Nokia's first tablet is controversial all around: It runs Windows RT 8.1 instead of the more mainstream Windows 8.1. With a 10.1-inch screen, it's even smaller than a Surface 2. But its unique keyboard case seems to be the closest copy we've seen yet of the Surface typing covers. And it ships with LTE capabilities, something that's not yet available on Surface. Do we need another Windows RT tablet? We're about to find out.
SuperSite readers know that I first highlighted the Lumia 2520, then under the codename Sirius back in September when I published the first-ever photo of, and details about, the device. And while I've enjoyed seeing that photo appear unattributed on every tech blog in the world since then, Nokia today officially unveiled the device, giving us more information about this most curious of releases.
With Microsoft almost certainly purchasing Nokia in the coming months, many have wondered aloud whether Nokia should even release the Lumia 2520, given how similar it is to Microsoft's just-released Surface 2. I've waffled on this one myself, to be fair, but perhaps with today's more complete understanding of the device, we can arrive at a more informed opinion.
If you're a fan of Nokia's unibody Lumia handset designs, the Lumia 2520 is certainly as fetching as it is familiar. Given the success of the firm's handsets, one could make the argument that this design, alone, will be reason for some people to make the purchase.
Too, the Lumia 2520 comes in a familiar selection of colors, as do the firm's unibody handsets. And as with the phones, these colors aren't painted on, and thus can't be scratched off with use: The color is infused directly into the polycarbonate.
But what about those specs? As you might expect, most are quite similar to what we see with the Surface 2. The device is powered by a quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, where the Surface 2 ships with a TEGRA 4 processor; some head-to-head tests will be required here, but given the consistent performance characteristics of Windows RT, I suspect it will be a wash in real-world use. It features a 10.1-inch display—slightly smaller than Surface 2's 10.6-inch screen—running at the same 1080p resolution as Surface 2. But it's an IPS screen for enhanced usability outdoors, which could be an advantage over Surface 2, which washes out in the sun.
Like all Windows RT devices, the 2520 provides 2 GB of RAM, and like the base version of Surface 2, it ships with 32 GB of solid state storage. There's no 64 GB option, however, as there is with Surface 2. And while there is a micro-SD slot, Nokia says it's limited to a further 32 GB of storage: The unit in Surface 2 can utilize cards up to 64 GB big.
The 2520 also stumbles in expandability: The Surface 2 ships with a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a key advantage. But the 2520 only includes micro-USB, so you'll need to carry (and not lose) an adapter. This makes the 2520 much less desirable, in my opinion. The 2520, like the Surface 2, features micro-HDMI for video-out.
The 2520 also ships with LTE capabilities, something Surface 2 lacks. This feature has been a frequent request since Microsoft launched its Surface products, though it's not clear how many people would actually use it. Both devices feature the same sensors, again owing to the consistency of the RT platform.
I should point out a few other Nokia niceties. As a Lumia device, it does ship with a camera with Carl Zeiss optics, though its 6.7 megapixels of resolution is certainly on the low-end compared to today's Nokia flagship smart phones. And Nokia is providing its first Windows RT apps with the device, though it's not clear whether these apps will ship for other RT devices too: Storyteller, Video Director, HERE Maps, Nokia Music (already available) and more.
The most intriguing aspect of the 2520, perhaps, doesn't even ship with the device: For an additional $150, you can pick up the Nokia Power Keyboard, which provides a keyboard, a gesture-based trackpad, and a wrap-around cover. This sounds a lot like the Surface Type Cover ($130), but check this out: The Power Keyboard also includes additional battery for five more hours of use, and two full-sized (USB 2.0, I assume) USB ports. Bam! That is a wonderful accessory, at least on paper.
It looks good. But separated from the tablet, the Power Keyboard is strangely floppy affair.
Availability is murky: Nokia says only that the device will hit the United States, UK and Finland in the fourth quarter of 2013 and that it will cost $499, about $50 more than the equivalent Surface 2.
Assuming the 2520 lives up to the vaunted build quality we've come to expect from Nokia's Lumia handsets—a pretty sure bet—it's perhaps possible to make a decision between this device and a Surface 2. Frankly, both have advantages. And while one feature, or advantage, may put one device a bit higher in one's own rankings, I can come to a logical enough conclusion: Next year, Microsoft needs to combine the capabilities and features of these tablets into a single product that features the best from both.
In the meantime, I'm excited to get one. I love the quality and durability of Nokia's handsets and suspect they'll do right by Windows RT too.
Be sure to check out Nokia Lumia 2520 – Visually and this first hands-on video to learn more about the Lumia 2520.