Nokia Lumia 520 vs Nokia Lumia 720

Introduction, Design and Display

The Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 bring the best out of Windows Phone 8 in an affordable package with a splash of color and fun. The Lumia 520 pushes the boundary down to the extremely affordable, while the Lumia 720 is more of a mid-range device with sleek looks and a gorgeous display.

Interestingly, while both devices are nearly identical on the inside, there are plenty of differences you can see from the outside starting with plastic and ending with the hugely different displays on the two.

Similar yet different, is the price gap between the two really justified? And is it worth it to spend some extra cash and get the 720, or would the 520 serve you just fine? Let’s take a look.


The Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 both share a plastic body and a colorful back, but there are some slight differences. The unibody construction of the costlier 720 is very solid and the plastic on it feels nice to touch. The 520 on the other hand fits nicely in the palm of a hand, but the device itself is not put together perfectly tight and the plastic flexes slightly. Also, the plastic on it feels a bit on the cheap side and tacky, unlike the 720.

You can easily swap back covers on the 520 for a fresh new color and style. The 720 on the other hand supports wireless charging via snap-on covers. Months after the launch of both devices, though, we do have to note that finding those covers is not a trivial task - supply is limited in many of the countries where the phones are available.

The more compact Lumia 520 is more convenient for single handed use and typing, but the difference is just slight. The 720 is just a bit of a stretch for single handed use, but still fairly usable.

Physically, the 10mm Lumia 520 is just slightly chubbier than its pricier cousin, but that difference is noticeable. The 720 looks sleek, almost like a James Bond gadget. Both devices are very light, tipping the scales at around 4.4 ounces.

All physical buttons are on the right with the volume rocker on top, the lock key in the middle and the camera shutter button at the bottom.

If we had to name a design winner, it’d be an easy win for the sleek and stylish Lumia 720.


While both the Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 come with a 480 x 800 pixel IPS LCD displays there is a world of a difference in their quality. The 4-inch one on the 520 is dim and this makes all colors look dull, while the 4.3-inch on the 720 is extremely bright with rich and vivid colors.

We measured their luminance and found the Nokia Lumia 720 was more than twice as bright as its cheaper sibling. The brightness of the 720 display amounts to 630 nits, while the Lumia 520 only has 290 nits. Viewing angles on both displays were good.

The dim screen of the 520 became a real issue when we tried to use the device outdoors. While indoors that low brightness is not a critical flaw, out in the sun it’s very hard to see the contents of the display.

Display quality is another easy win for the Lumia 720, there’s no contest here.

Interface and Functionality:

Both devices are powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8. That means you have the absolute same interface on both of them and the experience is virtually identical.

Windows Phone 8 has dynamic looks with different Live Tiles, and on both devices it delivers a perfectly smooth experience. You get the standard Microsoft apps like Office built in so you can view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the go easily. The Lumia 520 and 720 also come Nokia’s great Windows Phone applications like Nokia HERE Maps and Nokia Music with Mix Radio, a free music streaming service.

Customization options on Microsoft’s platform are nowhere near the capabilities of Android, but you can still change size and color of tiles and your background color as well. This is the price Microsoft paid for consistency in both look and feel across devices.

One thing we love about Windows Phone is its brilliant keyboard. The typing experience is great on both devices, but the smaller Lumia 520 is better suited to single-handed use.once again better for single handed typing.

Processor and Memory:

Despite the huge price gap, both the Lumia 520 and 720 come with the same powerful (for the price) Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8277 with a 1GHz dual-core Krait processor and 512MB of RAM. It delivers enough oomph to run Windows Phone without a hitch.

512MB of RAM is an important factor, though, as some apps require more to run. Good news is software makers have optimized a lot of games like Temple Run and they now support devices like this pair with 512MB of RAM.

This couple of Nokia Lumias comes with 8 gigs of internal storage and on both it’s expandable via microSD cards of up to 64 gigs. Of the built-in 8GB just around 4GB are actually available to the end-user.

Internet and Connectivity:

Windows Phone is the most limited of platform in terms of browser choice. Of all major browsers, it only support Internet Explorer. That is a problem for those used to browser-specific features like say cross-device syncing with Chrome, but - credit where credit is due - IE works very well on mobile. Pages loaded at a near identical pace on both phones, and navigating around happens without any lag on the 720, and with just a bit of a stutter on the 520.

Both devices support 3G connectivity with download speeds of up to 21.1Mbps. Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth 3.0 are also on board, and the Lumia 720 has NFC which the 520 lacks.


The Lumia 720 is the costlier device and you’d expect its fancy 6.7-megapixel camera with the widest aperture ever on a smartphone (f/1.9) to blow the modest 5-megapixel shooter of the 520 out of the water. Moreover, the cheaper 520 does not even have flash nor a front facing camera like the 720.

Now look at the actual images, though, and you’d be surprised to see that images on the 520 often times look better than those of the 720. Thing is the Lumia 720 takes more detailed images, but it just behaves odd. It would either wash out colors in certain conditions or blow them up with a yellowish tint while in similar conditions the 520 yields much more pleasing and realistic colors.

In low light conditions, though, the wide aperture on the 720 takes its toll and images on it look much better with a pleasingly low amount of noise while the 520 struggles with noisy shots.

Both phones capture video at 720p and 30 frames per second, but footage on the Lumia 720 is more detailed and moving the camera around does not induce the jello effect in the footage (like on the 520). The 520 on the other hand lacks detail and overall video quality is inferior. Sound capture is a bit muffled on the 520, while the 720 records much cleaner sound.

All in all, we would not name a definite winner here, but we ought to say we were pleasantly surprised with the camera of the 520 that performed well for its class.

Nokia Lumia 520 Sample Video:

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Nokia Lumia 720 Sample Video:

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Nokia Lumia 520 Indoor Sample Video:

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Nokia Lumia 720 Indoor Sample Video:

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The larger screen of the Lumia 720 comes to its big advantage for watching videos, images or reading. It’s clearly the more suitable device for media as the 520 is just not bright enough and lacks the vivid colors. Both devices play back AVI and MPEG videos at 720p with ease.

The stock Music application is good covering all basic music needs, but we recommend getting Nokia Music, a free download on the marketplace. It’s an awesome application that both plays back music stored locally, and comes with a free music streaming service called Mix Radio, great for music discovery.

Call Quality:

Call quality on both devices is good. The Lumia 720 gets the upper hand as our callers reported hearing our voice in its natural tone, cleaner than on the 520 which tends to twist voices a bit.

The earpieces on both are good but not great - the voice of our callers sounded a bit dry and hissy.


The Nokia Lumia 720 has a much larger 2000mAh battery and it’s no surprise that it easily lasted a full day and into the second. With more ascetic use, you could get two or even three days out of it.

The 520 on the other hand features a 1430mAh battery that will also easily last a full day in most circumstances, and may get into the second.

Quoted longevity is nearly 80 hours of music playback for the 720 versus around 60 for the 520. The 720 would also last 8.3 hours of continuous video while the 520 would only withstand 4.8 hours of non-stop video.

Let’s once again mention that the Lumia 720 supports wireless charging via a snap on cover that you have to purchase additionally.


Ignoring the huge price gap between the two devices for a moment, it would be an easy win for the Nokia Lumia 720 - it’s got sleeker looks, longer-lasting battery and a brilliant display.

In reality, though, price matters and that’s why we ended up very impressed with the cheaper device, the Lumia 520. Yes, it has a dim display that makes it very hard to use outdoors, and yes it lacks some features like NFC, but it compensates for that with extremely capable hardware, smooth performance throughout and a very decent camera.

Finally, putting the pair in the general context of smartphones, we ought to give credit to Nokia for managing to pull two well-balanced devices for the masses. Objectively, the Lumia 720 is better, but in reality Nokia innovates more with the Lumia 520, a well rounded device at a surprisingly low price, and finally a capable fighter against an onslaught of cheap Androids.

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