Nokia Lumia 1520: First Impressions

Nokia Lumia 1520: First Impressions

The SUV of smart phones has arrived

In the movie "Spaceballs," the notion of "ludicrous speed" is comically introduced as something superior to light speed. The Lumia 1520 is like ludicrous speed for the phablet market, an almost comically huge device that makes even the Galaxy Note family of handsets look emasculated by comparison.

The Lumia 1520 is an interesting gambit on Nokia's part. On the one hand, it's a neat complement to the small and inexpensive Lumia 520, addressing as that device does a crucial and high-growth part of the modern smart phone market. And on the other, the 1520 provides Windows Phone fans with a peek at what a Windows Phone-based tablet might look like.

The question of course is whether such an ungainly device makes any sense at all. That is, the Lumia 1520 is huge. It features a 6-inch screen running at 1080p (1920 x 1080), and while it of course makes an iPhone 5S look like a miniature prop by comparison, the truth is that the 1520 makes all smart phones look small.

iPhone 5S (left), Nexus 5 (center), Lumia 1520 (right)

This size is advantageous in some ways. As the audience for smart phones gets older, those with declining vision will certainly appreciate the automatic size bump that all onscreen elements receive as a result. Videos look incredible on the device's 1080p screen, though getting on them on there right now can be pretty tedious since Xbox Video isn't (yet) available. (Netflix is, of course, though it doesn't offer offline playback.) Text is razor sharp and easy to read. It would make a near-ideal GPS device.

But the size of the 1520 gets in the way too. For the men in the audience, it's hard to carry this thing around in a pocket, and impossible to use with a single hand. Women can at least store the device in a purse or handbag, which would likely be more bearable.

But even with my gorilla hands, I find the 1520 be hard to handle. Add the Protective Cover, which I've reviewed separately, and it's even harder to manage.

There are other questions. While Nokia bills the Lumia 1520's camera as a PureView, it's not the 41 megapixel monster that's found in the Lumia 1020. Instead, the 1520 features a 20 megapixel unit that captures two versions of each picture by default, a 5 megapixel version for sharing and a 16 megapixel original. A few days of testing suggest that this camera does not in any way approach the quality of the camera in the 1020, but I will keep testing that.

Galaxy Note 2 (left) and Lumia 1520 (right)

The 1080p screen is gorgeous, but picks up more reflections that I'm used to with the 1020. (The 1520 screen is IPS, while the 1020 uses AMOLED technology.) This resolution enables you to place more tiles onscreen horizontally than is possible on other Windows Phone handsets, but because this system doesn't support intelligent grouping, they're just lumped on top of each other. The result isn't necessarily superior to the layouts we're familiar with on other devices, but it may just be a matter of familiarity.

I'm not sure whether the 1520's dramatically faster processor—a quad-core Snapdragon running at 2.2 GHz—provides any real-world advantages over the dual-core 1.5 GHz version in the 1020, but I'll be testing games and camera apps to see whether there's any difference. But in the few days I've had the loaner unit, I've not noticed anything special from a performance standpoint.

I think even offering a 16 GB version of this device is ludicrous—there's a 32 GB version, too—but at least it comes with micro-SD expansion. On the flipside, it uses a nano SIM instead of the more common micro SIM used by the Lumia 1020 and most other smart phones. (The iPhone 5S also uses a nano SIM.)

I'm honestly not sure what to think about the Lumia 1520. But I've switched to using it full-time and will be back with a more comprehensive review when possible. In the meantime, let me know what you think about this device, and whether you have any questions. I certainly have many of my own.

I'll post some photos soon.

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