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Lumia 1520 Review, Big IS Beautiful

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I was lucky enough to get a couple of weeks with the Nokia Lumia 1520, Nokia’s first “phablet” effort, with a 6 inch 1080p display. I did an unboxing and first look video which I’ll include in my “Initial Thoughts” section below, so without further ado, here is my review (both written and videos) of the Lumia 1520.

Initial Thoughts

The first thing I noticed when I took the 1520 out of it’s box, aside from the bright red casing is the width. The phone is pretty slim and doesn’t feel chunky but it is wide in the hand especially compared to the 920 which I am much more familiar with holding.

It is pretty clear of the bat that in order to use the Lumia 1520 you are going to need two hands. But that is fine because the Lumia 1520 feels and looks so nice that you will want to caress it with every available digit.
I had heard good things about the display before seeing it for myself and switching on the device allowed the 1520 to live up to the hype. The colourful Windows Phone UI looks really nice on that big screen.

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Thoughts After a Week or Two

After getting used to the physical aspects of the 1520 I found myself suffering a shift in sensory perception. Suddenly the 920 seemed too small. All regular sized devices seemed too small. I only had the 1520 for two weeks, any longer and I may have found going back to a smartphone with a 4.5 inch display a real pain. Funny how what seems huge one day can suddenly seem the norm.

The camera is really nice, it is a joy to use that 6 inch display as a view finder and the resulting shots are also impressive. I dedicated a post to the camera performance (read it HERE). 20 megapixels is still a huge number of MP’s to find on a smartphone, and of course the number of pixels isn’t the be all and end all of performance, so Nokia’s PureView oversampling must take a lot of credit for the great results.

The inclusion of a Quadcore 2.2 ghz Snapdragon 800 processor has been quoted by many (myself included) as a big selling point of the 1520. These specs put it on par with the best Android devices. And while tests proved it loads web pages and opens apps faster than the Snapdragon S4 on the Lumia 920 there isn’t a huge amount of difference in performance. Windows Phone runs super smooth anyway, the extra RAM and faster CPU is noticeable, especially when using the camera compared to what I remember of the camera speed on the 1020, but specs are no substitute for User Experience. It is great to know the 1520 has the latest specs but at the end, unless putting it against another Lumia device for a head to head test, you won’t find it makes to great a difference.
The real difference in UX comes from the display. Extra screen space, less scrolling. On the Start Screen for example, the third column of icons makes a real difference. If you are a fan of the Live Tile then you will love the extra boxes. It can start to look a bit cluttered to begin with and I’m not sure how all those rows would look on a 4.5 inch display, but on a 6 incher it is fine and once the Live Tile layout has been memorized on the Home Screen it is actually beneficial to have the extra column.

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Another thing I appreciate about the 1520 and it’s screen is the aspect ratio. Nokia have back to using a 16:9 aspect compared to 15:9 found on every other Lumia so far. One big advantage this has is when watching video. You see the whole picture without any black bars. Viewing angles are really good as well, I sometimes have a huddle of people around my phone watching a video clip and this big screen would be great in that situation. It remains the same brightness whether you are looking straight on or at a 179 degree angle.

There isn’t a lot of bezel on the 1520 even below the screen (in portrait) where you find the Windows Phone keys. This area can sometimes seem like it has too much black boarder but is not the case on this device giving it a more symmetrical look. The Windows Phone keys are positioned closer together than usual, bunched up towards the center presumably to help those who attempt using the phone with one hand, but as I mentioned earlier one handed use of the 1520 is nigh on impossible unless you are blessed/cursed with extra long fingers.

The glossy red polycarbonate housing is very attractive, I found myself wanting to get a feel every time I laid my eyes on it. It is a very similar design as the 925 only larger, and due to it’s single piece build doesn’t have the joins found on the 925 which I personally thought distracting.

Nokia have placed their logo on the back of the device in faint writing. I had heard a reason for the transparent lettering was a sign of Nokia phasing out their branding on phones ahead of Microsoft putting their emblem in it’s place, and while the writing is nearly illegible I notice that Nokia’s name doesn’t appear in any bold way on a number of Lumia devices such as the 800, 900 or 920, so this situation would seem to be business as usual.

Two ports you’ll find on the left side of the polycarbonate casing (the side usually left bare) is the Sim Card slot and a MicroSD card slot. The 1520 for some reason uses a Nano Sim, perhaps for design reasons. Fine if you are already using a Nano Sim but irritating if you want to swap your sim card between different phones regularly. This does at least future proof the 1520. As for memory card support, it supports up to 64GB cards. The phone itself comes with 32GB built in, enough for most people but will likely fill up inside the two year life of a phone (determined by contract lengths) so the option to expand your memory can only really be seen as a plus point.

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Conclusion

It doesn’t seem long ago that Nokia were announcing their first batch of Symbian 3 devices. When the Nokia N8 and C7 went on sale in 2011 they were going up against devices like the iPhone 4 and Galaxy S2, both of which had higher resolution displays, faster CPU’s and more RAM. The screen was also considered quite small compared to it’s rivals, even against the iPhone despite both phones having a 3.5 inch display the N8 and C7 were noticeably narrower due to differing aspect ratios. How times change, hey?! The Lumia 1520 represents Nokia’s ability to make phones to fit all demands. The 1520 is not by any means a device the public is crying out for, it’s shear size sets it aside from what is out in the market at the moment. But for some it will be perfect. Playing games and watching movies on a 6 inch screen, especially one as crisp and vivid as this is a whole new experience.

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We are in a world where tablets are getting smaller and smartphones are getting bigger. The Lumia 1520 sits right in the middle of the 4-5 inch displays on a phone and a 7-8 inch tablet screens. It could be the answer for those who don’t want to have to carry both around with them.

Nokia Black brings some really nice features with it, Story Teller for example, Glance Screen 2 for another. Coupled with the top class build quality and top of the range camera capabilities the Lumia 1520 is the best possible place to enjoy Windows Phone 8. Chances are you will find this smartphone a bit on the large size and that alone may be enough to put some off. If on the other hand you are in to large screened smartphones and are after the advantages afforded by them then you owe it to yourself to take a look at the 1520.

Before returning the Lumia 1520 back to Nokia Connects I made a video of my final thoughts about the 1520 which is up on our YouTube Channel. Watch it below and don’t forget to subscribe in order not to miss our future uploads.

Finally, many thanks to Nokia Connects for sending the Lumia 1520 my way.

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