The Nokia Lumia 1520 marks an important milestone for Windows Phone 8 as it comes with many firsts for the platform. One of the biggest is Nokia’s shift to a larger display and we feel they might have over done it a bit. There’s also sibling rivalry that Nokia needs to take into account as the Lumia 1520 and the Lumia 1020, its previous flagship, now sit at roughly the same price point. While their target audiences might be different, the difference is quite minimal which poses a bigger dilemma of which one to get. Let’s see if we can bring some order to this chaos.
Design and Build
The Lumia 1520 makes the leap into the ‘phablet’ space by offering a massive 6-inch display, a first for a Windows Phone device. Adding to the list of debuts is a Full HD display which catapults the pixel count to a whopping 367ppi. Gorilla Glass protection and a ClearBlack IPS panel are also on-board for good measure. This is easily one of Nokia’s best displays to date and pictures and videos really come alive. We have a minimalistic bezel all around and for the first time, the capacitive keys are backlit!
The Lumia 1520 is a lot slimmer than the 1020 at just 8.7mm, however it’s quite a bit heavier at 209g. The increase in heft is not merely due to the increased size but also the beefy 3400mAh battery inside. Along the sides, we have a nano-SIM slot and a microSD card slot. Once again, we’re glad Nokia doesn’t restrict you from expanding the storage further. You get 32GB of onboard memory and the ability to add up to a 64GB card. The right side houses the buttons, including the dedicated camera shutter button.
The rest of the chassis is made up of polycarbonate, which feels soothingly premium. The texture is the same as that of the Lumia 1020 and the much older Lumia 800. We absolutely love the feel of this phone and is arguably one of the best out there. There are a total of four microphones on the 1520 for better audio capture, another first. The 20MP PureView sensor is now accompanied by a dual-LED flash array. Looks like the Xenon flash is reserved for the 1020 only.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 looks and feels the part of a premium smartphone. The only problem, and it’s a big one – is the sheer size of the device. It’s a bit too unwieldy for a phone and you most certainly cannot use it single handed. The phone also tends to stick out your jeans pocket slightly and is quite uncomfortable when sitting down or riding a bike or motorcycle.
The Lumia 1520 is one of the first devices to have the Lumia Black update out-of-the-box. The new update will be rolling out to the entire line up, right from the 520 all the way up to the 1020. There are a couple of really cool additions as well such as Nokia Beamer and the new Glance screen features. The former lets you replicate your screen, either on another Lumia device or a PC that’s connected to the internet. This way, you can clone you phone’s display without the worry of a cable or Miracast support on the TV. The new Glance screen lets you view more notifications when the phone is locked and you can now switch between different colours as well. Non-PureView devices can now take advantage of the new camera app, which combines Nokia’s Smart Camera and Pro Camera in a single app.
The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, which is the first Lumia device to feature a quad-core CPU. You also get 2GB of RAM to accompany all this power. We’re not sure if it’s the faster CPU or the new Black update but all apps run absolutely smoothly, without any trace of lag. This is especially noticeable when you fire up the Pro Camera app, which was a bit sluggish even on the Lumia 1020. This entire horsepower is put to good use when you play some of the high-end games. The weird thing however is that the games look and feel exactly the same whether you play it on the 1520 or the much less expensive Lumia 525. Asphalt 8: Airborne for instance is just slightly smoother on the 1520 than it is on the 525 but apart from that, it feels and looks exactly the same. We expected games to have higher resolution textures when you have a powerful CPU and GPU but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Nokia also bundles a bunch of other apps like Big Flix, YourMovies, Vimeo Pro, HERE Drive and HERE Maps. You also get some productivity apps like Microsoft Office and Adidas MiCoach. We also have to mention Nokia’s new folder system and it’s not what you’d typically expect. Rather than making it a part of the Lumia Black update, you need to download an app called ‘App Folders’ from the Windows Phone Store. You then create new folders from the app and select which apps you wish to place in them. You can then pin the folder to the home screen. The process is highly convoluted and time consuming. Whatever happened to dragging an app over another to create a folder?
The Black update hasn’t brought any changes to media playback so the experience is pretty much the same. The extra-large screen is great for watching video though. Colours are punchy and viewing angles are very good. The same goes for the audio quality through the speakers and earphones. Format support is still a bit limited though so you’ll need to convert your movies to MP4 before you transfer them. There’s also FM Radio to keep you company when local music is unavailable.
The 1520 supports LTE and 3G bands along with Wi-Fi ‘ac’, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC, A-GPS and GLONASS. The phone is well catered for in this respect although we don’t understand why Nokia chose a nano-SIM instead of a regular micro-SIM. I mean, it’s not like they were hard pressed for room in the phone. This just makes temporarily switching back from the Lumia 1520 to another handset a pain. Qi wireless charging is also in-built.
The huge screen real estate is great for browsing the web and even heavy websites are rendered quickly. The 1520 also has excellent noise cancellation which means you can have a conversation even in a noisy place without any interruption to you or the caller. The speaker volume is not too bad either for calls.
The default camera app is now Pro Camera and you can get to it by simply holding down the shutter release button. You can choose between only 5MP and a combo of 5MP and 15MP when shooting. The app is the same as before, just devoid of any lag or sluggishness this time. You can switch between different operating modes as well or what Nokia likes to call – Lenses. The 20MP sensor captures insanely detailed images when you’re steady but move a little and you end up with a slightly blurry shot. The camera takes some time to focus and finally capture the image. It’s not as fast as some of the shooters we’ve seen from HTC and Samsung. Video recording maxes out at 1080p and thanks to the image stabilisation algorithms, the video lacks any real stutter.
Battery life on the 1520 is quite impressive and why shouldn’t it be when you have a 3400mAh battery inside. We sailed through our 8-hour loop test with ease, with about 49 percent battery to spare. This means, you can easily go two full days without having to charge the phone. Mind you, using the camera and playing games will eat the battery a lot faster. The phone gets warm around the camera area but overall, it doesn’t really heat up that much when in use.
Price in India and Verdict
You can find the Nokia Lumia 1520 for about Rs 45,000 in the online and retail market, which makes it most expensive Lumia currently available. It’s tough to choose between this and the Lumia 1020 as both are equally good when it comes to the display quality and the camera department. The Lumia 1520 is better spec’ed however; the higher resolution display, Wi-Fi ‘ac’ and larger battery are tough to ignore. The Lumia 1020 is a better pick if you want a more manageable phone, higher megapixel count and Xenon flash for photography; else the Lumia 1520 is the way to go. It’s the best Windows Phone 8 device Nokia has produced to date and if you’re a hardened fan without a budget, go for it.
Personally, I’d recommend neither the 1520 nor the 1020 at their current price point, as they are too expensive when you consider what the competition has to offer. If you only look at a specific aspect, like imaging for instance, then these phones are easily the best in the market. But as an overall package, the Android offerings are simply better. I hate to bring this up again but you simply can’t ignore the fact that Windows Phone apps still have a lot of catching up to do, compared to Android and iOS. That’s not to say there aren’t good apps, just not enough.
To sum up, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is the best Nokia smartphone in the market right now and if you’re into ‘phablets’, then this is easily one of the best out there. It has great aesthetics, a solid spec sheet and some very cool apps from Nokia. Now, if we could only have a Lumia 1520 ‘Mini’ for the rest of us with regular sized hands; that would be splendid.