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Quick review: Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet

The Nokia Lumia 2520 is a beauty. And that’s the review done! See ya!

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Alright, let me try to elaborate a little bit. I’m not a big fan of tablets. I have managed quite nicely going from phone-sized screen to laptop-sized screen, using those two devices. I could be sitting on the couch and feeling the need for some web-browsing, and my MacBook Air was light enough and certainly capable enough for that simple task. But then again, if I just want to look up a scrap of information like quickly finding out which film a particular was actor in, then my Lumia 1020 was perfect for that. As for a tablet, I’ve never really had a yearning for one… until Nokia released this scarlet slab of sexiness.

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The Nokia Lumia 2520 is Nokia’s first foray into the tablet world, and it will quite likely be their last. Now Nokia’s devices department is owned by Microsoft, they are clearly pouring cash into the Surface sinkhole, so it’s very likely the 2520 is the first and last Nokia-branded tablet. Which is actually a shame because while this device isn’t all-singing-all-dancing-whistles-and-bells, it is a very capable device and does what it can do very well indeed.

My WPCentral photo with random objects placed around it
My WPCentral photo with random objects placed around it ;^)

 

 

After purchasing the Lumia 2520, I now have a device that sits quite comfortably between phone and laptop, and it provides me with the perfect device on which to check emails, Twitter, Facebook and surf the web, without me having to lug (I say lug but the MacBook Air is extremely light) the laptop over to place on my lap. The perfect device for when then, I hear you ask? Well, I’ve used this 2520 on the couch, in coffee shops, at work, on the bus and train, in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, and I’m using it right this very second, writing this review. Not on the rather excellent on-screen keyboard, but with the excellent (and red!) accessory, the physical Nokia Power Keyboard, but more on that a bit later.

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The Nokia Lumia 2520 is not the Surface 3, so if you’re after something with plenty of welly, this probably won’t be for you. Nokia chose Windows RT for this tablet which seems to me a perfect choice for this type of device. Like I said above, this device sits between my phone and my laptop; I’m not looking to replace my MacBook with something just as powerful, but I wanted something that was a little more powerful than a Kindle Fire, and something that wasn’t going to break the bank. A Surface Pro would’ve been more expensive and to me that’s fine; it runs full-on Windows 8.1. Windows RT is like Windows 8 “lite”, and to be honest, that’s fine because it allows you to do the very things a tablet does well, in a way that is cost-effective but still fast and efficient.

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The fact that it’s a Nokia obviously has some heart-string pulling in my personal case, but I didn’t plunge into this purchase wearing a blindfold – many reviews were read, many review videos were watched. It seemed to me that the online tech world seemed pretty impressed with the 2520, so I put my faith in their opinions, and I am very glad I did. But this will not “replace your laptop” as Microsoft are stating in their marketing garble with their new Surface 3. If you are after something to do the simple, quick, everyday tasks I mentioned above, then you won’t be disappointed. Couple it to the Nokia Power Keyboard for those times when being a little more efficient when out and about would be handy for you, then you’ve got a pretty compelling piece of kit.

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So, what’s it like to use day-to-day? It’s fast and smooth, very much like the experience one might have on a top-end Lumia smartphone. Apps open quickly and fluidly, and the device is very responsive. It connects to my wifi at home quickly, and that can be said for when I’m out and about too. Incidentally, here in the US, the 2520 is sold via network carriers Verizon and AT&T, and of course they want you to use their networks for internet access. The good news is, it can also be bought off-contract from the Microsoft Store, and you don’t actually need a sim card for it to work. Some online commentators had complained that Nokia hadn’t made a wifi-only version of the tablet, and that people were going to be put off having to sign an expensive carrier contract just to use it. Incorrect reporting, kids. I have been using this tablet for around three weeks now, on a daily basis, and I’m only using wifi – it is sans sim. I’m not even getting any warning prompts nudging me to install a Verizon sim card, so all in all, as far as I’m concerned, you get the best of both worlds with the 2520: yes it’s locked to a network, but at the same time you can use it fully without a network. Awesome!

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The app selection isn’t great. There I’ve said it. This is probably because the 2520 uses RT, and so the app list isn’t extensive. There’s no ‘Words With Friends’ unfortunately, but there are some very decent ‘main’ apps available, which again, is what this tablet is good at: the most likely stuff you’re going to use for a tablet aimed at mucking about, not hardcore photo-editing or movie making.

I found my craving for good apps pretty satisfied in the Store. I found Netflix, Hulu Plus, Tweetium (an excellent Twitter client) Facebook, Flipboard, StumbleUpon, Amazon, Kindle, My Radar (one of my faves from Windows Phone), HERE Maps (with full two-finger rotation), Skype, New York Times, TED Talks, eBay, Sky News, and a host of Bing apps such as Weather, Food & Drink, News, etc. The big (ish) selling point of buying a 2520 over, say, a Kindle Fire HD, is that Windows RT may not pack much muscle when it comes to .exe files, but Microsoft have included a full Office suite onboard. So Word (which I’m using right now), Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook – they’re all onboard for free. And they work brilliantly. As more and more people tend to work ‘online’ (creating documents in Google Drive, for example) there seems to be a feeling that native apps such as Word are only meant for the workplace, sitting at a desk, plugged in to a fully powered-up Mac or PC beast. While there are pros and cons to this, to find fully offline versions of these popular Microsoft Office apps available straight out of the box was something of a delight.

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Exploring the OS I discovered that all recent apps are available for quick re-entry by swiping from the left. Actually one way to maneuver around an active app is to leave it by pressing the Windows button (to quickly check your email live tile while writing a review of the Nokia Lumia 2520, for example) and then tapping the Windows button again when you need to go back – Windows will send you straight back to the previous app (in my case, Word) without having to do much else. Very handy, and something I’d actually like to see implemented on Windows Phone eventually, in some form or other.

 

The physical hardware, the Nokia side of things, as expected did not disappoint. The screen is, without going into the specifics, incredible in terms of detail and in readability in strong sunlight. The red glossy chassis picks up fingerprints quite easily, but man does it look good! Sat next to my glossy red Lumia 920, it makes me think that the Lumia line up really does look bright and cheerful. The speakers at the front don’t look like they would produce much more than small tinny sounds, but they are surprisingly good, and the buttons at the top (or side, depending on how you’re holding it!) are of the usual Lumia quality we’ve come to expect: solid and responsive. If I had one complaint it would be that the simcard/microSD card tray is awkward to use (thankfully it’s not something you’d have to fiddle with all the time!) and it protrudes up from the tablet’s shell just ever so slightly. Why Nokia let this go is beyond me; perhaps it’s meant to be like that so you can find it easily??

 

The camera is surprisingly good too. It’s the same component as used in the well-received Lumia 720 smartphone. I shan’t go into specifics as I’ve not used it enough to really comment on it, but I will say that the very few photos I’ve taken with it have been “very good”. I have a Lumia 1020 so if I’m going to take a photo… you get my drift.

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OK, my other complaint is the charging port, which is placed on the same side as the headphone socket, and they look exactly the same! You really have to think carefully for a moment each time you want to put this on charge because of this strange design decision. I’m not even sure if I could cause some damage to the thing if I tried to shove the power plug into the headphone socket!

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Apart from those two small design “flaws” I think Nokia have done well to wait until they had a really splendid tablet to offer the public, instead of putting something a tad less fully cooked out there. Surface 1?

 

As for the Nokia Power keyboard, it is quite an expensive add-on. Here it is priced at $149 (+ tax) so unless you’re going to do some serious typing and you don’t happen to have a lightweight laptop like a MacBook Air to hand, then I think most people will manage just fine without it. I can see this being really useful for train journeys during which you might need to write up a report or shoot off a ton of emails, but you would rather not have to get your huge and heavy laptop out. Of course, your laptop may not be huge and heavy, but I’m pretty sure your laptop couldn’t take a simcard for data on-the-go either, when wifi is not available, so there’s that to think about. The keys are a little cramped, but I manage quite well, and they are nice and ‘clicky’ – meaning they feel like real keys, not some kind of rubbery, flat portable keyboard. In fact, having it set up like this reminds me of Nokia’s previous netbook effort froma few years ago when you consider the keyboard and the size of the screen. Shame they underpowered that, but then again, “old Nokia” had a habit of underpowering some of their devices, didn’t they? *cough!* N97 *cough!* I’ve also got my wireless mouse attached via one of the two standard USB ports on the back of the keyboard – handy if using the trackpad isn’t your cup of tea. It’s not mine; I’m grateful that it’s there but I still find it a little bit fiddle to use as I think it’s actually too small, but maybe I’ll get used to it eventually.

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In conclusion, I am very happy with my purchase. The apps I use most regularly are freely available for this slick tablet, and the battery life is stellar – I’ve been using this now for about 2 hours typing this thing up, checking emails, tweets, and I’ve just checked the battery percentage by going ‘behind’ the Metro tiles to the familiar and more standard Windows 7/8 desktop screen – my battery is now at 78% from a full charge. And that doesn’t include the battery that is housed inside the Power Keyboard because I haven’t charged that up for a while since it ran out of charge a few days ago. I find the Lumia 2520 very easy to use, switching between various apps is a piece of cake, and I’m looking forward to finding out more of what it can do. I’ll be travelling to Europe this summer so I’m going to be putting Skype through its paces, for example.

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But I have to say, while this really isn’t important to a tablet’s overall functionality at all, having a bright red glossy slab of gorgeousness out and about when everyone else has a dull black slab is really refreshing. Nokia did some fantastic things with colour in their devices and I’m glad at least one of the non-black tablets made it out here to the States.

A fine example of what can be done when a design team thinks about things properly: the Nokia Lumia 2520, a good-looking, fast, fun tablet. Thumbs-up from me! Cheers! :^)

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