifications for the Nokia Lumia 530. There's also a good comparison in terms of specs, between the Lumia 530, Lumia 630 and Lumia 520, here: Compare: Lumia 530 – Lumia 630 – Lumia 520.
Design & Build Quality
The design of the Lumia 530 is very similar to that of the Lumia 620 that was released last year. You can see them side by side in the picture below. The dark gray Lumia 530 is on the left and the yellow Lumia 620 on the right. You can see that they have the same type of covers and the same design, with rounded corners. The Lumia 530 is only bigger, it has no flash for the camera and one side buttonless - the camera button is no longer available.
The covers of the Nokia Lumia 530 are available in dark gray, white, orange and green. The Lumia 530 is easy to hold in your hand and easy to carry around. The covers are generally solid and taking them off is not very difficult. However, the covers from your old Lumia 520 won't work on the Lumia 530. You will have to buy new ones. The LCD display is very reflective and of very low quality. The viewing angles are weak too, meaning that you cannot enjoy decent color reproduction unless you hold the Lumia 530 exactly in front of you. The screen's reflectiveness is problematic, especially when using this smartphone outdoors. You can barely see anything, even when the brightness is set to high. Also, the fact that you have to manually change it every time makes things even worse. This is the first smartphone we have tested which was almost unusable in direct sunlight.
We feel that the display of the Lumia 530 is a downgrade from that of the Lumia 520.
The Smartphone Experience on the Nokia Lumia 530
In terms of using the Lumia 530 as a phone, everything works reasonably well. The call quality is OK, the signal strength is decent and you won't have special issues when using it. The audio quality is decent at most. There are no audio enhancements available and you will have to purchase a pair of headphones because they are not bundled with the Lumia 530. Listening to music and viewing movies works well but, because of the limited space available (4 GB), you will have to purchase a MicroSD card to store them. And speaking of the storage space - we know from HTC 8S that 4GB is too little for Windows Phone devices. 2.12 GB of space is occupied by the operating system alone. As soon as we set up the Lumia 530 and installed a handful of apps, we immediately received a warning that we were low on storage. This problem will plague all users and you will have to buy a MicroSD card if you plan to actually use this smartphone. Don't even try to download offline maps or record lengthy videos without an SD card.
The camera experience on the Lumia 530 is disappointing, especially when comparing it to that of its predecessor. First of all, the lack of a hardware camera button means that you will have spend more time starting the Camera app. The shortcut from the notification center is OK but is not as convenient as using a camera button.
Also, the default Camera app on the Lumia 530 is the Microsoft Camera. Even though it was improved in Windows Phone 8.1, it is still inferior to the Nokia Camera app. You should set that app as the default app for picture taking.
Regarding the quality of your pictures, the results are not exactly great. The pictures generally look washed out and lacking in details. The lack of flash means that you will also take poor pictures in low-light conditions. Also, the fixed focus means that you won't be able to take macro photos. To get a better understanding on how the camera works on the Lumia 530 take a look at this album we have created. In includes also some "macro" photos.
We created two quick videos that were recorded with the Lumia 530, using its Auto settings. They were not edited or processed in any way. However, YouTube does a bit of processing of their own so the end result is not 100% identical with the source. The first video recording is a bit action oriented. As you can see, lack of autofocus harms the quality of the recording and the image is lacking in details, especially when people are moving around.
Our second recording shows one more time how the fixed focus is incapable of producing good video recordings. You must have autofocus capabilities in order to get some decent video recording, even though there's not much action going on in your recording.
The only positive about the camera experience on the Lumia 530 is that the Camera apps are faster than on the Lumia 520, due to the newer processor. There's very little lag involved when taking pictures or when recording video. However, this doesn't make up for the poor quality of the camera itself. Overall, the camera experience on the Lumia 530 is worse than on the Lumia 520. Regarding the battery, it has the same capacity like the one used by the Lumia 520. Even though it has a quad-core processor, it will last you about the same in normal usage scenarios. Unless you do turn-by-turn GPS navigation or gaming, Lumia 530 will last anywhere between a day or two. In more demanding scenarios, it will obviously last less than a day.
Windows Phone 8.1 and the Nokia Apps
As you can see below, our Lumia 530 had Windows Phone 8.1, version 8.10.12400.899 and the Lumia Cyan update.
Obviously, you get access to the entire Nokia collection which features some good apps. Also, we were able to use the recently Lumia Selfie app, which is quite fun to use and useful for all selfie "lovers". :)
The quad-core processor on the Lumia 530 made sure that everything was quick. We did not encounter any big lags with any of the apps we have used. Only the Windows Phone Store required a bit more time the first time we used it, until it got all its data and was able to recommend app collections. Overall, the user experience is good when navigating through the operating system and the available apps.
Performance in Benchmarks
In order to compare the performance offered by the Nokia Lumia 530 with that of other similar models, we have run several benchmarks. We compared its results with those obtained by Lumia 630, Lumia 625, Lumia 620, Lumia 525 and Lumia 520. The first benchmark app we have used is MultiBench 2. In the processor test, Lumia 530 was almost as fast as the Lumia 630 and 42% faster than the Lumia 520. This is no surprise considering the fact that it has a quad-core processor instead of a dual-core processor. Also, the Lumia 530 was 42% faster in the graphics test than the Lumia 520.
Meaningful performance improvements were revealed also in the Memory and Data Transfer tests. Lumia 530 was 280% faster in the memory test than the Lumia 520 and 58% faster in the data transfer test.
Then we ran the WP Bench benchmark app. In the processor test, Lumia 530 had similar results with Lumia 630 and it was 26% faster than the Lumia 520.
The graphics test did not reveal any improvements. Lumia 530 delivered fewer frames per second than the Lumia 520. However, it was 63% faster in the storage test and 44% faster in the memory test.
Then, we used the Sunspider benchmark to quickly evaluate how fast web browsing is on this smartphone. Strangely enough, Internet Explorer 11 on the Lumia 530 was not capable of taking advantage of the improved processor and it was 6% slower than Internet Explorer 10 on the Lumia 520.
We also measured how fast this smartphone starts. We were happy to see that Lumia 530 started in only 25 seconds. Windows Phone 8.1 was definitely capable of taking advantage of the newer hardware.
Last but not least, we used WP Bench battery test to measure how fast the battery drains when the smartphone uses all its hardware resources and it is stressed to its maximum capabilities. Unsurprisingly, the more powerful hardware required more energy and Lumia 530 lasted only 2 hours, 18 minutes and 49 seconds. That's - 49 minutes less than the Lumia 520.
As you can see from our benchmarks, Lumia 530 tends to deliver better performance than the Lumia 520 in almost all scenarios, except when browsing the web. It seems that Internet Explorer doesn't take advantage of the improved processing power this smartphone has to offer.
We are fans of the Lumia 520 and we absolutely loved that smartphone. It is a great device at very affordable price points which offers a good smartphone experience without many compromises. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the Lumia 530. Nokia Lumia 530 delivers too little in terms of improvements and removes many of the things that made the Lumia 520 such a successful smartphone. Yes, you get a newer and better processor, faster storage and faster RAM. But, you also get a display of lower quality, a camera that's worse, fewer hardware buttons, very little storage space AND you have to buy your own headset and a MicroSD card. If you also take into consideration the price of the Lumia 530 (which is sometimes more expensive), then you will agree with us that this smartphone doesn't make much sense, especially not with this model numbering. We think that the model numbering is misleading and unfortunate on Microsoft's part. If you take a look at the overall experience it has to offer, Lumia 530 is not an upgrade to the Lumia 520. It is an inferior product that deserves to be named Lumia 430, not 530. We recommend it only to those people who are aware of its many shortcomings, are OK with them and who buy it at a really low price point, lower than that of the Lumia 520. Otherwise, Lumia 520 is still a better deal.