Nokia Lumia 1520 full review

Nokia Lumia 1520

If you're in denial about 'phablets' then take a look at the Lumia 1520. With a 6in screen the handset has one inch on most flagship smartphone and is only the same amount smaller than tablets like the Nexus 7 and Tesco Hudl.

Phablets may be a good choice for those wanting a smartphone and a tablet, but without the funds to buy both. However, the Lumia 1520 is priced at a whopping £873 on Nokia's website. Luckily it's available for around £550 elsewhere but that's still £50 more than buying a Nexus 7 and Nexus 5.

Essentially, a phablet has got to really fit your lifestyle for it to be worth buying one. No one at PC Advisor is particularly fond of the idea. See also: The 15 best phones you can buy in 2013

Nokia Lumia 1520: Design and build

The 1520 is big and when we say big, we mean huge. If you think the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a large smarphone then this thing eclipses it. The HTC One Max is slightly taller but the Lumia 1520 is much wider. It is difficult to hold due to this fact.

Nokia has kept the thickness down to just 8.7mm (not including the bulge for the rear camera) but the 1520 weighs more than 200g which is beastly. The sheer size of the Lumia 1520 is really its main drawback, so as we said before, you've got to really want and be comfortable using a pone this big. The Galaxy Note 3 has a screen only marginally smaller but is a much more manageable device.

Even if you're comfortable using the phone with two hands (and in public), it's uncomfortable in trouser pockets – we're talking men's, let alone women's. It's also unlikely to fit into any phone holders you have, such as in the car.

Despite the amount of real estate on offer here Nokia has decided to use a nano-SIM card slot which is unusual.

Keeping in trend with many Lumia smartphones, the build quality of the 1520 is excellent. Its one-piece uni-body shell feels nice in the hand with its soft matt finish (some colours of the 1520 have a glossy finish). The Lumia 925 remains the only Nokia to use a metal chassis.

The Gorilla Glass 2 front sits almost flush with the plastic body and the 1520 feels like a premium product, and it should when you look at the price tag.

Nokia Lumia 1520: Hardware and performance

Windows Phones have been lagging behind its rivals in terms of hardware. Well it's made a major leap forward with the latest version which supports quad-core processors and screen resolutions higher than 768 x 1280.

The Lumia 1520 is the first Windows Phone to use a Full HD resolution (1080 x 1920). It's an IPS screen with exceptional viewing angles and the ClearBlack technology gives the top-notch contrast which we've grown used to with Nokia's screens. It also performs better than most outdoors.

Nokia Lumia 1520 screen

While things on the screen look pretty good, the pixel density is a fair amount lower than other Full HD smartphones because of its size. The Lumia 1520 has a pixel density of 367ppi compared to a more typical 440ppi.

While the screen is impressive, it's very difficult to use one-handed. My fairly large hands can only reach about a third of the display. You need to use the Lumia 1520 with both hands the vast majority of the time to get anything done.

The Lumia 1520 has, under the bonnet, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor; the same 2.2GHz quad-core powerhouse which you'll find in many of the top Android smartphones. Alongside this is 2GB of RAM.

We can't use all of usual benchmarking apps on Windows Phone but that means we can concentrate on giving you our user experience, which is more important. SunSpider which we can test came back with a blisteringly fast time of 546ms.

Windows Phone wasn't particularly laggy before, but it's definitely not now. The areas which used to slow down, namely opening large apps and multi-tasking, are much smoother with the Snapdragon chip and the latest version of the OS which we'll come to later.

There's 32GB of internal storage, of which just over 26GB is available to the user for filling with apps, photos music and videos. As usual, there's 7GB of free Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage and the Lumia 1520 has a microSD card slot which accepts up to 64GB cards. That totals a pretty decent 97GB.

As you would expect from a high-end smartphone, the Lumia 1520 has some of the latest connectivity. It's got 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, A-GPS, 4G LTE support and wireless charging. The only thing really missing is an infrared transmitter.

Nokia Lumia 1520: Cameras

Nokia holds the title for best smartphone camera with the Lumia 1020, and the 1520 is no slouch either. Its 20Mp PureView main camera takes excellent photographs. The phone's camera is especially good in low-light providing a surprising image which would normally just be a black mess.

Nokia Lumia 1520 PureView camera

We're grateful to Nokia for providing the two-stage camera button which makes capturing photos or video a lot easier. There's also a dual-LED flash, optical image stabilisation and the ability to record video at Full HD 1080p. The front facing webcam is limited to 720p video and produces a good, if fairly average image.

Although the camera is very good, the user experience is overly complicated. Like the Lumia 1020, the 1520 comes with the Nokia Pro Cam app with gives a lot of control over your photography, including ISO, exposure and even focus. It's not the default camera app though, and it's confusing having different 'lenses' which are really different apps.

The regular camera app shoots at 5Mp while the Pro Cam app gives full access to all those megapixels, shooting at 5Mp plus a high-res 16Mp version.

Here are our samples from the Lumia 1520.

Nokia Lumia 1520 test photo

Click to enlarge

Nokia Lumia 1520: Software

The Lumia 1520 comes with a new version of Windows Phone 8 called Black. It means the aforementioned hardware can be more impressive than previously for starters.

Minor tweaks to the operating system include the ability to close apps from the multi-tasking screen, using an 'x' button rather than a simple swipe, and the option to toggle screen rotation.

Although these are welcome, the platform is still in dire need of much bigger improvements such as a proper notification centre and a way of turning functions like Wi-Fi on and off quickly without delving into the settings menu.

The app situation is getting better with new arrivals to the Windows Phone Store including Vine, Instagram and Sky Go. However, the platform remains on a catch-up mission with iOS and Android – on apps and usability.

A debatable issue on the software front is whether the huge screen has been used well. The higher resolution could display objects the same size and therefore show more content on a larger screen. However, the scale option has been taken here so everything looks super-sized. So it's not only the phone that's big. It looks like the interface has been designed for kids or those with poor eyesight.

Nokia Lumia 1520: Battery life

A phone this big means plenty of room for a massive battery pack and to this end, the Lumia 1520 has a whopping 12.9Wh (3400mAh). Since the phone has a uni-body shell, the battery is non-removable. It charges via a regular microUSB port and there's Qi wireless charging built-in, no extra case needed.

You might think with a battery that size, the phone would last a lot longer than other smartphones on the market but this isn't so. We found the 1520 lasted a day of regular use and a couple of days with a lighter pattern. That massive screen is the main culprit here but the handset does show good standby performance unlike the Lumia 1020.


Nokia Lumia 1520: Specs

  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 6in ClearBlack IPS display (1080x1920), 367ppi
  • 2.2GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
  • 20Mp PureView rear camera AF with dual-LED Flash and optical image stabilisation
  • 1.2Mp front camera
  • Video recording up to 1080p
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • A-GPS
  • Wireless charging
  • HSDPA, 42 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • 4G LTE (Cat 4)
  • Nano-SIM
  • 12.9Wh (3400mAh) non-removable battery
  • 85x163x8.7mm
  • 209g