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Nokia Lumia 1520 hands-on review

Finnish firm's debut phablet makes a good first impression
Tue Oct 22 2013, 13:28

ABU DHABI: FINNISH PHONE MAKER Nokia's Lumia 1520 is a departure from Lumia devices of old.

Featuring a 6in HD 1080p display, the Lumia 1520 is both the largest and highest resolution Nokia Lumia devices to date, and it sees the Finnish phone maker looking to challenge Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 and the HTC One Max in the phablet arena.

Of course, unlike Samsung's and HTC's respective devices, the Nokia Lumia 1520 runs Windows Phone 8 rather than Android, and the news of Instagram's arrival was met with whoops and cheers from the Nokia World crowd. However, Windows Phone is still a far way behind Android and iOS when it comes to apps on offer, so it remains to be seen whether the device will manage to win over those after a large screened smartphone.

Design and build
The Lumia 1520 looks like a typical Nokia device. Set to launch in four different colours - black, white, red and yellow - the handset features a polycarbonate casing similar to that of the Nokia Lumia 920 handset, but at 8.7mm thick the Finnish firm's latest device is substantially thinner.

Nokia Lumia 1520 in red

The design of the handset is head-turning, especially the red model, but much like Nokia's Lumia 2520 tablet, it can be hard to grasp comfortably due to the glossy nature of the plastic, especially in the baking Abu Dhabi heat. However, it's substantially more comfortable to hold than the clunky HTC One Max, and with a weight of 209g it shouldn't be too uncomfortable to use over long periods.

Unlike with most Nokia smartphones, the display is the real talking point. Measuring 6in, the screen on the Lumia 1520 is the largest to grace a Lumia smartphone to date, with the firm's largest smartphone display measuring just 4.7in.

While that might lead some to believe that display quality could be compromised, it's also the first Nokia phone to feature an HD 1080p display, thanks to the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system, with the phone boasting a pixel density of 367ppi, higher than the 326ppi of the iPhone 5S. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the screen looks great, and colours are noticeably more vivid and sharp than on Nokia's previous HD 720p devices.


It's not all about resolution, though. Nokia has also coated the screen with its custom Clearblack technology, which it claims makes for better viewing angles and improved outdoor visibility compared to rival handsets.

We sized up the Lumia 1520's screen against that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, checking it out in a number of lighting situations. The Lumia 1520 outperformed its large screened rival in outdoor visibility, both thanks to Nokia's Clearblack technology and the handset's auto-adjusting screen brightness.

As for size, the screen doesn't feel too big, unlike that of the HTC One Max. Nokia has made good use of the screen space, even giving the Live Tile homescreen an additional column, whereas the large screen on the One Max smartphone felt somewhat unused and unnecessary. The Lumia 1520 could manage to lure business customers too, with Microsoft's Office suite scaling to fit the handset's large display.

Operating system and performance
The Lumia 1520 runs Windows Phone 8, and Nokia has provided the phone with its usual slew of custom applications and features, which puts the phone maker ahead of rival Windows Phone OEMs.

While Windows Phone famously lacks in the app department compared to its iOS and Android competitors, Nokia had some big news at Nokia World - that Instagram and Vine will be coming to the operating system in the coming weeks. This is great news for both Microsoft and customers alike, and we have heard many people say they'd consider switching to Windows Phone were it not for the lack of Instagram. Unfortunately, the photography app is not yet available in the Windows Store so we were unable to test it, but it will likely be ready in time for our full review.

Another new development in the app department is Nokia's new Camera application, which sees the firm merging its previous Pro and Smart camera apps. This makes taking images much easier than on the Nokia Lumia 1020, for example, and with the horde of both professional and automatic features, the phone feels ahead of the competition when it comes to imaging.

Nokia Beamer is another new app, and again sees the Finnish phone maker looking to win over business customers, with the feature allowing users to share their screen with another phone, a Nokia Lumia 2520 or a PC computer. This is coupled with the usual Microsoft Office suite, and there's also 7GB of cloud storage onboard.

So while Windows Phone might still be lacking in the apps department, it is quickly catching up, and Nokia is well ahead of the game when it comes to rival Windows Phone makers.

Nokia has equipped the Lumia 1520 with a decent camera. There's a 20MP sensor on the rear of the phone, which while not quite on a par with the Lumia 1020's chunky 41MP sensor, comes with a dual-LED flash, Carl Zeiss optics and built-in optical image stablisation.

Nokia Lumia 1520 has a 20MP camera

We have yet to test the camera fully, but first impressions are good. Image quality is what you'd expect from a Lumia smartphone, and the host of onboard features means the camera interface is much more advanced, and fun, than that found on rival smartphones.

First impressions
While opening impressions have been fairly positive, there is one downside - the handset will be priced at $749 in the US.

While no UK pricing details have yet been announced, this is a sign that the phone will be expensive, and we can't help but think that Nokia might have priced itself out of the market.

However, for those after a large screened smartphone, the Lumia 1520 is among the best, and outperforms the HTC One Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 when it comes to screen quality. The only major hurdle that buyers have to climb is the fact that the phone runs Windows Phone 8, but with Instagram set to arrive in time for the phone's release, Microsoft likely will win a few new customers. µ


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