• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Fabulous phablets

There’s been all sorts from Nokia this year – they have brought us budget price feature phones and top-of-the-range smartphones with loads of power and stunning cameras in the shape of the Lumia 925 and the Lumia 1020 with its 41 megapixel snapper. But here we see in the shape of the Lumia 1520 the first phablet from Nokia – we’ve already tried out similar devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Mega and Sony Xperia Z Ultra, so how does the 1520 stand up to the competition?

Big designs

Sizewise, the Lumia 1520 is in the middle – at six inches it sits between the 5.7in Galaxy Note and the 6.4in Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

Mind you, it’s still rather big to slide into a pocket and small handbags might find it something of a challenge as well. It weighs 200g, which is quite weighty, almost as hefty as the Xperia Z Ultra.

It’s a colourful device – the one we reviewed was neon yellow. The back cover is smooth, which feels nice to hold, and the volume, shutter and power buttons sit on the right edge of the device. On the left sit the memory card and SIM card flaps. Like the latest iPhones, the 1520 takes Nano SIM cards. We love the way that the biggest Lumia available takes the smallest SIM you can get.

The phablet league table:

As we said, we’ve reviewed quite a few phablets recently and although they’re all pretty sizeable, there is a big difference between them. We’ve lined up all the popular models, ranked by the size of screen, to show you just how they compare. This makes it easy to see that the 1520 is neatly in the middle, while the original phablet, the Galaxy Note, is now the neatest in size. 

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Screen size: 5.7-inch

Weight: 168g

Size: 151 x 79 x 8.3mm

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Screen size: 5.7-inch

Weight: 168g

Size: 151 x 79 x 8.3mm

Nokia Lumia 1020

Screen size: 6-inches

Weight: 209g

Size: 163 x 85 x 8.7mm

 

Samsung Galaxy Mega

Screen: 6.3-inches

Weight: 199g

Size: 168 x 88 x 8mm

 

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Screen size: 6.4-inches

Weight: 212g

Size: 179 x 92 x 6.5mm

 

 

Colourful OS

The Windows Phone 8 OS is really user friendly and offers a simple, bright, desktop of tiles that can be totally customised.

Thanks to the screen, you can squeeze on more tiles – compared with other Lumias there’s a whole extra column of space, plus some excellent features including Kid’s Corner (which offers a child-friendly desktop with any unsuitable matter blocked), mobile Microsoft Office and People Hub, which aggregates all social media accounts and contacts.

The same old problem is still there though – there’s a dearth of apps, even though it now features WhatsApp and Instagram. You do get the impressive Here suite, which includes sat nav, maps and augmented reality features. We’ll tell you more about the Story Teller app when we talk about the snapper. 

Gamers will be sorely disappointed with the choice of titles on offer in Windows Market, especially if they are used to an iPhone or Android device – but if you only want to use the phablet for surfing the web or watching HD media it won’t be an issue. If not, you might be better off with something like the Galaxy Note 3.

Another disadvantage with Windows Phone devices is that they feature Internet Explorer. It is definitely slower - we found websites were taking several seconds more to load than on Android phones - even via Wi-Fi. Scrolling up and down pages also saw some glitches. But what we really dislike is the fact that it’s harder to handle multiple tabs than it is with a browser such as Google Chrome. 

Six inch star

The roomy screen is one of the Lumia 1520’s standout features. The resolution is full HD 1080p, with a ppi of 368. It’s sharper than the display on the Xperia Z Ultra, although it doesn’t bring photos and video to life like the image processing provided by the X-Reality Engine on Sony devices.

Nevertheless, HD films still looked fabulous and the screen is bright enough to cope with any glare. Crisp graphics make it easy to work on complicated spreadsheets, and viewing angles were wide too.

There’s no stylus included with the 1520 as there is on the Galaxy Note 3 and the Xperia Z ultra. Sure, you could buy a stylus but with no design or art packages on the device and few to choose from to download there’s not a lot of point. If you want to get creative this is not the device for you.

Long life performance

The OS doesn’t call for a lot of power but with the Qualcomm SnapDragon 800 chip on board the device is future-proofed. We saw no stuttering during our review process, even when watching HD video and editing images. It’s a shame, though, that it isn’t possible to multitask as you can on the LG G2 and the Note 3.

The battery lasts for a long time – nine hours when streaming video – the best out of the Xperia Z Ultra, HTC One Max and the Galaxy Mega. With average use you can get up to two days of use.

If you like streaming video, using iPlayer and YouTube, you’ll love the smooth network experience offered with 4G LTE support. NFC is also included so you can connect to wireless devices. 

Snap happy

The snapper on the 1520 is a standout feature. It’s a 20MP PureView model – a slightly downgraded version of the one on the 1020, which is a 41MP affair. It’s still one of the best smartphone snappers we’ve seen. Fire up the Pro Cam app by tapping the screen or give a long press to the physical shutter button. The control wheel lets you play with settings such as ISO level and shutter speed – or you can just choose auto for a quick snap. It’s the most impressive interface we have encountered, which lets you alter settings and get a live view of the effect they will have.

On full auto shots both indoors and out came out a tad dark, but a few manual tweaks sorted this out. Shots were all sharp and showed plenty of detail, while the lens was able to cope with glare and other problems with ease. The front-facing snapper can be used for taking selfies or for grabbing full HD video. 

Take your images and then you can have some fun with them – funky novelty images can be made using the Cinemagraph app, which lets you stitch shots together to make a Gif or montage.

As we mentioned earlier, the Story Teller app offers some new ways to present your images. Related photos go into folders automatically and you can add captions to each one – a virtual map will also show where each image is snapped. 

Our conclusion

While there have been plenty of phablets this is the first to run on Windows Phone 8 and the first from Nokia. It’s a fabulously designed device, although it is too big for most pockets. The screen is not utilised enough thanks to the lack of creative apps, but its bright and crisp and makes HD content look amazing. The snapper is also a standout feature, but at the end of the day we’d have to recommend the more portable 1020 in its place.

Specifications

Specifications

Dimensions : 162.8 x 85.4 x 8.7mm

Weight: 209g

Screen size: 6 inch full HD display

Screen Resolution: 1920 *1080 pixels

Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 367

Processor: 2.2GHz Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800

RAM: 2GB

Battery capacity :  3400 mAH (integrated)

Onboard Memory: 32GB

Camera :  20 mega-pixel Pureview camera (with optical-image-stabilisation)

Operating system: Windows Phone 8

Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE : Yes / Yes / Yes

Bluetooth / NFC : Yes / Yes

Colours : Yellow, Red , Black & White

Launch Date:  Q4 2013

Price : £470 (TBC)

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