Nokia Lumia 520 was announced at the Mobile World Congress with the sole aim of conquering the low budget market space that most of the big game players such as Apple and HTC seem to have neglected. If you are in the market for a sub Rs. 10,000 device then chances are you will either end up picking a feature phone or a low powered Android device which you would much rather use as a paper weight than a smart phone for all your everyday needs ranging from media consumption to web browsing and calling.
We have been with our Lumia 520 for about a week now and having spent the money on buying the device for personal usage feel it is justifiable to review the good and the bad of the device. Is the Nokia Lumia a realistic answer for those who are looking for a budget smart phone or is it another of those devices which fizz out after an initial buzz? Here is our full review of the Nokia Lumia 520.
Availability and Pricing
Nokia Lumia 520 is available for about Rs. 9,999 at pretty much all the online retailing stores. You can check it out here on Flipkart. However, we picked our device from one of the street sellers and can vouch that if you are willing to look around a little you can very easily knock at least Rs. 500 from that price.
The device is easily available and we found it pretty much in every half decent gadget store. If you like net picking your devices based on colors, then that could be a problem like we found out. We wanted either a yellow or red variant of the device and had to settle on a white unit due to the lack of availability of color of choice. Although, the shell on the back can be replaced with whatever color you want, but you will be very lucky to find the device in all the available colors unless you wan to pick it up online.
Box and Retail Packaging
Nokia Lumia 520 comes in a standard packaged cardboard box with nothing much to write home about. The device itself was packed in a plastic cover with no screen guard of any sort to protect the screen from smudges of plastic. The rest of the packaging is pretty much how any Lumia device ships.
You need to slide the box out of the outer casing and the first thing that greets you is the device itself. Below the device you have another compartment where your Welcome to the Nokia Lumia 520 booklet sits alongside the wall charger, Micro USB Cable and a standard set of Nokia head phones. We were very disappointed with the quality of the headphones. They come with no foam covering for the tips and there is no clicking possible on the headset, meaning you cannot change your tracks or directly receive or end calls from the headphones.
For anything more than a very average music experience we do recommend all our readers to pick up better head phones as there are pretty much inadequate. We would also have liked the micro USB cable to have been slightly longer, the approximate 20 cm length was really less and we ended up packing it and leaving it back in the box. In short everything inside the box reeks of a budget smart phone.
Hardware Design and Feel in Hand
The first word that came into our minds when we saw the Nokia Lumia 520 was cute. Yes, the device is like a baby in front of the mammoth Galaxy Note II or even the HTC One X. That being said, the Lumia 520 gives you the feeling of being a bulky device despite weighing only 124 grams.
Although the phone fits perfectly into any average sized hands, the sharp edges and a curved back meant we were always very careful of the device not slipping away. A more rounded edges like that on the Lumia 620 would have perhaps been better. The build quality of the device is terrific and sturdy for a phone made out of plastic. There were no visible creeks in the body and even when we have to take the back panel off for inserting the SIM and Micro SD card, we faced no troubles. The design is functional and there is no major complaint here.
The back on the white unit that we use though did show signs of age collecting lots of dust marks and pen smudges when used in our daily student life. However, switching to a brighter color like a red or yellow or even cyan could perhaps reduce this problem, though we did end up putting a transparent rubber case on the device to keep it shining.
The Lumia 520 measures 119.9 x 64 x 9.9 mm from a dimensional point of view. The front of the device is dominated by a 4 inch IPS LCD display. You have the earpiece just above the Nokia branding and standard three Windows Phone capacitve touch buttons below the screen. The Micro USB connector which doubles as the charging point is located on the bottom curved chin of the device.
The top of the device features the 3.5 mm headset jack placed towards the left flank. Left side of the device is plain while you have three buttons on the right hand side, a standard Nokia Lumia configuration. You have the volume rocker at the top followed by the power lock and unlock button and the camera shutter button. We have always been a huge fan of placing of Power lock/unlock button as it is the most convenient spot for hand to reach.
All the buttons of the device have a great feedback and registered the input without fail. The back of the device has the Nokia branding and a 5 MP auto focus camera without any LED flash. The speaker grille is located at the bottom left side of the device and is well flushed within the body of the device. Overall, we were impressed with the device and how it felt in hand. By no means a head turner, like the HTC One, the Nokia Lumia 520 stands with its head held up high in the design department when it comes to mid range or lower end segment, and that is exactly what it is competing in.
Display and Screen
The Nokia Lumia 520 features a 4 inch measured diagonally IPS LCD display. The resolution on the device is fairly moderate 480×800 giving it a pixel density of 233 ppi. The screen on the Lumia 520 does not feature the ever present Clear Black Display technology of Nokia. And as result, the blacks are not as deep as they should be. In fact at times they looked more like dark grey.
No, by no means are we saying the screen is terrible or even bad, but coming from an HD panel like that on the HTC Butterfly or even device such as Pureview 808 which features the clear black display it took a lot of time getting used to this one. The text was clear and unless you crazily zoom in, you will not find much imperfections at the edges. The color reproduction is very average and not all that great for media watching due to fairly low resolution.
The viewing angles are once again very average but due to high reflectivity of the screen you will find yourself covering the screen with your hands for better visibility in the outdoors. Although the screen does feature the Super Sensitivity touch screen meaning you can use it with gloves, we did not dare try that out in this 38 degree scorching Delhi heat. The screen although is scratch resistant, there is no gorilla glass or any such technology here, so you just might want to be a little careful.
To sum it, the display although distinctively average is one of the highest quality ones that you will find in this price range. It will not make you go wow, but certainly is usable unless you are addicted to watching everything in HD.
Speakers and Audio Levels
The speaker on the Lumia 520 is loud and by loud we mean really loud. Even cranked upto 3/4th of the maximum volume, the sound boomed all over the room, no reference here to the boomsound on HTC One. The audio not only loud was extremely clear. However, placing the phone on its back did subdue the levels a little due to the speakers being flushed in the body. However, surprisingly this was not that bad either.
The speaker phone was pretty loud too and we actually did not mind the odd conference call on speaker on this one. We really like how good this device sounds without even connecting head phones. Connecting good quality head phones seemed to enhance the sound quality and listening to music on Nokia Music was a very pleasant experience. Without a doubt the Lumia 520 handles audio output excellently.
Performances in Real Time
Nokia Lumia 520 rocks a 1 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon S4 processor and 512 MB of RAM on board. There is also Adreno 305 GPU on board. All these hardware numbers translate to a performance that is really good. And the fact that Windows Phone 8 is one of the most friendly OS when it comes to memory consumption, the device did not really lag in moderate usage. Although, firing up or resuming applications were about a second slower than the older brother Lumia 920, we felt the Lumia 520 performed really well for a budget device.
In fact when we compare the phone to some of the Android devices in similar range, we have no qualms in recommending the Lumia 520 as a far superior device when it comes to performance. The swipping along on large web pages was smooth and unless the site contained a lot of multimedia or content there was no stuttering.
We ran the Antutu Benchmark on the device and got a score of 7092. Compare this to our old Nokia Lumia 800 which scored 2586 on the same benchmark test. These numbers definitely equate a much more cranked up and lag free performance on the Lumia 520.
Playing games like Sane Lane was a decent experience, the phone did not jump too many frames. Watching Videos was once again very decent and apart from occasional frame jump there is nothing drastic to write home about. Du to relatively lower RAM at 512 MB, you will feel the device does slow down considerably when you try and overload it with applications and tasks.
The Nokia Lumia 520 ships with an 8 GB of internal memory, though there is an option of expanding this by a Micro SD card. Out of 8 GB, you get about 6 GB for usage as OS itself takes about 1.9 GB of space. Despite not too much internal memory, we felt whatever is present is fairly adequate thanks to the Memory card. The absence of Compass though in the device was a bit of a deal breaker as it restricted some of the Nokia exclusive apps such as City Lens, and even Navigation a fair bit.
The accelerometer and the proximity sensor though worked well but we just wish there was some way to turn the auto rotation of the screen off, but that is more to do with the software than a hardware complain. Summing up, the performance was no cause of concern and pretty much better than most devices in this price bracket.
The Camera on the Nokia Lumia 520 is a 5 MP auto focus camera with no LED flash light. This was not much of a deal breaker since hardly any device out there does a good job of taking pictures in low light condition as a result we still prefer using an SLR. We did miss the LED light though for purpose of using it as a Flash light.
Despite being a low end device, the Lumia 520 does a very decent job of taking images. And in broad day light, the results range from above average to surprisingly good. The color reproduction was decent without being amazing, while the levels of details are fairly average. While shooting in dark, there is lot of noise but that is something we had anticipated.
The Camera application in itself is very basic and you can customize only a handful of things. You do get a few settings for scenes such as Close up, Night, Sports and Backlight that make a wee bit of difference. You can also play with the ISO, Exposure Value, White balance and switch to a 4:3 aspect Ratio which is 16:9 by default.Here are some of the sample shots taken by the camera of the Nokia Lumia 520.
The Video recording on the device is once again pretty decent, the audio levels were not all that great and you need very stable hands to record a clear video as stabilization is pretty much non existent. You can turn off Continuous focus in settings for Video and also select a lower resolution for saving space.
Over all, the camera does a decent job at producing images that can be useful for sharing on social networks. Nothing more, nothing less.
Software on Board
The Nokia Lumia 520 runs Windows Phone 8 which is the latest Phone OS from Microsoft. This means you have all the goodness of live tiles and their customization based on various sizes that some of the higher end Windows Phone 8 devices such as the Lumia 920 offer. Swipping towards the left from the home screen takes you to the list of apps that you have installed on your device. Things were quick and swift on the Lumia 520 and most of the apps worked well apart from those which needed RAM more than 512 MB or a sensor like Compass in case of City Lens.
There is very little customization possible here, as you can just switch between an all black or all white background and play with colors of the tiles and switch their sizes. You can however, customize your lockscreen and set the wallpaper on it of your choice and also select up to five applications whose notifications you want to see. Unlocking the device is pretty simple, you just swipe the lockscreen up after you have switched the device on. Some of the third party apps such as Weave News Reader allows you to see images of the latest news articles on your lockscreen.
The device does come bundled with a few apps from Nokia. We loved the Nokia Music app where you have a free subscription of upto three months and you can download unlimited songs from a fairly good collection of music. Here maps does a decent job of showing you around places while Mix Radio, a music streaming app and Cinemagraph are useful additions to the device. The office app on board lets you check out your Word or Powerpoint files and the Xbox App lets you stay connected with your Microsoft’s Xbox Account. All pretty standard features of any Lumia device.
Multitasking works well with the device and if you have used a Windows 7 device, you will be pleasant with all the improvements. The applications stay open in the memory and you do not have to start from the scratch once again. The People’s Hub aggregates all your contacts from sites such as Facebook, twitter and mail accounts in one place for easy access. Although, it can be pretty hard on your data plan, it is a decent solution for aggregating all your social feeds in one place.
We also liked Kid’s Corner cause we could keep the device locked and have only a handful of applications available for people who wanted to just try the device out, keeping unwanted people and interference out. Although, the app store is still not as robust with apps as Android or iOS but we pretty much found an application for all the needs apart from instagram maybe.
The Twitter and Facebook client are neat but there are no viable alternatives to these unless you want to shell a few bucks out. The Internet Explorer does a good job of opening the web pages without much stuttering and pinch to zoom worked just fine. The lack of a proper Youtube app though is simply impossible to explain.
Typing on the Lumia 820 was a pleasant experience. Despite a slightly smaller screen at 4 inches coming from a device like the HTC Butterfly, we could type pretty much accurately on this one. The keyboard is of a very decent height and the keys are wide enough for someone with medium sized hands. The experience of using the keyboard in landscape was good too and due to the ideal size of the device, we had no trouble hitting either ends of the flank.
Our experience of using the Lumia 520 was brilliant from a software point of view. Coming from chunks of Android devices in this range which require a hammer to work or constant memory refresh to stay alive the Lumia 520 was a pleasant change. Things just worked well overall and you would not need too much getting used to the OS either as it is pretty simple to set up and use.
Nokia Lumia 520 ships with 1430 mAh battery which is removable. The phone does a decent job of lasting through the day with regular usage. We took the phone off the charger at 8 in the morning and it cried to be plugged in again at about 1 at night with continuous data on, a couple of hours of music, an hour of phone call and few messages on Whatsapp here and there. We did not play too many games in this period though, so maybe that could be one reason for the battery lasting, but like always Nokia has done a very good job at battery management.
The device took about 2 hours to charge from zero to full. You can however, bank on it to last through the day and can leave that clunky wall charger back at home.
Call Quality and Data
The call quality on Nokia Lumia 520 is, without a doubt, great. Noise cancellation works well and people had no problems hearing us at the other end. In our 15 call test, we did not have one dropped call and the signals stayed intact in regions where both our iPhone and HTC One X gave up.
The Lumia 520 supports HSDPA down of 21 Mbps but on a very good day we were able to get about 6 on the down. Although the Wi-Fi connectivity on the device was good, for some strange reason, the device kept getting disconnected from our home network and we had to go back to the settings app to re-connect. Maybe, a minor glitch that will be sorted with a software update.
Here’s our Hands On Video Review
Our Final Verdict
We still stand by our claims that the Nokia Lumia 520 is a great device for those who are looking for a budget or low end phone. It pretty much supersedes any Android device in this range and we whole heartily recommend this device to anyone who wants to buys it.
Yes, there are some glaring missing key features like the LED flash or Front Facing camera and even the compass, but these are the compromises you will have to make when you are looking at a budget phone. The phone has all the essentials and keeps all your bases covered pretty decently. It is also a great device for those who want to use it as their back up phone or their first foray in the world of Windows Phone Ecosystem. It indeed is a great value for money.
Do let us know if you have any queries in the section below.