When it comes to looking for a mid-range handset many of us might be tempted to go for a known brand rather than consider a network operator’s own brand. But Vodafone has done well enough over the years with its own branded handset range, and the 830 is another new entrant from the operator.
It is available free on contracts from £15 and up, and at that kind of price it sounds as though it ought to be something of a low-ender rather than a mid-ranger. But its specs are really not too bad at all, and perhaps even more importantly for those looking for a middle of the road phone, it is well built and easy to get to grips with. Oh, and it has a good screen too.
The 830 is a slider handset, though it doesn’t follow the slim and short format of something like Sony Ericsson’s W595. In fact, when I sat it next to HTC’s new Touch 3G, I found that the two handsets are pretty much the same size. And that is with the 830’s slide down.
For the record, then, this phone measures 13.3mm thick, 51.5mm wide and 103mm tall. Open the slide and it is a little over 135mm tall. It weighs 93g, which is an excellent weight for such a large mobile.
The 2.4in screen matches that of the Sony Ericsson C905 for size but whereas in that phone it looked a little lost in the generally bulky design, here it seems to fit in quite well. I’m putting that down in no small part to a more appealing overall hardware design which includes nice front buttons.
Those front buttons are a bit Samsung Steel-ish thanks to their brushed metal finish and general flatness. They are separated by silver bars which are not raised from the button panel, but which, thanks to an optical illusion, look as though they are.
In addition to the softmenu, Call and End buttons there is a Clear key and one that starts the built-in music software – I’ll get to that in more detail later. These keys, and the number keys that are inside the slide, are backlit blue when activated.
The numberpad keys are flat and again separated by flush bars, this time coloured black like the numberpad keys themselves. They are easy to use at a fair old lick of speed.
Side keys are minimal with just a volume rocker and camera key sitting one on the left and one on the right edge. This minimalism and a pretty solid plastic casing make the 830 seem like a workaday handset.
And indeed, that is pretty much what the 830 is. This is a 3G phone with a front camera for two-way video calling. It is tri-band GSM and has Bluetooth, but there are no higher end features like Wi-Fi, GPS and screen rotation, either manually or via an accelerometer.
If you are a music fan, the messages are mixed. There is just 25MB of built-in memory, and an easily accessed microSD card slot on the right edge for adding more. What really irks is the proprietary connector for the provided in-ear headset which is shared by mains power and PC connection.
Am I the only person in the UK whose ears are shaped so that these devils won’t stay in place? Maybe, maybe not, but even those whose ears are perfect for in-ear buds might prefer their own headset to the average one provided. There is also no FM radio.
A potentially very big plus for those who possess the right kind of ears and are OK with the music quality, is that I got 14-and-a-half hours of music from a full battery charge. Recently, only my own rundown test of the BlackBerry Storm has produced longer, and as far as non-smartphones are concerned few approach that playback length.
In general use I managed three days without access to mains power, which is more than I’d expect from a more fully-featured phone if only because I’d thrash the features.
The camera shoots at just 3.2-megapixels, and its images aren’t really of printable quality, but you’d get by if all you want to do is email to friends, blog or otherwise share at a low resolution.
Indoors, the absence of a flash is a real problem in low light conditions, but then flashes are only good for close subjects anyway. The coloured dish, photographed under ordinary household lighting, is a bit dull, and the white background is transformed into pinky-bluey hues. Outside, the chair is quite sharp, but the big surprise came with close-ups. The yellow flower of the broom shrub is all of 2.5cm across, and although the photo is a little blurred, I was very close in and I reckon there is some good experimenting to be done at this level.
However, forget photographing anything that moves. The shutter lag is diabolical. Oh, and one other thing. When using the right side-mounted camera key to shoot, I found myself accidentally tapping the volume rocker that sits opposite it on the left edge of the phone. As this doubles as a zoomer this was very, very irritating. An obvious design fault.
Additional software includes an alarm clock with six alarms, calculator, calendar, task manager, memo, unit converter, currency converter, voice recorder, stopwatch and timer. Google Maps is pre-installed, and you can connect to Vodafone’s Mobile TV service.
I don’t dislike the Vodafone 830. It is not going to set anybody’s world alight, but its long battery life is a real plus point both for music fans and those who want to go for a couple of days between charges.
Score in detail
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