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Nokia Lumia 1520 Review

Nokia Lumia 1520 9

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The Nokia Lumia 1020 is arguably the best camera phone on the market right now, so where does the 20-megapixel PureView camera of the Lumia 1520 stand? The 20-megapixel PureView camera on the Lumia 1520 comes with a dual-LED flash (no Xenon here) and protrudes just slightly on the back – not so much as to be in the way, but enough to make it clear to passers-by that it’s a serious cameraphone you’re holding. It indeed is one of Nokia’s strongest camera efforts with a larger than usual 1/2.5” (25mm2) sensor, backside illumination and optical image stabilization. Still, the Nokia Lumia 1020 for instance features a more than twice as large 1/1.5-inch (58mm2) sensor, while the also 20-megapixel Sony Xperia Z1 has slightly larger 1/2.3” (28mm2) sensor. Talking about specs, we must note that it features 6-element Zeiss lens with f/2.4 aperture and optical image stabilization.

Pressing down on the shutter key, we’re again transported to the Nokia Pro Cam app – just like on the Lumia 1020 before it, and instead of the usual Windows Phone camera app. Hardcore shutterbugs will undoubtedly appreciate the fine level of manual controls it presents to us, since we have the ability to adjust things like ISO, white balance, focus, shutter speed, and exposure. However, it doesn’t have any sort of shooting modes incorporated into the Nokia Pro Cam app, but rather, we can rely on the Nokia Creative Studio app to apply several effects post shot.

Considering that the Lumia 1520 saves two samples, 5-megapixel and 19-megapixel ones with 4:3 aspect ratio photos, there’ some delay whenever a shot is taken – so there’s a chance you might miss a shooting opportunity due to this. Thankfully though, its focus is pretty quick in adjusting on the fly, and for the most part, it’s able to get the correct level, even when the focus light option is turned off. Nokia offers several new photo-centric apps through the Windows Phone Store, like Nokia Refocus and Storyteller, which help to increase the phone’s shooting arsenal.

When it comes to quality, overall, it’s a solid effort put forth by the Lumia 1520, as it produces better-than-average photos – albeit, the Lumia 1020 still comes out on top. For shots that are taken outdoors where lighting is plentiful, there’s a lot to like with the quality put out by this, as its full-sized 19-megapixel samples ooze with a ton of details, to the point where we’re able to make out words on a sign in the distance. Colors appear vibrant in tone to give the shots a pleasant lively look, but it sometimes tends to cast a morsel of saturation. Thankfully, it handles dynamic range on a very good scale, seeing that there isn’t a huge disparity between the light and dark areas of the shot. However, the shots exhibit more of an underexposed look. Out of everything, we have to admit that the Lumia 1520 excels the most with macro shots. In fact, it produces that neat blurring effect with the background – while the subject receives an effective level of sharpness.

Under lower lighting situations, details naturally get a softer tone to them, but we’re glad that noise is kept at a minimum. Unlike its esteemed sibling in the Lumia 1020, the Lumia 1520’s camera doesn’t do just as good of a job with brightening up the scenery. On top of that, its dual-LED flash isn’t as potent as we’d like.

Whereas it’s a strong performer with its still image quality, its high-definition video quality is rather underwhelming. First, we’re pleased that it’s able to shoot in 1080p and 720p at 30, 25, and 24 FPS – with the last giving shooters that “cinematic” look. Above all, it’s the flatter details that really soften its quality extensively, since it doesn’t necessarily give it that pleasing “high-definition” quality. And trust us, things don’t get any better with details under low lighting situations, mainly because there’s a heavy presence of noise, which doesn’t help the already softer details that it pumps out.

Despite that, there are some pleasing elements that make it passable – like its gradual exposure, good dynamic range handling, 4x lossless zoom, and natural color reproduction. In the audio recording quality front, its four microphones help to capture crisp and clear tones.


For those who want to enhance the look of those photos taken by its 20-megapixel PureView camera, the Nokia Creative Studio app is a wonderful item to check out. On top of applying different filters, we can also give images that professional touch with additional effects such as focus object, radial+tilt shift, and much more.

Of course, the Windows Phone Store is home to several other Nokia branded photo apps that help to enhance the smartphone’s experience. For example, the Nokia Storyteller app helps to create stories from our photos based on when and where they’re snapped. Additionally, the Nokia Refocus app is an interesting shooter that allows us to select what elements in the shot are to remain in focus. Essentially, we hold the handset still as it takes a series of photos, and once that’s done, we can touch the screen to select where we want to emphasis focus in the shot. It’s pretty neat actually!

In listening to music, we have to options to choose from the standard Windows Phone music player or the Nokia Music one. With the latter, not only are we able to play local content, but it also provides us with streaming and buying option as well. Conversely, the stock Windows Phone music player continues to entice us with its dynamic interface. Although its speaker produces strong volume tones, it tends to exhibit some hollowness with its quality.

Right out of the box, there are no problems playing a wide array of high-definition videos on the Nokia Lumia 1520 – that’s because it offers support for all the popular codecs. Moreover, its gorgeous screen helps to bring those high-definition videos to life. Now the only thing it’s lacking is a built-in kickstand of some kind to give us a hands-free video watching experience. However, that can be remedied by picking up the optional folio case, since it features an integrated adjustable stand.

  • Options

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:04 14

1. DaHarder (Posts: 177; Member since: 10 Oct 2009)

Very Nice... though I do wish that it offered something outside of merely being a bigger version of a Windows Phone.

Samsung's efforts to differentiate the Galaxy Note with the addition of the S-PEN functions do this better than any manufacturer at this point... All while keeping the overall size to a minimum.

Really looking forward to Verizon's Lumia 929 as it places all of the really good things about this phone in a more manageable package.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:20 13

10. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

I'd take a Lumia 929 over the 1520 any day. The 1520 doesn't utilize the 6" screen. It's just WP8 blown up.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:36 2

16. ihavenoname (Posts: 1693; Member since: 18 Aug 2013)

If I had to choose a Windows Phone, definitely 929.But it's not coming to Finland, if I'm right.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:41 3

18. papss (unregistered)

No but at less cost you can get more screen so I would chose this beast.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 09:03

23. cezarepc (Posts: 718; Member since: 23 Nov 2012)

I have the 925 and I'll only replace it with a 1020 :)

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 10:13 1

31. pookiewood (Posts: 631; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)

Holding onto my 920 until (if) the 929 comes to AT&T un-neutered.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 10:27 8

41. Dastrix (unregistered)

What kind of abysmally retarded comment is that? To blow things up... Isn't that why you buy a 60" TV?

posted on 21 Nov 2013, 17:33

59. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

uhhh yea because it doesn't offer UI enhancements that no other windows phone has like more tiles across....

The same could be said about the note 3...imo that is

posted on 01 Jun 2014, 18:05

77. oldhamletman (Posts: 72; Member since: 03 Sep 2011)

this article is full of errors as usual about windows phone... centralized messaging doesn't only happen on live tiles, you get numerous other browsers besides IE if you want them, you can choose default camera apps, and various other errors that always seem to be biased against windows phone because the reviewer doesn't know the OS... phone arena strikes again

posted on 29 Jun 2014, 16:26

79. oldhamletman (Posts: 72; Member since: 03 Sep 2011)

i got a 1520 and the additional size gets internet, mail, office document display up to sufficient size that I don't need a tablet or laptop on multi day business travel anymore.... it's a huge plus... and the phone still easily slips into the front pocket of any sort of pants or jeans... also the huge battery life is fantastic.

disappointed to see that reviewers still aren't aware of basic Windows phone features... for example there are alternative browsers, you don't have to use IE, although I still use IE because it's speed has gotten so high.

great product, wish the reviewers would show some basic knowledge about it by actually appearing to have used the OS, I had both Iphone and Android over the years and am really glad I switched to WP

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:07

2. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)

In daylight the camera is a bit disappointing in my opinion. Great phone though!

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 09:50 8

28. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

Bad weather conditions (late Fall). The sunny shots at the end still produce excellent quality, nothing overblown and stuff. Low light is stunning for a phone. Really nice amount of details and color reproduction. Very very impressive camera.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:12 10

3. fouadqr (Posts: 326; Member since: 21 Nov 2012)

9/10 ..Good BUT ..it deserve 9.5 :D

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:19 5

7. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Because it has Nokia on it?

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:24 5

11. ihavenoname (Posts: 1693; Member since: 18 Aug 2013)

9.5 hardware, software 7. Winboys, please don't attack me. I love Nokia but I'm disapointed very badly by WP and M$.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:39 5

17. taikucing (unregistered)

Same here. I only love Nokia, not M$.
Ok, M$, you should stay with your desktop OS with its 1 million viruses & trojans. You're not good at mobile, server, embedded & supercomputer OS.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:47 5

20. ihavenoname (Posts: 1693; Member since: 18 Aug 2013)

Nokia FTW, Microsoft not.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 09:23 6

26. papss (unregistered)

So no viruses on android? That's what happens with an open platform.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 10:16 6

33. Dastrix (unregistered)

Ok Google, you should stay with your open source OS with its 1 million viruses & trojans. You're not good at desktop, server, embedded & supercomputer OS.

posted on 04 Jan 2014, 01:10

74. PolishHitta (Posts: 11; Member since: 25 Nov 2012)

haha okay.. So you're telling me that Android OS has no viruses? I see people downloading antivirus apps onto their GS4 because they would get caught with a potential threat by downloading an app from "secure" Google Play. It's more of Android you should be worried about with viruses than WP8

posted on 21 Nov 2013, 17:40

60. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

I would take M$ over Scroogle any day of the week.

You know how many Win8 devices I have to reset each week? Next to none and exchanging devices for defects same ratio.

I however, daily reset Droid devices, and from multiple makers.

Sure they sell more so there will be more problems, but the % should be in their favor because of saturation, this is not the case.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 10:15

32. pookiewood (Posts: 631; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)


posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:14 7

4. Lucas_kim (Posts: 13; Member since: 17 Nov 2013)

the best phablet ever!!

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:20

8. Reality_Check (Posts: 277; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)

In the WP8 world ;) Kidding aside, this is a great device.

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 08:29 1

13. Lucas_kim (Posts: 13; Member since: 17 Nov 2013)

if it runs android.. it will also beats note 3.. i guarantee .. it will smoother than note 3 that with 3gb of ram

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 09:12 2

24. rd_nest (Posts: 1656; Member since: 06 Jun 2010)

Smoothness is not measured by RAM. Just think for a while what exactly is smoothness and why do you want to relate it with RAM.
More RAM helps you to keep more amount of background processes in memory. Multitasking is more related to RAM.
Smoothness is more like a measure of standard deviation of screen refresh rate and animation fps.

Just saying...

posted on 18 Nov 2013, 09:59 4

29. _Bone_ (Posts: 2155; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

The Note 3 is smooth and it offers something no other large phone maker figured out: the phablet experience. It's not too large or heavy, just pocketable and onehandable, and it's packed with useful large-screen features and goodies. The One Max, the 1520, the Ultra, the Mate or Sammy's own Mega, these are all oversized less comfortable phones that do nothing special with the size.

Don't get me wrong, the 1520 is a special device on it's own right, gorgeous screen, impressive camera, promising battery life and great price point on contract, so good I might even try it out, but it's not special as a phablet, at least not to the point of dethroning the Note 3.

posted on 19 Nov 2013, 01:54

53. snowgator (Posts: 3604; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)

That is fair. The Note series is still a tad more comfy to use, and the "S" pen gives it something no other phablet offers.

This, however, might be able to make a run for the #2 position of Phablets. I do wish they had aimed a hair smaller, maybe a 5.3"-5.7" which would have made this devices a tad less wide. But overall, Nokia has made a great device here.

posted on 21 Nov 2013, 17:41

61. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

Many reviewers would count the idea of note 3's one handedness not very high. There are a few reviews that specifically mention how much easier the 1520 is to use with one hand vs a note 3 or sony.

posted on 04 Jan 2014, 01:22

75. PolishHitta (Posts: 11; Member since: 25 Nov 2012)

You're right. I'm not an Android fan by any means but Nokia did sacrifice the size purely for its 920 style. I love the look but bezel could have been a bit smaller. This is exactly why I'm buying the 929 when it comes out for Verizon. 5" screen is plenty enough when you consider Nokia's bulky yet extremely durable styling. Samsung Note is a beautiful device in design but I have to admit, it's getting really boring. The style has been kept since gs3 and it moves from their Note devices to their Tab lineup. And the lightness is pretty neat but comes at a cost. From the flimsy back cover to the thin screen, its very fragile. Samsung should invest their huge profits into aluminum devices. Make them feel high quality for Gods sake.

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Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia Lumia 1520

OS: Windows Phone 8.1 8
view full specs
Display6.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (368 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera20 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 processor
Size6.41 x 3.36 x 0.34 inches
(162.8 x 85.4 x 8.7 mm)
7.37 oz  (209 g)
Battery3400 mAh, 27.4 hours talk time

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