Nokia Lumia 520 review: Best buys

GSMArena team, 16 April 2013.

Introduction

The Lumia 520 completes the roll call for Nokia's second generation of Microsoft-powered smartphones. Statistically, this means that every step of their product line, from 5** all the way to 9**, has been backed up by a fresh WP8-rocking alternative.

OK, that's nothing out of the ordinary and actually well on time. The Lumia 520 was announced at this year's MWC, along with the Lumia 720, signaling Nokia's intention to focus on the lower tiers of the market.

In terms of budget, it doesn't get any lower than the Lumia 520. With an estimated retail price of under 150, the 520 is clearly the most affordable WP8-powered smartphone. Hardly a surprise then that it's a trimmed down version of the Lumia 720 we recently reviewed.

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Nokia Lumia 520 official images

The Lumia 520 has to make do with a smaller, garden variety LCD (no ClearBlack) and an inferior imaging package. The wide aperture lens of the Lumia 720 had to go, too, while the LED flash and the front-facer went with it. The battery is of lesser capacity too but other than that, we're looking at two very similar packages priced some way apart. And we do think the actual price cut is well worth the features that got slashed.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • Quad-band 3G with 21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.7 Mbps HSUPA support
  • 4.0" 16M-color IPS LCD display of WVGA resolution
  • 5 megapixel autofocus camera with 720p@30fps video recording
  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 1 GHz dual-core Krait CPU, Adreno 305 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8227 chipset, 512MB of RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS and GLONASS support
  • Free lifetime voice-guided navigation (with a twist)
  • 8GB of inbuilt storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • Built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • microUSB port
  • Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP and EDR, file transfers
  • SNS integration
  • Xbox Live integration and Xbox management
  • Nokia Music
  • FM Radio
  • Extremely competitive pricing

Main disadvantages

  • Common LCD lacks the punch of CBD
  • A few prominent apps still missing, some apps incompatible due to 512MB RAM
  • No front-facing camera
  • No LED flash
  • No system-wide file manager
  • No lockscreen shortcuts
  • Voice-guided SatNav license limited to a single country

Nokia has rolled out a few devices of proper flagship pedigree since going all-in with Redmond, but the Finns must see plenty of awareness-raising value in devices like the Lumia 620 and 520. And we can't help but be impressed with the fact that the Lumia 520 shapes up to be the cheapest of them all at launch - considering it's the only one of the three powered by a couple of Krait cores.

Of course there're things missing but if you can live without the front-facing camera, the Lumia 520 is an extremely tempting package. We don't think the 512MB of RAM is as big a disadvantage as it was for the clearly more costly Lumia 720. The screen isn't particularly impressive but the thinking must've been that potential users would care more about being able to use it with gloves on than the actual image quality.

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The Nokia Lumia 520 at HQ

Is it worth buying, then? We'll be checking that out, starting with a closer look at the exterior.

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