Nokia has launched an upgrade to their most popular Windows Phone device - the Lumia 520. The new model is named Nokia Lumia 525 and it is almost identical to its predecessor both in its design and hardware configuration. There are only two very notable differences: the Lumia 525 has 1GB of RAM memory instead of 521 MB and a very glossy look. Since the Lumia 520 is so successful, we were curious to learn whether the Lumia 525 is a good upgrade. Does it provides an even better smartphone experience? Read this review to see what we have learned:
Hardware Specifications & Packaging
Nokia Lumia 525 and Nokia Lumia 520 have almost the same hardware and body specifications. The Lumia 525 packs double the amount of RAM memory, which is great. Having 1GB of RAM is useful in many scenarios. They are both powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1 GHz processor, they have 8 GB of internal storage and a microSD slot that supports cards of up to 64 GB. Lumia 525 uses the same 5 MP no-flash rear camera, capable of taking pictures at resolutions of up to 2592 x 1936 pixels and recording videos at HD quality (720p at 30fps). The Lumia 525 doesn't have a front camera, just like its predecessor. Both smartphones share the same 4'' IPS LCD screen with scratch resistant glass and a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, plus the same 1430 mAh battery. You can find its complete hardware specifications here: Detailed specifications for the Nokia Lumia 525.
Inside the package you'll find the usual items: the phone, its documentation and warranty, the battery, the charger, the USB cable and a headphone set.
To get a better idea of the unboxing experience, we have created a brief video for the Nokia Lumia 525, which you can view below.
Design & Build Quality
The Nokia Lumia 525 is a “one hand phone", meaning that you can use it easily with only one hand. On smartphones with bigger screens, you can't do this. Because it doesn't have a large display, it fits perfectly in any pocket or purse and in anyone's hand. Like its older brother, the Lumia 525 also comes in different colors, albeit fewer than its predecessor: black, white, yellow and orange. The Lumia 520 has also red and blue covers which are not available for the Lumia 525. In our review we have tested a yellow model. One thing I should point here is that Nokia Lumia 525 has only glossy covers, while 520 has matte covers. Personally, I like the matte covers better but some of you may think otherwise. One advantage of the matte covers is that matte polycarbonate doesn't have the same addiction to gathering dust and scratches as the glossy one.
The buttons are positioned on the right side of the smartphone, exactly the same as on all Lumias, which is great. On the bottom right you have the camera button, then the power button and the volume rocker towards the top. The space between buttons makes it really easy to find the button you're looking for, even if you don't look at your phone. Compared to the Lumia 520, the buttons on the Lumia 525 are a bit stiffer though
Changing the covers, inserting the SIM card or a memory card is relatively easy. You just need to pay a bit of attention when taking the cover out, so that you don't break it. Even though the covers don't feel sturdy, they don't fall off that easily and they can take small falls without issues. The build quality and design of the Nokia Lumia 525 follow the example of its predecessor and that's great. When you purchase affordable smartphones, you get what you pay for, but in this case I believe that you get more than you pay for. The Lumia 525 is one of the best built smartphones in its price range, just like its predecessor.
The Phone Experience on the Nokia Lumia 525
While using the Nokia Lumia 525 on an every-day basis for about a week or so, I found the phone experience to be decent. In-conversation audio quality is average. I didn't notice any significant problems with signal strength or clarity of my conversations. However, because the phone's case is made from plastic and it is detachable, the sound isn't too well directed and, as result, people near you can hear your conversations. Another consequence of the phone's plastic case is that the audio routed through the loudspeaker doesn't sound great. If you max the volume and try to listen to a song or anything with lots of low frequency sounds, the sound will be distorted. However, when using the headphones provided with the phone, things get much better. I recommend that you use the headphones when you want to listen to music or watch a video. The difference in quality is very noticeable. The display on the Lumia 525 is not spectacular and the black and white levels are not great. It fares relatively well when used outdoors but, if you find yourself trying to use it in a brightly lit environment, I recommend that you use darker accent colors for your theme. I like that you can set the display's sensors to high sensitivity, which means you will be able to use the phone when wearing gloves. Most low-end smartphones can't brag about that. Moving on to the camera quality, I don't have much to say besides the fact that it's the same camera as on the Lumia 520. It doesn't compare to the camera found on more expensive Nokia Lumias. It doesn't use the Pureview technology and it doesn't have any special optical lenses. In normal lighting conditions it fares well enough. However, if you find yourself trying to take a picture in low light environments, the results are not good. The camera lacks flash, which is essential in these environments. On the bright side, Nokia offers a range of specialized apps for taking pictures, which improve the camera experience, making it slightly better than on other affordable smartphones.
When talking about the battery life, the Lumia 525's battery will last you for a day and sometimes even a bit more.
Does the Additional RAM Memory Improve the User Experience?
There is one aspect I feel the need to talk about: does the additional RAM memory improve the user experience on the Lumia 525 compared to the Lumia 520? While playing around with both phones at the same time, I didn't really perceive any significant differences when browsing the web, listening to music or watching videos. Everyday tasks were just as fluid on both smartphones. The benchmarks shared later in this article confirm the same story. That's because the Windows Phone 8 operating system is very well optimized and it also works great with small amounts of RAM. But things do change when using apps and games that are memory hungry. To see how the two smartphones fared, I have installed and played two big games, with really good graphics: Asphalt 8: Airborne and Fifa 14. When playing these games the Lumia 525 has proved the benefit of having more RAM. The loading of these games was faster and the playing experience was generally smoother. If you will use your smartphones for playing games, then the Lumia 525 is a better pick than its predecessor.
Nokia Apps for Windows Phone 8
Nokia packs quite a lot of exclusive apps developed for its range of Lumia smartphones. I won't go into detail about them, as we have talked a lot about them in our previous reviews of Nokia Lumias. But I would like to point out that in the Store, Lumia 525 users will find good apps for their camera which will improve the way they take pictures or record videos. You should try them out.
Also, Nokia has one of the best turn-by-turn navigation apps out there: the HERE Drive. You can install offline maps on your Lumia 525 and get access to a good navigation service even when you are not connected to the Internet. For some users, this app alone will be a great reason for buying the Lumia 525 over its competitors.
The Nokia Lumia 525 also offers an audio section in the list of available Settings. When I opened it, I expected to find an equalizer and other audio settings. The only audio setting made available is the possibility to automatically silence the ringer when flipping the phone with its face down. It is unfortunate that Nokia has chosen to provide fewer audio settings on the Lumia 525 than on most of its other smartphones. I hope they change things in a future update.
Performance in Benchmarks
To compare the performance offered by the Lumia 525 against its competitors, I have run several benchmarks. I started by running MultiBench 2. As you can see in the chart below, Nokia Lumia 525 has delivered very decent results in the graphics and processor tests, results that are very similar to its direct competitors. There was no meaningful difference in the scores its received versus its predecessor - the Lumia 520.
The memory test has shown a slight advantage of 2% for the Lumia 525 vs. the Lumia 520. If you expected the difference to be bigger, you should keep in mind that this benchmarks evaluates how fast data is transferred to and from the phone's memory. How much RAM you have doesn't really influence these speeds.
The second benchmark I ran was WP Bench. The CPU test has revealed that the Lumia 525 was 3% faster than Lumia 520.
The storage and memory tests didn't show any significant differences between the Lumia 525 and its competitors, except the graphics test where it received the lowest score of all the Windows Phones we have tested. I found this odd as my experience when playing games was better than on the Lumia 520.
Going forward, I have measured how much time it takes for the phone to start and display the Start screen. The average boot time I have measured is 42 seconds, one second more than on the Lumia 520.
Then, I have compared the web browsing performance, using the Sunspider benchmark. Here, the results of the Lumia 525 were similar to its competitors. Even though its score was slightly better than that of the Lumia 520, you won't be able to notice any difference when browsing the web on your smartphone. It's just too small.
The final test for the Lumia 525 was the battery test. This phone has the same 1430 mAh disposable battery that the 520 uses. However, the battery test has revealed that the Lumia 525 is capable of lasting slightly longer than its predecessor, even when stressed to the maximum. In WP Bench, the Lumia 525 has lasted for 3 hours and 29 minutes - 22 minutes longer than the Lumia 520.
The Nokia Lumia 525 is a worthy successor to the Lumia 520, with a shinier look and double the amount of memory. The Lumia 525 is capable of delivering the same good user experience as its predecessor and, for those of you who play games on your smartphones, a lot more fun. The additional memory is best noticed when playing demanding games or when running apps that demand more RAM. If you want to purchase a good smartphone without spending a lot of money, the Nokia Lumia 525 is a great choice.