Nokia Lumia 1520

25th Nov 2013 | 13:48

Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia goes big on specs, but can Windows Phone 8 keep up?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

This phone is more power than precision, and it's a mammoth beast - but with a scaled up core and more icons, we do like the direction its poking Windows Phone into.

Like:

Great 1080p display; Fine camera; Solid build quality; Surprisingly slim;

Dislike:

Arguably too big; WP8 feels unoptimised; Lack of apps; Lack of video store;

Introduction (Overview, design and feel)

Ratings in depth

Design
Features
Features
Usability
Value

With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the HTC One Max, the smartphone war appears to have moved on from processor cores and camera megapixels and into the realm of screen inches and pixel density.

It's not what your phone does, it's how at how large a scale it does it, and how sharply.

This trend towards the pocket-filling may run counter to the whole concept of a "mobile" phone, but that's to misunderstand what customers these days want from their phones (or at least think they want).

People have the taste for HD films, uncompromized web browsing and expansive gaming on the go. They don't want mobile phones, they want mobile tablets.

Android has several "phablet" champions, including the ones mentioned above. Now here's the Nokia Lumia 1520 to provide the first large-screen Windows Phone 8 flagship.

In fact, scratch that: the Nokia Lumia 1520 is the new Windows Phone 8 flagship, full stop.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

It's evident in the spec sheet alone. This is the first Windows Phone 8 device with a Full HD 1080p display. It's also the first to run on a quad-core processor.

We're not just talking about any HD display either. We're talking about a 6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD screen (producing 367ppi) with Nokia's ClearBlack and super-sensitive technologies. The former means that you can see it better when outside, and the latter means you can use it with your gloves on - two immensely practical features that tend to get brushed over too quickly.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

While we're at it, this isn't just any quad-core processor, either. This Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip, clocked at 2.2GHz and backed by a healthy 2GB of RAM, is the most powerful quad-core chip currently on the market. It's the same processor as can be found in the Galaxy Note 3 and the Google Nexus 5.

With these two components alone, Nokia has lifted the Windows Phone platform to specification parity with its Android rivals after three solid years of trailing firmly in its wake. It's quite a big achievement.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

There's that word again. Big. The Nokia Lumia 1520 is big in every way. Opening the box drew a genuine gasp from this typically stony-faced writer, who moments before had been typing out an email on his teeny-tiny iPhone 5S.

Initially, the Nokia Lumia 1520 looks ridiculous next to Apple's stubbornly compact phone. After a few hours' company with the 1520, you might well find that the iPhone 5S looks and feels like a toy.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

That's not to say that we prefer the Lumia 1520 as a day-to-day tool. Let's be straight - it's too big for most general users.

At 6.41 x 3.36in, it will slip into the back pocket of your jeans, but only if it's that pair you bought in preparation for the forthcoming festive pig-out. And there won't be space in there for anything else.

In fact, now might be the time to acquaint yourself with a good tailor, because you'll either need to reinforce those pockets or repair them. At 206g, this is one hefty piece of kit.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

To place the Lumia 1520's size and weight in context, it's a good 40g heavier than the Galaxy Note 3 with its similarly sized 5.7-inch display, and is a whole centimeter taller. It's also 6mm wider.

Having said all that, the Nokia Lumia 1520 feels surprisingly sleek in the hand, and that's partly down to its 8.7mm thickness. Compared to other Lumia phones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 or the Nokia Lumia 925, it's proportionally flatter.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Even the 20MP PureView camera barely breaks the rear contour with its subtle blister shape, unlike the angry carbuncle on Nokia's last phone, the Lumia 1020.

Then there's Nokia's customary high-class build quality. We've said it before, but Nokia is the only other smartphone manufacturer out there capable of rivaling Apple for strong, distinctive design.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

The Lumia 1520 continues Nokia's predilection for unibody polycarbonate designs. This means that it's essentially carved out of a single solid chunk of posh plastic. If you've never held a Nokia Lumia device before, then think of last year's HTC One X and you'll have an idea of how it feels.

We didn't dare put it to the test, but the Lumia 1520 feels like it would survive its share of drops, and certainly a little rough and tumble - although its sharply pointed corners are asking to be dinged, and it doesn't use the very latest version of toughened Gorilla Glass.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

There's a slight ridge where the display meets the chassis. When Nokia introduced this design with the Nokia Lumia 800, its display melted into its body, which added an extra feel of class. It's a shame that's not been included here.

Curiously, after the flamboyant flourishes witnessed elsewhere (especially in the shocking yellow of our test model), the Nokia Lumia 1520's physical buttons seem almost coy. They're practically flush with the chassis along the right hand side - even the two-stage physical camera shutter button barely raises its head.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

This helps with the ergonomics of this unwieldy device, but doesn't help when you're fumbling for the volume controls in the dark.

On the opposite side of the device you have the microSD card slot and the SIM slot. The former is in addition to the 32GB of internal memory, raising the possibility of a whopping 96GB of storage.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

The latter accepts a nanoSIM, which is even smaller than the micro SIMs found in previous Nokia phones. It's the same standard used by Apple, and it serves to free up a few valuable millimeters of space for other internal components. Although we doubt that the Lumia 1520's innards are exactly struggling for air.

In summary, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is certainly striking, but we wouldn't want to be struck with one. You're getting a lot of phone here for your $749 (around £460 / AUS$775). An awful lot.

Interface

The Nokia Lumia 1520 runs on the very latest version of Windows Phone 8, complete with Nokia's own "Black" software modifications. We're not talking Samsung-tweaking-the-life-out-of-Android levels here. Just a few thoughtful modifications to the still-sharp WP8 experience.

But first things first - what does Windows Phone 8 look like on that super-sharp 6-inch 1080p display? Much the same as it does on any other Windows Phone 8 device, is the simple and somewhat disappointing answer.

Nokia Lumia 1520

The main difference is that there's an extra column of Live Tiles on the start screen. It's never looked more like a colorful mosaic, with familiar faces and images popping out at you amongst live message alerts and other app icons.

In truth, it's actually a little overwhelming now, with the ordered uniformity of the previous two-row set-up giving way to a Windows 8-like sprawl. We're sure we'll get used to it with time, but for now it's just that little bit harder to identify and access the information you want in a pinch.

The lock screen is the same mix of sharp wallpaper pic and minimal information - just the time, date, and your latest calendar date, reminder, or missed call.

Nokia hasn't so much enhanced this lock screen as partially undermined it with its Glance feature. This adds a permanent, faint clock to your phone's display when in sleep mode, along with a count of any pending notifications.

You can also add the likes of Bing Weather information to your lock screen, offering a one-glance appraisal of the day's conditions and a representative image without forcing you to step into the OS proper.

Nokia Lumia 1520

We also appreciated Nokia's new double-tap-to-unlock system, which seemed particularly reliable, and saved us from scrambling for that hard-to-feel-out power key.

Windows Phone 8's Live Tile system itself remains the most elegant and well-integrated implementation of widgets in any mobile OS. They're essentially expanded app icons, which come in three different sizes. However, each can display a certain amount of live information from within the relevant app.

Weather apps may show you the current temperature and conditions, before flipping over to give you a three day forecast. The default Photos app cycles through your camera roll, lending your home screen that extra dose of personalization without the need to set up your own wallpaper.

Speaking of home screens, Windows Phone 8 just has the one. It scrolls up and down as you add more Live Tiles, and that extra column means that you'll probably be doing a lot less of this on the Lumia 1520.

There is an extra screen accessed by swiping to the right, but this is effectively the app tray, where all of your applications are listed in alphabetical order.

Nokia Lumia 1520

Pressing and holding on any of these will enable you to add it to the Start screen, probably complete with an expanded Live Tile.

Notifications remain a little undercooked in Windows Phone 8. You get a little banner appearing at the top of the screen when fresh messages come in, but you can't expand this as you can with iOS and Android.

You also miss out on the settings toggles that these provide, meaning that you have to dive into the general Settings menu to do things like turn off Wi-Fi.

Nokia has stuck with the standard three capacitive soft keys for general navigation, as stipulated by Microsoft. There's a back-up key, which is also used to access multitasking through a long press.

Then there's the distinctive Windows home button, which also has a secondary function. Press and hold, and it will bring up WP8's voice-activated assistant.

Through it you can open apps, make calls, launch Bing searches, and the like. It's nowhere near as powerful or useful as Siri, but it's handy for making calls when you attention is otherwise occupied.

Nokia Lumia 1520

The final soft key is for search, which initiates a manual web search (you're restricted to Bing again).

There's no secondary function here, which is a shame - Microsoft could have implemented universal search for quickly finding files, contacts or apps. Such a feature is present in iOS and Android, and it's badly missed in Windows Phone 8.

Going back to multitasking, it brings up a list of thumbnails showing recently opened apps, which have been held in stasis at the point you left them. These can be returned to with a tap or, new to the lasted version, dismissed with tap of the delete prompt. It looks and handles a lot like iOS 7's approach, though it's worth noting that Microsoft's solution came first by several years.

Overall, Windows Phone 8 runs like a dream on the Nokia Lumia 1520. With its Snapdragon 800 CPU and that huge 1080p display, it's never had as much headroom to spare, both in terms of screen space and in terms of power on tap.

On the latter point, it's worth noting that Windows Phone has always felt slick (if not always fast) regardless of the hardware running it, thanks to Microsoft's extremely tight spec guidelines and efficient software design, not to mention slick animations that serve to disguise variances in performance.

The OS runs very well here, too, but the difference between this and even a mid-range handset like the Lumia 720 isn't what you'd call night and day.

Contacts and calling

Contacts

As with every other Windows Phone device from version 7 onwards, the Nokia Lumia 1520 uses the People app for handling contacts.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

It remains a thoroughly pleasant method for keeping track of friends, family and acquaintances, with that extra personal touch that Microsoft's mobile OS provides.

First up when you enter the People app is the standard A-to-Z list of contacts, each accompanied by a little thumbnail picture (if you've set one up, or connected to a social network).

Each contact page contains all of their information, and tapping on any addresses listed here will open up Here Maps and show you where they're based.

Adding a fresh contact is a simple matter of hitting the "+" symbol at the bottom of the screen, whilst you can also search for a specific contact from the same area.

Tapping on one of the letter headings, meanwhile, brings up a large list of all the letters, allowing you to jump to the one you want with another tap. Smartly, any letters that aren't used (such as Q or X, in my case) are blacked out.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Another neat touch that continues to please is the ability to pin individual contacts to your start screen through a long press. It's a great way to keep your nearest and dearest on speed dial.

Windows Phone 8 is arguably the most social mobile OS of them all, and that's most evident here in the People app.

Sign in to your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account (among others) through the Lumia 1520 and information from these will automatically be filtered through to the People app. Not only will your contacts be added and integrated where necessary, but their latest updates will be visible in their individual contact page.

Scrolling right from the main alphabetical contact page brings up the What's New section, which is a list of the very latest updates from across your social network accounts. Keep in mind that all of this is delivered within the Windows Phone 8 UI - no third party apps are required.

It's even possible to reply or like social posts from here.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Scrolling across again from the What's new section brings up Recent, which is a list of your most recently used contacts.

As you tend to call a small handful of your contacts far more than the rest, this is a handy way to cut through all of those old school friends you never talk to without the brutal use of the delete function.

As is the next section along, called Together. Here you can set up groups of contacts, such as Family or Close Friends.

What's more, if you add them to a Room, you can share calendar entries, photos and videos with them, even if they own an iPhone or Android device. Fellow Windows Phone users get to indulge in group chats, too.

Overall, contacts on Windows Phone 8 - and by extension the Nokia Lumia 1520 - remains arguably the best of the big three platforms.

Calling

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

The dialler on the Nokia Lumia 1520 is the same chunky, minimalistic Windows Phone 8 example as always. It's easy enough to use, but the continued lack of smart dialling - where the OS narrows down suggestions for the number you're trying dial as you add more digits - is a frustration.

Single-handed dialling on the Nokia Lumia 1520 is a no-no for those with smaller hands. This is because the dialler has just been scaled up, as with much of the rest of the OS, so the chunky numbers still take up two thirds of the gigantic 6-inch display.

There are, at least, shortcut keys for Voicemail and the People app alongside the dialler on the phone screen, which lists your call history complete with instant call-back shortcuts.

Call quality on the Nokia Lumia 1520 was uniformly excellent during our test period, and the loudspeaker was both loud and clear.

Messaging

Sending messages on the Nokia Lumia 1520 is an intuitive and fluid experience, but it does serve as an example of where Windows Phone 8 needs to be more flexible when it comes to larger devices.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

The messaging app itself is a typically crisp and succinct way to send SMS and MMS messages, with the main messaging screen shows you your most recent threads.

These threads take the chat-style indented speech bubble approach that's now pretty much standard across all three major smartphone platforms. Of course, in Windows Phone 8 it comes with a sultry black background, which looks inkily seductive on the Nokia Lumia 1520's display.

There's also the permanent option to attach a picture, video, location, contact or voice note to a message through the little paperclip icon at the bottom.

Back to the main messaging app, and a lateral swipe will take you to the Online section, Here you can also access Facebook chat, change your status, and check out which of your Facebook contacts are online.

It's at this point that we should probably address the Nokia Lumia 1520's keyboard. It's no different to the keyboard on any other Windows Phone 8 device, but that's the problem.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Thanks to Microsoft's restrictive requirements (you can't download keyboard alternatives like on Android, for example), Nokia has had to stick with a keyboard that was designed for a much smaller form factor.

It means that it still takes up a good half of the Lumia 1520's screen, which is complete overkill on a 6-inch device. More than that, it feels completely unoptimized.

It could have benefited from a dedicated row of numerical keys, or at the very least the ability to shrink it and reposition it to one lower corner of the screen to enable single-handed text entry.

Still, you get the same clearly laid out keyboard and the same unobtrusively smart word suggestion system, so it's by no means a write-off. It's just that the Lumia 1520 isn't the messaging or emailing power-house that it could have been.

Speaking of email, the Lumia 1520 comes with the usual email tools available to other Windows Phone 8 users. Set-up is easy, as it's set-up to deal with Hotmail and Nokia Mail (of course) as well as Gmail and Yahoo. We were even able to set up our Apple Mail account by selecting the "Other account" option, and it worked without a hitch.

There's still no unified email app for all of these disparate accounts, though, which is a bit of a pain. You have to have a different Live Tile for each account, which feels a little messy.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Especially as each app handles the same. You start with the All screen, which is a list of your emails, from newest down to older. Scrolling right enables you to order them by Unread or Urgent instead.

It's also possible to access all of your email account's separate folders by expanding the settings bar along the bottom and selecting Folders, so can view your drafts, deleted items and the like.

We like the way that individual emails are handled in Windows Phone 8. They're automatically resized to fit the width of the screen, so on your Lumia 1520's 6-inch HD display you get a supremely readable view. It's especially noticeable when you receive image-heavy emails (and tap the prompt to download images), such as those from any subscriptions you might have.

Here, at least, Windows Phone 8's default tool scales up well.

Attachments are also smartly handled, sitting just under the sender information near the top of the email.

You get the same drawbacks with the oversized keyboard in the email apps, but you also get helpful @ and .co.uk prompts added to the default QWERTY view, which is handy. The email-entry screen is also white by default, which helps set it apart from the black messaging equivalent.

There remains a lack of haptic feedback for typing, which may prove an annoyance for some.

Internet

This being a Windows Phone 8 device, you're stuck with Microsoft's Internet Explorer as your default web browser of choice. It's no Chrome or even the latest Safari, but it does offer a reasonably clean and zippy browsing experience.

It's also worth noting that you can change the default search engine from Bing to Google, which transforms your browsing session into something a lot more familiar.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

The first thing to get used to is having the address/search bar (which is unified like those aforementioned rivals) at the bottom of the screen. This actually makes reaching for it a little easier than on other mobile browsers. In fact, with that 6-inch display, it's a lot easier.

By expanding this bar in typical Windows Phone 8 fashion (hit the three dots), you gain access to tabs, recently visited sites, favorites, page search, and the ability to pin individual websites to your Start page.

The tabs implementation, which is a rigid list of separated thumbnails, feels extremely basic and somewhat removed from the general browsing experience compared to the likes of Chrome.

Meanwhile the favorites system is even more basic, offering a sparse white-on-black written list of your stored websites. It feels as if the Lumia 1520's display is wasted again here, as a representative thumbnail logo would aid browsing and look a darned sight more attractive to boot.

It is possible to exchange the refresh command, which by default sits to the left of the address bar, with tabs or favorites shortcuts.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

This is another area we think the Lumia 1520's unique screen dimensions could have been capitalized on. Offering us all three commands simultaneously would not have felt overly congested here.

The web page viewing experience itself, however, is very pleasant. As you'd expect from a 1080p 6-inch display - which is only a little way short of compact tablet dimensions, after all - viewing content-rich websites is not a problem here.

We could read the entire desktop TechRadar home page pretty comfortably without any panning or zooming.

Try that on an iPhone. And the full TechRadar website completely loaded in around 11 seconds, and it was usable in less than half that. That's pretty nippy.

It's also worth noting that we got similar results on a both a decent Wi-Fi connection and with a full HSPA+ network connection. It bodes well for those of you on a 4G contract, which the Lumia 1520 supports.

Overall, browsing the web on the Nokia Lumia 1520 is a fine experience thanks to its speedy performance and near-tablet-like screen specs, but it feels somewhat hampered from reaching its full potential by the restrictive Windows Phone 8 OS with IE.

Camera

The Nokia Lumia 1520 continues Nokia's recent strong work on the mobile photography front. It's no Lumia 1020, but its 20MP snapper learns a few lessons from that beast while reverting to the rather more wieldy form of the Nokia Lumia 925.

In particular, Nokia has applied the same oversampling techniques found in the Lumia 1020 here. This means that it uses that 20MP image sensor to produce sharper, cleaner 5MP images.

In fact, the Lumia 1520 will automatically save both a 16MP and a 5MP image each time your take a snap, giving you a general image that's great for speedy sharing and a larger one for cropping and enhancing at your leisure.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

There's also RAW support - which Nokia calls DNG - allowing you to take completely pure, uncompressed snaps. These tend to be pretty sizeable though, so better invest in that 64GB microSD card.

Of course, you'll still need to be smart with your mobile photography. While the Lumia 1520's 1/2.5 image sensor is larger than average, it's still a fair bit smaller than the Lumia 1020's and loads smaller than a leading point-and-shoot camera.

You can get some really detailed and natural-looking shots with the right lighting conditions, however. While there's a certain amount of that bleached-out effect when photographing bright skies behind darker scenery, it's much less pronounced than most smartphones manage.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Low-light shots without the flash tend to be grainy, too, even though they're generally brighter and clearer than you might be used to from a mobile phone.

As we saw with the Lumia 925 and the Lumia 920 before it, Nokia's OIS (optical image stabilisation) technology along with some clever algorithms ensure much better night time shots than most of its rivals. As long as the subject remains fairly still, you can get the kind of bright low-light snaps that would be impossible on most non-Nokia devices.

Nokia has packed a bewildering amount of settings and options into the Nokia Lumia 1520's software, but at least it's amalgamated some of those features into a single Nokia Pro Camera app. Nokia Smart Camera is now part of the package, which adds things like action shots and best shot to the mix.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Again, you can jump to the Nokia Lumia 1520's camera interface with a press of the physical shutter key - another reason we wish it was a standard feature on smartphones, besides the two-stage focus and shoot capabilities. It still isn't the fastest camera app to boot up, but you'll save a second or so by being able to initiate it without having to look at the screen.

In use, the Lumia 1520's camera UI is pretty intuitive despite its myriad options. You have a neat radial common menu to the right that rotates between a default (and somewhat superfluous) shutter command, video, and Smart mode (for burst photography).

You can tap to focus anywhere on the screen, with those Carl Zeiss optics duly obliging.

At the top left you have a thumbnail of your last shot, which can be tapped to reframe, delete, or share. Alongside this is your gallery button, allowing you to swipe back through all of your snaps.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Along the top of the camera UI is where the real magic happens, however. Here you have ever-present toggles for flash (a nice and bright dual-LED example, incidentally), white balance, focus, ISO (100-4000), shutter speed, and brightness.

The Lumia 1520 camera UI has everything a mobile photographer would need, and all to hand rather than tucked away in awkward menus like most of its rivals.

Indeed, it renders the default Camera app redundant, and even a little confusing. Elsewhere you get camera-related apps like Bing Vision (for QR and barcode scanning) and Cinemagraph, which lets you combine stills and video to create little animated snippets.

Once you've finished with your images you can edit them in the Creative Studio app. This lets you alter the focus or introduce blur to your images, play with colors to make certain ones "pop," create collages and apply filters. It's a great tool, and incredibly easy to get strong results from it.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Video

With all of those stand-out camera features, you might think that the Nokia Lumia 1520's video capturing capabilities couldn't have much more to add.

However, the Lumia 1520 has a technological innovation that's dedicated to shooting footage. Nokia has incorporated four microphones, enabling you to capture directional stereo sound. Nokia calls it "Nokia Rich Recording," and it really works.

Check out the sample video with the bus driving past on the left. You can close your eyes and track its progress past your left ear, while picking out the older gentleman's footsteps as he walks past to the right. It's fantastic, and is a world away from the tinny mess you might have grown accustomed to from your smartphone videos.

Otherwise you get full 1080p video capture at 30fps, as you'd expect from a modern high-end cameraphone.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

There are fewer options to tinker with when it comes to shooting video, as you might imagine. You can turn the dual-LED flash light on or off, tinker with the white balance, and switch focus between auto, manual, and infinite.

That's your lot, and that's all you really need - although anyone hoping for a high-fps slow motion mode like the iPhone 5S will be disappointed.

Media

With that big, beautiful 6-inch display, the Nokia Lumia 1520 makes for a fine media player - provided you can lay your hands on the appropriate material.

You can store hours of video, thousands of songs, and plenty of 3D games on it with its 32GB of internal storage and enormous memory expansion potential, too.

Music

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

It's a little surprising that, despite the Nokia Lumia 1520's headline feature being that 6-inch Full HD display, it's arguably set up to be a stronger music player than it is for videos or even games.

The default Music + Video app bunches all of your media together, but going into the dedicated Music section breaks your music collection (which can be synced by hooking up to your computer) up into artists, albums, songs, playlists (which can be created here), and genres.

These are all presented in typical Windows Phone 8 fashion, as sparse vertically scrolling lists, though the albums section does at least feature album artwork.

Once you've started a track playing, audio player controls will appear on the lockscreen, or after pressing the volume key when anywhere else in your device. It works well.

There's also an FM radio accessible from the Music + Video app once you've hooked up a set of headphones, but that's made pretty much redundant with the inclusion of the Nokia Music app.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Here you get another audio player interface, which is very similar to the Microsoft one, as well as Mix Radio. This provides you with a wide selection of themed, curated playlists, which can all be listened to for free and with no sign-up. You can't be too picky about which specific artists you want to listen to, but you can save particular playlist for offline listening.

When it comes to purchasing MP3s, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is a well catered for as any other Lumia device. Both Nokia and Microsoft offer online stores through their respective media apps.

On the Microsoft front, through Music + Videos, you get the Xbox Music Store, which enables access to Microsoft's unlimited music subscription service as well as enabling you to purchase tracks outright.

And this is why the Nokia Lumia 1520 is so well suited to music fans - it's got the content to back up its undeniably impressive specs.

Video

We have mixed feelings about the Nokia Lumia 1520 as a video player. When it comes to actually pumping out HD footage, it's a stunner.

That 6-inch 1080p display (have we mentioned that before?) really does make watching full films on the go viable, and shows off its accurate color reproduction - which isn't always the case with Nokia phones thanks to the company's taste for super-vibrant AMOLED display technology.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

This is LCD, and so nicely balanced, though you do lose the deep blacks of AMOLED. You're well sorted for codec support too, including MP4, H.264, H.263 and WMV.

Our issue, though, is one of content. If the Lumia 1520 is almost overstocked with music-playing apps, it's underserved for video.

There's no Xbox Video Store service here. One is coming, but it's not available yet. Meanwhile, Nokia has no equivalent to its own Nokia Music store for video content. There's just nothing.

This leaves you with support from third party apps such as Netflix and Vimeo. We say Vimeo and not YouTube because there still isn't an official YouTube app on the Windows Phone Store.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

It's a crying shame, as the Nokia Lumia 1520 has the raw specs to be one of the finest movie players in the business. Without the content ecosystem to back it up, though, it's simply not good enough at this point in time.

Photos

The Nokia Lumia 1520 handles photos beautifully thanks to the ever delightful Windows Phone 8 Photos app.

We've mentioned it already in the review, but we love the way it cycles through your snaps on its Live Tile. There's a reason it's bigger than most of the others.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Into the Photos app itself, and you get to carry out your picture browsing with a high resolution snippet of one of your photos as the backdrop. It's incredibly sharp.

Camera roll provides you with a list of square thumbnails for all of your photos and videos, with the latter clearly delineated by a play icon. We actually like that they're placed into the context of the surrounding photos here.

Albums, meanwhile, splits your photos into their source folders. This includes your camera roll, any images you might have saved onto the device, screenshots (taken by pressing the power and Windows buttons together) and images that have been saved to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage solution.

You get 7GB of the latter for free as standard, so it's well worth utilising.

The Photos app also allows you to sort your pictures by the date they were taken, as well as to pick out your favourites. It also lists any apps you have installed that enable you to interact with or enhance your photos, which helps remind you of that random filter app you installed on a whim three weeks ago.

Naturally, pictures look great on the Nokia Lumia 1520's display. Add in the aforementioned Nokia Creative Studio app for editing purposes, and you have one of the best digital picture frames you can take around with you.

Battery life and connectivity

Battery life

The Nokia Lumia 1520 has a massive 3,400mAh battery. Of course, with a screen this big and this sharp, it needs it. The similarly sized Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a similarly sized 3,200mAh battery.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Don't expect the Nokia Lumia 1520 to last you much more than any other high-end smartphone, though. We could comfortably get through a day of moderate usage, but we couldn't stretch to two without charging up.

And boy does it take a while to charge up. We checked in after an hour of topping it up, and it had only gained about 15% in that time.

Also alarming was the fact that the phone chewed 17% of its battery capacity when left on flight mode overnight.

Still, when it comes to practical usage, it's pretty capable. In our standard battery test, which involved running a 90 minute 720p video with all notifications on and the screen at its brightest, we were left with a little under 84% from a full charge. That's pretty strong.

Overall, Nokia has ensured that its power-munching giant has an ample reservoir of power to draw from, so you probably won't have to alter your usage or charging pattern from whatever smartphone you're switching from.

Connectivity

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

You won't find yourself lacking for connectivity options with the Nokia Lumia 1520. It's got Wi-Fi, of course, as well as 4G network support for those on an appropriate contract.

We found our connections to both mobile network and Wi-Fi hub to be universally reliable and strong.

Elsewhere you have a standard microUSB slot for the dual purpose of charging and hooking up to your computer - which is a simple drag and drop process whether on Windows or OS X.

Bluetooth 4.0 is supported, and you also get NFC. Nokia is one of the few manufacturers to do more than pay lip service to the standard with a whole host of peripherals and accessories (speaker docks, wireless headphones etc.) that hook up to the Lumia 1520 with a simple tap.

Maps and apps

Maps

While most smartphone users will turn to Google Maps for all their general navigation needs, the Nokia Lumia 1520 has Nokia's own fine mapping apps to lean on. These offer some unique features that are genuinely useful, too.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

HERE Maps is the standard map app here, and it's very solid and reliable. It's main advantage over Google Maps on other platforms is that you can preload the entire map for a whole country, so you're not reliant on a data connection to get you to where you need to go.

It's perfect for the traveller who doesn't want to incur roaming charges, not to mention those who live in poor signal areas.

The default view, upon entering, zooms into your location and shows your immediate surroundings. From here you can bring up local places of interest - restaurants, hotels, shops, and other amenities - as pins on the map.

Tapping on one of these offers you the option of directions, while a second tap brings up more detailed information on that location, as well as photos, reviews and guides.

Complementing HERE Maps is HERE Drive, which is no less than a full sat nag system for your phone. Again, you can preload full maps, which ensures a level of dependability that its rivals can't match.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

You also get a familiar 3D view (with the option of 2D) and excellent turn-by-turn instructions - both visual and audible.

HERE Drive can also notify you when you go over the local speed limit, and it can show you petrol stations and car parks along your route too.

Apps

We've discussed most of the truly useful apps included with the Nokia Lumia 1520, but there are a couple more to note.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Microsoft OneNote is a handy note-taking app that enables you to jot down lideas and formulate check lists without messing around with formatting or anything too time consuming. It syncs with the desktop Office version, too.

Speaking of Office, you get access to the full MS Office suite of mobile apps here. That's Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, all fully editable on the Lumia 1520. As you might imagine, picking out those spreadsheet cells is that little bit easier on such a large display.

Kid's Corner enables you to create a dedicated home screen for your little ones, cordoning off things like web access and settings menus. Great for when they're restless on a long journey and want to play some games.

There are a host of Bing-related apps that concentrate on specific things like Sport, News, Finance and the like. Each is cleanly presented and perfectly functional in their own limited way.

Data Sense is a handy tool for those not on an unlimited data plan, as it enables you to key in the effective date your plan rolls over and how much data you're limited to. It will then warn you when you're looking likely to exceed that limit.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Beamer, meanwhile, is an easy way to push photos and other files to other smart devices - including internet-connected TVs - even if they're not running on Windows Phone 8. Just go to the Nokia Beamer website on the other device and scan the resulting QR code in with your Lumia 1520's camera, and a connection will be made.

But of course, the apps that ship with any smartphone are only a small part of the story. When it comes to acquiring new applications, Windows Phone 8 still trails a distant third behind iOS and Android.

Key applications like YouTube, Dropbox, Flipboard and Pocket are simply missing.

It's the same case with games, which is slightly embarrassing when you consider that all Windows Phone 8 devices carry the Xbox brand in their dedicated Games app. The selection is simply not up to scratch.

Even worse on the latter point is the fact that the games that are there don't look very good on the Lumia 1520's large 1080p display. As we've noted, it's the first Windows Phone device to sport this sharp a display and this much power, and none of the games available for it have been optimised for it.

Even big hitters like Halo: Spartan Assault look a little underwhelming, and Real Racing 2 looks like a PS2 game.

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

It's a persistent issue we've found with the Lumia 1520 as a whole - bags full of potential that's simply let down by an ecosystem seemingly caught on the hop by its excellence.

Hands on gallery

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a trailblazing 6-inch smartphone that forges a path for Windows Phone 8 into true high-end territory. And what a swathe this oversized phablet cuts - it's huge.

However, Windows Phone 8 itself seems reluctant to follow. While still an attractive OS, it needs optimising for the Lumia 1520's large Full HD display. So too does its app ecosystem, which remains well below par.

Still, there's no denying that this is the most capable Windows Phone device yet, with a fine camera and tip top performance.

We liked

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a well put together smartphone with Nokia's typical build quality.

Its 6-inch 1080p display is a thing of beauty, and is a great way to watch videos and view photos on the go.

Nokia has produced another excellent camera phone here, learning lessons from the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Nokia Lumia 925 to produce a very well balanced snapper.

We disliked

Windows Phone 8's lack of flexibility really holds the Lumia 1520 back from being the phone it could be. Too many elements fail to capitalise on the large, sharp display.

There's also no denying that this is a ridiculously large phone, and whipping one out in public will be as embarrassing as it is tricky to wield for those who appreciate a little subtly and mobility from their phones.

Then there's that age old problem of the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem, which still lacks apps, not to mention a video store to fully capitalise on that cinematic screen.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is an absolute beast of a phone that we suspect only the large-handed and generous pocketed will be able to live with day to day.

Those who accept the challenge will find the most capable Windows Phone 8 device yet, with top-of-the-range specs that include a stunning 1080p display and a superb 20-megapixel camera.

Despite its size, however, the Lumia 1520 feels like it's missing something. Only when the Windows Phone OS allows itself to be moulded and expanded into this new super-sized form factor will it feel complete.

Nokia Lumia 1520 Lumia 1520 Snapdragon 800 Windows Phone 8 phonescarousel-en-gb phonescarousel-en-us phonescarousel-en-au
Share this Article
Google+

Apps you might like:

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version