Reviewing the Nokia Lumia 1520 - The Most Powerful Windows Phone Phablet

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Launched along with the budget-friendly Lumia 1320 in October 2013, Lumia 1520 is the first phablet from Nokia. It's a gorgeous and powerful Windows Phone which stands out of the crowd through its monoform block touch form factor and its lively bright display. After testing Lumia 1320 a couple of weeks ago, we had the chance to test the 1520 for a few days and here's what we have learned:

Hardware Specification & Packaging

The very first thing you will notice about Nokia Lumia 1520 is the size. The phablet boasts a 6 inch, ClearBlack, full HD (1920x1080px) IPS LCD display, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2. As with most Lumia smartphones, you'll also get the super sensitive touch technology which allows you to use the smartphone with gloves. Even though it's more powerful than the 1320, Lumia 1520 is thinner and slightly lighter - 206 g (7.26 oz.). The size of this device is impressive: 162.8 x 85.4 x 8.7 mm (or 6.4 x 3.36 x 0.34 inches). Otherwise put, a large display on a thin yet very powerful device. Speaking of power, the battery capacity, at 3400 mAh was well targeted by Nokia for this phablet. The processing power is remarkable, sporting a Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor which makes the device extremely snappy, even with the most demanding games. Compared to the Lumia 1320, Lumia 1520 incorporates twice as much RAM memory (2GB) and comes with two storage capacities: 16GB and 32GB, expandable with up to 64GB through MicroSD memory cards. Before moving on with our review, let's not forget the 2 cameras on this device: the main one has a 20 MP PureView sensor with auto focus, ZEISS optics and Dual LED flash. Video capture is excellent at 1080p (Full HD, 1920 x 1080) with a 30 frames per second rate. The secondary wide angle camera has a resolution of 1.2 MP 1280 x 960 pixels with HD video recording, available for video-call functionality. As with Lumia 1320, 4G LTE connectivity is available on Lumia 1520 as well. If you want to find out the complete specifications of this phablet you can access the official page here: Detailed specifications for the Nokia Lumia 1520.

If you're curious what's in the box, there's the phone, the warranty, an introductory usage guide, the charger, a USB cable, and a pair of headphones:

To see how unboxing goes, take a look at the video below:

Design & Build Quality

Nokia 1520 comes in 4 colours: yellow, red, white and black. It has an unibody build, with no detachable lids or covers. We have tested the white version of this smartphone.

On the left side you will find the NanoSIM and MicroSD slots, which can be easily pulled open using the small key you will also find in the box.

The right side has the volume up/down, power and camera buttons:

The top side has 5 small holes for the four microphones which are being used by the Nokia Rich Recording technology for very good quality sound recordings, even in a noisy environment. The headphones jack is also on the top side:

Near the loudspeaker at bottom of the back side, the lower end holds the microUSB port which you can use for charging or connecting to a computer:

The unit also incorporates Qi standard wireless charging functionality, which is great, given the fact that the phone is not that thick. Overall, holding the phone is a pleasant experience. The weight is evenly distributed, the case material feels premium, with smooth edges. In my opinion, the volume rocker could have been a bit better if it were more prominent, but other than that we couldn't find any problems with the design. The display quality is very good, as with most high-end Lumia devices. Visibility is good, even outdoors, but you will need to adjust the settings to get additional brightness while using the phablet outdoors on a sunny day. The contrast is also noticeably good (this is where the ClearBlack technology shines) and the viewing angle is comfortable for sharing the screen with your friends for gaming, picture or movie viewing.

The Phone Experience in the Nokia Lumia 1520

Like Nokia's budget companion device, Lumia 1320, Lumia 1520 is among the heaviest smartphones available. The 206 g (7.26 oz.) device might be difficult to carry and grab, especially if your hands are smaller. I asked several persons what their perception was and almost every one of them replied they saw the 1520 as a mini-tablet with phone functionality rather than the other way around. While the phablet will not fit easily into your trouser pockets, it will definitely earn its place in a purse or in a vest/jacket inner pocket. I can confirm that typing or dialing with one hand is difficult if not impossible, as we already mentioned in our Lumia 1320 review.

On the other hand, for bulkier fingers, typing is comfortable:

As for the sound quality, I have to say that there is room for more, especially for music. The experience is the same as with my Lumia 925 smartphone. However, the quality of your conversations will be good. I tested by listening to premium audio streams and also to high quality.mp3 and.wma files using the in-ear phones that come with the Lumia 1520 but also using Audio-Technica ATH-T400 headphones. The 7-band audio equalizer could help more, but the last (and highest) adjustable audio frequency band stops at 7000 Hz. FYI, the human ear can hear sounds from 50 to 16000 Hz. That said, the audio spectrum is rich and cleanly played back, which is OK for average music listening and very good for podcasts. The video recorded using the main camera outdoors has natural, vivid colours and the details are very good for a cloudy day:

The pictures I took outside using the main camera are sharp and have natural colours. I would say that this is a very good outdoors camera, which is one of the most attractive points of this device for me.

As for the 1.3 MP front camera, it will serve you well for video calls, but that's about all I recommend using it for. With moderate usage, the battery lasts 2 days, which, considering the operating system, Windows Phone 8 GDR 3 with Lumia Black, is a very good performance. We expect that the experience will be even better with Windows Phone 8.1, later this year.

Nokia Apps for Windows Phone 8

Just like Lumia 1320, the Lumia 1520 comes with Nokia's Lumia Black update preinstalled. This provides users with the best Nokia-specific smartphone features. By default, you will find the following Nokia apps are already installed: Nokia Care, Cinemagraph, Creative Studio, Nokia Music, Nokia Pro Cam, Nokia Screen Beamer and Nokia StoryTeller.

We also noticed that this phone features the entire Bing applications set: Finance, News, Sports, and Weather. It also features the HERE Drive+ and HERE Maps applications and, of course, Microsoft Office with OneNote.

Performance in Benchmarks

As usual with our smartphone reviews, we ran tests and benchmarking apps and the results led to our review title - Lumia 1520 is indeed a very powerful Windows Phone phablet. I have to say this: I don't know what magic Nokia did but the graphics and data transfer performance are amazing. Let's begin with MultiBench 2, where we got incredible performance related results, showing that graphics performance on Lumia 1520 is 30% higher compared to Lumia 1320.

Compared to Lumia 1320, Lumia 1520 RAM performance is 87% faster and the data transfer is 22% faster too:

WP Bench shows a really fast processor too, faster than the other smartphones we tested so far.

While we qualified the storage data transfer rate on Lumia 1320 as whooping at 62,36 MB/s, we would like to see your reaction for 79.26 MB/s on the Lumia 1520. That is a 27% increase which will definitely make this device incredibly fast for games and media playback from internal storage.

Finally, Sunspider shows that the browsing performance of Internet Explorer on Lumia 1520 is 23% faster than on Lumia 1320:

Approaching the final tests, we measured Lumia 1520's boot time. The results are measured from pressing the power button until the moment the Start screen is displayed. Booting in 30 seconds, Nokia Lumia 1520 was a little faster that 1020 and 1320:

In the battery test, Lumia 1520 has the same results as its brother, with a difference of only 2 minutes. Even so, this means the Lumia 1520 phablet performs better, considering the greatly increased performance is achieved within the same power consumption marks.

Summing up, Nokia Lumia 1520 is a big and powerful phablet, with remarkable hardware test results and outstanding performance. Once more, we can emphasize we've reviewed the most powerful Windows Phone yet and we're glad we had the opportunity to do so.

Product Rated
4/5

Verdict

This is a huge yet powerful phone with good battery life, good camera, and great processing power, backed by fast data transfers to and from the internal storage. It might be a little pricy, but don't forget we're looking at a flagship phablet here. If you need a powerful tool for business, or if you are out seeking a device to combine your tablet and phone needs, test this device for a bit. You will need to hold it and see if the size and weight are comfortable for you. If they are, we can't see another reason to dislike this excellent device, the Nokia Lumia 1520. It's great for those on the lookout for their next phablet.