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Nokia Lumia 520 Review

on April 16, 2013 – 2:15 pmNo Comment

For users looking at smartphones in the budget segment, clunky and underpowered Android phones have been the only option till now. Sure, Nokia had a few Windows Phone 7 devices too but the OS was half baked and it was pretty hard to recommend them to users.

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While Nokia has primarily pushed its Asha range or the older Lumia 510 in the budget segment, the launch of the Lumia 520 at Mobile World Congress means that they now have a solid smartphone contender in the category. Great hardware and an OS that is finally worthy of being called a smartphone OS means that the Nokia Lumia 520 is a solid contender in the budget segment. Does it stand a chance against the barrage of cheap Chinese rebranded smartphones ? Read on to find out.

Unboxing

We’ve previously unboxed the Lumia 520 and you can check out the original post here. We’ve embedded the video below for your perusal.

The contents of the package include the following :

  1. Nokia Lumia 520
  2. Earphones
  3. microUSB cable
  4. microUSB charger
  5. Documentation

Video Review

Design

It would be safe to call the design of the Lumia 520 conservative. It doesn’t stray much from the formula that Nokia has adopted for its Lumia range of devices. Smooth curves and high quality materials greet you when you first hold the device. The dimensions of the Lumia 720 are 119.9 x 64 x 9.9 mm and it weighs a meagre 124 grams.

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The front of the phone has a 4inch WVGA screen with the standard Windows Phone buttons located at the bottom of the device. The buttons do not light up which we’re guessing is a part of Nokia’s cost cutting measures on the device.

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The right side of the handset sports the volume rocker, power key and the camera button. Tactile feedback from the buttons is excellent with an audible click on pressing them. The two stage camera key in particular is a joy to use. The top of the phone has a 3.5mm audio jack while the micro USB port can be seen at the bottom of the device. The back is where things get a bit interesting. The smooth, soft matte finish material used feels great in the hand. A 5MP camera can be seen towards the top. There’s no provision for an LED flash which will be a disappointment to those who’d like their phone to double as a flashlight.

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Overall while the handset won’t be winning any design awards, it make for a solid handset which fits really well in the hand. We particularly loved the material used at the back of the phone. We were a bit disappointed to see that Nokia hadn’t used its nifty dualshot system here as seen first on the Lumia 620. That said, its possible to exchange the back cover to give your device a new color and look.

Display

The screen on the Lumia 720 is a 4″ WVGA IPS panel with a pixel density of 233 ppi. While the colors are pretty vibrant, black levels aren’t very satisfactory especially compared to the Lumia 620 which has a ClearBlack panel.

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Viewing angles aren’t the widest and sunlight visibility leaves a lot to be desired. You’ll want to be extra careful with the handset as it does not have a Gorilla Glass equipped screen which means that it is just that much more prone to scratches. We were surprised to find out that the Lumia 520 has  the Super Sensitive Touch technology that Nokia pioneered on its Lumia 920 and 820 handsets. What this entails is that you can use the handset even while wearing gloves. Might not mean much in a country like India but is extremely useful for anyone living in colder climates.

Camera

A 5MP camera unit has been placed at the back of the Lumia 520 and is capable of capturing video in up to 720p. The lens is not of the Carl Zeiss variety as seen on higher end Lumia devices.

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Daylight performance is acceptable with just a hint of noise visible in dark areas. The limited dynamic range is obvious as you can see how the foreground tends to be a bit too dark. Windows Phone 8 will be well served by an HDR mode in the default camera app and we sure do hope that Microsoft is listening.

 

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Macro performance too is commendable though a bit of a hit or miss. You might have to struggle to get a focus lock at times but results tend to be good.

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Indoor shots are where noise levels become particularly visible. The lack of a flash means that it is impossible to take a shot in extremely low light and the camera has major issues with getting a focus lock.

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The camera on the Lumia 520 is surprisingly good for a device in its category. No, it won’t blow you away but it’ll get the job done as long as the lighting is decent.

Software

We had done an in depth Windows Phone 8 review at launch and we’ll refer you to the same article if that is what you are looking for. The Windows Phone 8 interface as you probably know is in the form of tiles which can now be arranged in three different sizes ie small, medium and large.

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These dynamic live tiles dominate what can be termed as the ‘homescreen’ of the phone while a simple swipe from the right brings forth the applications menu. Performance is blistering fast with nary a lag in the interface. Seriously, there is absolutely no competition with entry-mid range Android device in terms of day to day performance of the device with Windows Phone 8 being one of the slickest operating systems out there. Over and above the standard Microsoft app package, you get Nokia’s offerings like  HERE Maps, HERE Drive, HERE city lens, Nokia Music, Nokia MixRadio , Cinemagraph, Smartshoot, and also a BigFlix application with three months of free service. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft made great strides to bridge the gap with the competition and has added several widely requested features though the implementation is often lacking. What is still the Achilles’ heel of the operating system is its app catalog or lack thereof. The omission of Google apps and support in addition to being late to the party with most apps makes it a dark horse in the eyes of the discerning app junkie. Do check out the entire Windows Phone 8 review for a better look at the operating system.

Performance

The lack of standard benchmarking tools for Windows Phone 8 means that our review of the phone’s performance is more on the basis of feel and our real life usage instead of cold numbers that might not be indicative of actual performance. Windows Phone 8 is one of the lightest and most well optimized mobile operating systems out there capable of delivering excellent performance on even fairly low end hardware. The problem lies in the relatively low amount of RAM included in the phone. The 512MB of RAM is enough for day to day usage but proves to be a limiting factor in providing 100% app compatibility. Games in particular suffer due to their high RAM usage and so a small number of games might not be available to users of the Lumia 520. Temple Run is unfortunately one of the more popular games that suffers because of this.

Battery Life

The 1430 mAh battery pack on the Lumia 520 is rated for 9.6 hours of usage on 3G and this figure tends to be fairly accurate according to our testing. Average usage should result in about a day of battery life though you’ll definitely have to charge it over night.

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Heavy users will have to be careful but do have the option to swap out the battery in case it gets depleted during the day.

Connectivity & Call Quality

Being a Nokia phone, the Lumia 520 never faces signal strength issues and has remarkably good voice quality. However it does not feature the dual microphone noise cancellation seen on the Lumia 620. Connectivity options include the standard WiFi and Bluetooth.  Windows Phone 8 added support for Bluetooth file transfers so you’ll be able to share image, audio files and more via bluetooth.

Conclusion

The Lumia 520 is the best phone that you can buy at the Rs. 10,000 price point. No, it does not have every app under the sun but the essentials are covered and it provides a quick, stress free smartphone experience with no hint of a lag. You also get Nokia’s legendary build quality and a wide of range of exclusive apps. If you still want to take a look at the competition you can check out the Xperia E that we recently reviewed or the Micromax Canvas 2. The Lumia 520 however gets our vote for best budget smartphone.

Pros

  • Decent camera
  • Quick performance
  • Great hardware quality

Cons

  • No front camera
  • No LED flash
  • 512MB RAM
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Dhruv Bhutani is a technology enthusiast who is always in sync with the latest and greatest in tech. He is currently using a Nokia Lumia 1020, HTC Butterfly S and whatever device he is reviewing at the moment. Suomirock ftw! . Catch him on Twitter @DhruvBhutani , you can also reach out on Facebook or .