Nokia's first tablet finally lands, but was it worth the wait?
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,1/9/2014 5:13:19 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Great battery life
Not full Windows
App store still a little bare
Keyboard costs extra
Even before Microsoft shelled out £4.6bn for phone manufacturer Nokia, the Finnish company had committed its future to the Windows operating system. Having begun to win over doubters with its increasingly impressive handsets, it started to build a fanbase who appreciated Windows Phone 8’s colourful and useful tiled interface. Having increased that OS’s market share to 11.5 percent in the UK market (according to figures from late 2013), a tablet version was inevitable. Yet the decision to opt for the cut down Windows RT instead of full-blown Windows surprised many. So, having finally hit the shops, was the Lumia 2520 worth the wait?
The best reason to buy the Lumia 2520 is its 4G capability. As 4G coverage begins to spread across the UK, the LTE modem in Nokia's tablet provides superfast internet access on the go in an increasing number of locations. If you’ve shelled out for a Netflix account and want to get maximum use of it, this tablet will help you do that. Lumia 2520 one, boredom nil.
However, on the flip side, if you don't plan on using 4G you may question if this is the tablet for you, as you'll be paying a premium for a SIM card slot you won’t be getting the best of. Especially as there are plenty of cheaper 3G or SIM-less options available – just check out our tablet buying guide, which starts on page 84.
The second reason to back Nokia’s fledgling tablet is its 10.1-inch Full HD display. Not just great for pin-sharp high-def video, despite not being as technically proficient as screens such as Apple’s Retina display, this is a treat. Nokia claims that screen gives the best outdoor and indoor readability possible and in our tests it was certainly bright and clear enough to battle glare out in the open with no problems.
In a world that contains the iPad Air, the size – and particularly the weight – of the Lumia 2520 won’t amaze those looking for something super-comfortable to hold. Nokia’s tablet is 8.9mm thick, matching the Microsoft Surface 2 – although at least it tips the scales at 615g rather than the Surface 2’s 676g. However, neither of those can rival the 7.5mm thickness and 469g weight of Apple’s skinny 9.7-inch tablet.
Sadly, the Lumia 2520 doesn’t include a kickstand on its rear to help lean your tablet for comfortable widescreen viewing, unlike Microsoft’s Surface 2. If you opt to buy Nokia's Power Keyboard that problem is solved, although this is a case of swings and roundabouts. The increased functionality of those keys, the stand for better viewing and a substantial increase in battery life from the powered keyboard are tempered slightly by the additional 30mm thickness your device gains in the process.
Thankfully, the Nokia Lumia 2520 has plenty of other things going for it. This being a Nokia device, there are four colour options to choose from, including the gloss-finished red version we got to road test. Those same shiny good looks also extend to the white and cyan tablets, although the matt-finished black version would certainly be where we’d splash our cash.
However, purchase options aren’t quite as varied yet. As you read this, there's only one place to buy the Nokia Lumia 2520, with John Lewis signing an exclusive deal to stock it. That three-month lock on the product began on 4 December 2013, so expect other retailers to offer the 2520 later in 2014. Given that the device includes 4G, we expect it won’t be overlooked by mobile operators hoping to push that technology.
We’re still not convinced about holding up a massive device to take photos, but having recently stood next to someone using a tablet to video red carpet interviews we admit it’s becoming more of an everyday occurrence. With that in mind, the Lumia 2520’s 6.7-megapixel rear camera doesn’t disappoint and the results are good – rising to excellent if all you need to do is populate your social media. Tapping the screen to take the image can result in some shake but a number of images are captured with one click, so you can choose one that’s smoother. Meanwhile, an f1.9 aperture helps capture low-light images. There’s also a two-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls or those obsessed with selfies.
Although you might expect it to be a standard inclusion these days, it's great to see a Micro HDMI port included. Being able to pump out your HD content with minimal fuss via a cable is very handy, even though wireless streaming options often mean this connection is overlooked on tablets.
Other ports include a microSD card slot and you’ll want to make use of that, as only half of the 32GB internal storage is available to the user. A micro USB 3.0 connection is also available on the right side but don’t get any ideas about using that for power – it’s strictly for file transfers. You’ll need to get used to carting that proprietary charger around with you (and with a screen that loves fingerprints, you’ll need a cloth too – adding to your load). However, while that charger sounds like a pain, it does mean Nokia has been able to optimise the power capabilities. Superfast charging boosted the device back up to 80 percent of maximum in a little over an hour in our tests.
The 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB RAM meant the Lumia 2520 handled everything we threw at it with ease (even if its gaming choices are more limited than those accessing the Google and Apple app stores). In fact, with these specs it’s a shame Nokia didn’t opt to put the full version of Windows on its first tablet – especially if it hopes to capture business users keen to make use of that keyboard and its extended battery life. With 10 hours of video streaming – and much longer for less intensive use – on offer even before you click that keyboard into the dock, it could be a powerful argument to wow business types.
Microsoft Office is pre-installed, making it ideal for customers who need Excel, Word, PowerPoint or Outlook whenever and wherever. However, the use of Windows RT means users can’t install standard Windows 8 software, which leaves them in the hands of that underwhelming Windows Store. For all our bigging up of Netflix on 4G, which has its own software, if you happen to subscribe to a rival such as LoveFilm you’ll have to wait for a dedicated app.