Nokia Lumia 1520 Review

Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia

October, 2013
6.0" display, Snapdragon 800 chipset, 20 MP primary camera, 1.2 MP front camera, 3400 mAh battery, 32 GB storage, 2 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 2.
EUR:€350
Rate It:User Rating: (Outstanding)


Nokia Lumia 1520 Review

Nokia Lumia 1520 Review


Introduction

The Lumia 1520 can be labeled as yet another Lumia device, although better in size and processing power. The ability to select custom apps as well as the advanced imaging, for Nokia, are the key points that Nokia is hoping will give the Android counterparts a stiff test. Also, the addition of the Snapdragon 800 as the chipset will provide the device additional firepower to cover the weak area of processing power. For recent Nokia users of Windows Phone, this should be music to the ears.

Recently, the Nokia sellout to Microsoft was in the headlines, and it again raised the debate of what if Nokia had gone with Android instead of Windows Mobile. The launch of this device, the 1520, may very well fuel the debate, with Nokia entering the mainly Android territory of phablets, with a bang. The device is set to feature as one of the better devices among some of the biggest phablets at this time. With its 1080p display, the PureView camera, and the quad-core Snapdragon 800, the device has made quite an entrance.

The device supports Full HD display as well as the quad-core Krait processor. Nokia also toyed around the idea of using the size and resolution to better purpose with the addition of an extra column of contents throughout the device interface.

Lumia 1520 is just the perfect device to be launched by Nokia, though launching this device some months ago would have put Nokia well in the game of smartphones and phablets, since for us, this might be the finest device put up by Nokia in recent times.

Unboxing the Nokia Lumia 1520

While unboxing the Nokia Lumia 1520, you will get everything inside the retail box that you need to get started with this phone.

  • Nokia Lumia 1520 device
  • Charger
  • MicroUSB cable connector for charging / data transfer
  • Headset
  • SIM ejector tool

Display

The display on the large sized 6 inch screen has a 1080p resolution, incorporating the ClearBlack tech from Nokia, which is actually a set of filters designed to reduce glare this lessens the reflectivity, however the combined reduction in brightness does affect visibility outdoors. The device stands on 367 ppi with Gorilla Glass 2 as the covering for protection. The capacitive sensors on the display has the super sensitive touch tech incorporated, which can detect touch through gloves also, always beneficial for chilly locations.

The 1520 has added an interesting feature labeled the Color Profile, which provides two sliders to adjust color settings one slider is used for the color temperature, while the other is used for color saturation. Users can easily adjust the screen display settings, which makes it all the more interactive in terms of device usage, rather than being stuck with a particular temperature / saturation combo, or simply having a couple of options to play around with.

The Nokia Glance screen is present on the device, and controls the lock screen visibility, controlling the time and notifications being displayed when the screen is locked. There is a dedicated option related to charging, and the display colors can even be changed for Night mode.

Nokia has also added the screen rotation lock to the phablet – though, this option is only available in Settings, which means users leaving the open app to toggle the setting this seems to be a common hassle for all settings on Windows Phones, which is a nuisance in its own.

The display is very sharp, and classy – as the display size is too large, the pixel density drops to under 400 ppi, but the pixel per inch provided with the device is still way better than a lot of devices. Also, the viewing angles on the device are pretty wide, with a minor shift present, but that also on extremes. The overall contrast is pretty good, considering the black levels are not as good as the AMOLED, but still, the rendering of colors is pretty good and the tweaking ability of the white balance and the saturation as per user satisfaction is an added advantage.

Design

The design of the Lumia series is more or less similar in all devices, with a few minor alterations. The case is the same with Lumia 1520 as well – much similar to the 925 and 1020, the device has curved top and bottom edges, rather than the flat edges of the 1020 other than that, the bevel-sided rectangular look is the classic Lumia design of late.

Phablets of late have been pushing the size boundaries to the limit when it comes to comfy handling and one-handed usage of devices compared to slightly larger designs that are more appealing to users – however, the Lumia 1520 has not tried to step in this direction, comfortably in the normal range, standing at 6 inches, while there are competitors out there larger than the device, like the 6.3 inches Galaxy Mega among others. However, the device lacks the one-handed supported interface that is being increasingly used in Android based phablets, so that is an area Microsoft might consider working on.

The phablet has the Back, Home and Search button design, similar to the other phablets in the market. Just above the screen resides the 1.2 MP, 720p front facer, along with a wide array of sensors, with almost the entire front of the device covered in Gorilla Glass, including the buttons and front camera. The remaining layout is almost the same – buttons on the right side of the device, with the volume rocker, on to the power key and then the shutter key at the bottom of the side. The left side though, contains the SIM card and microSD card slots, both requiring the assistance of the SIM ejector tool. Even though the ejector tool can be a minor hassle, it is comforting to see Nokia catering to the expandable storage requirements of people. The bottom of the device has the microUSB port, while the 3.5 mm audio jack resides on the top side.

However, the most that the device has been talked about is the camera, the 20 MP snapper with the ZEISS lens and OIS. As an upgrade to the 1020 snappers, the sensor being adjusted to a smaller size resulting in a drastic reduction in the camera hump at the back. As a downside though, the xenon flash has been replaced with a dual-LED flash, and combined with the optical image stabilization, they do make for pretty good low light shooting. The Lumia 1520 also has a remarkable 4 microphones, two at the back, top and bottom, and two at the front, top and bottom. These 4 include the Nokia’s propriety HDR tech and Bass filters, even allowing for surround sound suppression during recording.

The Lumia 1520 on the first look gives an impression of an enlarged Lumia 1020, with the same build and design but sans the camera bulge. The unibody design is all the more impressive at this size as well. For a notification center and file manager, we hope Microsoft will incorporate both in the 8.1 version update, though somehow we are not too sure on that.

User Interface & Operating System

The Lumia 1520 comes with the GDR3 update, which, along with a bunch of features, also has support for the Snapdragon 800 chipset and the 1080p screen. Nokia has tried to keep its strategy of familiarity intact with this device appearing as similar as possible to other Lumia devices. Of course the screen size enables for more tiles to be displayed on the screen, but we would not consider that one of the features.

Lumia 1520 has the regular lock screen, with notifications and clock, and pushing the volume button up or down brings up the music controls and sound switch options, while swiping the screen unlocks it, while clicking the camera button unlocks and opens the camera app directly.

Apps can be allowed to display statuses on the lock screen (one app for detailed status and up to five apps can display summary status). The wallpaper on the lockscreen can also be managed by some apps users can allow the phone to change the lockscreen to put the album art as wallpaper during music player play, or any image from Bing or Facebook. The tile grid is the same as the generic Lumia display, and the tiles can be rearranged and resized as well, while the apps list is displayed vertically, in an alphabetical list.

A majority of Live tiles display current state, like notifications, updates, calendar events, missed calls or messages and such, while the Pictures tile works like a slideshow of images, which makes for a one-glance consolidated information.

The Windows Phone 8 has the ability to multitask – almost. The apps not in the foreground can get suspended, but the OS takes over and continues their work, for example, playing music. Also, apps that are required to be awake in background can also stay alive in the background. In essence, both types of multitasking are present, and based on the app type any one can be adopted.

Switching between apps is also simple holding the Back key displays the open apps, and user can select any other app to move to that app directly. As per the recent GDR3 update, to kill an app, the user can click on the cross button (‘X’) which appears on the top left corner of every recent app. This may take some getting used to for some new users.

The settings are divided into two, the system settings and the application settings. The system settings have all system related settings like color theme, accounts, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, sounds as well as the new screen rotate lock feature, etc. while the application settings allow configuration of all apps present on the device. It was a slight let down to see that the user has to navigate to the system settings to enable the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and others. Also, the tile size is too small for complete notifications to be displayed, and a notification area would have much improved the user experience.

The Data Sense app maintains information about the data usage, both cellular and Wi-Fi. The app informs data usage in different ranges, and can even restrict background data usage. Once a Bluetooth device is connected, the Driving Mode can be enabled on the device also, which keeps only the phone and text notifications on and turns all the remaining off (this is by default – calls and texts notifications can also be turned off manually).

The Kid’s corner is also present on the device, using which the users can select apps and media content they think is safe for view by children, and can password protect the section. Whenever the device is to be used by kids, the user can enter the section and then hand over his device to kids. The section can only be exited once the password is re-entered for exit. On this basis, the device, especially settings section will not be disturbed while the device is in the hands of kids.

The Windows Phone 8 version of Siri and Google Assistant, the Windows Assistant, is also available with the basic features like dictation, read aloud, and search among others however, it still is way behind the competition especially regarding recognition and accuracy.

The phone book of the Lumia 1520 is the same great experience as it has been arrangement of contacts with a tiled search option available still is very attractive, and the what’s new, photos, history and albums options fetching information regarding the contact from their social media is a regular information source.

Groups is an intelligent way of contacts organization, containing status updates from all contacts in the group appearing in one place, as well as access to albums. Rooms meanwhile, is sort of a private chat room / social network, allowing group chats, as well as the ability to share private calendars, notes, videos and photos. Even users using Windows Phone 7 or iOS devices can join, though they will be limited to only the calendar sharing.

The call log and dialer are standard Lumia issue, however, the speaker was only average as per competitors. It is amazing to see how many recent devices are ignoring this area.

The messaging is also similar to the Lumia standard, with threads and their management. Threads include Facebook and Windows Live messages to the SMS threads as well. The online tab displays the online users, with the most recent conversation being on top.

The gallery displays images in default albums, all the images, people wise, or arranged date wise however, arranging images into albums is not possible. All images of Facebook friends can be viewed in another tab, while images marked as favorite can be viewed in a different tab also. Images can be shared via NFC, Bluetooth, messaging, email, Facebook and SkyDrive.

Nokia is again promoting its Mix Radio service, as has been seen with recent releases of Lumia devices. The service allows free music streaming, with a vast gallery of records as well as videos. Though the records are streaming only, they stay in the Mix Radio temporarily. The service is striving to compete with mainstream services like Pandora, and users can enter a list of their favorite artists and a playlist is created automatically. This improves the likeability chances of playlists, instead of completely automatically generated playlists. If the users do not like the compiled play lists, they can always browse artists, and can purchase specific songs as well. There are multiple charts available too, for selection. In addition, the equalizer option, with its large arsenal of presets as well as Dolby Headphones related enhancements, as well as searching artist gigs near users’ locations is also a big plus.

An FM is also present on board. The device has an average audio quality, which is saying that the device could have done much better. However, it ranks as one of the phablets with a better sound quality, and the above average volume levels. However, donning headphones reveals the crosstalk and distortion, and while the readings remain good, they are not that great either.

The Windows Phone Store is also a growing market place, with apps being added regularly. However, it will not be catching up to the Apple Store or Google Play any time soon. However, most of the apps available are present for Windows Phone 8 as well. The store is segmented into applications, games and music (an update tab becomes visible in case any installed app has an update available).

All the segments, the applications, games and music are displayed in the similar manner. There is a featured section, where recommend apps are available, then a list of recent releases, and then onwards to the remaining apps. Nokia App Recommendations is also very helpful in getting the best app as per the requirement.

Games can be played live also, with the Games tile option (previously the Xbox Live). The games are sorted collection wise, and have the option to view the friends, their achievements and avatars, etc.

The Drive+ navigation suite comes free out of the box with the device, since the device is a higher end Lumia. The coverage is global, and being available offline means no constant connectivity is required. The HERE Drive+ provides voice guided navigation, once a voice is downloaded in the language of choice. Different routes, with tweaks like fastest, economical, shortest can be selected, as well as selection or avoiding motorways etc. Icons are available to show the settings. A recent addition allows viewing the traffic conditions in different areas and speed alerts too, though this feature requires connectivity. The Drive+ provides options to switch between 2D and 3D, and has color schemes as well. However, the absence of the option to set start point other than the current location, or downloading maps for an entire continent is what we miss.

Nokia Maps has details about locations, reviews, and guides as well as photos of locations. It may be the ideal source when exploring a city. It also has walking, public transport, as well as driving navigation. Data is shared with Drive, so maps are not need to be downloaded twice. The Local Scout and City Lens features, added recently to the Maps app in Places are also present with this device. This option lists shops, restaurants, galleries and others nearby, and has a very cool AR view via camera called LiveSight. The display shows virtual signs near landmarks, which when tapped, display information regarding the place, as well as directions to it.

The default browser in Lumia 1520 is the Microsoft made Internet Explorer, the standard version on Windows Phone 8. The layout is the same as other Lumia devices, with the extended settings menu also present. Users can set their default search provider, tabbed browsing options, favorites, history, among others. An interesting option is the Share option, using which, in addition to the normal sharing options, you can share with your Xbox, which allows browsing display on the TV.

The Data Sense keeps track of the data used per app, as well as allowing data compression before sending to browser, which is what Opera’s Turbo does as well. The Bing Search app has been enhanced as well – the default search, with classy background images, and the translucent squares, clicking which provides interesting information – has additional options, like song recognition, providing song and artist name, and option to go to music store to buy the record, as well as a camera scanner, which takes a picture of text, apply OCR on it, and translate the text to a different selected language.

The device has one of the best document viewer / editor in the market, Microsoft Office, with the additional option of integration with SkyDrive present. Docs are automatically synchronized between the device and computer via SkyDrive. The Places tab is the app allows browsing documents on the phone, SkyDrive, email or in Office 365. Editing is pretty simple, and the size of the phablet helps immensely due to the large screen. Even SharePoint collaboration is present for Word and Excel files. However, PowerPoint is present only in a view mode, not editing.

OneNote, the note taking tool from Office, is also present, with its multi-level list support, the ability to include voice memos and photos to notes, and to send notes through email, as well as the ability to sync with Windows Live or SkyDrive, an option to pin to home screen, to add an item to the To-Do list, and to mark items as done also.

In the calendar, there is an option to view sub-calendars (calendars for every account present, and these can be color-coded as well), also the sub-calendar option can be disabled if it is becoming a hassle. The calendar can be viewed on an hour-to-hour basis as well. To-do items can also be created, priority set, due date and notes added, and synchronized with the Live account. The calculator is the same consistent one present in previous Lumia versions, while the alarm app is also consistent to the Lumia structure, with repeated alarm option, multiple alarms, sound and repeat option for each alarm.

As dedicated Lumia apps, Zinio is a reading list based app, which can create interests based reading lists and download items for offline reading as well. The app also acts as a marketplace for magazines, and also is capable of subscriptions for annual plans. Another app is the Creative Studio, which allows users to play around with images. The list of features include the ability to focus on one object and blur the rest of the picture, apply color to one object with the rest of the image changed to monochrome, collage options, as well as the generic options like brightness, rotation, cropping, color balancing etc. are also present.

Camera

The PureView camera always has a lot of expectations associated with it, so when news floated regarding the sensor reduction, the speculation and skepticism started piling up – going up twofold after it was said that the camera is sans the xenon flash. How the camera actually fared, read through to find out.

The sensor of the Lumia 1520 has the surface area one third the size of the Lumia 1020 sensor, and 15% smaller than the Xperia Z1 sensor, with the imager almost double the size of its competition. The ZEISS lens also have a relatively narrower aperture, however, the photos are really good – the detail and contrast, and even with some luminance, it is all good. Similar to the other PureView cameras, the tiniest bit of detail, missed by lower-res cameras are also captured. The color reproduction on the camera is closer to the 808 PureView, with more focus on natural colors, with the occasional off-white balance, rather than the 1020 color saturation, and the natural suits us much better. Also, with the large viewfinder, it is easy to detect the off-white balance and adjust the shots accordingly. The presence of the optic image stabilization is reassuring on the device as well.

On a positive note, the dynamic range of the camera, handling the light and darkness together in shots is way better than most devices in the market. Also, the Nokia Camera app (a successor to the Nokia Pro Camera), a new app that compliments the PureView snapper and allows users to tweak around with the camera settings, and while some people may think it too much, Nokia has made the app simple enough for most people to be able to play around with. The app supports management of flash, ISO, focus, white balance, exposure compensation and shutter speed.

Nokia has also worked on the image saving complaints that were popular for the 1020, to the point of bringing them to the acceptable time range.

The camera has the added advantage of taking two snaps at a time, one in full res (19 MP or 16MP based on aspect ratio selected), and the other in 5 MP, which is commonly used for sharing. The camera can also shoot in RAW mode (the digital negative mode), and while images are four times larger in size memory wise (20 MB as compared to 4 MB 19MP snaps or 1 MB 5MP snap), this mode is becoming popular in photo enthusiasts, and captures more details than the generic JPEG format snaps.

For the 5 MP shots, the ones that most will be using to post on social networking sites or sending via email, we can comfortably say they are by far the best 5 MP shots that we have seen – almost no noise, and pixelated detail is great. The only downside that we could find was that the white balance has to be catered to while taking the shot, or manually tweaked out of the image. Also, the lossless zooming allows for the shots to have the same level of sharpness, detail and colors while being closer to the target.

In the dark, without the flash, the shots are still pretty detailed, with a lot of fine detail that may be missed by most competitors, though with some luminance noise – the result improves slightly due to noise reduction in the 5MP shots. For the shots requiring the flash to compare the xenon versus the dual LED flash, we expected the 1020 xenon flash shots to completely outperform – the results, to our surprise, were very similar. Though the xenon is still better than the dual-LED, the dual-LED also performed at a very nice level.

The device also has the Smart Camera Suite, which allows photo editing and effects from within the camera interface – it even allows the usage of a removal tool to remove moving objects, change faces of those in photo, and selection of the best shot from a group of shots. A group of shots can be taken, which is actually a short burst of 10 photos.

The shots like burst, action shot, motion focus, panorama, cinema graph, as well as a number of new lenses like the hugely talked about Refocus lens are all present on the device. The Refocus lens takes several images of the target at different focus points and users can then change the image focus in an interactive manner at a later time too.

Video capture on the Lumia 1520 has the added benefit of oversampling and Optic Image Stabilization, as well as zoom enabled during recording which can go up to 3 times in the 1080p mode. The 1080p mode has 30fps, while the 720p can also capture at 30fps, as well as 24fps and 25fps. However, 60fps mode is not available on the device. The OIS makes the camera movements look professional, and reduces shakiness. The reduced panning provides a classy viewing.

For better sound, Nokia has four mics, as already mentioned, which record 256kbps stereo sound at 48 kHz, along with Rich Audio Recording for distortion removal and Audio Bass Filter to remove low frequency noises.

However, while the snapper is way above the competition, the video capturing is just average – even with the enhanced sound recording, the video capture on the Galaxy Note 3 is better. The 4K absence, which is the next big thing, also does not help.

Connectivity

The device has GPRS/GSM/EDGE, quad-band 3G with HSPA at 42 Mbps down and 5.76 Mbps uplink, and 4G LTE which has 150Mbps down and 50Mbps uplink.

The local connectivity is present via Wi-Fi, DLNA, hotspot, and stereo Bluetooth 4.0, which also supports file transfers now. The NFC is also present, allowing file transfer to devices of different brands and platforms like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The Wallet app also supports NFC. NFC works with accessories as well, like NFC enabled speakers.

A Mass Storage mode is present for internal phone storage, allowing file transfer to computers without any software requirement. Also, there is no structural requirement as to where a file needs to be stored if there is an app installed that uses the file type, the file will be fetched. The unrecognizable files though, can only be accessed with a computer due to the absence of a file management application. This is also a reason why zip of rar files cannot be emailed, since they cannot be recognized.

Also, in addition to the phone storage, a minimal 7GB SkyDrive space also gets allocated for file storage on the cloud, which increases file accessibility without overloading the device too much.

Battery Life

The Lumia 1520 has a very capable 3,400mAh battery, that, although non-removable, gives no reason to doubt its performance. Wireless charging is also available for the device, which is fairly new, however, the absence of the a wireless charger with the device package makes it the user’s responsibility to purchase the device – thankfully they are more common in the market now, so there is no serious cause of concern, other than irritation that Nokia would not include it in the device package.

The massive battery size, along with the Windows Phone OS capabilities of video playback and the efficient power consumption on display by the device are on display with the battery test giving out very good scores, with the 107 hours endurance rating on the top. The talk time is also above the 28 hour timeline, and the web browsing and video playback are also close to 13 hours.

The device is way ahead of the competition, and the battery can cover more than 4 days, rather, close to 5, depending on the usage timeline.

Disadvantages

The Lumia 1520 will face strict competition and scrutiny from the market when pitted against formidable competition from market, with some key factors listed below:

  • Fixed battery
  • App catalog is way behind that of iOS and Android
  • System wide file management ability is lacking
  • Average sunlight legibility hampers outdoors usage
  • No option to lock the screen

Should I Have to Buy the Nokia Lumia 1520?

The Lumia 1520 is the first phablet from Nokia, and the jump from phone to phablet seems to have suited Nokia, since the evolutionary leap that Windows Phone has taken with this device, both in terms of software and the hardware to the next level as far as Nokia is concerned.

The device, similar to at least a couple of Lumia smartphones, is expected to perform very well in the market. Even though the Windows Phone OS is a distant third in the smartphone OS list with a very depleted app and game list to account for, it does have a giant like Microsoft backing it, and with its experience at value addition, it is becoming more common than earlier.

It definitely seems that Microsoft and Nokia are starting to become a better fit together, with the life-time voice guided navigation license, the imaging expertise using the 20 MP shooter, Nokia Music, along with the Microsoft Office, Xbox and SkyDrive integration. In addition to all this, when you add up the Snapdragon 800 in the driver’s seat, the device can work up some speed and power that is easy to compete with the best in the division, with the likes of Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the HTC One Max and Xperia Z Ultra among others.

Whatever may be said of the device, it will not mean that Nokia has taken over the division, or that Nokia has missed – it will mean that Nokia has finally presented a device that has the potential to start the turnaround, with a lot more interest being taken as compared to its mainstream Lumia devices. It definitely makes us wonder what could have been for Nokia, especially considering the challenge Nokia has put forward to phablets with this device.