Last month Nokia unveiled the first Windows Phone phablet well, to be completely precise it unveiled two phablets, but one definitely stole the show, and that was the Lumia 1520. The phone boasts a number of firsts for devices running Microsoft,s mobile operating system: the first quad-core processor, the first Full HD screen and the first public appearance of the new three-column wide version of the Metro interface.
Nokia,s Lumia phones have always been an attractive bunch and the 1520 is no exception. It is set apart from the 1320 by its pointed corners and skinnier frame, which measures 8.7mm. At 209g, the 1520 is on the weighty side, but it is still lighter than the HTC One Max, a unibody Android rival. It is covered fully in polycarbonate, meaning no removable battery, but unlike many Lumias it does have a microSD card slot for expandable storage.
Build quality is excellent and the phone feels incredibly sturdy. While the camera lens does still protrude slightly from the back, it does not make it stand awkwardly off a flat surface in the same way as the Lumia 1020. Obviously at 163x85mm, the phone is big, which some will like and some will hate. Our review device was a fetching yellow and coated in a silky matte plastic, although when we went hands-on with the device at Nokia World in Abu Dhabi, we also saw a shiny red version. Of the two, the matte version looks and feels much better. It is more comfortable to hold, but also looks more premium and does not attract fingerprints.
Phones have slowly but surely been growing and spreading like an overripe brie for the last few years, and to the surprise of many, sales figures have shown that there is an appetite for larger displays. This is Nokia,s first attempt at a phablet and in order to help the 1520 compete with the best of them, it is equipped it with a 6-inch 1080p display. The Windows Phone interface looks very at home on a screen of this size debatably more so than Android. The new three-column format for tiles, being shown off for the first time here, seems to make more sense than those large homescreens, which can look kind of desolate unless filled with a substantial number of widgets. Then again, one of the main benefits of having a large screen is to make the most of games and videos.
Automatic setting box
Watching video on the Lumia 1520 also was not the thrilling experience you might hope for. In a side-by-side video test comparison with the Lumia 1020, the latter looked brighter, with much bolder colours. Getting the 1520 to match the 1020 in terms of brightness, involved unticking the automatic settings box and hoiking it up from medium to high. This did reveal though that the when shown at full brightness colours looked more natural compared than those on the 1020, which while vivid, seemed to have a slightly greenish streak.
Processor and features
As the first Windows Phone device with a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor, the Lumia 1520 possesses exactly the thing that caused us to mark down the HTC One Max in our recent review. That said, Windows Phone is not as taxing for a phone to run as Android, and it is questionable as to whether there is anything you can do with the Lumia 1520 that will prove truly taxing for it.
Feeding the processor and the giant screen is a potent 3,400mAh battery, which is one of the most powerful batteries is any smartphone device around. One of the issues many people initially complained about when phablets started appearing on the market was extremely poor battery life, so it is nice to see Nokia show commitment to getting this right on its first attempt. This battery is not going to keep the phone going for ever like Nokias of old, but it will keep it guzzling along smoothly for about a day. Also on board the 1520 is 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage, which can be supplemented with a 64GB microSD card and 7GB of free SkyDrive storage.
Windows Phone 8.1 software
Our first clue that Nokia was about to release the Lumia 1520 or a phone with its specifications at least was Microsoft,s announcement that it would be releasing an upgrade to the Windows Phone software that would be optimised for bigger screens. It is completely subjective as to whether you like the look of and enjoy using the Metro interface or not, but if it is your thing, you will appreciate the little adjustments Microsoft and Nokia have made here.
The three columns of live tiles do work really well, and while the homescreen does look fairly busy, you can always make those tiles bigger and have fewer of them if you find it a bit much. One thing worth noting is that the small tiles are teensier than the smaller tiles on the two-column version of the software, making accurate poking more of a chore. Then again, everything else on the software is bigger, including the keyboard, meaning more accurate typing and less scrolling.
Nokia has added a feature called Screen Beamer, which allows you to share your screen with any other internet-connected device. Including laptops, TVs, tablets and other phones. In our testing it worked fairly well in both cases and was really straightforward to set up, although there was a slight delay.
Nokia has long been known for emphasising the photography prowess of its phones, and the Lumia 1520 is no different. Admittedly, it doesn,t quite match up to the 1020 in terms of camera specifications and photography skills, but you are unlikely to be disappointed with its performance. On the rear of the phone is a 20-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, 2x lossless zoom and Nokia,s oversampling technology, which means it takes a higher resolution photo that is reduced to a lower resolution in order to achieve higher definition and light sensitivity.
Colors and price
No date has been confirmed for its UK release but it will be available soon in yellow, black, red and white for around £465.
The Lumia really is a highly competent and thoughtfully designed phablet device. If photography skills are more important to you than sheer size and raw power, the Lumia 1020 is still the phone for you, but if you want the best all-round Windows Phone device with its quad-core processor and Full HD screen, the 1520 is the phone to go for.