Nokia Lumia 1520/1320 Preview

Nokia Lumia 1520/1320 Preview

Nokia's first phablets feature 6-inch screens

Nokia on Tuesday announced its first "phablet" smart phones, both of which feature enormous 6-inch screens. But the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320 diverge wildly from there, with the former boasting much higher-end specs and the latter offering a budget-friendly alternative.

If you follow the smart phone market at all, you know that the hottest-selling device category is the phablet, so named for this device type's straddling of the phone and tablet worlds. Put simply, phablets are basically just smart phones with very large screens, typically in the 5- to 6-inch range. The most popular phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, has a 5.7-inch screen, for example.

With this week's announcements, Nokia outdoes the phablet competition in two ways. First, the firm is introducing two phablets, both of which feature huge 6-inch screens, the biggest yet in this category. And second, Nokia isn't just satisfying the high-end of the market with its offering, as do most of the competition: It is also offering a budget-priced phablet offering, the Lumia 1320, which I believe is a first.

Once you get past the size of the screen and the basic build quality, of course, the Lumia 1520 and 1320 are quite different. So let's dive in and see what's happening.

Lumia 1520

The Lumia 1520 is Nokia's new flagship device. It features a Full HD (1080p, or 1920 x 1080) IPS display, a quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 microprocessor, 2 GB of RAM (frankly, I'm surprised that's not higher; it must be a limitation of Windows Phone 8 licensing), and 32 GB of storage with micro-SD expansion for an additional 64 GB of storage.

The 1520's camera is of course a PureView, as in the Lumia 1020, but with 20 megapixels (mpx) of resolution, not 41 as we see on the 1020. The result is just a tiny, even graceful, camera bump similar to that on the Lumia 925. But I'm very curious about this camera and if the quality as is good as I think it will be, it could be a very viable compromise between the otherworldly capabilities of the 1020 and your run of the mill (read: iPhone 5S, Samsung whatever) smart phone camera.

The Lumia 1520 is going to be very expensive: $750 without a contract and an estimated $299 on AT&T Wireless an d the other carriers that will offer this phone later this year. This makes sense: It's the new flagship.

Lumia 1320

So how does the Lumia 1320 stack up?

The 1320's 6-inch screen features an HD display, but it's only 720p (or 1280 x 720), the lowest-possible HD display, but it is at least IPS and should be very high quality. (I'd also remind folks that "low-res" Windows Phone screens look wonderful; this UI scales very gracefully, and I don't consider this a huge demerit at all.) The processor is a dual-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon S4, with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage and can be expanded with an additional 64 GB via micro-SD; it looks like Nokia has overcome its previous issues adding micro-SD to its unibody designs.

The big downer with this device, compared to the 1520, is the camera: Here we see a very lowly 5 mpx unit. This isn't just sub-PureView, its sub-standard, period. In a world in which 8 megapixels is the norm, Nokia should have at least provided this phone with the same camera in the Lumia 925. There's no excuse for this aside from arbitrarily finding a way to use lower cost components. Unfortunately, since camera optics are typically a Lumia's strong point, this is more painful than usual too.

Aside from the camera, the 1320 looks solid to me, and helping matters considerably is the price: It will cost just $340 in US dollars (no contract), though it's heading to price-conscious markets like China and India first. That's smart, and this phone will making a killing in such places, I bet. Just don't squint at those photos too much.

Want one?

I've been eagerly awaiting the first Windows Phone phablet, and I can't wait to pick up a Lumia 1520. If that camera holds up, I could see this being a Lumia 1020 replacement. But that camera is going to be the sticking point. More soon.

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