Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Is Bigger really Better?

Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Bigger is better seems to be the new adage for smartphones. So Nokia couldn't stay behind and released the Lumia 1520 earlier this year.

Contrary to what the name might suggest, the Lumia 1520 is not a successor to the Lumia 1020 with its 41 megapixel camera. Nevertheless, the Lumia 1520 with 20 megapixels does have an impressive camera at its disposal beforehand. In terms of appearance, it looks more like the Lumia 925 and is thus nicely in line with the current design philosophy of the former Finnish superpower. In addition to the hefty camera, the Lumia 1520 also has a large Full HD screen with a diagonal of 6 inches and a powerful quadcore Snapdragon 800 processor.

Nokia is certainly not the only one producing oversized smartphones these days, but the others are all Android devices. Because of its size and screen diagonal, the competition of the Lumia 1520 is amongst others the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One Max and Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

What's with the device?

In the box, the device lies on a small cardboard with a cut-out for the camera and a plastic-covered window for the instrument to open the drawers for SIM card and microSD card. Underneath we find a set of necessary paperwork and finally the in-ear headset with extra rubber sleeves and a USB cable with adapter for the socket. All in black so that it forms one whole with the device itself. All in all a complete and neatly arranged package.


Apart from its size, our black test specimen of the Lumia 1520 is very modest in terms of design. The front side consists of a glass plate that seems to lie slightly on top of the aircraft with the monitor underneath. On either side of the screen there is a nice narrow edge, while at the bottom there are three capacitive function keys and above them the ear loudspeaker and a camera.


The physical buttons are located on the right side of the camera and are customary for volume, power/screen lock and the camera. On the left side of the device there are two slots for a microSD card and the nanoSIM card.


The back of the unit is in front of the speaker and the PureView Zeiss lens with dual LED flash. Striking about the camera is that it protrudes a little, so the camera rests on the window in front of the lens when it is lying flat on the table.


We also find the connection for the headset plug at the top and the connection for the microUSB cable at the bottom.

Nokia Lumia 1520 sim eject

In contrast to the Lumia 925, no metal was used in the appearance of the 1520. Although the aircraft is rounded on all sides, the angles are quite sharp and can be experienced as annoying. Our black test device has a rubbery coating all around. This also applies to the yellow one. The red and white models are made of smooth, shiny plastic.

Nokia Lumia 1520 hands-on

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is big, very big. It's so big that when you're cycling or sitting on a chair it gets in the way in your pocket. What's more, it's almost impossible even for a grown man to operate it with one hand without running the risk of dropping it. The buttons at the bottom are so close to the edge that they quickly touch you by accident. So you're going to try to hold it in a different way but it tends to slip out of your hand because of its smooth finish all around and hefty weight of 209 grams.


A large screen like the Lumia 1520 will be a nice energy guzzler, but a large device like the Lumia 1520 can also house a big battery. This ensures that when mainly using internet via WiFi for things like social media and WhatsApp but without calling or streaming media, the device can keep up with the 48. But when used more intensively, the Lumia 1520 also doesn't have a lot of trouble keeping up for more than 24 hours.


In the settings menu there are a few options mentioned that can influence endurance. Positive or negative. For example, there is a save mode for the monitor. However, this only works if battery saving is also switched on. This function mainly disables background synchronisation of apps and it can be activated automatically when the battery is low. They don't say what Nokia 'almost' is. The ability to activate the device by tapping the screen twice would reduce stamina.

Call quality

An incoming call can be silenced by rotating the unit with the display facing down. If you do accept a call, the other party can generally be heard clearly and unambiguously. During a call the functions numeric keypad, loudspeaker, mute, hold and add a person to the call are immediately available. For more functionality you can of course also return to the start screen.


If the phone is set to vibrate and you plug in a headset, it will not be recognized in such a way that the sound will come back on automatically. Unfortunately, this remained the case after updating the audio functionality of the device. However, we did get an equalizer in the settings.


The Lumia 1520 has a Full HD screen with 1080p resolution and is the first Windows Phone to use it. Although it is not an AMOLED screen, the ClearBack technology makes colours and black areas look beautiful and deep. Because of the good contrast, the screen is also easy to read in the sun.

Many of the screen settings, such as screen rotation, lock, and brightness, are each included separately in the settings menu. This means that from time to time you have to search for the desired function. That while there is also a specific section for the screen in the settings. This has been added by Nokia itself.


For the standby mode of the unit, there is the glimpse function. It shows a clock and notifications when you move your hand above the screen. This sometimes works erratically. Fortunately, you can also choose an interval or always on.

It has happened to us twice that something was wrong with the color reproduction of the screen after it was turned on. Colors were displayed without nuance in a kind of neon version. Soon after commissioning, we noticed that the touchscreen reacted rather oddly. Instead of scrolling through a list, an item was regularly opened at the first, light touch. When we discovered the option to adjust the sensitivity of the screen after a few days in the settings, we thought we had solved this problem, but unfortunately it still happened occasionally after that. Also, activating the device by tapping the screen twice does not always work at once. However, the higher sensitivity should allow you to operate the device with gloves on.


From the start, Windows Phone is an operating system that looks completely different from the other two major players; Android and iOS. This ensures that it clearly has a character of its own and may also have its own fan base. The interface is simple in design but has become a colorful appearance. For the background you can choose from white or black and for the theme from 20 shades. The theme color applies to the icons of some of the standard apps of Windows phone.


In Windows Phone we do not find a notification menu behind the status bar as we know it from Android and by now iOS. In fact, the status bar suffers a rather reclusive existence. You can always see the clock at the top of the screen, but for more icons you have to swipe your finger into the image from above. Notifications for new messages or found WiFi networks appear as pop-ups at the top of the screen but disappear after a few seconds.

The large screen of the Lumia 1520 obviously has enough space for the live tiles from Windows Phone. That makes it fun to experiment with these tiles to see which ones do and which ones do not have a live view. After that you can endlessly vary the composition of your home screen. For an overview there is always an alphabetical list of all installed apps next to the start screen. Although this list can become quite long after a while.

For the lock screen it is possible to let apps like Twitter, Facebook or the weather take care of the content. In a way, just like the live tiles, you also have a live lock screen.

No matter how powerful the hardware is, with all the transitions and animations in menus and apps, Windows Phone just isn't an operating system that feels fast. It's responsive but you're always waiting for the next screen to actually open or unfold. What's more, there are some peculiarities in Windows Phone. For example, the settings menu is unnecessarily cluttered and the Okay and Back button is always on the left, while we prefer the right side due to years of getting used to other operating systems.


The Windows Phone phonebook is called persons and is clearly more than the name suggests. After setting up the phone and thus entering a Microsoft email account, the contacts for this account are shown in this list. Contacts from the SIM card or other accounts can then be added. In addition to linking email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even the Chinese Weibo are also possible. If it all gets a bit too full, the list can be sorted or filtered. The updates of these social networks are also shown on a separate tab.


Furthermore, in so-called rooms, à la Google+ Hangout, you can chat in one place and share a calendar, photos and notes with one or more people.


The message app is not only available for SMS and MMS but can also be used with Facebook chat. Virtually any commonly known mail account can be entered on the phone and functions properly. Each account gets its own icon and so there is no grouped inbox. The application looks the same for every other account and works equally well. By tapping on the left side of a message on the screen you can tick one or more of them to remove, move or mark them. Gmail unfortunately lacks the automatic sorting over tabs as we know them from webmail and Android.


The keyboard is of course very spacious. Again, just as with the rest of the interface, operation with one hand is actually impossible. Typing with two thumbs is easy and fast, although often a comma instead of a space is accidentally entered.


Automatic capitalization and spell check work properly. The spelling correction is neither very intelligent nor overly invasive. In addition to Dutch, you can install all kinds of other input languages. Deleting can be done by pressing the language for a long time.



Due to the absence of a notification screen behind the status bar, the user has no shortcuts to WiFi and/or Bluetooth available. However, a popup appears at the top of the screen when WiFi is enabled and a network is within range. In our experience, the connection to mobile internet was occasionally on the weak side in areas with poor coverage and therefore slow.


Of course, a Windows Phone has Internet Explorer at its disposal. Again, the interface is elementary with only a refresh button, address bar and three dots to open other functions at the bottom of the screen. These include opening several tabs, viewing recent pages, favourites, sharing pages and/or attaching them to the start screen. The button on the address bar can also be set for favorites or tabs. The browser works pleasantly and quickly. Pages are displayed well and there is plenty of room for that on the large screen.



As a new user you will soon find two cameras in the menu; the regular camera and the Nokia camera. The standard camera is nice, but the Nokia version of course has a lot more options. When using the camera for the first time, you will get a short explanation of the most important functions.

The Lumia 1520 does not have a 20 megapixel camera because it has such a large screen and the photos look better. Those 20 megapixels are mainly there to zoom in. Zooming in digitally without compromising image quality to be precise. This is done by means of the so-called oversampling. Two photos are taken as standard; one of five and one of sixteen megapixels. The large file can later be used for post-editing. In addition, the camera also has optical image stabilization. The 1/2.5 image sensor is larger than average but not yet as large as that of the Lumia 1020. Moreover, the 1520 is the first Lumia that can shoot photos in DNG (.RAW) file format.

On the right or top of the screen (depending on how you hold the device) a small bar with the most important functions is visible. Such as flash, white balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed and brightness. These can to a large extent be adjusted to the user's wishes and are therefore available within easy reach. Strangely enough, even when it is turned off, the flash is used to pre-focus the image. Fortunately, this can be adjusted in the settings. Even more settings can be achieved by sliding the photo icon to the left.

Nokia Lumia 1520 camera samples
Click for more example pictures

The camera of the 1520 can of course not match that of the 1020, but the pictures look very good for a phone. Especially the ones taken in daylight. Actually the 'picture' in daylight is complete. Colors and contrast look neat and of course detail is also very good. Sometimes the white balance and lighting is not exactly right but that is not insurmountable. At less good exposures the performance is a bit more variable but it is still above average.


In addition to the two normal cameras, Nokia also supplied Cinemagraph, which can be used to take moving photos. There is also Glam Me for taking portraits. Finally, photos can be edited with Creative Studio and automatically grouped by date and location in Storyteller.

Video can be made in 1080p and 720p. The default setting is the maximum achievable 1080p at 30 frames per second. The moving image looks smooth and calm due to the optical image stabilization. The four microphones also ensure good sound quality.

Existing programs

We had to update a lot of apps in the beginning. Basically, it's nice when a device gets new features through an update. However, it's less fun when you have to restart the device after almost every update of an app to complete the process. After the first round of updates we had the following applications at our disposal: Calendar, Alarms, App Social (formerly Popular Apps), Bing economy, Bing news, Bing sport, Bing weather, camera, data sense, games, help & tips, HERE Drive+, HERE Maps, HERE Transit, Internet Explorer, transferring my data, music & videos, Nokia Beamer, Nokia Camera, Nokia Care, Nokia Cinemagraph, Nokia Creative Studio, Nokia Glam Me, Nokia MixRadio, Nokia Storyteller, Office, OneNote, PhotoBeamer, Wallet, Calculator and Zinio.


In addition to Microsoft's Bing apps, which are surprisingly pleasant to use, Nokia has also added a whole zip application. Such as MixRadio for streaming music and
PhotoBeamer to share photos with other devices over the Internet.


A number of times during use it turned out that apps that are already fully mature on other operating systems on Windows Phone are not completely finished yet. Instagram mentions that it is still in Beta. And the interface of WhatsApp is not very clear.



With the HERE package Nokia offers you the possibility to always find your desired destination. Whether it's through the spoken route navigation of Drive+, the locations in your area with Maps or the timetable and route of public transport with Transit.


The Nokia Lumia 1520 is hard to grasp, literally. Windows Phone is an interestingly designed alternative to Android and iOS. The fact that it is still a bit behind in terms of available apps is a pity, but not a drama. What is annoying is the fact that, even with Nokia's tweaks, it gives the impression that it is still not completely finished. While we are ready for that by now anyway. Moreover, the touchscreen of the Lumia 1520 shows cures. Possibly this is due to Windows Phone, but we are counting on the Lumia.

The screen does deliver a nice image quality and of course it is nice to have so much image surface at your disposal. However, this does make the Lumia lose some of its capacities as a 'mobile' phone. The device itself is actually too big to work with on a daily basis. At home or at the office it's not such a problem, but on the road it literally got in our way. His stamina and excellent camera don't all make up for that as far as we're concerned.

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