Nokia Lumia 1520, 1320, and 2520: Hands-on preview

They're shiny, that's for sure. Nokia's freshly revealed Lumia 1520 phablet and 2520 tablet are great big Microsoft-powered Jolly Ranchers, with their glossy colours and enamel-like finish. They stand out. Will they make you jolly, though? I spent an hour with the phablet, the tablet, and Nokia executive Ifi Majid to try to suss them out – plus I got a quick look at the Lumia 1320, too.

The Nokia Lumia 1520: Big and different

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The 6in, 1920 x 1080 Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet is a one-handed device – if you're a professional basketball player. I was able to curl my fingers just barely around the edge. It's surprisingly flat, and has that candy-coloured finish, like a Smeg fridge or a Ferrari. You won't mistake it for anything else in a sea of Samsung Galaxy Notes.

Two things stand out here: The camera and the OS. The Lumia 1520 (pictured above) has a 20.7-megapixel camera on the back, which makes it the most camera-centric phablet on the market. The camera does the Nokia Lumia 1020's pixel-binning trick and its lossless digital zoom trick, albeit with less to work with. It defaults to a 5-megapixel mode, which combines four pixels into one rather than the 1020's seven-to-one ratio, and it can do 2x lossless zoom rather than the 1020's 3x.

The 1520 also has a new camera app which – thank goodness – combines Nokia's Smart Camera and Pro Camera apps, giving you plenty of manual options and a lot less confusion. The new app is coming to the 1020 as well, although Majid didn't say when. Majid also showed me "Refocus," a neat new Nokia app that fakes a Lytro effect, blurring out parts of an image you don't want to focus on.

And, of course, there's the OS. A 6in phablet running Windows Phone has a lot of tiles. A lot of tiles. But it also has Microsoft Office, and it doesn't look just like every other phone on the market, which is a problem with devices like the HTC One Max.

There's a profound level on which I don't get the appeal of these 6in “tweener” gadgets, but I understand many people do. To shoehorn myself into that mind-set, the 1520 is the second-most appealing phablet after the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Samsung's S Pen is a Dirk Diggler-level special thing for its phablet – it gives the device a clear reason, a need, for that bigger screen. But there's something really emotionally appealing about Nokia's crazy confectionary finish. You know what would really close the deal here? A keyboard case.

The Lumia 1520 will come in yellow, red, white and black, and it'll cost $749 (£460) unlocked over in the US.

The Nokia Lumia 2520: Shiny but doomed

That brings us to the Nokia 2520, a 10in, Snapdragon 800-powered Windows RT tablet with a 6.7-megapixel camera on the back, a beautiful screen, and a death wish.

The Nokia 2520 isn't just a Surface dressed as a Lamborghini. For one thing, it'll only be sold with LTE. Its $149 (£90) wraparound case is even more thoughtful, and even more interesting than the Surface's snap-on keyboard. Not only does this case unfold into a keyboard, but it has two USB ports on the back, and it folds up into a tablet protector. It's the best tablet keyboard case I've seen yet.

The 2520's screen is brighter than the Surface's, at 650 nits to the Surface's 500, and it's relatively non reflective for decent outside view-ability. It has dual bottom-mounted, front-facing speakers and a USB 3.0 port on the side. It's priced at $499 in the US (£310, but we can expect it to weigh in at more like the £400 mark, of course). Many things about it don't suck.

I spent a little while with the 2520, admiring its shiny form and flicking through the Windows 8.1 interface. It was fast enough with the built-in apps, and Microsoft Outlook feels refreshingly like Microsoft Outlook. The keys on the keyboard case are clicky enough, although I was repeatedly annoyed by the non-clickiness of the touchpad.

Majid pointed out that Apple hasn't had the same confusion between iPad and Mac apps, but the answer there is simple: The terms "iPad" and "Mac" aren't the same word. Microsoft decided to pretend that two things that are incompatible are compatible, and it's paying the price in near-zero sales of Windows RT tablets.

The Nokia Lumia 1320: Nokia’s Galaxy Mega

Along with the two flagship devices, Nokia showed me a non-functioning sample of the company's "low cost" phablet, the Lumia 1320.

The 1320 is about the same size as the 1520, but it has more rounded corners. The one I checked out was a crazy matte chartreuse colour; Nokia's yellow seemed to take on a bit of a greenish tinge when done with the matte finish. It's not a wallflower.

The 1320 is really “moar” rather than more; it has a 1280 x 720 screen, a 5-megapixel camera, and a dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm MSM8930 processor, which are all the specs of a good midrange smartphone. Except that this thing has a 6in screen.

At $339 (£210) unlocked over in the States, this competes with the Samsung Galaxy Mega. It's really for people who want big above all else. They can get the same features in a device with a 4.5in or 5in screen. They just want one that's… big.

That said, the 1320 still appeals to me more than the RT tablet does. It's clear what runs on Windows Phone and what doesn't. That isn't clear when it comes to RT. All of these things should have keyboards. The 1320 could be Nokia's netbook, bringing brightly-coloured pocket computing to the world.

All three devices should launch in the fourth quarter of this year.