Nokia Lumia 1520 Windows Phone

Nokia's Lumia 1520 combines a great screen with continually developing software, but there's plenty of room for improvement

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Nokia Lumia 1520
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Large, excellent display
  • PureView camera performs well
  • Very good build quality


  • Extremely large, awkward to hold
  • Camera can be sluggish
  • Windows Phone UI needs work

Bottom Line

Nokia's Lumia 1520 has a huge 6in display and also includes an excellent 20-megapixel PureView camera. If you can handle its gargantuan, awkward size, it combines a great screen with continually developing software, though there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Would you buy this?

There's currently a growing demand for smartphones with very large screens and Nokia has responded with one of the biggest on the market. Described as its "first ever large screen Lumia smartphone", the Lumia 1520 has a huge 6in display and also includes an excellent 20-megapixel PureView camera. If you can handle its gargantuan, awkward size, the Lumia 1520 combines a great screen with continually developing software, though there's still plenty of room for improvement.

A gargantuan Lumia

There's no way around this: the Lumia 1520 is a massive smartphone.

There's no way around this: the Lumia 1520 is a massive smartphone. Weighing 209g and measuring almost 86mm wide, it's the largest device we've reviewed this year. Of course, any users who are considering a phone this big will be aware of the cons, but the Lumia 1520 even makes the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 look compact — it's taller, wider, thicker and heavier than Samsung's popular phablet. After a few days of use, you'll discover that the Lumia 1520 barely fits into a regular jeans pocket, is generally uncomfortable to hold and use, and doesn't even fit into a regular sized car cupholder.

The Lumia 1520 follows a similar design to most other Lumia phones Nokia has released in 2013. It's particularly comparable to the mid-range Lumia 720, so much so that it appears Nokia took that phone and simply blew it up. The Lumia 1520 uses the same single-piece polycarbonate body, the same ceramic keys on the side, and the same rounded, curved edges. The only real difference is the camera lens, which protrudes from the back and therefore has a slight bump, along with the microSD card slot on the right side for extra storage.

The Lumia 1520 feels impeccably well constructed.

The Lumia 1520 feels impeccably well constructed. There's no evident creaks or rattles, even when force is applied to the polycarbonate case, and the fit and finish is among the best we've seen on any smartphone. The volume, power/lock and camera buttons on the right side provide excellent tactility, and the touch sensitive back, home and search keys below the screen are responsive. However, they would look far better with a pure white backlight instead of the hazy, slight yellow glow they emit.

The 6in, full HD display on the Lumia 1520 is a significant inclusion for both Nokia and Windows Phone. The operating system was previously limited to a maximum resolution of 1280x720, so the addition of a 1920x1080, Full HD panel brings the device into line with major competitors. The extra pixels now means there's room for a third column of Live tiles on the home screen, and six tiles across the screen instead of four. The screen itself is excellent, producing deep blacks, bright, vibrant colours and offering excellent sunlight legibility. It's also very responsive to touch and can be used even if you're wearing gloves. It's particularly excellent for watching video content and playing games.

A blown up Windows Phone experience

The Lumia 1520 runs the latest version of Windows Phone 8 (Update 3) and also comes with Nokia's newest firmware, called Lumia Black. New features include RAW file support for images, the ability to double tap on the screen to unlock it, and being able to hover your hand over the screen to see selected information at a glance. There's also Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility.

The user interface doesn't feel optimised for the large screen.

These features aside, the general user interface of the Lumia 1520 remains very similar to previous Lumia phones. The software is fast, there's very minimal lag, and apps run smoothly. Scrolling, especially in the Internet Explorer browser and the app list, is smoother and faster than most Android phones we've used. It's a familiar experience overall but a very polished one.

Unfortunately, the Windows Phone UI doesn't feel like it's been optimised for the Lumia 1520's large screen as there's often little to no consideration for usability. The multitasking menu has acres of unused space surrounding it, for example, the keyboard takes up half of the screen (literally), and the font size is extremely large and can't be adjusted. The extra screen real estate is great for extra tiles on the home screen and looks superb for video, but there's plenty of interface elements in the Windows Phone OS where the large screen isn't taken advantage of.

The larger screen allows for more tiles on the Windows Phone home screen.
The larger screen allows for more tiles on the Windows Phone home screen.

The Windows Phone 8 ecosystem does have some excellent and often overlooked core features. The 7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage, and the built-in Microsoft Office app (made very useful on such a large screen) are two of the best, while Nokia's preloaded apps include the excellent Here Maps and Here Drive. The lack of popular third-party apps, a common criticism of Windows Phone, is also improving. The likes of Instagram, Angry Birds GO, Vine and 6snap (a Snapchat client) are all available now, and there are plenty of genuine alternatives for many apps that aren't available, provided you look hard enough for them.

Performance is excellent. The Lumia 1520's 2.2GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM ensure the device runs fast and smooth. Gaming is a particular highlight — there's not even a hint of any lagging frame rates in titles like Asphalt 8: Airbourne, Assasins Creed - Altair's Chronicle, and Angry Birds GO!, though the back of the phone around the camera lens does have a tendency to become very warm after a few minutes of gaming. The Lumia 1520 comes with 32GB of internal memory.

PureView camera, good battery life

Pretty impressive, although less so than the Lumia 1020.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 has a 20-megapixel PureView camera with optical image stabilisation. The technology is a lower-resolution version of the Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel PureView sensor, but still allows users to zoom into a photo after it is captured without losing image quality. Zoom is 2x rather than the Lumia 1020's 3x, however, and the 1520 has a dual-LED flash rather than the Xenon one. The front-facing camera has a 1.2-megapixel sensor but can record 720p wide angle video.

Overall results are pretty impressive, although less so than the Lumia 1020. Photos we captured with the Lumia 1520 produced excellent levels of detail, minimal image noise and good colour reproduction, though low light performance was a downside, especially compared to the 1020. The dual-LED flash tends to wash out most photos in dimly lit environment.

A photo we captured with the Nokia Lumia 1520 (click to enlarge).
A photo we captured with the Nokia Lumia 1520 (click to enlarge).

The main disadvantage of the camera is speed.

The highlight of the camera is the app itself, which combines Nokia's previous Smart Cam and Pro Cam apps. It provides quick access to Windows Phone's multitude of lenses, which previously weren't accessible in Pro Cam and the wealth of settings available is impressive for a camera phone. Sliding the on-screen capture button to the left brings up on screen controls where you can manually adjust settings like exposure level, white balance, shutter speed and ISO and even focus. You can immediately see the effect the settings will have on the image as they are being adjusted.

The main disadvantage of the Lumia 1520's camera, aside from less than stellar low light results, is speed. The Nokia Camera app can often take up to three or four seconds to launch from the lock screen, and we also experienced lag when adjusting some manual settings, and slow autofocus. It's also an annoyance that the option to switch to the front-facing camera is buried in the settings menu.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 has reasonably good battery life considering the size of the screen. On most occasions, we managed a full day of use out of the 3400mAh battery before our review unit required a recharge, usually averaging between 14 and 15 hours of use. Heavy users will still need to reach for the charger before the end of the day but most should be relatively happy with battery life.

Nokia's Camera app combines previous Smart Cam and Pro Cam apps.
Nokia's Camera app combines previous Smart Cam and Pro Cam apps.

Unlike the Lumia 1020, the 1520 has integrated wireless charging based on the Qi standard so it will work with a number of existing accessories including a wireless charging pillow by Fatboy, a Nokia-branded wireless charging plate and a JBL speaker that will charge the phone and enable one-touch Bluetooth pairing using NFC.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is available exclusively through Harvey Norman for $899 outright and is available in black, white and yellow colour variants.

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