The thing about the Windows Phone platform is that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. This is good since you get the true feel of the OS no matter which phone you pick. However, this can also be viewed as a negative, since the platform lacks variety across the price range and OEMs can’t really customise the user experience the way they can with Android. This leaves you with a couple of exclusive apps from each brand, but that’s pretty much it. The newly launched Lumia 520 has the potential to really shake things up in the entry-level smartphone segment, not just for Nokia but Windows Phone in general.
Design and build
Available in a variety of colours, the Lumia 520 looks modern and fresh thanks to a soft, matte finish for the entire chassis. The glossy front attracts fingerprints, but it’s not as bad as some of the other phones in this range. Compared to the Lumia 620, which is a few thousand rupees more, the handset is slimmer and lighter, and oddly, feels a lot more premium. The curved back fits snugly in your hand and all the buttons line up with your fingers. The back cover is interchangeable and is a lot simpler to snap on and off as compared to the Lumia 820 or 620. There won’t be any option for a wireless charging cover, but at this price, we don’t think that matters much.
Excellent design and build
The microSIM and microSD card slots are placed beside each other and are hot-swappable. You get a dedicated camera shutter button along with the usual set of buttons. In order to keep the price low, Nokia has had to do away with the LED flash, the front camera and the compass.
Overall, the Lumia 520 is easily one of the best-looking and well-built devices in Nokia’s entire WP8 range, let alone in that particular price bracket. Another good thing about the design is that the headphone jack is not attached to the cover, like the 620, and you’ll be able to buy third party covers as well, which should be a lot cheaper.
We prefer a matte finish back any day of the week
The Lumia 520 sports a larger 4-inch IPS display compared to its slightly more expensive cousin. It doesn't use the ClearBlack technology but uses Super-sensitive touch instead, which allows you to operate it even with gloves on. The display is bright and viewing angles are good, but the colours aren’t very vivid or punchy. This is very noticeable when you place the 520 and 620 side-by-side – the Lumia 620’s display has a much better colour reproduction. Still, for the price it’s really hard to complain. The Lumia 520 is powered by the same Qualcomm MSM8227 SoC used in the 620. This consists of two dual-core Krait CPUs running at 1GHz along with the newer Adreno 305 GPU.
The IPS display is pretty good under various lighting conditions
The Lumia 520 lacks the Dolby headphone enhancement featured in the 620 and above, but despite this, the audio quality through headphones is good. Even at half volume, audio is clear and crisp with a good amount of bass kicking in. We tested this with the Cowon EM1 and not the stock earphones. The volume level through the speaker is pretty good too. With the phone lying flat on its back, alerts can easily be heard. Audio codecs are a bit limited, but that’s something you’ll have to live with. There’s a lock screen widget as well for convenience.
Most of your movies will have to be converted if they aren’t in MP4 as the video codec support is a bit limited as well. The good news is that 1080p MP4 files play just fine without any stutter, which is mighty impressive for an entry-level smartphone.
Full HD playback was a pleasant surprise
Nokia is also throwing in some exclusive offers with the Lumia 520, such as the ability to stream unlimited movies from BIGFlix for the first three months for free. Reliance customers will get 1GB of free 3G for two months. Along with that, WhatsApp and Facebook have been whitelisted during that period, which means all data sent and received from these two apps won’t be counted in your 1GB quota.