Nokia Lumia 1320
6th Mar 2014 | 16:45
A capable phablet, but is it already obsolete?
Introduction and design
After packing every high-spec component it could into the range-topping Nokia Lumia 1520, Nokia's Lumia 1320 comes as a similarly impractically proportioned yet altogether more practically priced alternative.
The Lumia 1320's recommended price of around £300 ($340, AU$450) is all very well, but I do wonder if those seeking a super-sized Windows Phone 8 experience will be willing to accept its shrunken performance.
It was impossible not to be impressed with the Lumia 1520. It felt excessive in almost every way, but there was an undeniable thrill to having the biggest and fastest components (or so it seemed) locked up in a gaudy all-in-one suit.
This was Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 champion, and it wanted you to know about it.
So where does that leave the Nokia Lumia 1320, announced at the same time as the 1520 and gradually rolled out in its wake?
It features a similarly sized 6-inch display, but with a much lower 720p resolution. It has a Snapdragon CPU, but only a dual-core model running significantly slower.
Even the camera seems like an ordinary 5MP model with no hint of PureView gloss. And one thing Nokia phones rarely have is merely ordinary cameras.
The result is a phone that fails to excite or wholly convince, but which arguably feels more comfortable with the Windows Phone 8 OS than its brash brother.
You thought that the Nokia Lumia 1520 was big? The Nokia Lumia 1320 is even bigger.
At 164.6mm tall, it's roughly 5mm longer, while it's more than a millimetre thicker at 9.79mm. You'd better reinforce those pockets, because the Nokia Lumia 1320 weighs a hefty 220g – 11g more than its heavyweight sibling.
It somehow feels less imposing than the 1520, however. Nokia has filed off the sharp corners and gone with more traditional design, while my test model's plain-black colour scheme doesn't exactly demand your full attention.
Unlike the 1520, the Nokia Lumia 1320 comes with a removable back section, which folds right around the side of the device and meets up with the all-glass front.
This makes for a generally solid-feeling device, aided by the rear cover's matte finish, though I did detect some creakiness around the power and volume keys on the right-hand edge.
Speaking of which, these keys – along with the dedicated camera shutter key further down the same side – are of a pretty typical size and shape, with little definition and nothing much to set them apart from each other. They're rather Samsung-esque in their nondescript shape and feel.
The volume key falls naturally to hand – or rather, to thumb – when holding the phone in your right hand, while it falls below your forefinger when held in your left.
The power key is a little trickier to press from a one-handed grip, requiring a subtle realignment of your grip – something that can be a little precarious with such a sizeable device.
As ever with all Nokia phones, though, the Lumia 1320 feels like it could survive most spills of this nature. It's especially assuring to note that Nokia has included Gorilla Glass 3, which is something the Lumia 1520 was missing.
Nokia may have downgraded the Nokia Lumia 1320's display from the 1080p beauty of the Lumia 1520, but it certainly doesn't feel like a substandard component. This is a 6-inch LCD IPS display, which means that it's crisp and bright even when viewed from an angle.
Still, the lack of a Full HD display is noticeable in general usage. On such a large and bright display, how could it not be? Small text on web pages is slightly blurry, and images are that little bit less sharp.
Of course, if you've never used the 1520 or similar – as I'd guess most potential Lumia 1320 owners won't have – you probably won't notice the drop in quality.
I'll discuss it more in the appropriate section, but the Windows Phone operating system itself doesn't massively suffer for the drop in resolution. The current iteration of Microsoft's mobile OS was designed with 720p as the standard, so it looks and handles just fine here.
On the front of the device you'll find the usual three capacitive button set-up – back (which can also be used to access multitasking), Windows, and search, and they're as usable as on every other Windows Phone handset.
Nokia phones typically look and feel very good for their price, but the Nokia Lumia 1320 arguably doesn't.
Its plain looks and creaky plastic feel are more reminiscent of one of the company's entry-level phones, like the Lumia 520. But at an RRP of £300 (which already appears to be dropping), it's not priced accordingly.
Compromises have clearly had to be reached in spite of this upp-mid-range pricing. That's evidently the cost of including an expensive-to-produce 6-inch display.
Opening large Windows onto the world
I've briefly discussed the dimensions and the basic merits of the Nokia Lumia 1320's display, but this 6-inch expanse of glass really is the phone's single major defining feature.
The Nokia Lumia 1320's very reason for existence is to provide a large and reasonably sharp display and marry it with the Windows Phone 8 OS – then offer it at a reasonable price.
With that in mind, let's consider a couple of the other features of this display, and some of the related software enhancements Nokia has included with it.
It's a common feature on Nokia phones now, but I'd really like to comment briefly on the Lumia 1320's supersensitive display.
It means that you can use the phone even with gloves on, which is an enormously useful feature for those of us in the northern hemisphere who have been caught in one of the worst winters for some time.
I've said this before, but why more manufacturers don't adopt this feature as standard I'll never know. I suspect it's a cost thing.
Steal a glance
Another display feature that isn't exactly unique to the Nokia Lumia 1320, but continues to be fairly unique in the wider smartphone landscape, is Glance.
This clever little feature provides basic notification data – a little symbol if you have mail, for example – while the phone is sleeping.
It projects this data faintly onto the otherwise completely black screen when you hover your hand over it, drawing very little extra juice but negating the need to power on the whole screen just to see if you have any fresh messages.
You can also set how much information you want to be shown on the Glance screen.
It's perfect for those 'steal a glance' meetings or dinner date scenarios.
I also continue to appreciate the ability to power the Lumia 1320's screen on with a double tap of the display – especially given the somewhat anonymous and awkwardly placed power button.
One other, non-screen related, unique feature of the Nokia Lumia 1320 is the positioning of its microSD slot. As I'll discuss in a moment, the handset really needs this storage expansion feature, but it's accessed a little differently from the Nokia Lumia 1520.
Rather than a readily accessible external port, you'll have to remove the Lumia 1320's rear cover to access the microSD slot, as well as the SIM card.
The removal process is one of the most awkward I've encountered in recent times, requiring a discomforting amount of pressure against the seemingly tightly secured bottom left-hand corner.
Indeed, while the process becomes easier after a few goes, I had to wonder if this was a good thing. Since I started using the device, there appears to have developed an added level of creakiness when pinching the lower right hand corner.
Given the importance of this storage expansion facility, it's a bit of a flaw that it's not very accessible. My advice to any Lumia 1320 owner would be to buy the biggest microSD card you can afford, install it, then leave well alone.
Speaking of installation, you'll need to insert the microSD card when the phone is powered off. There's no hot swapping feature here.
Interface and performance
The Nokia Lumia 1320 runs on the latest version of Windows Phone 8. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with a passing knowledge of the company's history, what with Nokia's long-standing partnership with and imminent acquisition by Microsoft.
As such, there's really nothing new to discuss here on the interface front. Microsoft runs a tight ship with its heavily stylised operating system, with the same single Live Tile-strewn homepage popping tidbits of information to its square app icons.
Windows Phone 8 still looks and feels great, and there's nothing else quite like it on the market – though Microsoft's rivals have clearly 'borrowed' elements of it.
You still get the impression that it's an iteration away from truly matching Android and iOS for pure functionality – the lack of a notification centre being the biggest omission – but it's a genuinely viable alternative.
One fairly unique addition that the Lumia 1320 shares with the Lumia 1520 is an extra column of Live Tiles. As with pretty much everything that's notable about this phone, this feature is facilitated by that 6-inch display.
Though the Lumia 1320's display is 720p rather than 1080p, this expanded home screen still looks great. Thanks to Microsoft's crisp, flat OS design, there's no great fuzziness on display here.
Having said that, one of the main criticisms I levelled at the Nokia Lumia 1520 applies equally here. Having a huge screen is all well and good, but Windows Phone 8 simply doesn't scale sufficiently to suit.
Other than that extra column of Live Tiles, this is pretty much Windows Phone 8 as presented on the 3.8-inch Nokia Lumia 620.
Menu screens that once benefited from having chunky white fonts on simple black backgrounds when displayed on 4-inch smartphones look wasteful and inefficient here.
Consider, too, the stock Windows Phone keyboard – which is the only one you're ever going to get, given Microsoft's policies on third party alternatives (they're not allowed).
It still takes up a good half of the Nokia Lumia 1320's display, which makes typing a little unwieldy and, strangely, no more error-free.
It also fails to offer any enhancements for this larger form factor, such as dedicated numerical keys or the ability to resize and reposition the keyboard.
Still, as the Windows Phone 8 user experience is both stylish and lightweight, which is no mean feat (just ask HTC).
What's more, thanks to Microsoft's tightly controlled hardware requirements, the mid-range Nokia Lumia 1320 runs the basic OS pretty much as well as quad-core beasts like the Nokia Lumia 1520.
I didn't pick up any signs of lag whilst navigating through the OS on the 1320, apps were quick to boot up, and those swishy transition animations that make the Metro UI such a pleasant experience are perfectly smooth.
If you're talking raw performance, the Nokia Lumia 1320's dual-core Snapdragon 400 is far from top of the pile. The average WP Bench score I recorded for the device was 312.22.
Taking into account the device's CPU, GPU, and memory performance, these test results suggest a performance level that's roughly 40% lower than the Nokia Lumia 1520, which tends to score somewhere around the 500s.
Still, as stated, that's more than enough processing power to handle the Windows Phone 8 OS. Also bear in mind that the Nokia Lumia 1320's processor is pushing around half the number of screen pixels of the Nokia Lumia 1520, which goes some way to levelling general performance.
One technical area in which the Nokia Lumia 1320 clearly struggles, though, is storage.
8GB isn't much for any modern smartphone OS to run with, but with Windows Phone 8 – which takes up a good 2GB plus of storage by itself – it's positively miniscule.
Sure enough, you'll find yourself bumping up against the Nokia Lumia 1320's storage limits pretty quickly once you start loading up your collection of games, apps, and music. As I've noted already, a sizeable microSD card is a must.
Battery life and the essentials
One component the Nokia Lumia 1320 shares with its premium-grade brother, the Lumia 1520, is its 3,400mAh battery.
The result of this, when allied to the 1320's power-sipping processor and less power-hungry display, is phenomenal battery life.
I found I could clear two days of moderate use in a single charge, incorporating emails, multiple games, some light web browsing, a few phone calls, dozens of photos, and some general exploration of the Windows Phone 8 OS.
All with the screen brightness pumped up to maximum, too.
More scientifically, the standard TechRadar battery test of running a 90 minute 720p video – filled with constant, looping sound and motion – with the screen set to maximum brightness and all notifications en-abled, yielded some of the best results I've ever seen.
And that's without activating Battery Saver mode, too.
An average result of 92% battery life remaining speaks to the Nokia Lumia 1320's supreme stamina, and suggests that this is a device you should consider for those media-filled long trips.
I should also note that the same test yielded a result of 84% on the Nokia Lumia 1520, and that was pretty strong.
As already mentioned, this difference can be attributed to the 1320's processor having half the cores and a lower clock speed, which is in turn used to push half the number of pixels on its 6-inch display.
Battery life is just about the only area in which the Nokia Lumia 1320 out-performs the 1520, but it's a notable one.
The Nokia Lumia 1320 runs on Windows Phone 8, which doesn't tend to vary much between handsets, so pretty much all of the phone's software features have been seen before.
That means that you get some typically strong Nokia apps, including HERE Maps, which is just about the only mapping application capable of giving Google Maps something to think about.
This is chiefly because it features an excellent offline map facility that allows you to pre-install a whole country's worth of data for quick, reliable access.
In a similar fashion, HERE Drive is a superb navigation app. Its reliable performance and intuitive interface mean that you can genuinely consider putting your dedicated sat nav system on eBay should you pick up the 1320. Needless to say, it works especially well on a 6-inch display.
As with every other Windows Phone-powered device, the Nokia Lumia 1320's default web browser is Internet Explorer. Microsoft's mobile OS has been sidelined with the explosion of Chrome and Safari on other, more popular platforms, but it's actually not bad.
I like how Microsoft continues to place the universal address bar at the bottom of the screen, making it that little bit more accessible in a snip. It's also pretty swift at loading up websites.
The mobile version of TechRadar's homepage loaded up virtually instantaneously, while the content-packed desktop version took about 12 seconds to finish loading in every last element.
It was fully usable within three seconds – all of which is comparable with other modern devices, including the 1520.
Of course, one of the advantages of a 6-inch display is that you can enjoy some kind of full web experience, albeit with a little panning and zooming.
However, this is where the benefits of the 1520's 1080p resolution is most keenly felt, as very small text is rendered just that little bit fuzzy and indistinct on the 1320's 720p equivalent.
I'll discuss the Nokia Lumia 1320's camera next, but it's good (if predictable) to see the Nokia Creative Studio app bundled here. As well as letting you apply simple filters to your snaps, it also lets you apply advanced effects that you don't often get with such default apps.
For example, you can give the photo a monochrome palette before cranking up the full colour on individual elements, or bring background objects into greater focus by blurring out the foreground. You can also do more regular things like crop and adjust the colour balance here.
The one area of a modern mobile phone that often gets ignored or taken for granted is call quality. It's fine here, if a little quieter than expected. I found myself cranking up the call volume to better hear the voice on the other end, but general quality is perfectly okay.
Of course, sheer practicality has meant that that this chunky PureView technology has been di-luted for Nokia's everyday phones. But it's hard to think of the Nokia Lumia 1520's 20MP camera as 'diluted.' It's capable of capturing some truly excellent shots, and Nokia's custom cam-era software is without equal.
It's a shame, then, that the Nokia Lumia 1320's camera bears such little resemblance to its brother's. This is a standard 5MP unit shorn of the PureView branding.
Indeed, the default camera interface for the 1320 is Microsoft's standard Windows Phone camera app. You can still get the Nokia Camera interface, but only through an optional download from the Windows Phone Store.
You can tweak basic settings like ISO, white balance, and exposure value in the default camera interface, but it doesn't even approach the kind of fine-tuning you get with the 1520 and the Nokia Camera app. There's no HDR mode, either, which I've come to start expecting in mid-range phones.
Of course, without the high-end optics to accompany it, Nokia probably felt that including such advanced settings would unfairly raise expectations or mislead as to the phone's capabilities. The camera isn't the focus here, after all.
Even Nokia's weaker camera efforts tend to be decent, though. Sure enough, images shot with the Lumia 1320 are solid rather than spectacular.
Given enough light, general detail levels were good, if occasionally flat and washed out. I found it possible to get some nice depth of field effects when taking close-up shots. In fact, general framing and focusing of shots on the 1320 is a doddle.
The key strength of the Lumia 1320's camera is speed and ease of use. This being Windows Phone, there's a dedicated camera shutter key that acts as a shortcut to the camera. I was able to get up and snapping from the phone's sleep state in less than three seconds.
Other phones may be able to do that quicker, but factor in the time spent fumbling with the touch-screen to get to the camera app – especially when you're rushing to capture a random moment – and you'll see the advantage of the Windows Phone approach.
As for video, the Nokia Lumia 1320 is capable of shooting at 1080p and 30fps, and the results are strong. The picture is crisp and vibrant, and sound is picked up excellently – though there's no dis-cernible stereo effect.
Meanwhile, even recording whilst walking along doesn't create the absolute shake-fest write-offs I've become used to in low-end and mid-range phones.
With such a big and bright 6-inch display, the Nokia Lumia 1320 makes for a decent video player – though again, you'll be needing a hefty microSD card, as 5.5GB of free internal storage won't hold a lot of films.
Of course, with no pre-installed storefront for video content, it might be a challenge to watch such videos anyway. You'll need to head to the Windows Phone Store and download the Xbox Video app if you want a 'native' video source of this kind.
Meanwhile there's not even an official YouTube app, so you'll have to rely on Vimeo and Netflix for your video-streaming needs.
Nokia may not have a video store service of its own, but it is pretty strong with music. Head into the (fairly) recently rebranded MixRadio app and you get access to hundreds of hours worth of free tunes.
With no sign-up and no subscription fee, you can stream or download playlists of music based around carefully curated themes and genres – or even a trio of your preferred artists.
It remains a generous offering, although you may find the lack of ability to select specific artists or skip more than six times an hour somewhat restrictive.
Nokia no longer offers its own MP3 store, but you can access Microsoft's own Xbox Music service through the standard Windows Phone Store, or by downloading the dedicated app.
These apps will doubtless come as standard on future Nokia handsets, and the current multimedia loose ends will be tied up.
Right now, it just seems as if the Lumia 1320 has arrived at an unfortunate time of transition between the various Nokia and Microsoft media services.
One media store front that remains, of course, is the Xbox Games collection. As always, you can browse, purchase, and access your games from here – many of which will have been enhanced with Xbox Live achievements.
That's the idea, anyway. Look a little closer and you'll see that Windows Phone is still lagging way behind iOS and even Android when it comes to a strong mobile gaming environment.
The Store is filled with third rate freebies, woefully belated iOS conversions, and trashy Flappy Bird clones.
As for the gameplay experience itself, the Nokia Lumia 1320 acquitted itself just fine during my tests. Properly optimised (or at least pleasantly vibrant) games like Subway Surfers look and play great.
Unfortunately, a lot of these games simply haven't been upscaled for large-screen devices. Jet-pack Joyride looks like a blurry mess, for example.
Put simply, Windows Phone still isn't worthy of the Xbox branding it so proudly wears. But that's not Nokia's fault, and the Lumia 1320 offers as full a gaming experience as it's possible to get on the platform.
This being a Windows Phone device, you also get 7GB of free SkyDrive – sorry, OneDrive – cloud storage space in which to store your files.
You can automatically upload photos, but there's no media integration, so you won't be able to view any video files stored in the cloud unless you head to the Windows Phone Store and download the OneDrive app.
I've been comparing the Nokia Lumia 1320 to its bigger brother the Nokia Lumia 1520 for pretty much the whole review, and it's easy to see why.
The two were announced at the same time, and both provide a 6-inch Windows Phone 8 experience with a distinctive Nokia twist.
Make no mistake, though, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is the better phone in every way except for one. Its quad-core CPU makes it faster, its unibody design is better looking and tougher yet slimmer and lighter, it has a massively superior 20MP PureView camera, and its display packs in twice the number of pixels.
The Nokia Lumia 1320 has one thing going for it in this comparison, and that's price. But even this isn't the advantage it once would have been.
Having been on the market for several months now, you can pick up the Lumia 1520 for less than £400. With the Lumia 1320 arriving at around £300 ($340, AU$450), it no longer looks like the great value alternative it was shaping up to be.
The direct rival
Sitting close to the Nokia Lumia 1320 in terms of price, size and specs, the Samsung Galaxy Mega is another hefty mid-ranger.
It has a similar 6.3-inch 720p LCD display, a 1.7GHz dual-core CPU, and the same severely limited internal storage allowance compensated for by the presence of a microSD card slot.
Of course, the Samsung runs on the Android OS, which instantly gives it the advantage of Google's vast Play Store filled with the kind of apps and games that Windows Phone can only look at enviously.
Conversely, this Android phablet has Samsung's overly fussy and less-than-fluid UI slapped on top, compared to which the Lumia 1320's unmolested Windows Phone 8 feels decidedly top-end.
The aging outsider
Huawei's take on the affordable phablet, the Ascend Mate, is getting a little long in tooth now, and a new model was announced at CES 2014. But that means that the already affordable original can be had for a knock-down price – around £235 (about $392 / AU$435) online.
What you get for that price is a 6.1-inch 720p IPS display, a decent 8MP camera, and astonishingly good battery life.
On the negative side, Huawei's own cut-price processor simply isn't up to the standard of even Qualcomm's mid-range effort (as found in the Lumia 1320), which results in a stuttering Android experience.
Whilst the Nokia Lumia 1320 is a perfectly capable phone, it's essentially just a chunkier and all-round less desirable version of the Nokia Lumia 1520, and I'm not sure that's good enough.
With a number of merely average components and a price tag that's not as cheap as it should be, it's tough to see who the Nokia Lumia 1320 will appeal to.
That 6-inch display is big, bright, and sharp enough to show off an expanded Windows Phone 8 OS in all its colourful glory.
Despite such an in-your-face screen, the Lumia 1320 is a real power sipper, making it well suited to long-haul public transport trips. Download the Xbox Video app and you're laughing.
While its 5MP camera is quite ordinary compared to others in the Nokia stable, it's a reasonably capable – and appreciably snappy – unit that can be depended upon in a pinch.
The Lumia 1320's build quality isn't quite up to Nokia's usual standards, with a cheap-feeling rear plastic cover that's prone to creakiness.
While the 6-inch 720p display is more capable than I was expecting, Windows Phone 8 still doesn't seem to have caught up. It's poorly optimised for the whole phablet form factor.
With the Lumia 1520 now within a similar price range to the Lumia 1320, its whole reason for continued existence seems questionable.
The Nokia Lumia 1320 is positioned as budget alternative to the all-powerful Nokia Lumia 1520, but there's a problem. The Nokia Lumia 1520 has dropped in price significantly, making the 1320 seem surplus to requirements.
Comparisons aside, it's an extremely hefty phone that lacks Nokia's usual design flair, with a workmanlike plastic construction that's prone to creaking.
This middle-of-the road feeling continues with its underwhelming processor, average camera, and lack of any stand-out software that really marks the Lumia 1320 out as unique.
You'll be getting a strong Windows Phone 8 experience here, but that can be had for less money and in a more desirable package these days.
First reviewed: March 2014