For the last couple of years I have been using a Nexus as my main phone with sporadic use of a HTC 8X which runs Windows Phone 8. Since the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1 was released I have been getting back into Windows Phone and wanted some more modern hardware to try and this is where the Lumia 1520 comes in. A few years ago I used a Samsung Galaxy Note so I am no stranger to large phones but the 1520 is something else.
The most striking feature is the display, the phone’s display runs at 1920×1080 with 368 ppi and is the best screen have seen on a phone. The colours are vivid and the display is extremely clear, it works very well even in direct sunlight. Windows Phone looks really good on a large display, especially since the 8.1 update which improved the scaling and font sizes in many areas. While you may not be able to use the phone one handed it makes up for being great for videos, games, browsing and viewing pictures. It works really well as a handheld games console the large screen is great for games, as it is for watching videos. The screen is fantastic when using the 1520 to take photos and its pretty good at that as well.
One thing I really like about Lumia phones and particularly the 1520 is the solid build quality, its solid body (Nokia call it Monoblock) has soft curved edges and feels great in the hand (or hands as I should say!), I absolutely love the design, its one sexy phone! It weights 209g which is heavier than my current phone (Nexus 5) but it’s well balanced and doesn’t feel heavy it just feels well-constructed. It certainly feels better made than my Nexus or my old HTX 8X,. It has a dedicated camera button, power button and volume rocker located on the right hand side of the device, on the left hand side there are pop out trays for a Nano-SIM and MicroSD card which you can take up to 64GB drives. Plus there is 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and 4G/LTE support. One of the nice things about Windows Phone’s support of SD cards is that it integrates with the core storage and the OS allows you to pick whether you want to store apps, pictures, music and download on the SD card. I wish Windows 8.1 had the same feature, it’s much more complicated getting SD cards working with the OS and there is no way to use an SD card to store Windows apps on. Anyway back to the phone.
The phone is 8.7mm thick which is a little thinner than my Nexus but its tall, 162.8mm but that does mean it can fit in a 3400mAh battery which Nokia say should give you just over 25 hours on 3G and in my experience gives you well over day between charges which you could do with wireless charging as it supports Qi charging.
The phone is powered by a Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processors which makes the phone pretty snappy. Windows Phone works well with lesser processors so everything on this phone feels fast but where this phone uses power is with the camera. The 1520 has a 20MP PureView sensor with dual LED flash and takes brilliant pictures. It comes with a Nokia Camera app which gives you full control over the photos, you can have it all automatic or manually adjust each setting. You can adjust while balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed, brightness giving you full control. To be honest most of the time I left it on automatic and it produces great photos.
One of the main reasons for purchasing a Nokia Windows Phone is the extra software they have developed for the OS and it is going to be interesting to see now the division is part of Microsoft what happens to the apps. The 1520 comes with Nokia Creative Studio an app that enables you perform editing and touch-ups on your photos. You can apply filters, there is an auto-enhance option and you can adjust the vibrancy, contrast, colour, sharpness and temperature of the photo. You can also apply blurs and tilt-shift to photos. There is also a nice background blur feature in the app. Its a handy set of features that can apply some interesting effects to your photos.
At the time of writing Windows Phone 8.1 and the Nokia Cyan update are not available for the phone yet (the update has just started rolling out for the AT&T version) but they are on the way. In the mean time I have installed the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview which I have to say works really well. I won’t go too much in to it on this post but the update is a big step forward. The main new feature is Action Center which is a central place for notifications on the phone, Windows Phone really needed this to catch up Android and iOS and having at a glance notifications is a improvement from Windows Phone 8 which I always found it was hard to workout which app had just alerted you of an update.
Some other things I really like include the glance screen which displays the time and notifications like new emails when you move the phone while its switched off, saving you from having to turn it on to see if you have new texts or missed calls.
So I overall I really like the Lumia 1520, the screen is fantastic and it has a great camera. With the addition of Windows Phone 8.1 the OS has finally caught up to iOS and Android, the only thing stopping me using the phone full time is the lack of Google apps and this is not the fault of the Lumia. The 6 inch screen means it bridges the gap between a phone and a tablet (hence the awful term phablet) and I have found I can get away without the need for a tablet and just use the phone a lot of the time.
The 1520 I am using is actually my 2nd unit as the first one had terrible signal reception, fortunately I got a replacement unit which works fine.
If you want a phone with a large screen and great camera then this could be the phone for you providing you can get the apps you want. The hardware is fantastic and the OS is now on a par with other phone operating systems. Going back to a statement my podcast co-host Jason likes to remind me of “should have got a Nokia” I totally agree, the hardware is better and Lumia phones comes with extra software that can make a difference. Whether that will change now that Nokia’s mobile division is part of Microsoft remains to be seen.
So its full marks from me!