Nokia Lumia 1520 Review: In Depth

Would you look at that, another phone that puts into question the meaning of the word ‘phone’ thanks to a near tablet-sized screen. It isn’t an oversized Android this time though – it’s Nokia, bringing Full HD resolution and quad-core power to Windows Phone 8 for the first time in the form of the Nokia Lumia 1520.

Big, bold and beautiful

Sure, this is a big device, but it looks and feels good, really good in fact. Unsurprisingly it features the same fantastic Lumia design language that we’ve seen time and again from a Windows Phone-focused Nokia. The closest sibling would most likely be the mid-range Lumia 720, with a dash of Lumia 925, based on its camera surround.

The polycarbonate feels rich in the hand too, with a continuous, seamless matt shell that plays as a nice contrast to the glossy black display. It’s larger in many respects than the HTC One Max, but infinitely more elegant and refined, not to mention a better fit in the pocket. After the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, it’s also arguably the most manageable 5.5-inch+ device out there.

Despite all this praise, its size is realistically going to pose a problem for small hands, and those looking to make this their new everyday driver might want to consider pairing it with a wireless Bluetooth receiver for call convenience. Holding something nearly as large as the average paperback book to your head will look odd and that’s an inescapable truth. It’s still pretty though.

Windows Phone in HD

Wow, just wow. This Lumia 1520 is the first Windows Phone to break the Full HD resolution barrier and it does so in a grand fashion. The Gorilla Glass 2-protected ClearBlack 6-inch IPS LCD panel looks fantastic, features strong viewing angles and offers up an immersive picture.

The size is perfect for enjoying movies or reading, and despite the 1520’s unavoidably large 209 gram overall weight, the ergonomics of the aforementioned bodywork make it an easy device to handle continuously for long periods.

The Lumia Black update which debuts on the 1520 also showcases some enhancements to Glance Screen which now accommodates more notifications and a richer level of information beyond just the base clock when the handset is locked. What’s more, a convenient double-tap to wake is all that’s required to fire the phone up fully.

Bigger selection, better experience

In many ways, this Nokia Lumia 1520 is the most advanced Windows Phone device ever. It might not have the mammoth camera sensor of its Lumia cousin the 1020, but it debuts a host of features never previously seen on a Nokia.

The Windows Phone 8.1 operating system has been augmented with the typical gamut of Nokia apps and Bing integration, as well as new additions to the Windows Phone Store such as Instagram, Vine and graphically intensive games like Asphalt 8 – key examples of the ever-narrowing gap that exists between Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

As ever, the interface itself is beautifully clean and simple, easy to navigate and customisable my long pressing and dragging tiles around the screen. Speaking of tiles, the extra screen real-estate has been put to good use by throwing in an addition column of medium-sized Live Tiles, so at a glance you can view more information than on any other Windows Phone.

One intriguing new addition to Nokia’s app portfolio is Nokia StoryTeller, which groups your snaps and videos into albums based on time and location, lets you add captions and can even show you other POIs around where you captured your latest outing. It makes for a compelling experience that transcends the ‘Years, Collections, Moments’ concept employed by the Photos app in iOS giving you a richer way to enjoy your personal content, albeit not quite as involved as HTC’s ZOE feature. What’s more it’ll sync with the companion app built for Windows 8.1, so Lumia 2520 owners will be able to carry their stories across both devices.

The rest of the Nokia suite is also stellar, with free music streaming from the recently updated Nokia Music app, Here Drive+ for free driving navigation and Here Maps for general location-based functionality. Meanwhile Windows Phone’s own Office app brings some welcome native support for Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

The best big-screen snapper in town

Simply put, the 20-megapixel PureView camera on the back of the 1520 outclasses anything that Samsung, Sony or HTC has included on their respective big phones, but as you might expect, it does fall short of the imaging greatness offered by the company’s own Lumia 1020.

The bite-sized 5-megapixel images yield a little more noise over the 1020’s camera, but the overall picture quality is still fantastic, with string detail, good amounts of colour saturation and of course, the robust manual control feature set of the Nokia Camera application.

As with the Lumia 925 and the Lumia 1020, Nokia Camera brings Nokia’s two previous flagship camera apps under one roof. Pro mode provides full manual control over shutter speed, ISO, white balance, exposure and focus, whilst Smart mode throws together a myriad of clever image processing techniques based on snapping a serious of photos that the phone can then work with.

Naturally, there’s also a solid Full HD video recording experience that’s smooth and balanced in most conditions, with the dual LED flash lending itself well to serving as a video light from time to time and four microphones recording stereo sound without distortion at anything up to 140dB. Pardon?

Fastest processor in the west

Windows Phone OS has always been praised for its fluidity and responsiveness, but using it on the Lumia 1520 puts into perspective just how much room for improvement there must have been all along. Another first in the world of Windows Phone, the 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor at this phone’s heart is nothing short of epic, it flies.

The 1520 glides through menus and transitions, loading times are minimal and the camera fires up infinitely quicker than that of the Lumia 1020. High-end 3D games are also handled with aplomb, the phone deftly spitting out the best visuals titles like Asphalt 8 have to offer.

The same graphical oomph also ensures you’ll get a great viewing experience playing back Full HD video content whether that be locally or when using the phone’s 4G connectivity, ideal for streaming video, whether it be from YouTube, Netflix or anywhere else.

On the storage front there’s plenty of flexibility, with 32GB inbuilt and a microSD card slot on the top left side of the phone’s body. As well as anything up to a 64GB microSD card, the port underneath leaves room for a nanoSIM too, something to remember if you’re switching to the Lumia 1520 from anything other than an iPhone 5, 5C or 5S, which will most likely still use a mini or microSIM.

…and on and on and on

This Lumia has a lot to offer, so naturally you’ll want to enjoy all of its features and functions without having to trip it to the charger every few hours. Thankfully the huge non-removable 3400mAh battery serves up an impressive two days of general use, which could be pushed to three if you can bring yourself to put it down.


Before we gush anymore, the size will be the most prohibitive issue for some users, but then there are plenty of other handsets, including other Lumias, which can offer just as premium a user experience in a smaller, more universally manageable package.

As a cameraphone, it outclasses all the most notable rivals: the HTC One Max, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. It loses out to the Note 3 with regards to overall smartphone functionality, but only just, whilst the best designed big-screen smartphone title sits evenly between the Lumia 1520 and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

Windows Phone continues to fall behind in some areas, missing out on key apps, despite the recent progress with the likes of Flipboard and Vine, but in this instance it’s still the best its ever been.

If you can fit the Nokia Lumia 1520 then it’ll certainly fit into your life.

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