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Nokia Lumia 520 expert review

Nokia have already unleashed an arsenal of incredible smartphones this year and now the Lumia 520 has been added to the front line. This sleek mobile phone is part of Nokia’s entry level Windows Phone 8 lineup, which comes preloaded with features such as Sky Drive, Nokia Music and Microsoft Office.

Summary

Pros:

  • Low price point (£100 on PAYG)
  • Expandable memory up to 64GB
  • 4-inch display

Cons:

  • 512MB RAM
  • Low battery capacity
  • Average camera quality
Nokia Lumia 520 - 2.35 Hero
The Lumia 520 is an impressive looking device with an surprisingly meager price

Design

Nokia seem to be sticking to a theme with their entry-level and mid-level smartphones, providing a removable back cover which sits flush with the display at the front giving them a uni-body feel and the Lumia 520 is no exception. The 520 feels solid in the hand with a decent weight behind it, coming in at 124g, and a thickness of 9.9mm. Couple this with scratch resistant glass covering the front and you have one pretty tough phone on your hands too! The overall build quality on the 520 show that Nokia really care about all of their devices. Keeping an on-going tend amongst their Windows 8 devices, the Lumia 520 is available in a selection of colours consisting of yellow, red, cyan, white and black.

Hardware

The Lumia 520 is a powerful smartphone and the hardware inside stands it apart considerably from the majority of entry-level smartphones available on the market, the internals consist of:

  • 1GHz Dual-Core Snapdragon Processor
  • 512MB RAM

The 520 is a little bit of a powerhouse considering it is supposedly an entry level smartphone and Nokia have provided an incredible selection of hardware for the operating system to take advantage of. Upon powering up the 520 and running through the setup, the famous Live Tiles that all Windows Phones offer promptly greeted me. I was quick to put this phone through its paces by loading up a whole bunch of apps to try and slow it down, but much to my delight, I failed. The 520 didn’t slow down at all and kept pushing through every single task I asked it to do, I think it is safe to say that the lack of RAM is countered perfectly by the addition of a dual-core processor.

Battery Life

As the 520 is a relatively small device it only houses a 1430mAh battery, but I have found this to be more than enough to hold up against a fair amount of use. As we know, Windows Phone is extremely battery friendly as standard, which allows us to get around 6-7 hours of heavy use out of this device, with around 14-15 hours of general use. To help extend the battery life there is a Battery Saver feature that disables some of the system services whilst the device sits in standby but still allows you to make and receive phone calls and messages.

Connectivity

Nokia Lumia 520 1 - 4_3
The Lumia 520 has all the standard fare when it comes to connectivity and audio

The 520 offers exactly what you’d expect from an entry level smartphone such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G. The lack of NFC (Near Field Communication) is not something that I miss on this device as it provides the bare essentials that anyone would need, without getting too advanced. While NFC is a nice to have its absence here isn't a deal breaker.

Audio

Unlike the majority of Nokia’s Windows Phone devices, the 520 does not come with the Dolby Enhanced Audio, but still provides a crisp listening experience. I tested this in comparison with the Lumia 620 and 820 and I found that the audio without Dolby Enhancement still packed a heck of a punch.

Camera

Nokia have loaded the 520 with a 5 mega-pixel rear camer, which is able to take photos of respectable quality but also capture video in 720p HD. The camera can also be launched from a locked state by pressing and holding down the in-built camera button located on the bottom-right side of the device. I was extremely surprised when I took a few test shots with the 520, the quality was a lot higher than I expected, I am shocked that this is considered to be in the same league as some other entry level smartphones available.

Nokia Lumia 520 - Camera Test
The sample above was shot with the Lumia 520 - pretty reasonable given the price of the device we feel.

Screen

The Lumia 520 comes with high-quality screen to match its slick design, coming in with a very respectable set of specs:

  • 4.0-inch screen
  • 480 x 800 resolution
  • 233ppi (pixels per inch)

The screen is sharp and detailed, it provides deep blacks combined with bright, vivid colours which I found excellent when watching videos and viewing content. At this price point, it's hard to see any other device competing with this.

Software

Nokia Lumia 520 6
The 520 comes with a full-fat WP8 operating system installed - mug handle not included.

The Lumia 520 comes preloaded with Windows Phone 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system. To unleash the full potential of the 520 you will need to sign in with a Windows Live ID that allows you to download apps, backup your data, sync your settings and also upload documents and content to Sky Drive.

Windows Phone 8 comes preloaded with an impressive set of apps, from every day use apps to Nokia’s own additions, these apps offer a better and more personal experience, a selection of these apps consist of:

  • Nokia Music
  • Office
  • HERE Drive

Nokia Music is the default music application that comes preloaded on all of Nokia’s Windows 8 devices; this allows you to access your personal library and also allows for an unlimited streaming service, this service is free although there is a catch to it. On the free service you are only able to skip through 6 tracks per hour with a lower quality of audio, this would be higher if you were to subscribe to the service. The service is a good one though that I spent a lot of time using in my time with the device.

Office is a huge part of many peoples day-to-day life, be it checking emails or adding that last minute change to an important presentation on the way to the office. Having the ability to do this on a phone is incredible, the Office Application allows you to setup all of your personal email accounts through Outlook and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. My favourite addition was that of Microsoft’s One Note, this can be extremely handy if you are in a meeting, lecture or just wanting to take quick notes. Alongside the Office feature you are provided with 7GB of free storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive. SkyDrive is a cloud system that allows you to upload your documents to it, share them and even allow colleagues to present them using a private link. Personally, this makes my life a lot easier as I don’t require a laptop or desktop to keep myself going whilst travelling home.

HERE Drive is Nokia’s own Sat Nav application; it runs like silk and is quite clean and easy to navigate. Upon launching the app, my location was promptly found and I could select my destination and navigate instantly. This was quick and convenient and not something I expected to see work so well.

Who is this phone for?

Nokia Lumia 520 4 - 4_3
The whole package served up by the 520 is considerably better than its similarly priced peers

The Lumia 520 is aimed at someone who is looking to join the smartphone family. It’s a device that packs a big punch in such a small shell and combines an incredibly smooth user interface with a whole array of great features as stock. The camera lacked a little so it's likely to leave photography nuts wanting a little but at this price its a stunning proposition for anyone getting into the smartphone market or wanting to play around with Windows Phone 8. Nokia and Microsoft have certainly found a combination here that could be a serious contender to steal the entry level crown as not many Android devices at this price point can manage to pack in this level of quality across the board.

Agents Verdict

The Lumia 520 is a great little smartphone designed primarily as an entry-level device but will suit the needs of many others. This device is a must buy for anyone who is looking for all of the key features a smartphone has to offer such as Office, Maps, Music, Social Networking and web browsing. The overall feel of the device is lovely and felt perfect in my hand. If you want a budget device on a pay as you go deal, look no further.

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