Nokia Lumia 520 $170

4th Apr 2014 | 12:40

Nokia Lumia 520

The 520 has new software, but is even cheaper

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

The Lumia 520 looks good, it's got a decent screen, it rarely stutters or slows down, it's great for calls and messaging and might it just be the best entry level Windows Phone handset you can buy.


Super cheap; Large, expansive screen; Loads of innovation


No front-facing camera; Average battery; No NFC or compass;

Introduction and design

Ratings in depth

Nokia Lumia 520 review
Nokia Lumia 520 review
Nokia Lumia 520 review
Nokia Lumia 520 review
Nokia Lumia 520 review

The Nokia Lumia 520 was the fifth Windows Phone 8 handset from the Finnish firm and it slots into the very bottom end of the range, just below the Nokia Lumia 620.

And we do mean just below – the specs of the 520 and 620 are remarkably similar, meaning that Nokia's main competition at the bottom end of the market is itself. There's also the mid-level Lumia 625 that Nokia released last November and the newer Lumia 630 and Lumia 635.

Otherwise, its biggest rival is the Huawei Ascend W1 – a low-end handset that we're rather fond of.

Of course if you look beyond Windows Phone there's a whole host of Android competitors, chief of which is the superb Motorola Moto G – a smartphone that pretty much redefined what a 'budget' handset could be.

There are other options to, of course, such as the ZTE Blade Q Mini or the HTC Desire 610, which was announced at MWC 2014 in Barcelona.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

But here's something that may have a bearing on whether you buy the Lumia 520 – the phone is now the world's top-selling Windows Phone 8 handset, thanks to its impressive specs and low-end price.

What's more, it was the third best-selling phone in the UK in December 2013 according to Jim Belfiore, the VP of operating systems at Microsoft.

This little handset has also just been on the receiving end of Nokia's Lumia Black system update that adds some extra functionality to the device as well as some new features to play with. More on that later.

The Nokia Lumia 520 has a fairly generous 4-inch, 480 x 800 display and is powered by a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 512MB of RAM.

That may not sound like much but the power matches the Lumia 620, and we had few qualms about the performance of that phone given its price. The screen is actually slightly bigger than that of the Nokia Lumia 620, which only has a 3.8-inch display.

You can now pick the Nokia Lumia 520 up from £99.95 SIM free or from £69.99 if you buy it locked on a PAYG deal, making it incredibly affordable.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

That means a decent saving for those who don't mind committing to a network. It's cheaper than the Nokia Lumia 625 too.

At first glance it's certainly an impressive handset for the price, easily competing with the similarly priced Ascend W1 and potentially rendering the Nokia Lumia 620 redundant.

In fact, given that it has similar specs, a bigger screen and a better battery, you might be wondering why the Lumia 520 is considered lower-end than the 620.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Well, there are a few reasons. First off, the Nokia Lumia 520 doesn't have NFC. It also doesn't have a camera flash or a front-facing camera, plus there's no compass built into it. And while the screen is slightly bigger, it still has the same resolution, resulting in a marginally lower ppi.

But we don't consider any of them to be deal breakers, and depending on how you plan to use the phone they may well be things you can happily live with - especially for £70.


Like all recent Nokia handsets there's a lot of colour in the Nokia Lumia 520. It shares the look of other Lumia devices, with a single piece of smooth plastic covering the back and sides of the phone.

That shell is available in black or white, but the bright shades of yellow, blue and red on offer will appeal if you like it loud.

If nothing else, it makes Nokia handsets stand out from the crowd. Regardless of the colour, it's quite a nice looking phone in other ways, with an angular, rectangular design more in line with the higher end Nokia Lumia 920 than the curved edges of its closest relations – the Nokia Lumia 620 and 625.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

It's certainly a more distinctive (and I'd argue classier) look than that of the Lumia 620 – which is odd considering the Lumia 520 is supposed to be the more basic option.

It's also slimmer and lighter than the Lumia 620, at a fairly sleek 9.9mm and 124g. At 119.9x64mm it is longer and wider than the Lumia 620, but that's understandable given that it's also got a slightly bigger screen.

I like the feel of it too. The plastic casing seems almost warm, making it nice to hold, and it's not as slippery as it might look – so getting a firm grip on the handset is no problem.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

The almost jagged corners can dig into your hand a little when held in certain positions, but it's at worst slightly uncomfortable and easily avoided by adjusting your grip.

The front of the Nokia Lumia 520 is mostly screen as you'd expect and at 4-inches it's a decent size for a low-price handset. The pixel density of 233 pixels per inch also isn't bad at all for the money you're paying. Sure, it's dwarfed by the likes of the 469ppi HTC One, but it's also many times cheaper.

A huge plus is the ability to use gloves with the screen too – being able to type in the cold weather is becoming a really common ability on phones, but I'm impressed Nokia managed it on such a cheap handset.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Unlike some handsets, the screen here isn't edge-to-edge: there's a black border running the entire way around it. At the sides this border is fairly narrow, but it becomes quite wide at the top to make room for the earpiece and a Nokia logo. It's even wider at the bottom, because that's where you'll find the start, back and search softkeys.

The back of the handset is almost featureless, with just a small Nokia logo in the centre, the 5MP camera lens near the top and a tiny loudspeaker near the bottom.

The right edge of the handset houses all of the phone's physical buttons, with a volume rocker at the top, a power button near the middle and a camera button near the bottom. The layout works well, with the buttons spaced far enough to prevent confusion.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

The left edge is devoid of any features, ports or buttons at all. The top is home only to a 3.5mm headphone port on the left-hand side.

The bottom edge has a micro USB port in the centre, which is used for charging or connecting the Nokia Lumia 520 to a computer.

The back cover is easy to remove – you simply use your nails to peel it away at each corner. The cover itself feels reasonably sturdy, so I don't see it snapping even if you take it on and off a lot.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Once that has been removed, you'll have access to the 1430 mAh battery (which interestingly, is bigger than the 1300 mAh battery found in the Nokia Lumia 620).

Underneath the battery there are two slots – one for a micro SIM card and one for a microSD card. The Nokia Lumia 520 supports up to 64GB cards, which comes in very handy for bulking up the storage from the fairly limiting 8GB of onboard memory.

Key features and interface

Key features

The Windows Phone 8 OS is still a distant third behind Android and iOS, so the consumer deck is already stacked against the Lumia 520, despite its success last year.

However, the sheer value to be had here counts very strongly in the Lumia 520's favour, as does the build quality and some of the apps on offer.


Having Microsoft Office and OneNote on board adds some serious value. Both of these apps are fairly feature rich, with Office in particular proving impressive as it lets you create, view and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Doing much more than reading them on a 4-inch screen isn't the most pleasant experience in the world, but it could come in handy in an emergency.

Likewise, I'd have to say that one of the key features of the handset is the way in which social media is handled.

Microsoft has really nailed social media integration with Windows Phone 8. It's all fairly straightforward really: you access them from the People app, which gives you an alphabetical list of all your contacts, complete with thumbnails.

Tapping on someone brings up all the information you have stored on them – from email and phone number right through to office location, birthday and address.


You can then just tap on a phone number or email to call or message them, and it's easy to add new details to a contact at any time by tapping the edit icon at the bottom of the screen.

Swiping right from a contacts page will take you to a 'history' screen, which keeps a record of communications between the two of you as well as their recent posts and updates on social networks.

Swiping to the left brings you to a 'what's new' screen, which combines the likes of Twitter and Facebook into a single feed, giving you an overview of recent happenings without having to use a separate app.

It's simple stuff, but combining contacts and social network feeds is something that no other phone OS does quite as well as Windows Phone 8, and we're big fans.

Nokia has really given its Lumia phones a personality – thanks to the bright colours and interchangeable backs. Anyone tired of the constant black, white or silver options on other handsets will enjoy carrying a bit of colour around with them.


Operating the Nokia Lumia 520 is a fairly painless experience. Swiping around the various screens is smooth and responsive, while the 4-inch display is plenty big enough to do most things comfortably.

While it's only 480 x 800, the display also has a good enough resolution to prevent tiles and menus becoming a blur.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

One thing I did notice though is that the screen feels ever so slightly sticky, for lack of a better word. It's responsive but somehow doesn't feel as accurate to the touch as many others do. On top of that it seems more prone to picking up smudges and fingerprints than we'd like – which can make things a bit of a mess.

The interface on the Nokia Lumia 520 is much the same as on any other Windows Phone 8 handset.

You start on the lockscreen, which displays the time and date along with an overview of your latest email, or any pertinent reminders pulled from Facebook or your calendar. Behind that you get wallpaper – or if you'd prefer you can set Facebook to display random images from your account.

With the Lumia Black update, Nokia introduced a feature called Glance 2.0 that displays more notifications on the lock screen. Unfortunately, due to the Lumia 520's limited 512MB of RAM, it misses out on this feature.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Swiping up clears the lockscreen and takes you to the start screen. This has tiles for various apps and menus, and you can scroll through them vertically.

Long-pressing on a tile lets you move it, resize it or unpin it from the screen, while if you dig into the settings menu you can also change the colour scheme. However, there are no custom wallpapers or widgets to play with. That keeps things simple and intuitive, but some may find it limiting.

The tiles themselves are 'live tiles', which means that they're not just a static image. Instead they can display additional information – so for example the People tile will show you thumbnails of contacts images, while the calendar will display upcoming events.

Thanks to the Lumia Black update, you can now organise live tiles in folders on your start screen. This is a feature that's been available for Android and iOS for some time, and it's good to finally see Nokia adding in the functionality.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Once updated, you can download the App Folder app from the Windows Store and use it to create folders that can then be pinned to the Start screen like any other tile. It's a great way of saving space and very useful for lumping similar apps, like games or email, together.

Swiping left from the start screen brings up a list of all your apps in alphabetical order – and again you scroll vertically up and down through these. Long-pressing an app on this screen lets you pin it to the start screen or delete it.

You'll find the settings screen in here (though like everything else it can be pinned to the start screen for easy access if you'd prefer). From here you can change ringtones and other sounds, alter the start screen theme, set up Wi-Fi networks and more.

It's all well laid-out and clearly labelled, though I wish certain options were more easily accessible, such as toggles for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

I'd also love to be able to see how much battery percentage I have left without having to delve into the depths of the settings screen.

Performance, internet and battery life

The Nokia Lumia 520 features a Qualcomm MSM8227 dual-core processor running a 1GHz and backed by 512MB of RAM.

Although looking a little dated on paper by now, it keeps the Windows Phone 8 OS running smoothly during day-to-day usage. However, occasionally the loading times can get a little frustrating.

There's an Adreno 305 GPU on board that will handle 3D games downloaded from the Xbox section of the Windows Store with passable results.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

The Nokia Lumia 520 comes with Wi-Fi and 3G as you'd expect and being a Windows Phone 8 handset your web browser choices are Internet Explorer and, er, Internet Explorer.

Still, it's optimised for HTML 5 and isn't the worst mobile browser we've ever used, so that's not the end of the world.

The 4-inch screen on the Nokia Lumia 520 is big and clear enough, so sites are fairly readable and images are reasonably sharp. However, if you're viewing a desktop site you might need to zoom in quite a long way.

The Wi-Fi and 3G performance could be better unfortunately. Using the TechRadar homepage as an example it took seven seconds to load the mobile version over Wi-Fi, which isn't bad but isn't exactly super-fast, while the desktop version took a whopping 24 seconds.

3G, as you can imagine, was even slower, exceeding 30 seconds for the desktop version of

Of course for under £100 you can't expect top-tier performance, and it's generally not too much of a problem if you stick to mobile sites. It's also roughly on a par with the performance of the more expensive Nokia Lumia 620 and the Huawei Ascend W1.

Battery life

The Nokia Lumia 520 has a 1430mAh battery to keep it going. That's a slight boost over the 1300mAh battery found in the Nokia Lumia 620, but some way short of the 1950mAh battery packed into the Ascend W1.


The slight bump in battery size equated to a slight bump in performance over the Lumia 620, but it's an important improvement. While the Lumia 620 would sometimes struggle to make it through a day, the Lumia 520 generally seemed fine – though you'd still normally need to charge it overnight.

After TechRadar's patented battery test – running a 90-minute video from a fully charged handset with Wi-Fi on, social networks and emails set to push notifications and the screen turned up to full brightness – we saw the battery drop to 66% by the end.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

That's not brilliant performance, but when used in other ways – for example phone calls, playing music, sending texts and so on, the Nokia Lumia 520 performed a lot better and unless you're watching a lot of videos you should easily get a day's use out of it.

Nokia rates the Lumia 520 for up to 360 hours of standby time over 3G, 14.8 hours of talk time over 3G, 9.6 hours of talk time over 2G or 61 hours of music playback, which sounds fair, though it notably doesn't post figures on video time.

If the battery doesn't live up to your expectations there is a battery saver, which prevents apps from syncing in the background. You can also invest in a spare battery, since it's easily removable if you just pop the back off the phone.

However if you'd rather not do that then the Huawei Ascend W1 might be a better bet, as that is one of the few Windows Phone 8 handsets to actually sport good battery life.

The essentials

Like all Windows Phones, the soft touch Back, Start and Search buttons are all fairly self-explanatory in their main uses, but two of them have additional uses if you long-press them.

The back button will display an overview of recent apps and screens if you long-press it, allowing you to tap on one to return to it, while the start button will bring up a voice search box when long-pressed.

It can be used to launch apps, send texts, search the web and more, and generally it can tell what you're trying to say as long as you speak clearly.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Getting to the business of actually calling people, your contacts are listed in the 'Phone' app.

When you open it you'll find yourself on the history screen, which is simply a list of any calls that you've made and received, along with the date and time of the call.

You can tap on any of these to call the person back, but we don't imagine it's a screen that will get much use, so it seems strange that the app defaults to this one whenever you open it.

Never mind though – you can easily get to the other screens via icons at the bottom. One calls your voicemail, one takes you to your phonebook in the people app, one lets you search for a contact and one takes you to the dialler.

The dial pad itself is a bit of a letdown as it doesn't support smart dialling – so you're really only likely to use it for people that aren't already in your address book.


Things are a lot more positive when you're actually on a call, as call quality is pretty good – perhaps not the best I've come across but certainly above average – and I never had a problem hearing anyone or experienced any dropped calls.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise from Nokia as the company has been making phones for quite some time.

There's the usual assortment of information onscreen during the call – the contact's name and number and the call duration, plus options to mute the call, put the call on hold, turn the loudspeaker on, or add someone else to the call.

At 124g, you'll have no problem holding the phone for long periods of time and this goes for both making calls, taking pictures or playing on apps.

Speaking of which, the selection of apps is nowhere close to what you'd find on Google Play or Apple's App Store, but it's not bad either, with a selection of games, social media apps, productivity tools and more.

All the main apps, like eBay, Wikipedia, Angry Birds or Whatsapp can be found without much trouble in the Windows Store.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

The games are worth highlighting in particular, as Microsoft have secured some unique offerings that aren't available on Android or Apple devices and you can also access your Xbox Live account if you have one.

Text – either from an email, SMS or instant message is easy to read on the 4-inch screen. Composing new messages is similarly straightforward, because the onscreen keyboard doesn't make things any harder than they need to be.

There's no lag when inputting text and it takes a decent stab at autocorrecting typos. It's generally quite accurate too.

However, it is a little cramped, especially in portrait mode, so if you've got particularly big hands you may struggle with it.


The camera on the Nokia Lumia 520 is pretty basic, you get a 5MP sensor on the back, but it doesn't have any flash and there's no front facing camera at all – so video chats and self portraits are out.

It also nixes the chance of Skype calling, which is a big feature of the Windows Phone 8, and therefore could be seen as a big miss. But if you want a phone for video calling, the similar Lumia 620 is your friend.

There are limited options on the Lumia 520; you can adjust the ISO, white balance, aspect ratio and exposure value, as well as choose between several scene modes such as close-up, night or sports.


Beyond that the camera is basically just point and shoot, though you can tap to focus on specific things and there is a 'smart shoot' option, which takes a handful of rapid-fire pictures and lets you pick which ones to keep. It's a handy feature, since the first photo you take might come out blurred or someone's eyes might be closed.

Now the Lumia Black update has appeared, Nokia has effectively blended the Smart Camera app into the regular camera, letting you access ISO, White Balance and Scene Selection from a small bar at the top of the screen. It saves you having to switch apps and means you're going to be quicker when taking snaps.


Unfortunately, because of the Lumia 520's budget cred, you don't get access to the Nokia Refocus app that is available to updated handsets. The app shoots several pictures simultaneously with different focal points – letting you adjust them later.

Being a Windows Phone handset, there's also a dedicated camera button, which is a lot better for taking photos than trying to use an on-screen button. It also gives you quick access to your camera, as pressing it from any other screen will launch the camera app.


The camera isn't bad at all for a budget handset, though it unsurprisingly can't compete with the snappers on pricier phones.

The video camera on the Nokia Lumia 520 is similarly basic. It shoots in 720p at 30fps (which is the same as the Nokia Lumia 620), and the performance is similar to that of its big brother too.

The options for the video camera are even more limited than when shooting stills. You can adjust the white balance, turn continuous focus on or off and adjust the quality, though you can only choose between 720p and WVGA.

You can either press the shutter button or tap on the screen to start shooting, then do the same to stop. That's all there is to it really.

Since there's no flash there's also no video lamp, so its performance isn't great in poorly lit places, but if you stick to daylight the performance isn't too bad for such a wallet-friendly handset.

When staying fairly still the quality is reasonable. However it struggled a bit with the ripples in the water. Close-ups aren't handled too badly either. If you move too close in or move too quickly then it will struggle to focus, but for static medium close-ups it produces useable footage.

Fast moving traffic comes out a little blurred. The camera also fails to bring out details in the background.


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Night shot

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The Nokia Lumia 520 was never going to be a media powerhouse, with just 8GB of internal storage, average battery life and a 480 x 800 display, it just doesn't have the chops to compete in the big leagues.

On the other hand, that 8GB of storage can be expanded, potentially up to 72GB of total storage with the help of a micro SD card, and while the resolution isn't amazing the screen isn't a bad size at 4 inches.

For around £100 plus the price of a microSD card you could have a satisfying little media player on your hands.


Nokia Lumia 520 review

Music is handled by the 'Music + Videos' app and it's a solid player. You can filter your music by album, song or artist – which in each case will present you with an alphabetical list of your stored music, complete with album images if you choose to sort by album.

You can also find all of your music from a specific genre and create playlists. It's easy to navigate and use, though does little to stand out from any other music player.

When you play music you'll find that some music controls appear on your lockscreen, letting you easily pause or skip track.

Unfortunately the same controls aren't present on the start screen, so if you leave the player you have to either go back into it or lock and then unlock your phone to actually manipulate the music.

The Nokia Lumia 520 supports a decent range of formats including WAV, MP3, WMA, and eAAC+. It can also pump music out of its tiny speakers at a surprising volume without any distortion, though there's not really any bass.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

As well as either copying music across from a computer or loading up a microSD card with it, you can also purchase music from the Xbox music store to get it sent directly to your phone.

There's a solid selection available along with fairly competitive pricing (around 99p a track for new releases).

You can get to the store directly from the player and it's easy to browse – letting you filter results by genre and then check out top tracks, new releases and more.

Though of course you can also just type in a search if you already know what you're after.

On top of buying music the store also offers an unlimited streaming service for a monthly subscription. You also get access to Nokia's Mix radio, which is a real boon for a lot of people – it's free music on a cheap-as-chips phone.


Video is also handled by the 'Music + Videos' app, but it's nowhere near as fleshed out as the music experience. For a start there's no video store, which is a bit of a shame given that both Android and Apple have one.

That means that you'll have to get your video content from elsewhere and copy it across to the Nokia Lumia 520 (or to a microSD card).

Nokia Lumia 520 review

Once you've got some videos on the phone they're laid out as a list with thumbnails and their titles. You tap on one to play it and then you have a few standard video controls (pause, skip and fit to screen). That's all there is to it. So it's pretty bare bones, but it gets the job done in the end.

The 4-inch screen is just about big enough to watch a video on comfortably, while the phone itself is also light and comfortable to hold for extended periods (just as long as you don't let the corners dig into your hands). The resolution and screen quality could certainly be better but in practice it actually didn't seem too bad.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

The player also supports a variety of file formats, specifically MP4, H.264, H.263 and WMV. It sounds average through the internal speakers too, which is good if you have to use it, though we'd advise you use headphones for richer sounds.


Photos are housed in the 'Photos' app, which seems logical, and it's not a bad app either. If you tap on 'camera roll' you can see thumbnails of every photo you've taken on the handset, and then tap on one to open it.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

At that point you can then scroll through the rest of your photos or tap on the three dots at the bottom of the screen to edit the current photo, delete it, save it to OneDrive or set it as your lockscreen wallpaper.

Editing options take the form of cropping, rotating and auto-fixing and there's also a 'Creative Studio' option which lets you add colour tints to a photo, such as 'ivory' or 'jade'.

Handily it shows you a preview of how all these options will make your photo look before you commit to selecting one.

But the photos app doesn't just house pictures from your camera roll, it also syncs with Facebook and other social networks to pull photos from there.

If you've linked any social network accounts you'll find that all of your photo albums from them are present and correct under the 'albums' heading.

The 'Photos' app will also house any photos that you've copied across to the handset and as well as sorting by album you can filter photos by a specific date or search only for photos with a specific person tagged in them.

Nokia Lumia 520 review

PhotoBeamer is an app that forms part of the Lumia Black update and lets you quickly throw a picture from the phone onto any screen connected to the internet through a QR scanner.

Launch the app on the Lumia 520 and navigate to on a laptop, tablet or desktop. From there, select which photos you want to display and hold the Lumia 520 so the app can read the code.

Your pictures will be displayed on the monitor, providing an excellent way of sharing pictures or taking colleagues through a presentation.

I found the connection occurred within 10 seconds on a laptop running through a Wi-Fi signal but it took significantly longer – up to 25 seconds – when navigating through a hard-wired server connection to a desktop PC.

Another addition courtesy of the Lumia Black update is Nokia Storyteller. This app is still in beta, but nonetheless provides a nice way of organising your images. It will use your location to plot images from a particular trip and add them into their own folder.

You can add captions to each image and it will also plot these photos on a map if you want an alternative way of viewing them.


Motorola Moto G

Any phone, regardless of operating system, entering the budget market has to be willing to go up against Motorola's excellent handset.

It arrives toting the latest Android 4.4 KitKat incarnation of Google's OS and a 1280x720p display with a 329ppi. And all for an 8GB price tag of £135.

Moto G

Unfortunately, the Lumia 520 really struggles to compete here. The Moto G boasts more apps, a nicer screen and, if I'm honest, a better build quality. The Lumia 520 can't fall back on its colourful cases because the Moto G sports a nicely rubberised rear plate in a variety of different colours. It's water resistant as well.

Of course, if you don't want to move to Android, then the Lumia 520 is still your best value-for-money Windows Phone 8 offering.

You'll get Microsoft's social network integration and Xbox apps as well as Nokia's exclusive apps like MixRadio and HERE Drive – although that's not to say there aren't decent alternatives on the Google Play store.

While we like the Lumia 520, and the Lumia Black update adds some nice touches, I still don't think it has the ability to unseat the Moto G as the reigning phone of the budget market.

Nokia Lumia 625

Rather than going up against the Motorola Moto G, a much closer comparison can be made against Nokia's new mid-market handset.

Although it costs more – coming in at around £200 – there are a couple of extra features that have been passed over for the Lumia 520.

Lumia 625

The Lumia 625 has 4G support as standard. That might not be much of a selling point at the moment, but it becomes more important as 4G increases its uptake.

However, you might be surprised to learn that although the 625 boasts a larger 4.7-inch screen, it still only supports the same 800 x 480 resolution as the Lumia 520. This means that while it's better for tapping out texts and emails, it's not necessarily crisper when it comes to watching media.

The design remains colourfully Lumia, but Nokia has curved the corners on the 625. The slightly larger chassis hasn't led Nokia to increase the storage and it boasts the same 8GB native option as the Lumia 520.

It comes down to value, and whether you plan on using 4G, when deciding between these two. But for our money, the Lumia 520 nudges it. The Lumia 520 has all the core features of the 625 (they have the same RAM also) but remains more wallet-friendly.


The Nokia Lumia 520, much like its big brother the Lumia 620, is a jack of all trades and a master of none – although it manages to make a good fist of nearly all it tries, for the price.

We liked

The incredibly low price is a huge selling point for the Nokia Lumia 520. It also looks like a more expensive handset than it is, with a decent-sized 4-inch screen and a stylish body which could almost lead someone to confuse it for the much more expensive Nokia Lumia 920.

It has also got a respectable amount of power hidden away inside, with a 1GHz dual-core processor ensuring that performance is generally pretty smooth.

The 5MP camera is good for the price and while it doesn't have much built-in storage it has a microSD card slot to make up for it.

It also gets decent phone signal and as with all Windows Phone 8 handsets the way contacts are integrated with social networks is excellent.

We disliked

The lack of a front-facing camera or for that matter a flash on the rear camera is a shame, somewhat muting its otherwise respectable photographic performance.

The screen tends to attract fingerprints and smudges more than most phones, which can leave it looking blurred and dirty after only a small amount of use.

I also found the battery life to be pretty average (though still slightly better than the Nokia Lumia 620) and the web browser was a little slow, particularly when browsing over 3G.


The Lumia 520 looks good, it's got a decent screen both in terms of size and resolution, it rarely stutters or slows down, it's great for calls and messaging, reasonable for media and okay for photos.

To achieve a lower price point than the Lumia 620 it has had to strip away a few things – there's no NFC, compass, camera flash or front facing camera here.

But on the other hand it's also got a bigger screen, a larger battery, a sleeker, slimmer, lighter build and the same processor and RAM as the Nokia Lumia 620, so in many ways it's actually better.

There's also an extra level of functionality that has arrived with Nokia's Lumia Black update. While it's true that there's nothing revolutionary included in the update, some of the features – like adding tiles together in a folder – are very useful.

Combine that with a lower price tag and we reckon that this just might be the best entry level Windows Phone 8 handset that you can buy and certainly the best value.

First reviewed: April 2013

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