Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Super fast processor
  • Solid build quality
  • All mod cons

Cons

  • Large size
  • Lacks OS features to justify 6in screen

Of course, it was always going to happen – other smartphone makers have been busy unleashing oversized handsets onto the market for a while now. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One Max, Sony Xperia Z Ultra, Acer Liquid S1 (and the new Liquid S2 which I’ll be reviewing shortly), and Samsung once more with its Galaxy Mega. Nokia couldn’t be far behind and indeed the Lumia 1520 has been widely publicised.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is an expensive handset at £550, but it has some high-end features to help justify that price. In the end, though, is it just a bit too big for its own good?

Two things will strike you upon your first glance at the Nokia Lumia 1520. One is its screen size, the other is the general look of the build. Let’s examine that latter point first.

Nokia sent me a canary yellow handset, though it is also available in more staid black and white liveries. The colour is pretty much immaterial when you are looking at the front of the handset, though. This isn’t because of a super-slim bezel – there’s a good 12mm of screen bezel top and bottom, and around 3mm on the two long edges. However, the chassis isn’t visible much outside this.

It’s noticeable on the sides of the handset but mostly, of course, on the back, where it extends for what seems like miles in your hands, only broken up by the camera lens which sits in a raised circle. This could have been raised further in my view to allow the lens to be ever so slightly recessed and therefore protected from potential scratches.

For all its vast expanse of size, Nokia has made the Lumia 1520 remarkably thin – just 8.7mm. While that’s not amazing in itself, when compared to the other measurements – 162.8mm tall and 85.4mm wide – it is impressive. Compare it to the Nexus 7 tablet, for example, which is bigger at 198.5 x 120mm, but also massively thicker at 10.45mm. Okay, it can’t match the 7.5mm of the iPad Air, but you do get my point about the thinness.

The chassis is made from the same solid polycarbonate that we’ve seen before across the Lumia range, and it is tough and resilient. It’s a look that immediately marks this handset out as a Lumia. The three side buttons, all ranged along the right edge, are black. One is a camera button, one a volume rocker and the other a screen lock/power button.

The solid design translates into a fairly heavy phone, its 209 grams feeling significant in the hand. It also noticeably weighs down a pocket – if you can find one big enough for it, and on a day-to-day basis I couldn’t. The Nokia Lumia 1520 spent most of its time living in a bag or rucksack, which leads to a very practical problem of having to fish it out from there when it rings. I missed quite a few calls.

So, let’s move on to the screen. This is arguably the reason you’ll want to buy the Nokia Lumia 1520. No other Lumia can match the screen size, and it’s the only Windows Phone-powered phablet you can get.

The screen measures 6in corner to corner and visually it is absolutely superb. Viewing angles are stunning – you can read stuff from pretty much any direction which makes sharing content with other people really easy. The resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels provides plenty of detail, plus you get more tiles on the home screen than is usual, and touch sensitivity is superb, too.

It is arguable that if you need a tablet for writing duties and email, then the screen quality and size makes the Nokia Lumia 1520 potentially a more portable option than a tablet, and thanks to its Microsoft Office integration, it is just as practical. Spreadsheets in particular are a lot easier to work with on here than with smaller screens.

Do bear in mind, though, that the screen size obviously means one-handed use is out of the question. Holding the Lumia 1520 in one hand to read eBooks and flick through screens – that’s fine. Flicking around in general – also fine. But prodding at the screen for any reason generally requires both hands. And there are niggles here – for example, the QWERTY keyboard has not been enhanced to integrate a number row either separately or via a long press, which is very odd.

Inside this Windows Phone 8 handset the specs are top notch. There’s 32GB of built-in storage and 26GB of this was free right out of the box. On the left edge there’s a tray for a microSD card so you can boost this further, and you get 7GB of SkyDrive cloud storage too. The processor is a top of the range quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 running at 2.2GHz. There’s a generous 2GB of RAM in support and it caused me no slow running problems. One thing you might not like is the fact that the Lumia 1520 requires a nanoSIM (just like the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C).

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All Wi-Fi flavours are supported – a, b, g, n and the somewhat rare ac. Bluetooth 4.0 is here and there’s Near Field Communications. You can charge via microUSB or wirelessly, though you don’t get the wireless gubbins provided as standard. Oh, and of course, this is a 4G LTE handset.

The PureView camera shoots at up to 20 megapixels and can capture RAW. It comes with a range of add-on apps designed to increase its potential, including Nokia Storyteller which has a mapping interactive element that helps you find points of interest near a photo’s location.

Photographers will enjoy playing around with this, but if you’re a really keen snapper then the Lumia 1020 camera has better general specs and may suit you more. As a general point, I find that that the apps and “lenses” concept makes photography more tedious than a simple point and shoot system with every option integrated into the one app.

Nokia’s freebie apps continue to grow in number, and among the range pre-installed is HERE Maps for finding out what’s near you, HERE Drive for when you need satnav features, and Nokia Music for streamed tunes (which is still a favourite of mine). Nokia Screen Beamer is a real smart affair – run the app, visit beam.nokia.com on another device, scan the QR code that pops up and you can shake the Lumia to send whatever is on screen to the other device.

Despite the strides that have been made with the Windows Phone app store, it remains a way behind Android and iOS, and I’d still say that if you are an apps fan then Windows Phone should not be your first choice. If you’re interested in this handset then battery life will also be an important point to consider. The 3,400mAh battery is probably enough to keep you going for a day if your usage pattern doesn’t include lots of music listening or gaming, or using the camera a lot. But as ever, a teatime boost might be useful.

Verdict

Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and the Nokia Lumia 1520 proves this to some extent, although there are certainly many positive aspects here. This phablet has an excellent display, slick performance, and offers Microsoft Office integration on a potentially more portable option than a small tablet.

However, there's no getting away from the fact that this is still a Windows Phone handset. The Lumia 1520 doesn’t make the best use of that 6in screen, because it doesn't have the kind of extras we see in other big-screened handsets such as pop-up apps or stylus support to enhance what the OS offers natively, and here it falls down.

If you are drawn by the camera then take a look at the Lumia 1020, which has a better snapper. And if you must have a supersized screen, then I’d suggest looking at one of the Android based options for comparison. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, with its superior pen-based input, would be one direction in which to cast your gaze, as would the other large-screened Android phones I mentioned right at the start of this review.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Nokia Lumia 1520

Network

4G LTE

Processor

2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800

Ram

2GB

Memory

32GB

Memory expansion

microSD

Display

6in, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Main camera

20 megapixel

Front camera

1,280 x 960 pixels

NFC

Yes

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

3,400mAh

Size

85.4 x 8.7 x 162.8mm (WxDxH)

Weight

209g

OS

Windows Phone 8