nokia-logoWith Android phone/tablet hybrids, or phablets (hate that word), everywhere you look, it was only a matter of time before Nokia launched its own Windows Phone model. The Lumia 1520 was the 14th Lumia phone since the launch of the Lumia 800 towards the end of 2011, showing the teams Nokia and Microsoft, (and now just Microsoft), will stop at nothing to fill every possible segment with a new handset.

The Lumia 1520 does fit in a very defined niche, however; phablets X-Large smartphones are aimed squarely at those who are willing to compromise slightly on portability and screen size so as not to have to buy or carry both a phone and a tablet. It’s also the very first Windows Phone with a Full HD screen.

lumia_logo_640x360Back_Lumia1520

In the box

  • Lumia 1520
  • Wall charger
  • microUSB cable
  • Getting started guide
  • Warranty information
  • SIM / SD micro card removal tool

Design

Essentially, the smartphone resembles the Lumia 1020 before it – a stretched out version but nonetheless very similar. Distinctively a Lumia smartphone, seeing that it boasts most of the typical design characteristics that have been attached to the popular smartphone line, we can’t say that the design of the Lumia 1520 is particularly original. Nevertheless, it continues to be an appealing one, since its rounded edges and tapered design both lend to mask its rather boxy look.

Obviously, this is a big phone! And by big, we mean ridiculously big, mainly because it dwarfs most other phablets X-Large smartphones.Therefore, it’s something that proves to be unwieldy for those with medium to smaller hands, as its wide figure is undoubtedly one hell of a handful which, requiring two-handed operation. In addition, the corners of the phone are rather pointy, to the point that it jabs our palm when holding it. At the very least, we’re comforted to find that it sports a pretty thin 0.34-inch profile, and for the most part, it’s pretty uniform looking throughout its body.

Being a high-end Lumia smartphone, the 1520 benefits by having a solid unibody polycarbonate plastic casing – giving it a sense of sturdiness with its construction. With our specific unit, From our friends over at Nokia UK it’s a black matte finish that does a good job of masking debris. Well, the white and yellow versions of the phone also sport the matte finish, but the red colour is actually coated with a glossy finish – making it more prone to smudges and fingerprints. In the phablet space, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is unique looking and definitely comes across as more interesting in design than most others.

Beneath that massive display sits the usual trio of capacitive Windows buttons, but for something so large, they appear somewhat disproportionate in size. Well, at least the spacing between them is enough to eliminate accidental presses. Meanwhile, above the display, we find its narrow earpiece, light & proximity sensors, and its wide-angle front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera.

As the standard formula goes, the right edge of the phone packs in all of the handset’s physical buttons, which consist of its volume, power, and shutter keys. Unfortunately, they’re all rather flat, making them difficult to feel out with our fingers, but at least the response is solid with all of them.

On the left edge, the engineers over at Nokia manage to discreetly hide away the handset’s nano SIM and microSD card slots, as it blends into the phone. However, we’re required to use the included SIM removal tool to access both of them. Now, it makes perfect sense with the nano SIM slot, but we would’ve preferred having some kind of spring activated system for the microSD card slot. Rounding things out, the Lumia 1520 features a 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port, and FOUR Stereo High Amplitude Audio Capture (HAAC) microphones.

Unlike the Lumia 1020, there isn’t a huge ugly looking hump in the rear where the camera normally sits. Although there’s still a hump, it’s more subdued, which allows the handset to sport a uniform profile for the most part. At the center of it all sits a 20-megapixel PureView camera that features 6-element Zeiss lens, f/2.4 aperture, lossless zoom, optical image stabilization, and a dual-LED flash.

 

Lumia 1520   625

Lumia 1520 and the  625

Display

It’s a first of a kind, in the Windows Phone camp, that is. The handset gets the prestigious recognition of being the first Windows Phone smartphone to feature a 1080×1920 display. And boy is it gigantic, the largest sized display to grace a Nokia smartphone ever! To be exact, it’s flaunting a gorgeous looking 6-inch 1080 x 1920 IPS LCD panel – giving it a sharp pixel density count of 368 ppi. Honestly, this has been a long time coming, as Windows Phone has been constantly downplayed for the lack of devices with 1080p resolution screens. Needless to say, 1080p screens are nothing new in the smartphone space, but we’re just ecstatic to find it here on a Windows Phone. Naturally, it produces a ton of sharp details, to make even the most miniscule of text easily visible to the eyes.

And seeing that it employs IPS LCD technology, it boasts natural looking colours, wide viewing angles, strong contrast, and a potent brightness output. All of those qualities enable it to offer superior outdoor visibility, so there’s no need to be constantly shielding it away from the sun. Interestingly, there’s an option to manually adjust screen colour temperature and saturation on the Lumia 1520. You can pick overblown colours that look unreal yet impressive, or you can go for a more realistic, natural tones.
All told, it’s without question the best display to ever grace a Windows Phone!

 

Interface and functionality

It surely must be awesome being a Windows Phone with many first in its package. In the software side, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is running the most up-to-date version of Microsoft’s always evolving mobile platform – Windows Phone 8.1. Now it doesn’t have the same drastic changes we see on other rival platforms of late (think iOS 7 and Android 4.4 KitKat), but regardless of that, it’s filled with a handful of new features and enhancements to make it seem that the platform is keeping a good pace with its development.

Thanks in part to its massive 6-inch 1080p display, the start screen is now able to accommodate up to six live tiles in a horizontal row – the smallest sized live tile option, that is. Besides that, the look and feel of the platform remains largely unchanged. It’s not a bad thing per se, seeing that the start screen continues to catch our attention with its animated presentation.

Out of all the mobile platforms out there, the Windows Phone 8.1 (Cyan) notification system is still messy but, has improved. Folders where you can put tiles into a group of similar or from the same company like BBC. So you could have News, Weather, Sports all in the same folder. Very similar to Android and iOS groupings.

As for the multi-tasking experience, the 8.1 update now provides us with the ability to close apps by tapping on the “x” above each window in the multitasking view. However, it would’ve been better if there were an option to close several or all at the same time.

Don’t get us wrong, we are glad to see the most up-to-date version of Windows Phone here. Update 8.1 adds a lot of small improvements like custom notification tones, rotation lock, and a new Driving mode. To the untrained eye, though, it’s hard to see any difference between this latest version and earlier Windows Phone 8 versions. The more we look at it, we begin to see some of the platform’s limitations in comparison to its rivals. It’s flashy, animated, and has an appealing presentation, but it requires deeper functions with the core experience to appease power users.

Lumia1520_box1

Messaging

Armed with that gigantic display, we’re greeted with the most spacious keyboard layout to ever hit a Windows Phone smartphone. In tow as always, is the responsiveness and killer auto-correct feature that’s always a staple with the keyboard. Alternatively, if you’re not about typing with your thumbs, its voice dictation service works rather well too.

Even with the updated experience, there’s nothing added to the email experience. Despite that, we can’t complain because it gets the job done by giving us a good balance between organization and productivity.

Organizer

We like the selection of first-party apps on Windows Phone. Having mobile Office right out of the box is a huge plus. Since this is a Nokia phone, you also get some very neat applications that other Windows Phone handsets do not have. Nokia Drive with free offline turn-by-turn navigation and Nokia Music with its great free music streaming option are on board.

Basic functionality is also well covered with a phone app that integrates your social news circles (Facebook and Twitter) and contacts. Although its set of core organizer apps are more than usable, the platform is seriously lacking a contender in the digital personal assistance service category. Relying on its Bing service, it’s able to do basic things like making phone calls, sending text, opening apps, and much more. However, it lacks the smarter features of its rivals – like being able to perform calculations, conversions, and even answering who is the president of the US.

Processor and memory

Finally!! Windows Phone ushers in a whole new era, as the Nokia Lumia 1520 is packing serious heat under the hood, to put it in the same light as its high-end Android counterparts. Sure to appease those specs conscious folks, the handset features a mighty quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, featuring the Adreno 330 GPU, coupled with 2GB of RAM.

A constant staple of the platform, it doesn’t surprise us that the Lumia 1520 is snappy and responsive with its operations. Our initial experience is positive, as everything seems to move quicker, but upon closer inspection, the platform is able to “hide” its slowness by employing different transition effects to mask its load times. Animations as a whole, however, still take up way too long often times and compared with Android and iOS. But on the surface, it exhibits a very smooth performance.

Internet and connectivity

Accessing the web on a Windows Phone device happens exclusively via Internet Explorer and the Lumia 1520 is no exception. We don’t like the lack of choice, but luckily mobile IE is a good browser on its own and with 4G LTE on board surfing the web is a pleasure. Best of all, that new 1080p screen is just icing to an otherwise typical looking cake for Windows Phone.

The first Nokia phablet ticks all connectivity boxes: dual-channel Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with LE support (courtesy of the Nokia Black update), NFC and GPS with Glonass. However, you should keep in mind that the Lumia 1520 is an AT&T exclusive in the US and it won’t support 4G LTE bands on other carriers.

Camera

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is arguably the best camera phone on the market right now, so where does the 20-megapixel PureView camera of the Lumia 1520 stand? The 20-megapixel PureView camera on the Lumia 1520 comes with a dual-LED flash (no Xenon here) and protrudes just slightly on the back – not so much as to be in the way, but enough to make it clear to passers-by that it’s a serious cameraphone you’re holding. It indeed is one of Nokia’s strongest camera efforts with a larger than usual 1/2.5” (25mm2) sensor, backside illumination and optical image stabilization. Still, the Nokia Lumia 1020 for instance features a more than twice as large 1/1.5-inch (58mm2) sensor, while the also 20-megapixel Sony Xperia Z1 has slightly larger 1/2.3” (28mm2) sensor. Talking about specs, we must note that it features 6-element Zeiss lens with f/2.4 aperture and optical image stabilization.
Pressing down on the shutter key, we’re again transported to the Nokia Pro Cam app – just like on the Lumia 1020 before it, and instead of the usual Windows Phone camera app. Hardcore shutterbugs will undoubtedly appreciate the fine level of manual controls it presents to us, since we have the ability to adjust things like ISO, white balance, focus, shutter speed, and exposure. However, it doesn’t have any sort of shooting modes incorporated into the Nokia Pro Cam app, but rather, we can rely on the Nokia Creative Studio app to apply several effects post shot.

 bed2 heather

Considering that the Lumia 1520 saves two samples, 5-megapixel and 19-megapixel ones with 4:3 aspect ratio photos, there’ some delay whenever a shot is taken – so there’s a chance you might miss a shooting opportunity due to this. Thankfully though, its focus is pretty quick in adjusting on the fly, and for the most part, it’s able to get the correct level, even when the focus light option is turned off. Nokia offers several new photo-centric apps through the Windows Phone Store, like Nokia Refocus and Storyteller, which help to increase the phone’s shooting arsenal.

 Lighthouse windmill pond

When it comes to quality, overall, it’s a solid effort put forth by the Lumia 1520, as it produces better-than-average photos – albeit, the Lumia 1020 still comes out on top. For shots that are taken outdoors where lighting is plentiful, there’s a lot to like with the quality put out by this, as its full-sized 19-megapixel samples ooze with a ton of details, to the point where we’re able to make out words on a sign in the distance. Colours appear vibrant in tone to give the shots a pleasant lively look, but it sometimes tends to cast a morsel of saturation. Thankfully, it handles dynamic range on a very good scale, seeing that there isn’t a huge disparity between the light and dark areas of the shot. However, the shots exhibit more of an underexposed look. Out of everything, we have to admit that the Lumia 1520 excels the most with macro shots. In fact, it produces that neat blurring effect with the background – while the subject receives an effective level of sharpness.

Under lower lighting situations, details naturally get a softer tone to them, but we’re glad that noise is kept at a minimum. Unlike its esteemed sibling in the Lumia 1020, the Lumia 1520’s camera doesn’t do just as good of a job with brightening up the scenery. On top of that, its dual-LED flash isn’t as potent as we’d like.

Whereas it’s a strong performer with its still image quality, its high-definition video quality is rather underwhelming. First, we’re pleased that it’s able to shoot in 1080p and 720p at 30, 25, and 24 FPS – with the last giving shooters that “cinematic” look. Above all, it’s the flatter details that really soften its quality extensively, since it doesn’t necessarily give it that pleasing “high-definition” quality. And trust us, things don’t get any better with details under low lighting situations, mainly because there’s a heavy presence of noise, which doesn’t help the already softer details that it pumps out.

Despite that, there are some pleasing elements that make it passable – like its gradual exposure, good dynamic range handling, 4x lossless zoom, and natural colour reproduction. In the audio recording quality front, its four microphones help to capture crisp and clear tones.

Multimedia

For those who want to enhance the look of those photos taken by its 20-megapixel PureView camera, the Nokia Creative Studio app is a wonderful item to check out. On top of applying different filters, we can also give images that professional touch with additional effects such as focus object, radial+tilt shift, and much more.

Of course, the Windows Phone Store is home to several other Nokia branded photo apps that help to enhance the smartphone’s experience. For example, the Nokia Storyteller app helps to create stories from our photos based on when and where they’re snapped. Additionally, the Nokia Refocus app is an interesting shooter that allows us to select what elements in the shot are to remain in focus. Essentially, we hold the handset still as it takes a series of photos, and once that’s done, we can touch the screen to select where we want to emphasis focus in the shot. It’s pretty neat actually!

In listening to music, we have to options to choose from the standard Windows Phone music player or the Nokia Music one. With the latter, not only are we able to play local content, but it also provides us with streaming and buying option as well. Conversely, the stock Windows Phone music player continues to entice us with its dynamic interface. Although its speaker produces strong volume tones, it tends to exhibit some hollowness with its quality.

Right out of the box, there are no problems playing a wide array of high-definition videos on the Nokia Lumia 1520 – that’s because it offers support for all the popular codecs. Moreover, its gorgeous screen helps to bring those high-definition videos to life. Now the only thing it’s lacking is a built-in kickstand of some kind to give us a hands-free video watching experience. However, that can be remedied by picking up the optional folio case, since it features an integrated adjustable stand.

Call Quality

Phone calls are still handled with some ease, but as a whole, its quality is nothing more than average. First, there’s the matter with its earpiece, which produces voices that are natural in tone, but its volume output is a bit weak – requiring us to push the earpiece firmly close to our ear to properly make out voices. Secondly, voices sound hollow through the speakerphone. And finally, our callers mention that our voice sounds a tiny bit crackly on their end of the line.

Battery

Generally speaking, big phones get big batteries, so the Lumia 1520 gladly obliges this norm by giving us one too. To be exact, its slim body is stuffed with a beefy 3400 mAh battery, which is one heck of a large capacity. Impressively, it’s able to provide us with a battery life that’s long lasting! In our experience, it’s able to deliver a solid one day of heavy usage consisting of surfing the web, sending text messages, checking email, and making an occasional phone call. As for those who aren’t as demanding, you can sleep knowing it can pull out as much as two whole days under light usage.

Conclusion

For those who are contemplating on picking this up without a contract, you will be looking around the £400 – £500 price point still seems pretty good in comparison to other phablets – though, there’s no arguing that its on-contract cost absolutely gives it better value. At the end of the day, there’s plenty to like about the 1520, as it’s no doubt the best Windows Phone out right now. For a long time there, Windows Phones in general just seemed underpowered in comparison to those premier Android smartphones. Thankfully though, that’s no longer the case going forward, seeing that the Nokia Lumia 1520 gives Windows Phone something to shine about. Ultimately, the Lumia 1520 is one rock hard device that gives the competition something to worry about.

The Lumia 1520  pricing is around the £400 to £550 sim free

Lumia Help+Tips helps you make the most of your Lumia phone. Discover how to use Lumia’s many exciting features, find answers to frequently asked questions, and learn more about your Lumia from our support videos. The application includes a full offline user guide, and if you need further assistance you will find information on how to contact support directly.
Open the FULL SPECIFICATIONS button below to see full specs

Full Specifications

Be Sociable, Share!

The following two tabs change content below.
avatar

Dave Thornton

Senior Editor

Senior Editor
Been involved in technology for many years, more than I care to remember. Live in Dundee, Scotland. I like Android, Windows Phone OS, BlackBerry OS and iOS, and love writing about all things techie. Currently have a Honor 6+, Elephone P6000, Nexus 5, Chrombook C720, HTC One M7, Nokia Lumina 625, Microsoft Lumia 435, Blackberry Q10, HTC Hero and iPad mini