Great Things About Contextual Linking

Often contextual link building is usually considered to be one of the most efficient and best methods of search engine optimization. Here are some ways that you can do so.

1. Seek out popular blogs: Since the manner in which a search engine calculates a website’s ranking and the advantages that a person will get from this link will be proportional to the rankings of the weblogs which will keep their articles. So the more the popular the weblogs, the better the rise will be in the search engine rankings.

2. Pick more than one: It will be of more benefit to locate several blogs if considerable results are to be had. It is a wise decision to get a short list of blogs if a website is to improve in ranking in a noticeable degree. Confining to merely one may necessitate waiting for quite some time before any improvements are seen. An excellent provider has a handful of weblogs to select from that are available for any niche or a contingency plan if it does not have a specific niche covered. There are several that are associated with networks of blogs so the link development are made as easily and quickly as is feasible.

3. Make it and keep it interesting: Though, the link company may post new articles everyday, it will not be successful if the content be all on the same topic. There will be nothing to inspire visitors to go back to the website and that will reduce the success of the endeavours of link-building. So wide range is the main key. The link company should make every post distinctive and innovative so the viewers have a reason to return to the site again and again. Keep in mind that the more readers go to sites that have a link to your site it is more likely that they will click those links.

4. Use a good provider: In order for the task to be done properly, the contextual link building service will need all of the foot work accomplished. For example, the blogs have to be reached and set up for the hyperlinks and the content material be ready to ensure there is variety and quality.

Get an Xbox One for only $299, but hurry because there aren’t many units left

If you’re looking for a deal on the Xbox One, online retailer ShopRiteDelivers is currently selling it for only $299.99 without a Kinect or any games. This is the lowest price it’s ever been at and it’s $50 cheaper than what it’s currently retailing for in the US.

Microsoft still offers an Xbox One bundle with two Assassins Creed games for only $349, so if you think you’ll be interested in playing Assassins Creed, then it may be best to go for that version since you save big on the games.

However, if you’re interested in the $50 discount, we suggest you hurry because there are 285 units still available.  These are of course brand new unopened Xbox One consoles for those of you wondering.

Source: ShopRiteDelivers

Microsoft Lumia sales grew by almost 30% compared to previous year

Microsoft just had its Q2 earnings calls, which you can read the important bits here. Fortunately, the numbers for Windows Phone aren’t as bleak as some may think, and do hold some fairly good news.

First off, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Revenue from Lumia sales fell 61% from the last quarter. That may look pretty bad from face value, but Microsoft explains it as the ending of a partnership with Nokia. Nokia use to pay Microsoft about $10 per Windows Phone, but now that Microsoft is giving Windows away on phones, those royalties have gone away. Those numbers can also be attributed to lack of a good flagship that many Windows users have been wanting.

Now, on to the good news. Sales are way up, reaching 10.5 million units, which is a 28% increase from 9.3 million the same quarter from last year. That’s very good news as the smartphone industry has only grown 20% compared to previous years, which means that Windows Phone is cutting into iOS and Android’s market share. Microsoft attributes most of this success to low end hardware such as the 535 and 630/5.

Considering the state of flux that Windows Phone is in, where there is no flagship, carrier relations are spotty, and Microsoft does little advertising, I would say that this quarter has been a success.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Band Battery Covers Are Apeeling!

“We’ve Been Testing Bands For Years”

It’s no secret that we here at MicrosoftProductReviews are big fans of the Microsoft Band. Personally, I snagged mine within a few minutes of the initial launch on-line and have been wearing it ever since. A couple of the other folks here have also purchased them, and one of them ah, “imported” his from the US to another country. We’ve done unboxing videostest-driven them at Starbucks and generally love the things. Personally, I find I miss it if its not on my wrist, and I have a couple of articles about it into the pipeline, one of which will show off a little appreciated bit of “Magic” the Band and its app can do.

That said, we’re not without our criticisms. The screen scratches way too easily, and the lack of a curved shape that matches the shape of the wrist still makes it a bit clunkier than it should be. There are some software changes that we would like to see implemented too, but these are all par for the course with first generation hardware of a pioneering new device.

Unfortunately, sometimes first gen devices also have some odd problems, and today I have to report about one of those. When I put my Band on after my morning shower it was fine.  I wore it all day, and when I came home after my afternoon run I removed it for another shower when I saw, well, this:

 

“Microsoft Band Battery Covers”

That’s pretty ugly!  The plastic/rubbery coating on the batter covers had peeled almost completely off.  It appeared to happen in a single day and for no reason I can identify.  Looking at the “Exploded View” of the Band on the Microsoft website clearly shows the battery covers, with their retaining screws.  The diagram makes it seem that these are a single molded pieces of plastic, but in fact they are made of metal with a plastic , and in my case, this had peeled away.  It wasn’t clear whether this would represent a safety issue, but given that the apparently metallic battery cover was now in contact with my skin I decided not to wear it any more.  Since then however, Microsoft has assured us that this doesn’t represent a safety issue.

I called my local Microsoft Store and scheduled an appointment the next day.  They didn’t have any large Bands in stock (Stock levels at the physical stores remain low after the Holidays season), but they did have a single Medium sized Band.  I had always found myself using the small-end of the Large size band, so I figured I’d try out the Medium and did it fit, go with that. They put it aside and shortly thereafter I walked into the store, 15 minutes early, and we got down to work replacing it.

Well first off, about half of the store employees were wearing their own Bands – a good sign that they will know what’s up with them.  However, nobody had seen anything like this!  They all gazed at it in amazement, shook their heads and said they’d never seen anything like this at all.  Of course, my Band was older than any of theirs, so perhaps its an issue that takes time to develop, and is going to happen more often as Bands get worn for longer times.  Let’s hope not, but when the staff person helping me took his own off and inspected it, we could see that the coating on the inside of his Band was also starting to peel off.  His was not peeling off of the battery covers like mine, but rather the inside of the strap itself.

“Don’t Worry, The MicrosoftProductReviews Team is On The Job!”

I started to hear some gentle alarm bells tinkling. Sure, this could be a one-off problem, but what are the odds that one of the very first Bands sold would have a catastrophic failure of the coating on the inside of the Band, and then when its taken to the Microsoft store the person exchanging it also had the inside of his Band peeling? Not very likely, unless there is a common factor at work resulting in the coating failure.  This would suggest, although it doesn’t prove, that there may be a quality issue brewing here.  We’ll have to wait and see as more Bands get worn for longer periods, whether we two were just “lucky”, or were just warming up for our jobs as Canaries.

We contacted Microsoft to report the problem, asked them if they had seen it before, determine if they felt there was any safety issue with wearing the Band without the battery cover coating intact, and to seek their instructions on what you should do if you see this happening to your Band.  As mentioned above, they don’t believe there is any safety issue (that’s good), and have not seen a lot of these failures to date. A Microsoft Spokesperson told us:

“Microsoft Band is a robust and rugged device for those who are active in the gym and on the job.  While it was designed to withstand even the most extreme fitness regimes, it is susceptible to scratches and damage through normal usage patterns like any wrist worn device.   In extreme cases, where there is a nick or scratch in the rubber coating, skin lotions with acrylics and/or sweat can seep through and cause corrosion under the rubber coating, resulting in the coating peeling away.  The damage is entirely cosmetic and does not affect the safety or functionality of the device. The battery casing is designed to prevent battery contact with skin regardless of any damage that it receives.  Band users can take steps to ensure this does not happen to their device and are advised to ensure no damage occurs to the underside of the device and to avoid all contact with soap, detergent, chlorinated water, salt water, lotion, bug spray, and sunscreen.  In addition, users should wipe the underside of their band periodically with a damp cloth to keep the device clean.”

When you look at the list of things Microsoft is saying to avoid, it’s pretty comprehensive.  It wouldn’t be going too far to say it’s all but impossible to avoid things like “contact with soap, detergent, chlorinated water (that’s pretty much everything except rainwater), lotion…”.  Given that these are all things that one can fully expect the inside of the Band to come in contact with, one would hope Microsoft will try to improve upon their choice of adhesives in the next version of the Band.  Certainly, it would seem that the material they have chosen is arguably a bit more delicate than is desired. All engineering is an exercise in compromise however, and a thicker, more robust coating would have increased the thickness of the already somewhat chunky design, so if this turns out to be a bit of a freak occurrence, no change may be recommended.

“Lets Hope For The Best!”

On the other hand, my Microsoft Store guy’s Band was also starting to peel on the inside of the Band, so we will just have to wait and see.

If you see this kind of thing happening to your Band, you should let us know in the comments below, and then follow Microsoft’s instructions to get it replaced.  On that topic, I have to compliment the folks at my local Microsoft Store (Bethesda, MD) for being helpful and accommodating.

“The Bethesda MS Store”

It was actually fun to talk with them as we sorted thru the necessary steps to return my first Band, register the new one, transfer my warrantee (best $19.95 I ever spent!) and activate, pair and set up my new Band.  They even replaced the screen protector, AND applied it for me (doing a much better job than I had done on my original!), all with a friendly and calm manner.  I’ve reported before on how much I was impressed by the staff and manager at this store, and it’s great to see that long after launch-day they keep on impressing!

We really love the Microsoft Band, and hope that this is truly an isolated incident. Have you seen a problem like this on your Band? Let us know in the comments below.

Microsoft Research has built a Smart Scarf that manages your emotions

Microsoft has been working on some interesting projects lately including the recently unveiled HoloLens which allows users to virtually interact with 3D objects by using their hands and eye movement.

Today we learn that Microsoft Research division has been working on something called SWARM which stands for Sensing Whether Affect Requires Mediation. This is in fact a Smart Scarf which senses the wearers’ (and others’ nearby) emotions through various on-board sensors and reacts by heating, vibrating and audio actuations in an effort to enhance the wearer’s emotions and improves alertness to their surroundings.

Microsoft believes this type of device is particularly useful for people with disabilities and for those with vision and hearing impairments who “may not receive important visual or verbal cues of others’ emotions. Thus, universal design (making the device inherently accessible for many types of users) was central to our project.”

The prototype, demonstrated at the Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction at Stanford University is made of many canvas modules – some are vibrating plates and others are conductive copper taffeta that heat up and send signals to a master controller module in the scarf which then communicates via Bluetooth.

Although this gadget is in very early conceptual and prototype stage, it’s rather interesting to see how technology can be used in every-day applications to enhance our lives.

Microsoft Research describes SWARM as:

“..a wearable affective technology designed to help a user to reflect on their own emotional state, modify their affect, and interpret the emotional states of others. SWARM aims for a universal design (inclusive of people with various disabilities), with a focus on modular actuation components to accommodate users’ sensory capabilities and preferences, and a scarf form-factor meant to reduce the stigma of accessible technologies through a fashionable embodiment. Using an iterative, user-centered approach, we present SWARM’s design. Additionally, we contribute findings for communicating emotions through technology actuations, wearable design techniques (including a modular soft circuit design technique that fuses conductive fabric with actuation components), and universal design considerations for wearable technology.”

Source: Microsoft Reearch

A Microsoft Store Opening – The Complete Experience

On November 22 Microsoft officially opened its 110th retail Store in the Westfield – Montgomery Mall in Bethesda MD. We gave you a sample of the actual opening moments on video, and an interview with the Store Manager earlier. Ironically, I purchased a new Surface Pro 3 at the opening itself, and when I got home my Surface Pro got wind of it and died, so it’s taken a bit longer to get this out to you than I had hoped, but, courtesy of my new Surface Pro 3 – here’s how it all happened.

 

The Store was covered with a white cloth, hiding all the activity within. On the right is the beginning of the line with the lucky 200 that got to meet an MLB Player.

To be honest, I’ve never been attracted to store openings, visions of slick guys in cheap suits and toaster giveaways were what came to mind, but here at MicrosoftProductReviews.com we will go to any lengths to keep you in the loop so I hitched up my boots and went to see what it’s all about.

I arrived at the mall about an hour before the opening. I wasn’t expecting too much, this was a Microsoft store, not a destination that usually arouses a lot of passion in people. Since the first 200 people in line would get a chance to meet Stephen Strasburg (a Major League Baseball player for those who don’t recognize the name). I figured there would be several hundred sports die-hards, and a few looking for opening day bargains. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

 

The line started off in the distance on the right, passed behind me for an equal distance, made a U-Turn and came back on the left, then wrapped around the Macy’s store and out of sight! Hundreds of People for Microsoft!

There were many hundreds of people, of all ages and interests, literally filling that arm of the mall. As the photos try to show, the crowd began at the Microsoft Store, which is at a prime location on the corner opposite an Anchor Store (Macy’s) and a Starbucks. It then ran all the way down one arm of the mall to another Anchor Store, then did a 180 turn and ran all the way down the same arm (on the opposite side of the arm), pausing only briefly to make a gap for the tomb-like Apple Store, and then kept on going all the way to the Microsoft Store again! There was also a separate line that snaked around in front of Macy’s and went down the other arm of the mall a ways. I was looking at between 400-500 people and it wasn’t open yet!

 

Not much interest in the Fruit Stand nearby…

It’s worth noting too that this isn’t a huge store. It has ~1300 sqft of well laid out space, but at the moment it was clearly dwarfed by the line up. Translation, once the store opened, these people were going to have to wait a while to get in, so they must be VERY interested in getting their hands on some new Microsoft products!

 

 

Winner of the “Best Tweet” Award gets his swag

The Opening Ceremony began with a crowd-raising talk by the new Store Manager (you can read our interview with her here), explaining that there were several things to look forward to in the next few minutes. There was a giveaway to the person who had the best Tweet sent out from the line, and a short speech by the Director of Economic Development for the County – Steve Silverman. Microsoft Vice President Fred Humphries had the enviable job of giving away some $625,000 in technology Awards to a variety of organizations.

 

Microsoft V.P. Fred Humphries gave away a lot of money to the Community, here he is awarding $50,000 to Wounded Warriors

And then there was the actual opening.  I won’t spend time describing it, you can see the video of it here. Much more fun than you would expect from a stodgy old company like Microsoft.

The scene inside the store was initially nearly bedlam. The Xbox and Tablet deals were disappearing fast, but inside all of this was a professional and unflappable staff that calmly helped people out and completed sales as quickly as possible.

 

Checking out was an all Microsoft affair with wireless Lumia-driven handheld.

Personally, I scored a number of great deals, as well as regular purchases. Frankly, the store is a dangerous place! I was impressed with the way the staff had been prepped to be able to manage the entire purchase process from their hands as opposed to having to try to work thru the crowd to a register.  Everything was handled quickly and efficiently by my salesperson via a Windows Phone that was snapped into a base with a card scanner.  Once she had my Windows ID everything was smooth as silk including emailing me a receipt within a minute (neither of us wanted to fight through the crowd just to pick that up!)

 

The Surface and Tablet table.

The store layout is simple and will be pleasing to wander through when it is a bit less crowded. Tables with product category examples of machines are arrayed in an easy to navigate fashion with plenty of room to wander about.

 

 

Lots of MS Bands and accessories were readily seen and available “Off the Wall”.

Wall displays on the interior wall side do the same and hold many electronic Tchotchkes like chargers for the Microsoft Band, and, by the way, they had quite a stock of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice selection of Windows Phones to play with.

There was a nice array of Windows Phones to look at and play with in several parts of the store. This shelf was on the wall towards the rear section.  Others could be found on tables towards the front of the store, ready to be spotted as you walked in or just passing by.

 

 

Stephen Strasburg (Left side with short hair and blue shirt)playing Xbox with his lucky fans in the rear Events/Training part of the store.

The rear third of the store can be quickly reconfigured to serve as a training space or open area for any purpose. Microsoft calls this space the “Community Theater”. When the store opened it was basically piled high with Xbox 360s and the $99 Tablet specials. In a few hours that pile had been winnowed down and the space was quickly reconfigured to serve as the space for the meet and greet even with MLB Player Steven Strasburg, who spent some time entertaining the lucky 200 first people in line at the store.  He was bowling in an Xbox One on a multi-display panel that formed the back wall of the store to good effect and got lots of applause whenever he bowled a strike!

One of the very happy Strasburg fans, Carl – showing off some of the special event SWAG from his visit with Stephen Stasburg

I left to stash my purchases in my car and grabbed a quick lunch. I could hear the crowd upstairs even in the noise and activity downstairs in the food court.  I returned to the store to interview the new Manager and then made another swing thru the store. Still full of shoppers and the line still snaking around the mall. People seemed happy to wait however, as the excitement and the deals were still in stock.

Overall, my impression of the event was that it was kind of like going to a fair – lots of fun for people of many ages and interests, but in this case, a clear focus on tech deals was obvious.  I enjoyed myself, which was a bit of a surprise as I’m not really a crowd person, so I would have to say when Microsoft opens a store near you I would encourage you to go down – early – and be a part of the fun.

This is what it’s like to be at a grand opening of a Microsoft store

We covered the Microsoft store opening in the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto on November 20th, and just two days later Microsoft opened up two more stores, one in California and  one in Bethesda at the Westfield Montgomery mall in Maryland, which we covered and managed to get some great video footage of.

The mall was packed with visitors and the line ran from the store, which is situated at one apex of the Mall’s arms, down an entire arm, past the relatively quiet Apple Store, to the end of the arm, then back again, and all around a part of the other arm of the Mall.  It was an enormous crowd of hundreds of eager fans and curious customers. The countdown began and as the curtain dropped, Microsoft employees cheered and the music kicked in.  Shortly after, the store employees started a circular conga line and before I knew it I was deep in the riot of action.

For those of you interested in what it’s like to be at the front lines of a Microsoft Store opening, watch this.

 

Here’s some video footage of the line and just before the store opened, but it doesn’t capture the entire line, just a small portion.

 

Take a look at our coverage of the new Microsoft Store in downtown Toronto  which just opened at the busy Eaton Centre mall on Nov.20th.

Microsoft Band Unboxing & First Impressions Video

Microsoft has just entered the wearable market with a bang, and their take is rather interesting. The Microsoft Band is a wearable fitness tracker and smart watch which they say will make you a healthier person.  Microsoft wants to create a way to help you stay healthy and change your life for the better with providing useful information to you through the data that Microsoft Band is able to capture.

Here’s our quick unboxing and first impressions of what may be the start of something big in the wearable market.

Lumia 830 Video Review: The Best Windows Phone Yet

The Lumia 830 is Microsoft’s newest Windows Phone and it’s also the last Nokia-branded Lumia device. We thoroughly tested the Lumia 830 and pitted it against the Lumia 920 and Lumia 1020. We also conducted an in-depth camera comparison with the King of smartphone photography, the Lumia 1020.

Pros

  • Gorgeous high quality design
  • Great flexibility
  • Phenomenal battery life

Cons

  • Noticeable performance drops in high-end games
  • No HDR mode (coming soon)
  • Price is high on some carriers

The Affordable Flagship play

The Lumia 830 is dubbed as an affordable flagship with a very high end design, but when someone says affordable, one may think it has some compromises. Many of you are also wondering if this is a worthy upgrade over the two-year old Lumia 920 as your contracts are now expiring. We’ll answer all these questions in our full review of the last Nokia branded Lumia device ever. So let’s take a look at what we think is the best all-around Windows Phone yet

Design

The first thing that’s immediately noticeable is the premium design. Lumia 830 looks gorgeous.  It’s very thin and has a modern look with it’s metal squared body. It has a curved glass display and the iconic Zeiss Pureview camera circle is reassuring when thinking about the camera.

 

When held in the hand it has a strong presence, it feels rich. It’s also incredibly sturdy and feels masculine due to the squared design and the flat aluminum sides. It’s definitely not a curvacious phone, and because of that the screen may be a little harder to handle with one hand when comparing to designs like the iPhone and Galaxy series.

It’s also easy to pick up and hold on to firmly with the sides being flat. The buttons are all on the right side of the device, just as all Lumia have. We’re happy to see the inclusion of a dedicated camera button as we feel that this is just a must. The top of the device features the micro USB charging port, and 3.5mm headphone jack.

The other two sides don’t have any buttons, and really contribute to the overall clean modern design. The buttons also feel premium and sturdy, and the two- stage camera button clicks in just right which is a pleasure to use.

 

The beauty of this design is that the back cover looks like it’s part of the phone, giving you the feel that this is a unibody design but it actually snaps off.  The covers are completely interchangeable with ones of different colors.

These covers come in black, white, orange and the green one you see here. They also feature wireless charging which is such a convenience, if you’ve already invested in wireless chargers, and they support both the Qi and PMA charging standards.

 

Once you pop it off, you’ll have access to the battery, the nano sim-card slot, and a slot to add a micro SD card, allowing you to add as high as a 128GB micro-SD card. The design of the removable back plate is something we think is extremely well implemented, as phones with removable back covers usually look like they have a removable back covers. It’s something that really cheapens the look and feel of the device. However, this is extremely well implemented on the Lumia 830 and we hope it’s a design feature that makes its way to higher end models.

Screen

This is an LCD display, and not the OLED display you’d find on the Lumia 930. The blacks won’t be as deep and the colors won’t be as saturated, but it feels more balanced than that of the OLED screens. It measures in at 5 inches and features all the bells and whistles, from the curved (cornering) Gorilla Glass other high end Lumias have, to Nokia’s clear black display tech. It even features super sensitive touch technology, so using it with gloves just works.

 

However, we noticed that we couldn’t use just about anything to work the screen like on the Lumia 1020. We could use cutlery to operate the display on the Lumia 1020 but not on the Lumia 830. Gloves work just fine , but we’re not sure why it doesn’t work with everything.

The only non-flagship feature of this display is that it’s a 720P screen rather than 1080P. Nevertheless, it’s still a beautiful and sharp display with a pixel density of 296PPI, which is nearly identical to the iPhone 6 .

The only complaint we have is that the screen isn’t as bright as it can be on other Lumias, even on the highest brightness settings.   However it’s still very useable outdoors in sunlight and does a great job at adjusting the brightness levels to accommodate for change in conditions.

Performance

The Lumia 830 is powered by a 1.2GHZ Snapdragon S400 series CPU and has 1GB of RAM, which is not a significant increase from the Snapdragon S4 1.5GHZ dual core on the Lumia 920 and Lumia 1020.

However, when it comes to real world performance the Lumia 830 performs quite well, and the performance increase is definitely noticeable over the Lumia 920 and 1020. The differences are especially noticeable when resuming apps, as resumes are now instant, and app launches are also slightly faster. You’ll also notice that that browsing is slightly faster. Keep in Mind that this is an 800 series Lumia, not the high end 900 series, but overall we’re very happy with the performance.

If you were looking for a big performance boost over the Lumia 920 or the 1020 this is not what you’ll be getting with the Lumia 830.

When playing high-end games such as Modern Combat 5, you may notice minor slowdowns at times, but this is perhaps the most extreme example as this is a very resource heavy game.

For the users who expect a massive performance boost, I’d suggest you wait for the next flagship Lumia which shouldn’t be too far off, otherwise the Lumia 830 is a solid performer.

Camera

When it comes to the camera, this is definitely a flagship camera offering(but we have to leave Lumia 1020, 1520, and the 930 aside) . It comes with a 10MP PureView branded six-element Zeiss lens and features optical image stabilization.

 

Optical image stabilization makes a massive difference and it’s something that many don’t understand the importance of. This is something that Lumia devices have pushed smartphone photography to the limit with in the last two years. Only now (two years later) are we starting to see high end non-Lumia devices implement this technology.

We conducted an in depth camera test and comparison with the Lumia 1020 which is considered to the pinnacle of smartphone photography from a quality standpoint, and the results were impressive. The Lumia 830 takes very sharp photos in the daylight, and has fantastic low light performance with a much improved camera over the Lumia 920.

We did notice that daylight images were a little on the oversaturated side while low light images, although fantastic, ended up being a little on the cooler side when comparing to the Lumia 1020, which had the opposite effect in both scenarios.

Lumia 830 Low Light No Flash

Lumia 1020 no flash

The Lumia 830 also focuses on the entire image rather than having  most of the detail on the subject like on the Lumia 1020.  This is less noticeable when the subject is at a larger distance but very noticeable at closer distances, which can be good or bad depending on the type of image you would like to achieve. For most circumstances it’s suited better.

It’s an overall impressive camera across the board, when considering speed and quality, its better balanced than on the Lumia 1020.

Lumia 830

Lumia 1020

One thing that is a significant improvement over every other Lumia device is the automatic focus. It makes shooting a breeze as it eliminates the need to focus, and makes the overall camera experience much faster. It acts like the iPhone and Galaxy devices with its pre-focusing and the fact that there isn’t a need to do oversampling, the camera is significantly faster between shots when comparing to the Lumia 1020, 930 and 1520.

There is a lack of HDR mode and it’s something that Microsoft is set to roll out in the Lumia Camera update, which will also improve the overall speed between shots. Implementing HDR mode will surely make a difference in photo quality and were surprised that it wasn’t ready out of the box.

Call Quality and Speaker volume

Call quality is very good, we haven’t experienced any dropped calls and we’ve noticed callers sound clearer and louder as the earpiece is also very strong. People I usually talk to on the phone also noticed I sound clearer on their end compared to my Lumia 1020.

The speaker is on the back of the device and at times it may not seem as loud as the down firing speaker on the Lumia 920 and 1020, but that’s only because your hand tends to cover it when holding the phone, otherwise on its own its noticeably louder on its own.

Battery

The battery life on this phone is phenomenal. We’ve really pushed the 2200mAH battery hard with heavy usage and we’ve managed to end the day with 35%-45%, depending on the situation. Our Lumia 1020’s battery was completely drained by 6PM under very similar conditions.

It just feels unreal to have such incredible battery life and it really manages to spoil you once you get accustomed to it. Even apps such as Viber, which are considered heavy battery drainers when making calls, it barely impacted the Lumia 830’s battery at all. The  Lumia 1020 battery on the other hand would experience significant drainage.

Is it a worthy upgrade from the Lumia 920?

For Lumia 920 owners who can’t wait to upgrade, we recommend this as a worthy upgrade. It may not be the spec monster you were waiting for, but our  advice to you is to get a little hands on time with it as its design and flexibility offer many more options and that alone are a reason to upgrade despite not having a significant performance boost. It’s the little things which add up in there end that make a significant difference.

Is it a worthy upgrade from the Lumia 1020?

For Lumia 1020 owners who don’t mind the decrease in camera quality, this is definitely a buy as well for the exact same reasons it’s superior to the Lumia 920.

However, if the camera is of concern, then we suggest you stay on the course as you’ll definitely notice a downgrade in picture quality. This especially noticeable in scenarios where you’d be using flash, as the Xenon flash makes a significant difference in your results.

We did a rolling ball test to really highlight the difference between Xenon flush on the Lumia 1020 and the LED flash on the Lumia 830.

 

See our full in depth camera comparison between the two if you’d like to see an in depth comparison.

As you can see in the example above the Xenon flash on the Lumia 1020 has a significant advantage in being able to freeze motion.

Verdict

Microsoft has done something that has never been done before in the mid-range segment of the smartphone market. By creating such a high-quality device with so many flagship features at such a great price, they’re exposing the high prices many pay for smartphones that don’t really offer much over the Lumia 830, and it something that should be noticed.

This a highly impressive device and we feel confident to say that this is the best all-around Windows Phone to date. It’s a high-end design, fantastic camera and the flexibility and customization options make this the most complete Windows Phone ever.  If you consider the price point, it’s at an amount that actually makes buying the phone outright a possibility on most carriers.

We’re hoping that Microsoft continues this design strategy going forward at this price range, as this is a market that Windows Phone could really perform well in. Of course we also love to see the next big thing, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for what Microsoft surprises us with next.

Check here for our in depth camera comparison between the Lumia 1020 and 830

Lumia 1020 vs Lumia 830: A very in depth camera test

Microsoft is currently releasing the Lumia 830 worldwide, and it’s dubbed as an affordable flagship with its high-end design and its 10MP PureView six-element Zeiss lens featuring their thinnest version of optical image stabilization.  The Lumia 830’s camera competes with the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 and we’ll also do an in depth comparison with it and the iPhone 6 in the near future.

For now we’ve decided to put it to the test against the Lumia 1020 which represents the benchmark of smartphone photography from a pure quality perspective.

The images below should cover most types of photography scenarios showcasing the full capabilities of both smartphone cameras.

It’s worth mentioning that the Lumia 830 comes pre-installed with Microsoft/Nokia’s latest firmware “Lumia Denim” which has the latest photo processing algorithms, while the Lumia 1020 currently doesn’t have the firmware update which is said to significantly enhance its photo quality and increase speed between photos.

The Lumia 830 will get an app called “Lumia Camera” in the next few weeks which will enable HDR mode and video recording in 4K. HDR mode will enhance the photo quality of the Lumia 830 and it’s something the iPhone 6 shoots in by default.

Detailed Area

Lumia 1020 Bench (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Bench 5MP

 

Lumia 830 Bench

While the Lumia 1020 is known to produce saturated images which really stand out and have that “pop”, the Lumia 830 in this case seems to have an even more saturated look in this photo.  However, it’s not the good kind – it looks darker overall and some colors seem off.

The Lumia 1020’s image just feels more refreshing and has a better overall contrast while the Lumia 830 has a much more oversaturated and darker look.

The Lumia 1020 clearly has the sharper image here but not everywhere, as the Lumia 830 tends to focus better on the outer edges of the scene despite the subject of focus being the bench.  This is something that is common on all photos between the two, but even more noticeable when the subject of focus is at a closer distance.

 

Lumia 1020 Bench Zoom (5MP)

 

Lumia 830 Bench Zoom

When zooming in, although the Lumia 830 performs well, this is where the difference in detail becomes very apparent between the two.  The Lumia 1020’s image manages to retain much of its original detail and still looks very sharp, while the Lumia 830 clearly starts to show detail loss.  We used the 5MP oversampled image for the Lumia 1020 Zoom in this photo.

 

Lumia 1020 Bench HiRes Heavy Zoom

 

Lumia 830 Bench Heavy Zoom

With a heavy zoom, we choose to use the Lumia 1020’s 34MP image as it manages to retain more detail despite producing more noise, while the 5MP image would start to deteriorate at this point. This zoom really shows just how having a high resolution sensor can be beneficial and the difference between the two devices is significant at this point with the Lumia 830 looking very pixilated.

HSBCLumia 1020 HSBC (5MP oversampled)

 

Lumia 830 HSBC

With this photo, the same type of oversaturation occurs with the Lumia 830 and the photo seems to have a yellowish tint, while the Lumia 1020 produces the more natural colors and doesn’t oversaturate any one particular color.

Lumia 1020 HSBC Zoom (5MP)

Lumia 1020 HSBC Zoom (5MP)

 

Lumia 830 HSBC Zoom

The Main focal point of this photo is the HSBC sign and when we zoom into it, the Lumia 1020 once again has the much sharper image quality.

Macro Test

Lumia 1020 Macro Flower (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Macro Flower (5MP)

Lumia 830 Macro Flower

Macro photography has always been a weak point of the Lumia 1020, as its lens design doesn’t focus on anything closer than six inches.  This is something the Lumia 830 does a much better job at as it’s able to focus two inches from the subject.

Playground (Vibrant Colors)

Lumia 1020 Park (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Park (5MP)

Lumia 830 Park

This scene has bright vibrant colors and it’s a great example of how the two devices see them differently.

The Lumia 830 once again has a darker tone with much more saturated colors compared to the 1020, which gives it more of an oppressive feel as the sky is also darker.  Overall the Lumia 1020 produces a much more natural tone and also has a much better representation of the actual colors despite it too being a little on the saturated side.

Sign (Zoom)

Lumia 1020 Sign (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Sign (5MP)

Lumia 830 Sign

Lumia 830 Sign

We used this photo to really push the zooming limits on both devices, as you can see the distance from the sign is pretty far.  We used the Lumia 1020’s hi-resolution photo in this example.

 

Lumia 1020 Sign Zoom (HiRes) Lumia 830 Sign Zoom

It’s quite incredible to what the Lumia 1020 can achieve with digital zoom and there isn’t a better example than this one.  The sign is very pixilated with such a massive zoom the  Lumia 830 makes it unreadable while the Lumia 1020 is still clear and very readable.

This is not a fair comparison with the Lumia 1020 having such a higher resolution camera, but it’s a perfect example of its zooming prowess.

Low Light Without Flash

Lumia 1020 Controller Low Light No Flash (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Controller Low Light No Flash (5MP)

Lumia 830 Controller Low Light No Flash

Both phones focused at the centre of the controller, but at this distance,  you’re able to tell a major difference in the way each device focuses on the subject.  The Lumia 1020 tends to have a shallower depth of field and the focus on the subject is much shaper than the rest of the image, while the Lumia 830 keeps its sharpness all around.

The wrinkles in the leather are very visible in the Lumia 830’s photo while the Lumia 1020’s image is softer everywhere else except the centre of the controller.

Lumia 1020 Controller Zoom Low Light No Flash (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Controller Zoom Low Light No Flash (5MP)

 

Lumia 830 Controller Zoom No Flash Controller

Even in the zoom we can tell just how much shallower the depth of field the Lumia 1020 produces at this distance. When looking at the “Microsoft Studios sign” which is in focus on the Lumia 830, while the primary centre of focus (Controller) is a lot sharper on the 1020.  The Lumia 1020 even keeps the detail in the joysticks visible while the Lumia 830 doesn’t capture any.

This is something that can be good or bad, depending on what effect you would like to achieve when taking photos.   The Lumia 830 keeps more of the photo in focus compared to the 1020, especially when the subject is at a closer distance, while the 1020 is the opposite.

However, when a shallow depth of focus is preferred, the Lumia 1020 preforms beautifully in this regard as the Lumia 830 doesn’t do as good of a job in blurring the background as in the example below.

Lumia 1020 Perrier

Lumia 830 Perrier


Controller with Flash

Lumia 1020 Controller Low Light Flash (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Controller Low Light Flash (5MP)

Lumia 830 Controller Low Light with Flash

Lumia 830 Controller Low Light with Flash

Lumia 1020 has a very powerful flash compared to virtually every other smartphone due to it using a Xenon flash rather than the traditional LED flash.  The Lumia 830’s flash performs quite well in this scene and keeps the whole image in focus even though the primary subject is the centre of the controller once again.

The color reproduction is good, actually, and nowhere near as saturated as the photos it produces in daylight.  The 1020 on the other hand produces the more saturated photos in low light situations, and especially with the flash on.

Lumia 1020 Controller Zoom Low Light Flash (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Controller Zoom Low Light Flash (5MP)

 

 

Lumia 830 Controller Zoom with Flash

The Lumia 1020’s Xenon flash combined with the higher resolution sensor completely outclasses the single LED flash on the Lumia 830 when zoomed as the texture on the joysticks is clearly visible.

Absolute Low Light Performance Test with ISO@100

In the test below we’ve set something to hold the phones so that there’s absolutely no movement and set a timer of 2 seconds so that even a slight shake from the screen press goes away before the camera goes off.  We selected the red & blue ball as the primary focus before taking the shot.

We’ve also set set the ISO at 100 for maximum light with the lowest possible noise production. The shutter speeds automatically adjusted and were just above 2 seconds on each phone.  This is not ideal but it gives us a way to test the maximum potential of these devices in low light photography.

Lumia 1020 Still Balls 100ISO (5MP)

Lumia 1020 Still @100 ISO (5MP)

Lumia 830 Low Light Still (ISO100) Balls No Flash

Lumia 830 with ISO@100

The same thing occurs in this photo as many others before it with the difference in focus between the two devices.  The Lumia 1020’s photo keeps the balls super sharp with everything else being out of focus while the Lumia 830′ spreads the focus across the whole image, despite manually focusing on the blue & red ball.

The Lumia 1020’s image is clean and keeps noise very low, while the Lumia 830 image is generally noisier all around but still manages to produce a clean overall image.

Lumia 1020 Still Balls 100ISO Zoom

Lumia 1020 Still Balls ISO100 Zoom

Lumia 830 Low Light Still (ISO100) Balls Zoom No Flash

Lumia 830 (ISO100) Zoom

When zooming in on the objects, the Lumia 1020’s image is significantly sharper as it focuses all its imaging capabilities on the subject while the Lumia 830 spreads focus to the entire image and doesn’t perform well in zoom situations.

Xenon Flash VS LED flash

When it comes to low light situations, especially at parties where subjects are moving or even taking pictures of your kids who never sit still, a Xenon flash makes a world of difference compared to an LED flash as it’s able to completely freeze the subject in motion.

In the example below, we’ve focused on the white round speaker and let a ball roll off a ramp at equal speeds in both situations and took the shot as it passed by the speaker.

Lumia 1020 Ball Roll 5MP (1)

Lumia 1020 Ball Roll 5MP

Lumia 830 Ball Roll Flash

Lumia 830 Ball Roll Flash

This is the perfect example of just how powerful a Xenon flash is when comparing to an LED flash, and as you can see, the Lumia 1020’s Xenon flash managed to completely freeze the rolling ball and capture a staggering amount of detail.

Overall we’re very impressed with the Lumia 830’s camera and how well it performs in both daylight and low light scenarios, although we expect Microsoft to adjust the color output to be a little more neutral in daylight scenarios and a little less cold in low light scenarios.

These results go to show just how far the Lumia 1020 is ahead of every other smartphone from quality perspective and just how big of an advantage a Xenon flash is over an LED.  However, it’s not a fair comparison with a device like the Lumia 830, but according to others who have compared it to an iPhone 6 camera, it’s pretty evenly matched.  Although we can’t confirm this until we perform an in depth test our selves, we look forward to putting the three smartphones through a similar test.

The Lumia 830 is a very capable smartphone shooter, and with a price tag much lower than flagship smartphones with imaging capabilities in the same category, one can’t go wrong with the Lumia 830.

We’ll also be conducting a video and audio test between the Lumia 830 and Lumia 1020 to see just how capable the Lumia 830’s Dolby Digital recording microphones are compared with the 1020’s, so stay tuned for a lot more coverage on the Lumia 830, including our full in depth review.