Nokia Lumia 520 review: first look

27 Feb 2013

The Nokia Lumia 520 is one of two low-cost Windows Phone 8 smartphones Nokia unveiled at its MWC press conference, and it really is cheap.

It's set to cost around £120, and yet when we took our turn with it on the Nokia stand after the news conference, we found little evidence of cost-cutting.

Nokia design chief Marko Ahtisaari called the design "pillowy", and we can see why he chose that word. Flip the Lumia 520 over in your hand and the rear panel does curve away to the edges.

Flowery design language aside, though, the important thing about the Lumia 520 is that it feels like a much more expensive phone when you pick it up and start to use it. Its removable plastic rear panel is thick and helps lend the phone a really solid feel, and a side benefit of the smooth, matte-finish is that it doesn't pick up fingerprints like some glossy plastic handsets do.

You might think, too, that spending only £120 on a smartphone would guarantee a bit of a lump in your pocket, but the Lumia 520 is a perfectly manageable 9.9mm from front to back, and weighs only 124g.

Up front, there's nothing as sophisticated as the Lumia 720's "sculpted" glass display, but the Lumia 520's 4in screen gets an awful lot right. Although the resolution isn't very high at 800 x 480, its IPS panel is very good indeed. Viewing angles are excellent, colours look spot on, and it sports Nokia's "super sensitive touch" technology, allowing it to be operated with gloves on, or with fingernails.

We gave this a quick try, simulating gloved hands with a jumper sleeve, and found it worked perfectly. Now you can play Angry Birds on a chilly winter's morning while waiting for a train without giving yourself frostbite. That has to be good news, not least in Nokia's Finnish homeland!

On the down side, the Lumia 520 only has a 1,430mAh battery, which is considerably down on capacity compared with the similar Huawei Ascend W1. That phone has a 1,950mAh battery. There's no flash to accompany its 5-megapixel rear camera either.

What the Lumia does have, however, is the full range of Nokia's excellent in-house apps, which add plenty of value. These include Nokia Music for listening to themed virtual radio streams, and the Here Maps suite of apps, which includes the Nokia's Drive satnav software with its ability to download maps to local storage. For the record, the Lumia 520 has 8GB of internal flash memory and a microSD slot for expanding it by up to 64GB.

As with all Windows Phone 8 handsets, the Lumia 520 also feels perfectly responsive, despite having only a dual-core, 1GHz processor on board and 512MB of RAM. When it arrives in the UK later this year, we think it will sell by the truckload.

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