During the course of 2013, Nokia and Windows Phone saw the biggest increase year on year. While still being some way off the top of the charts, it shows that both OS and OEM are moving in the right direction. In conjunction with their Asha range, Nokia still remains one of the leading brands in South Africa in the mobile space. With the (international) release of the Nokia Lumia 1520 last October, there was fresh excitement, especially considering the positive reviews in regards to the Lumia 1020 and its 41MP PureView camera. The 1520, too, packs the same PureView technology, in the form of a 20MP sensor. We take a closer look at what the Lumia 1520 has to offer.
Design and Build
There’s no denying that the 1520 is a Lumia smartphone, the same basic shape has been maintained ever since the release of the Lumia 800 back in October 2011. While the design has changed slightly, it is still made from the same unibody polycarbonate plastic. Just like many of the other Lumia devices, the 1520 is extremely glossy, which looks very pleasing to the eye. The issue with this on the Lumia 1520 is the fact that you’re dealing with a 6” screen, measuring 162.8×85.4×8.7mm. The device isn’t uncomfortable to hold or use, but does offer a few nervous moments and a constant fear that you may drop the device at some point. Because the 6” screen won’t fit many front pockets, there’s a tendency to want to put the 1520 in your back pocket. I would strongly advise against doing so, as the glossy finish makes for an easy slip out the rear.
[The red and yellow variants have a glossy finish, while the black and white variants have a more matte finish]
The build quality remains solid, an added bonus for such a large device. The positioning of many of the ports and buttons remain unchanged from the 1020, apart from a few small changes. The speaker has been moved from the below the device to the bottom rear. This provides an improvement of sound when using the loudspeaker, reducing the feedback observed on the 1020. The 1520 has a curved finish all around the device making it easier for normal use. As mentioned previously, the 1520 is extremely glossy. Combined with the curved edges, snapping up a few photos poses a bit more of a challenge than your conventional usage. In comparison to similar sized phablets, the 1520 weighs in at 209g, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One Max, and Sony Xperia Z Ultra weigh 168g, 217g, and 212g, respectively.
There are quite a number of full HD displays that have popped in the market over the past few months, and it’s the norm amongst flagship smartphones for almost every OEM. While this may be the case, this is the first time a Windows Phone device has featured a full 1080p display, the first for Nokia as well. This is perfect for the 1520’s 6” display, which now has a 1920x1080px resolution, with 367 pixel density. The screen is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 2, which is actually a downgrade from the 1020’s Gorilla Glass 3. Nokia Lumia’s have featured ClearBlack IPS LCD screens in recent times, and the 1520 is no different. It may not have the high pixel density of some of the industry leader, but it still provides great visuals, and vibrant and bright colours to match. Where the Lumia devices stand out from many of the other smartphones available, is that if you’re not happy with the current colour palette, you can always just head over to the settings and adjust it, allowing users to choose better warm or cool colours, based on temperature and saturation. The touchscreen also allows usage even when wearing gloves, something that has been seen through most of the Lumia line, and many other OEMs only now starting to include as standard.
The Lumia 1020 made some progress in moving toward the other modern smartphones in terms of overall specifications. For the Lumia 1520, however, Nokia has not cut corners in any respect; this time around being able to compete, at a hardware specifications level, against some of the best in the business. Not that the worth of any smartphone is solely based on specs alone, packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC with a 2.2GHz Quad-core CPU and Adreno 330 GPU only makes the device more desirable. The 1520 also offers LTE, 32GB internal storage (16GB on the South African variant), 2GB RAM, 20MP PureView camera (more on that later), and an impressive, non-removable, 3400mAh battery, the largest among the big three mentioned previously.
These specs mean that the Lumia 1520 is quite fast, and during the two weeks of review, I did not experience a single moment of lag, even within the few games available on the Windows Store to fully utilise its performance. With the inclusion of the 6”, 1080p display, watching movies and playing games look great. The added performance in the specs doesn’t dramatically increase performance over other Lumia smartphones, the Windows Phone OS already been quite light on resources. The best use for the added performance lies in gaming, and slightly better processing when using the camera.
The Lumia 1520 is all about balance; an equal amount of allure between the display, performance, battery power and the camera. The 1520 sports a smaller sensor compared to the 1020, 20MP vs. 41MP to be exact. Nokia has also removed the Xenon flash and replaced it with a dual-LED flash. While this may deter many enthusiasts, the 1520 includes the same PureView technology, which still provides excellent imagery during snaps, allowing users to control white balance, ISO, shutter speed, focus and flash settings via the Nokia Pro Camera app. And as with the 1020, the 1520 takes two images every time you hit the dedicated camera button; one 19MP hi-res image for later use, and one 5MP image for quick view.
While the camera also offers Burst Mode, Action Shot, Motion Focus, and the likes, it isn’t available in the Pro Camera app, but can be accessed using the Nokia Smart Camera app. The app also allows users to change the focus of the image after it has been taken. Nokia has also introduced a new “smart sequence” feature to the camera app. This feature takes a series of quick photos, which then allows the user to combine the images in various ways, including choosing different faces for group photos when certain individuals have their eyes closed.
With such a powerful kit beneath the hood, and a screen for viewing pleasure, users would want to make the most of their newly acquired Lumia 1520. Unfortunately, while the Store does continue to grow, there aren’t as many A-level games available to put the device through its paces, even less freemium-based games than we’ve come to find on Androids of late. Still, it could be worse.
During the review window, there wasn’t much to complain about, but on one occasion, the 1520 started heating up for no apparent reason. This may just have been something that had been accidentally triggered or left on, and nothing a quick restart couldn’t fix. Still, this is my first occurrence of overheating on any previous Lumia I’ve played with over the years.
The screen is great to look at, and large enough to enjoy any game and movie you have available. This may also be a downside for many who don’t prefer the phablet option, specifically those with smaller hands. Fitting the same hardware on a smaller sized screen will definitely drive more appeal amongst buyers, but for now the 1520 is geared toward a niche market.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 has changed the Windows Phone platform significantly. Apart from all the performance, size and HD display benefits, it also opens up developers to create apps and games on the best components available on the market. While there is still some way to go to catch up to the others, this can only mean great things for the ecosystem. The 1520 offers an experience no other device can on WP8. With its great 6” display, industry-leading hardware, and great camera to boot, the Lumia 1520 is a must-have, even more so than the 1020.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is available on contract for R449, and RRP of around R10,000.
You can find the full specifications here.