Look and feel
The Lumia 1520 retains Nokia’s gorgeous design, with a smooth case presented in a selection of bright colours. It’s a beast (although not as big as some phablets), and will trouble most standard pockets.
Ease of Use
The Lumia 1520’s spacious screen is responsive even when wearing gloves, and Windows Phone 8 is a neat and simple OS, although one-handed use is right out and there’s no stylus a la Samsung’s Galaxy Note range.
The 20MP PureView camera is one of the best around and well-supported with a ton of shooting and editing apps, while the screen is bright and crisp. It’s only Windows Phone’s lack of standard apps that puts us off, and there’s nothing creative here outside of photography.
The Snapdragon 800 processor is about a gajillion times more powerful than Windows Phone requires, so apps and everything else run perfectly smoothly. It’s a shame you can’t do proper multi-tasking though.
One of the best battery results we’ve seen on a phablet. The Lumia 1520 lasts a whopping nine hours in video tests, and will keep you going for two or more days at a time.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/26/2013 3:25:00 PM
Ease of use
Bright, crisp screen;
Powerful well-supported camera;
Long battery life
Bulky rectangular build;
Windows Phone still limited
Nokia has put out pretty much everything this year, from $15 feature phones up to uber-powerful smartphones rocking incredible camera technology (the 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 and gorgeous flagship Lumia 925), but the Lumia 1520 heralds its first ever foray into the wonderful world of phablets. We’ve reviewed loads of these beastly pocket-troubling handsets lately, including Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy Mega – so how does the first Windows phablet compare?
Design: Clown pockets essential
Size up the Nokia Lumia 1520 with the other popular phablets right now, and you’ll find the six-inch Lumia fits neatly in the middle. The latest incarnation of the original phablet, the Galaxy Note, is now surprisingly the smallest around at just 5.7-inches, while the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the wide boy of the phablet world at 6.4-inches.
The Lumia 1520 is still big enough to worry pockets and handbags, of course. The rectangular design is similar to the Xperia Z Ultra’s, which means slipping it into a trouser pocket could be a prostate-prodding experience. We found it just about fit inside our baggiest jeans, albeit with a corner jutting out at all times, and we could obviously feel it pressing against our leg when walking around. It will fit into most reasonably-sized handbags however, providing they aren’t already bulging. At a touch over 200g it’s a hefty handset, close to matching the wrist-aching Xperia Z Ultra.
As usual Nokia has employed some colourful design, and our review handset was a bright and vibrant neon yellow. The smooth rear feels good against the palm. Nokia has separated out ports and buttons, so you’ll find the power, volume and shutter buttons on the right edge, while the SIM and memory card slots are housed on the left. It’s mildly annoying how the SIM and memory card flaps are indistinguishable from one another, and you need a pin to get inside to work out which is which. Also, the Lumia 1520 takes Nano SIM cards like Apple’s latest iPhones, so you’ll need to get a new card from your provider if you’re coming from any other phone. Gotta love how the biggest Lumia uses the tiniest possible SIM...
How they stack up
We’ve reviewed a lot of phablets lately, and although they’re all big enough to choke a donkey, there’s still a big difference when you size them up. Here’s our line-up of the most popular phablets, ranked by screen size, to make things perfectly clear. As you can see, the Lumia 1520 fits neatly in the middle – and surprisingly, original phablet the Galaxy Note is now the most compact one you can buy.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Screen size: 5.7-inch
Size: 151 x 79 x 8.3mm
HTC One Max
Screen size: 5.9-inches
Size: 165 x 83 x 10.3mm
Nokia Lumia 1020
Screen size: 6-inches
Size: 163 x 85 x 8.7mm
Samsung Galaxy Mega
Size: 168 x 88 x 8mm
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Screen size: 6.4-inches
Size: 179 x 92 x 6.5mm
OS: Windows clean
Windows Phone 8 is a user-friendly experience for the most part, offering up a colourful, simple and completely customisable desktop of tiles. The Lumia 1520’s enormous display means you can now fit more tiles on-screen at once: there’s a whole extra column compared with previous Lumias. You get all of the usual great features, including the People hub (which brings together your contacts and social media accounts), Kid’s Corner (a kiddie-friendly desktop that blocks access to anything unsuitable) and the mobile version of Microsoft Office.
Sadly Windows Phone is still lacking when it comes to apps, despite recently acquiring the likes of Instagram and WhatsApp. Nokia has bundled its excellent Here suite, which adds an excellent map, sat nav and augmented reality features to the Lumia 1520, as well as the new Story Teller app (more on this in the camera section). However, the selection of apps on the Windows Market is much more limited than Google Play and the Apple App Store, especially when it comes to games. If you’re only after a device for browsing the web and enjoying HD media, this won’t be a problem. Otherwise, we’d have to recommend the likes of the Galaxy Note 3 instead.
Windows Phone handsets are also encumbered with Internet Explorer for browsing the web. We found that many standard websites took several seconds longer to load up on the Lumia 1520 when compared with Android phones, even when connected to the same Wi-Fi network. We also saw some glitching when scrolling up and down busy webpages. However, our biggest problem with IE is how it’s more awkward to handle multiple tabs when compared with the likes of Google Chrome.
Screen: Six satisfying inches
One of the biggest (literally) reasons for buying a phablet is the spacious display, and the Lumia 1520’s screen is a great way to consume media. The full HD 1080p resolution gives 368ppi, beating the likes of Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra on sharpness, although the Lumia 1520’s panel lacks the cutting-edge image processing of Sony’s X-Reality Engine, which really brings video and photos to life with warmer colours and other visual tweaks.
All the same, our high-def movies looked great, and the powerful brightness levels completely obliterated any pesky glare. We also had no trouble working on complex spreadsheets thanks to the crisp graphics. Viewing angles are wide and contrast levels are strong.
However, while phablets such as the Galaxy Note 3 and Xperia Z Ultra allow you to scribble on the screen with the excellent S-Pen stylus or any standard pencil, the Lumia 1520 offers no such functionality. You can buy yourself a bog-standard generic stylus of course, but there are no art/design packages on the phone and few worthy of mention on the Market store. If you want a phablet with a creative slant, the Note 3 is still the one to choose.
Performance: Great battery life
Windows Phone doesn’t need much power to run smoothly, but the Lumia 1520’s top-end Qualcomm SnapDragon 800 processor means you get future-proofed performance. We didn’t see a single stutter the entire time we used the phone, whether we were editing our high-res images or chilling with an HD video. Sadly you can’t multi-task with two or more apps running side-by-side, as you can on the Note 3 or the LG G2.
When testing out phones, we always use them for a minimum of three days to see what kind of battery life we can expect. Phablets often enjoy good longevity despite those enormous power-sapping screens, thanks to the giant batteries housed within – and the Lumia 1520’s 3400mAh battery certainly keeps this handset going all day. We managed an impressive nine hours of video streaming on full brightness before the phone gave out. Compared with the other major phablets such as the Galaxy Mega, HTC One Max and Xperia Z Ultra, that’s the best result yet – only the Mega came close with 8.5 hours of video playback.
Networking is a silky-smooth experience with full 4G LTE support, great news for fans of YouTube, iPlayer and other video streaming services. You also get built-in NFC, for connecting to wireless devices.
Camera: Pro shot
The Lumia 1520’s highlight is its 20-megapixel PureView camera, a slightly scaled-down version of the Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel snapper, but still one of the best smartphone lenses around. You can bring up the Pro Cam app by tapping it on the desktop or long-pressing the phone’s physical shutter button. Once in, you have access to the camera’s funky control wheel, which allows you to tweak the likes of shutter speed and ISO level, or simply set them all to auto for quick snaps. It’s the best smartphone camera interface we’ve seen, allowing you to quickly fiddle with the main settings and immediately see the effect live on the display.
As with the Lumia 1020, we found that some of our indoor and outdoor snaps were a little dark on full auto mode. This can be quickly and easily corrected using the manual tweaks, as long as you don’t mind having a quick fiddle before each photo. All of our shots came out impressively crisp, and zooming in shows just how much detail is captured each time. We also found that the lens coped admirably with harsh glare and other photographic nightmares. You can also capture Full HD video, while the front-facing lens can be used to take sharp selfies with yourself and a friend, which is easier than you might think thanks to the physical shutter button.
An example of the crazy-good zoom of the Lumia 1520's camera. The area with the green circle has been zoomed into on the bottom photo, and you can clearly read the sign on the distant hut.
The fun doesn’t end once you’ve taken your shots, of course. The likes of Nokia’s Cinemagraph app allow you to create funky novelty photos, stitching together a handful of shots to create a montage or even a GIF. Nokia’s new Story Teller app also provides a smart new way of presenting your memories, similar to the HTC One’s photo app but with extra functionality. Your related photos are automatically bundled into folders, and you can add your own captions to each one to avoid awkward ‘what on Earth was going on there?’ discussions later. Story Teller will also usefully mark where each photo was snapped on a virtual map.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is the latest in a long line of phablets, but the first from Nokia and the first to sport Windows Phone 8. It’s another gorgeous Lumia handset, although it’s large enough to trouble most pockets and is definitely more suited to bags. It doesn’t feel like Nokia has done enough to warrant that enormous screen, especially compared with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but it’s sharp and bright and makes the most of your HD media. The Lumia 1520 will also please camera fans, even if we’d recommend the more portable Lumia 1020 over it.