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Best Windows Phones 2014: Which should you buy?

By Simon Thomas on 05th January 2015

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Looking to buy a Windows Phone? Want to find out what is the best Windows smartphone in 2015? Then you've come to the right place. 

Whether you’re looking for a flagship smartphone, a more affordable mobile or an over-sized phablet there is a Windows Phone out there for you. We've reviewed all the Windows Phone smartphones released and put together a list of the very best devices in the world today.

Nokia is currently the primary manufacturer producing Windows Phone 8 devices, which is no surprise given that the Finnish company are now owned by Microsoft and going forwards its Lumia phones won’t even have Nokia branding.

However, there are still other manufacturers who build Windows smartphones with Microsoft seemingly in the mobile market for the long term.

Windows Phone 8 is a great mobile operating system: it's intuitive, simple yet has all the features you expect and more. Not only is it the perfect starting point for those new to smartphones, but it's also great for business users thanks to its integration with Windows 8 and Microsoft Office.

Since the update to Windows Phone 8.1 it’s got even better, with enhanced features such as Cortana making their way to UK phones.
So if you’re in the market for a shiny new Windows Phone handset these are the best available.

8. Nokia Lumia 735

Nokia Lumia 735 - Best Windows Phones

Microsoft’s “selfie phone” is good for more than just snapping photos of yourself thanks to a long lasting battery and a large 4.7-inch 720 x 1280 screen with a sharp pixel density of 312 pixels per inch, but it’s undoubtedly the selfie cam that’s the star.

Its front-facing camera comes in at 5 megapixels, which is becoming increasingly common but is still relatively rare for a midrange phone. It’s got more than megapixels going for it too, as it has a wide-angle lens so you can fit more in your shots and editing tools to ensure you look your best.

It only just scrapes into our top list though because its 6.7 megapixel rear camera isn’t so impressive, despite sporting a Carl Zeiss lens and its 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor leaves it feeling underpowered, given that the cheaper Lumia 635 has the same.

But the Lumia 735 does at least have a decent 1GB of RAM and it runs Windows Phone 8.1 like most recent Windows Phone handsets, all for around £200 SIM free.

7. Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia Lumia 1520 - Best Windows Phones

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a hugely powerful Windows Phone device and the only phablet on this list, so those looking for a large display should look no further. It has a quad-core processor, which is a feat only made possible thanks to the release of Windows Phone 8.1.

It was also the first Windows Phone device to come with a 1080p display, giving its 6 inch touch-screen a crisp 367ppi. The IPS display also comes with ClearBlack technology resulting in deeper blacks, High Brightness mode and Sunlight Readability. If that isn't enough it's also 'Super-Sensitive' meaning the touch-screen can be used even when wearing gloves.

Nokia's Lumia 1520 has an impressive 20 mega-pixel Pureview camera with optical-image stabilisation (OIS), 32GB of on-board memory and supports 4G, 3G, WiFi, NFC and Bluetooth. It's also pretty slim and lightweight (8.7mm and 209g respectively) for its size, but phablets by design aren't the most portable mobile devices around.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is currently available to buy from around £320, which isn't bad at all for a high-end device with a spacious 6-inch display, all of which makes it a worthwhile addition to our list.

6. Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Best Windows Phones

Many of our readers will be surprised to see Nokia's Lumia 1020 coming in fifth place on our list. Especially considering the media attention its stunning 41 mega-pixel Pureview camera has attracted. Don't get us wrong, anyone looking for a smartphone with a great camera should look no further than the Lumia 1020.

The 41 mega-pixel Pureview Camera has a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, a dual LED Xenon flash and optical-image-stabilisation (OIS). It takes snaps and videos that stand up to standalone digital cameras, Nokia's Pro Camera software is excellent and a range of camera accessories are available.

The rest of the smartphone isn't too shabby either. The Lumia 1020 has a 4.5 inch 720p display (334ppi) and is powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor backed up by 2GB of RAM. Its 32GB of onboard memory can be expanded using microSD cards and it supports 4G LTE, NFC, Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G.

However, ironically the Pureview camera lens is also why the Lumia 1020 has missed out on being higher in our list. Its inclusion makes the Lumia 1020 a pretty bulky and heavy device (10.4mm and 158g respectively). Also, its plastic, colourful design - although feeling solid and sturdy - lacks the style and subtlety of other flagship smartphones.

Looking for a camera phone? Then look no further, the Nokia Lumia 1020 has the best camera of any Windows Phone handset and it’s up there with the best smartphone cameras in the world. It's also got a great all-round specification, but the camera adds bulk and its design lacks polish and subtlety compared to the Lumia 930 and HTC One M8 for Windows.

5. Nokia Lumia 830

Nokia Lumia 830 - Best Windows Phones

The Nokia Lumia 830 is a mid-range handset that comes with a premium ultra-thin design that comes pre-loaded with the newest version of Windows Phone 8.1, complete with the Lumia Denim update.

Essentially, the Lumia 830 is a more affordable version of the Lumia 930 with a similar build and a toned down specification. You get the same vibrant design with an aluminium frame which gives it that all-important premium feel and at just 8.55mm and 150g it's pretty portable for a device with a 5-inch display.

You also get the very latest version of Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim, 4G LTE support and an excellent 10 mega-pixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and optical-image-stabilisation. The 5-inch display runs at a 720p resolution and the power has been toned down to a 1.2GHz quad-core offering backed up by 1GB of RAM, but it's still super smooth around the operating system.

With a price of around £270 the Nokia Lumia 830 is a great choice for those who are looking for a well-built Windows Phone with a solid mid-range specification. The display isn't as good as on the flagship Lumia 930 nor is it as powerful, but it's still a great handset that offers good value for money and 4G LTE connectivity.

4. Nokia Lumia 530

Nokia Lumia 530 - Best Windows Phones

The Nokia Lumia 520 is the best-selling handset of all time and its popularity was due to the amazing value it offered. Now its successor has arrived and it follows on exactly from where its successor left off delivering an improved specification at an even lower price point.

For just £60 you get a smartphone with a 4-inch display (480 x 854 pixels), a quad-core 1.2Ghz processor and a 5 mega-pixel camera. You'll be pleased to hear it comes pre-loaded with Windows Phone 8.1, so you'll still able to enjoy all the new features of Windows Phone and download the latest apps.

The Nokia Lumia 530 is a little chunkier than some smartphones on the market (11.7mm), it doesn't support 4G LTE and lacks a front-facing camera. But for the money you won't find a better Windows Phone in the world right now. And for that reason it comes highly recommended.

3. Nokia Lumia 635

Nokia Lumia 635 - Best Windows Phones

At around £100 SIM free the Nokia Lumia 635 isn’t quite as affordable as the Lumia 530, but it still easily falls into the category of being a budget handset and its specs and performance are rather impressive for the money.

It has two major improvements over the even cheaper Lumia 530. First off it supports 4G, which is an ever more important feature for a phone to have as coverage becomes more widespread. Secondly it has a larger 4.5-inch 480 x 854 display. Although it loses a bit of sharpness, those extra 0.5 inches make it far more adept for web browsing and watching videos.

It also has a more powerful Snapdragon 400 processor so you can expect decent performance. Its camera is a little lacking as it’s only 5 megapixels and there’s no front-facing snapper, but if you’re not fussed about taking photos the Lumia 635 is an exceedingly good buy for the money.

2. HTC One M8 for Windows

HTC One M8 Windows Phone - Best Windows Phones

Those looking for a Windows Phone with a high end build should look no further than the HTC One M8 for Windows. Its premium unibody design is over 90 per cent metal and is unrivalled by almost any other smartphone in the world, looking and feeling in a different league to just about everything else.

The new Windows version of the smartphone is identical to the award winning Android version other than the fact that it comes pre-loaded with Windows Phone 8.1. That means you get the same stunning 5-inch 1080p display, quad-core processor, Ultrapixel Duo camera and crystal clear audio at high volumes thanks to its Boomsound speakers.

When you add in the new found compatibility with Microsoft Office and the stunning Windows interface the HTC One M8 is a must-have device for business users. And its build-quality and specification make it one of the two best Windows smartphones in the world today. The only reason it misses out on top-spot is that you don't get the extra Lumia software you do with Nokia's handsets.

1. Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 - Best Windows Phones

The Nokia Lumia 930 is the successor to the Lumia 925 but it’s such a huge upgrade that it hardly seems fair to lump it in with its predecessor. Where to start? How about with what hasn’t really changed. The build is pretty similar, but that’s no bad thing as the Lumia 925 was the most premium looking Lumia phone available until now.

The Nokia Lumia 930 has an aluminium frame with a polycarbonate back, which can be nabbed in either the distinctively bright Lumia colours or a more understated black or white. Under the hood there’s a powerful 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, plus of course it comes with Windows Phone 8.1, so you’ll be able to enjoy Cortana and Action Centre. 

The Lumia 930 also has a mightily impressive 20 megapixel camera. Like other high end Lumia’s it uses a Carl Zeiss lens and it features optical image stabilisation to reduce the effect of camera shake. The end result is highly detailed photos that almost always come out in focus.

And we haven’t even talked about the screen. It’s a 5 inch 1080 x 1920 AMOLED display with a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, so it’s an incredibly sharp full HD affair and with the help of Nokia’s ClearBlack technology it also has superior contrast. There’s 32GB of built in storage, so memory needn’t run low and it supports 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.

Whether you’re after style, power, a camera phone or a great screen for media the Nokia Lumia 930 has it all. It’s a great all-rounder and still the best Windows Phone currently available.

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