The disappointing thing about the Nokia Lumia 530 is that it feels like a worse phone than the Lumia 520 it replaces. Cheaper, doesn't always mean better value. (Still not sure which is the best budget phone? Check out the 16 best budget smartphones of 2014.)
The display is a deal breaker for us, undoing the good work of the Lumia 530's performance and build quality. We want to see more storage, and the camera is no better than it ought to be. If you really are limited in budget, it is worth considering. But we hoped for more. So why is the Lumia 530 such a poor product?
Nokia has had an odd year, obviously. The protracted purchase by Microsoft closely followed by staggering levels of job losses was interspersed with oddities such as the MWC launch of a series of Android phones. And just as Nokia seemed to be gaining some traction for Windows Phone in a generally Android- and iOS-obsessed world, it has launched a series of less-impressive products. The Lumia 530 is just the latest of these, but it really is a let down.
Build quality and general performance are okay. But then we get to the display.
Lumia 530: terrible display and storage options
The Lumia 530 has a 4in display. It's a TFT capacitive touchscreen, boasting 16M colours. Critically, on that 4in screen we get a 480 x 854 pixel resolution, making for a pixel density of 245ppi. So far so reasonable. The Lumia 530's display is toughened, and the touchscreen responsive.
And yet we hate the Lumia 530's display. Even though its pixel density is better than that of the Lumia 520, we can honestly say we found that phone's display more satisfying. And the Lumia 530 cannot compete with the Moto E in this regard. It really is a poor-looking display, in our view. And we can't really fathom why.
Even on budget phones display quality is rapidly improving, but the Lumia 530's looks dull. Washed out, even. We are used to Windows Phone 8's interface popping off the screen with bright colours and flashing transitions, but on the Lumia 530 it looks flat and bland. Even worse, we thought text looked slightly blocky and blurry close up. The Lumia 530 does no justice to photos, movies or games, either. If you are used to the Samsung Galaxy Ace level of colour display, you may not mind the Lumia 530's screen. But unless this is your first smartphone the display may put you off. A shame. (See also: Nokia Lumia 530 vs 520 comparison review: why the new Windows Phone is worse than the old one.)
Storage is another let down. In terms of onboard storage the Lumia 530 really does disappoint. You get only 4GB onboard storage, in theory. In practice that is reduced to just over 3.6GB, and on our virgin Lumia 530 we had only 1.21GB free to use. If you like to store music, video or photos you will need to expand that storage. You can do so using an SD card slot that will accept up to 128GB, fortunately. And, of course, you can store things in OneDrive.
Lumia 530: camera fails to impress
There's only one camera on the Lumia 530, and it is rear facing. So if you are buying a phone for video calling this isn't the one for you. That camera is a 5Mp snapper, with a 1/4in sensor. So if you are buying a phone to use as your primary camera... You get the picture. As a camera the Lumia 530 is nothing more than a half-decent smartphone camera, which is exactly what you would expect at this price. But combined with the issues around the display and storage? I wouldn't buy this phone.
And I would have bought the Lumia 520, several times over.
Hopefully Nokia and Microsoft will go on to make great products together. We hope the past 12 months of backwards progress are simply down to the understandable turmoil of a company going through a traumatic change, in which talented people leave in their droves. But the Lumia 530 is not a good product: and that is a shame because Nokia's Lumia Windows Phones have been great.
For more, see our full Lumia 530 review.