Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nokia Lumia 520 - Review

Nokia's Lumia 520 smartphone is essentially a downsized cut-price version of the Nokia Lumia 720, which struggled to impress us given its modest specifications and £300 price tag.
However, at just £150, we had higher hopes for the Lumia 520, and rightly so. While Nokia might have cut a few corners to keep the price of its latest smartphone cheap, it could be a viable option for those looking for a handset on a budget.
Nokia Lumia 520 in White
The Nokia Lumia 520 is evidentally a member of Nokia's vivid Lumia range, although we managed to get our hands on a subtle white model. For those after a more head turning mobile, it's also available in red and yellow.

The design of the Lumia 520 is arguably what the Nokia Lumia 920 should have been. Unlike Nokia's flagship Windows Phone 8 handset, the Nokia Lumia 520 fits neatly in the hand at just 119.9x64x9.9mm, and its matte polycarbonate casing offers much more grip.
Another good thing about this matte polycarbonate casing is its ability to withstand drops and scratches. We had a few run ins with the Nokia Lumia 520, namely us accidentally dropping it, and every time the phone came out unscathed.
Our only real gripe with the design of the Lumia 520 is its ability to pick up dirt. This might be because we got our hands on the white model, clearly the most susceptible to picking up grime.
For a phone that costs £150, a 4in 480x800 IPS LCD touchscreen display doesn't sound too bad on paper. However, much like the screen on the Lumia 720, it failed to impress us.

Nokia Lumia 520 screen
While the screen size is ideal for one-handed use, we found the 4in display lacking in quality despite its WVGA resolution. Microsoft's Live Tiles look fuzzy around the edges on the Lumia 520, and we often found text - particularly black on a white background - unpleasant to read. Given that the Lumia 520 features a higher pixel density than the Lumia 720, this fuzziness and lack of clarity is odd, but it might be due to the lack of Clearblack technology in the budget handset.
Our only solution was to crank the phone's brightness to full at all times, which makes text and images look a lot more legible - although it's not too kind to our poor eyesight.
We also think it's worth pointing out that the Nokia Lumia 620, which features a 3.8in 480x800 Clearblack screen, offers much more impressive image quality for an almost identical price.

PerformanceThe Nokia Lumia 520 has a dual-core 1GHz processor under the bonnet, the same one found in the more expensive Nokia Lumia 720 handset.

As we pointed out in our Nokia Lumia 720 review, thanks to Nokia's two-year-old decision to opt for Windows Phone 8 rather than Android, everything seems to run smoothly on the Nokia Lumia 520. That's because Windows Phone 8 takes relatively low power to operate well.
During our time with the handset, we found scrolling through the interface smooth, while loading web pages and opening apps was just as nippy as on a much more expensive Android smartphone.
Operating system
Of course, the Nokia Lumia 520 runs Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system.

The preinstalled Nokia apps are largely the same as those found on the Lumia 720 and Lumia 620 handsets. Minus City Lens, probably due to the handset's lowly processing power, there are Nokia Music, Here Maps and Cinemagraph, albeit available as a download from the Windows Store.
Nokia Lumia 520 comes with HERE Maps
These apps give the Nokia Lumia 520 an added selling point compared to the likes of HTC's Windows Phone 8S handset, and make the smartphone an attractive offer considering its price tag.
Microsoft's horde of preloaded apps come as standard too. It might cost just £150, but the Lumia 520 has access to Microsoft Office, Xbox Gaming and Microsoft's business focused add-ons and security features.
Nokia Lumia 520 front
Although the same can be said for any Windows Phone 8 smartphone, we think it's worth pointing out that the app ecosystem is steadily growing, which means the Nokia Lumia 520 has access to Spotify, Skype and, of course, Temple Run.
The Nokia Lumia 520 features a 5MP rear-facing camera, but aside from an f/2.4 lens you won't find any of the Carl Zeiss wizadry found on Nokia's more expensive Lumia phones.

As you'd expect from a standard 5MP shooter, image quality isn't fantastic. Photos taken under artificial lighting clearly suffer when it comes to quality, and with no LED flash on the rear, photos in dim lighting are worse. That said, images taken in natural sunlight proved much nicer to look at.
Taken using the Nokia Lumia 520
Nokia Lumia 520 camera sample
The onboard camera button is a bonus, too. A feature usually reserved for high-end smartphones, the Nokia Lumia 520 has a dedicated camera key on its right hand side, which can be used for both opening the camera application and to take images. We found the button often needed quite a hard push to work, but it seemed like less work than having to tap on the display.
Unfortunately, there's no front-facing camera on the Nokia Lumia 520, which means that users have little reason to cheer the arrival of Skype on the operating system.
Battery and storage
It's not often we say this, but the 1,430mAh battery on the Nokia Lumia 520 is fairly impressive. After a weekend of average to heavy usage, we found that the Lumia 520 easily made it through an entire day without showing signs of struggling.

Of course, it's a different story when constantly streaming video, and we found that the Nokia Lumia 520 lasted around seven hours when doing so.
We've got no complaints when it comes to storage either. It might be billed as a low-end phone, but the Nokia Lumia 520 comes close to matching many of its top-end rivals, boasting 8GB of internal storage that can be expanded via microSD card with an additional 64GB.
In Short
The Nokia Lumia 520 has one major downfall, and that its display. We can't help but think that Nokia should have equipped the handset with its Clearblack screen technology, which might have helped to improve colour vibrancy and to remove some of the fuzziness we experienced.

Saying that and the screen aside, the handset is a great phone considering its price tag. Sure, there's the option of the almost identically priced Nokia Lumia 620, but we've warmed to the subtle design of the Lumia 520, as well as its good battery life and excellent storage. ยต
The Good
Great design, good battery life, lots of storage, Windows Phone 8 offers good performance and a growing ecosystem.

The Bad
Camera is average, no front-facing camera.

The Ugly
Screen is disappointing.

Bartender's Score