I had the opportunity of taking a brief look at the Lumia 1520 at the Nokia blogger meeting late last year. I was pretty impressed with it but I also thought it was too huge for me. Anyway, some time ago Nokia sent me a Lumia 1520 trial device because I always wanted to test it in normal conditions as my main device. While I was annoyed by the size in the first hours I ended up buying myself one , as you will read after the break.
The size is something very strange which one has to get used to. It is not like you are switching from a Lumia 900 to a 920, which is a little bigger but nothing world changing. It is like a switch from a phone to a small tablet – very unfamiliar at the beginning. I had the problem of almost dropping the device several times because I instinctively tried to use it with one hand. Of course that is not a point as this phone is not meant to be used with one hand only. Still, you learn to find the size very comfortable in almost every situation. There are times you do not have two hands free and have to use the phone with one hand (or to try it) in which the phone’s size is just annoying, but most of the time it is very handy.
This also means there I something you need to know. When I say you cannot use the phone with one hand, I mean absolutely not. Making a call or browsing 9GAG or Twitter is still possible, but everything from typing to taking photos just cannot be done with one hand only. This may sound like a disadvantage, but actually it is not. Typing with two hands always was much handier, with bigger buttons it works even better. Photos are – even with OIS – clearer when the phone is held steadier with two hands. And honestly, when do you not have both hands free? Not very often I assume…
The size also brings many advantages – especially in terms of gaming and watching videos – and combines both aspects of phone and tablet, though many times you will not see more, which is a fault of Windows Phone.
Many elements are simply bigger, which is a pity. The screenshots of WP8.1 showed there will be improvements, but so far only a few elements are optimized. I can see more Live Tiles, I can see more pictures in the gallery, I can see a few more messages, but pop ups still take almost half of the screen and many apps just have optimized textures, but not content. The best example is twitter: everything is clear and sharp but I cannot see more tweets at once than on my old 920. And the same goes for many other apps as well. I usually still need to scroll trough menus where the screen size would normally allow to display everything at a glance. That said, this is the only thing that displeases me. I would love to see features like a snap mode on this device – that feature would be killer, honestly – or a half-screen keyboard for when typing with one hand is absolutely needed, but I do not think it is something essential.
What about the rest of the usability, regardless the screen size? Without exaggerating I can say the Lumia 1520 has the best display ever. Not only compared to phones, also to tablets, computers and even televisions. The last comparison may be a little exaggerated as the new TVs are in a complete different league than the 1520, but as far as you do not have the newest model by Sony or Samsung in your living room the Lumia 1520 will beat it in my opinion. Thanks to the settings the colors can reach from absolutely natural to totally mind-blowing vivid. The black is not close to an AMOLED (still very deep), that is a point, but speed, clarity and viewing angles are simply best. The screen is A++, ‘nuff said.
What is also important about when it comes to daily usability? Of course the battery life, and it is very solid. On extremely heavy (I literally mean extreme!) use I have about 20% left at 10pm when I started the day on 6am (and I do not always charge it overnight so sometimes the battery is not entirely full), when I use it” just” heavily the battery is at about 50%, which are both amazing numbers. Once I used the phone moderately and had 72% left after 12 hours! I also need to add I have turned LTE on and where I live and at school the phone is connected to it. Only in some rooms at school it turns to 3G or sometimes even Edge, but most of the time it radiates in the LTE network of T-Mobile Germany. When I am on the way I most of the time have H+ and only sometimes in between the 4th generation network is available. I have one email account on push, two set to sync every hour and one every two hours. Also I have plenty of Live Tiles on my homescreen and many apps are allowed to sent me Push Notifications, so the phone is absolutely not running in energy saving conditions.
However, the Nokia’s phablet has one disturbing construction flaw: The camera. Not the technology behind it but the bump at the back of the device. It is not an issue in terms of handling but durability. I very often lay my phone on tables or other surfaces and at the bottom the camera is already scratched. Fortunately there is a huge black surround around the actual lens the camera looks trough, so almost all deep scratches are on the edge, but one little (fortunately not very deep) scratch goes right through the center. It is not a scratch which can be seen on photos, but that does not mean there will not be one in the future. The question now is: Why is it? And the answer is very simple. The camera glass is not recessed enough and therefore the phone always lays directly on the camera glass. When then there is a little bit of dust or even sand (which can not be prevented outside in summer) on the surface the camera can easily be scratched. It may be my phone is an exception, but you should be aware of this.
Anyways, in terms of camera quality the Lumia 1520 is again simply great. It will not compete with a Lumia 1020, but with every other phone on the market it will. You can find a few pictures taken with a Lumia 1520 here. Even in low light pictures are clear, the colors are natural but a little more saturated (which certainly is not even bad) and the zoom function does a great job as long as you use it after taking the picture. A good example:
This does look quite unclear and washed out, doesn’t it?
It does but this excerpt is in a pretty big distance.
Like I said, the Lumia 1020 would have made better pictures, but thanks to half the resolution (ha, how that sounds when you are talking about 20!! megapixels!) and a much better performance the calculation afterwards takes much less time. I would even say the Lumia 1020 should have had the Snapdragon 800 because it processes pictures quite slowly, at least compared to the 1520… Not only is the camera performance more than solid, also the phone overall is lightning fast. In benchmarks comparisons it is said to be the best smartphone for gaming out there but if you are not a very big fan of benchmarks, just like me, you would prefer an overall picture.
What I can tell you is that, although Windows Phone never was slow, the extra boost of performance feels really nice. Compared to the 920 there are not worlds between, and I doubt you will always notice it if you do not compare both phones directly. The OS itself does not really run any better, maybe a little quicker in terms of opening apps, but when you are using 3rd party apps the additional speed it noticeable. They open quicker and games run smoother. You will not see a difference at games which always ran well, like Asphalt 8, but games that sometimes lagged, e.g. Batman, now will not. Still, GTA: San Andreas will not run on full settings, more on the half, but this is mostly due to being a PC game, which still needs PC hardware, and being not optimally ported. That should not really bug you since the game runs and looks great even on half the settings but it should be clarified.
Thank to the size, the functions (mostly with apps) and the performance this phone could easily replace your tablet. You cannot type as comfortably as on a Surface (if you have an Ultrabook however, I personally would not say that is a problem at all, and if you do not, typing on six inches with two fingers works really, really fast and without making many errors (also with Wordflow it will become even better), but that depends on you) and Office Mobile really needs more features on Windows Phone but the rest is not inferior to a tablet in any way. Especially browsing works great.
I bought the Lumia 1520 because Asus refunded me money for a broken Asus Vivotab and I can say I do not miss the tablet. The 1520 does almost everything at least just as good, is more portable and has a much better camera and screen. I would never get back to both the Lumia 920 and Asus Vivotab.