It’s tricky keeping track of all these budget Nokias.
Nokia got the ball rolling back in December 2012 with the Lumia 620. The 625 followed about six months later, and added 4G and a bigger screen to the mix.
Then in February last year, Nokia announced the Lumia 520, which managed to undercut both. And now comes the Lumia 530, the cheapest Windows Phone handset yet.
Microsoft claims it can be had for £60, but the cheapest we’ve seen it is £79.99.
Either way, it’s very cheap indeed, and gives the likes of the Moto G and Moto E a run for their money. But is it a better buy? Let’s find out.
First impressions and design
From the minute you clap eyes on the Lumia 530, you know it’s a cheap handset.
At only 4 inches, it’s puny by today’s standards, though as the iPhone 5S and 5C have shown, just because a handset is small doesn’t mean it’s not pricey.
Like the rest of the Lumia range, it comes in a range of bright colours: green and orange, as well as the more sober white and black.
The backs are interchangeable, so you can switch to a different colour as you see fit. Though its matte finish loses the sheen of the more expensive Lumias.
The back pops off easily enough, unlike the Moto E’s, which is at risk of tearing off your fingernails. It feels solid, but it is very plasticky.
Next to the iPhone 5C, it feels more like a toy than a serious piece of kit. But considering the price, that’s to be expected.
It’s quite a porker too. It measures 11.7mm fat, which, as you can see from our photos, is pretty chunky.
It doesn’t make it any less usable, but considering that the Moto E and Moto G manage to be pretty svelte, we wish Microsoft could have trimmed off a couple of millimetres.
It’s an altogether more rounded affair than its predecessor, the Lumia 520, too. The touch buttons are actually part of the screen now as well, nestling in a bar at the bottom, rather than below it as on the 520.
Like pretty much every recent Windows Phone device of all prices, the Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1, which is the latest version of the OS.
This is to be applauded, as, like Android, it wasn’t so long ago that only the most expensive devices ran the latest version, and everyone else had to wait.
Windows Phone 8.1 has some neat features to play with. Notifications show up at the top of the screen, and you can pull down to see them, much like with Android and iOS.
The Windows Phone Store has been redesigned for 8.1 too. And it comes with some natty new apps.
Battery Saver, for instance, helps you keep track of what’s sucking the juice out of your handset, and lets you cancel any apps running in the background.
All handsets running Windows Phone 8.1 can now have a third column of Live Tiles, whereas before this feature was reserved for handsets with 1080p screens, and a select few with 720p ones.
And the Word Flow keyboard lets you type by swiping across the letters, rather than pressing each.
So there’s plenty to get your teeth into.
The handset itself is more disappointing. As is often the case with cheap devices, there’s no front-facing camera, so video calls and selfies are out.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 chip is clocked at 1.2GHz, which isn’t going to win any awards.
You only get 4GB internal storage, though you can beef that up with microSD cards up to 128GB. Seeing that the operating system takes up 2GB of the phone’s internals, you’re left with about 2GB to play with.
If you’re an app junkie, or want to take your entire movie and music collection everywhere you go, and don’t want to faff around switching memory cards, this isn’t the device for you.
The rear snapper is only five megapixels too. That’s fine for everyday snaps, but it pales in comparison to some of Nokia/Microsoft’s pricer handsets.
The screen only has a resolution of 480x854 pixels. This gives it a pixel per inch count of 245ppi, which is pretty low.
So how does it fare? The screen is the least impressive we’ve seen in a while.
Colours look washed out and nowhere near as vibrant as on other handsets.
The low resolution also makes it look grainy. This isn’t us nitpicking – the textures appear mottled on screen.
Be warned – your holiday photos aren’t going to look great on this thing.
It’s not helped by the fact there’s no ambient light sensor, so you have to adjust the brightness yourself.
We could forgive the screen given the price, but not when the Moto E has a stellar 4.3-inch 960x540-pixel display.
At 256ppi, its pixel per inch count might not be much higher than the Lumia 530’s. But to the naked eye, there’s a big difference.
The low-powered processor and only 512MB of RAM also hamper the handset. Scrolling on websites can be jerky at times.
For the most part, videos play fine, but when the action gets hectic there's some juddering and slowdown.
Similarly, games have their own issues. Basic titles like Call of Duty: Dead or Alive and Temple Run ran fine.
But there wasn’t enough space to install Asphalt 8: Airborne, and it flat out refused to run Mirror’s Edge.
It might be fine for time-wasting games, but if it’s graphical heft you’re after, look elsewhere.
There’s no autofocus on the camera, and pics take an age to save. Snaps lack detail, and pack a load of noise.
On the upside, you do get the Nokia Camera app. Though we can’t forgive that lack of autofocus, even at this price.
Finally, battery life is respectable, but not fantastic. It did last us a full day on more than on occasion, but with fairly heavy usage, it also conked out by dinner time.
If you’re heading out in the evening, take a charger to work.
The Lumia 530 isn’t terrible. But compared to Nokia/Microsoft’s previous budget offerings, and Android devices around the same price, it’s a pretty poor relation.
Due to its performance issues, and terrible screen, you’re better off going for its predecessor, or picking up an Android number like the Moto E.
The Lumia 530 has too many niggles to make it worth recommending.
- 5-megapixel rear camera
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 Quad-core 1.2 GHz processor
- 4-inch screen with 245 ppi pixel density
- 4GB internal storage
- 128GB with microSD