Lumia 1520 is pretty nice for only a small crowd

I’ve had the Lumia 1520 for two weeks now and wanted to summarise here my experiences with it. Before I get into it, I want to highlight that I have come at it from a Galaxy Note 3 user’s perspective. The Galaxy Note 3 is probably its main competitor and anyone looking to buy a large screened phone would potentially compare them. Naturally, I also made those direct comparisons.

Hardware

The main selling point of the Lumia 1520 is its screen size. If you want a large screen on your phone, this is certainly a phone to consider. The 6″ screen is incredible (and slightly better than the one on the Galaxy Note 3): beautiful colour reproduction, very readable in direct sunlight and very good viewing angles. The only issue I had with the screen is that when I watched some (darker) videos in low light conditions, the screen would be too dim/dark. I could have changed that via the settings by turning up brightness, but I had hoped for the phone to manage that for me.

Whereas the large screen is a real luxury, the body it comes in, is at the same time by far its main downside. This phone is really large! I found it quite difficult to manage with one hand for just about anything. Add to that the slippery materials of the phone and I can assure you that I never felt comfortable managing it in one hand while walking down the street.

You may feel that is a trade-off for the large screen, but I would have to disagree. The Galaxy Note 3 has a 5,7″ screen and comes in a body that is considerably smaller and with a back made of a material that is far less slippery. The Note 3 is a phone I can quite comfortably handle with one hand for 90% of the things I want to do.
Although the difference is size is not really big, the Note 3 is easier to handle.
Although the difference in size is not big, the Note 3 is certainly easier to handle. Milimeters make a difference.

All that being said, I understand that the size of phone you can handle comfortably is a very personal thing. I feel that Galaxy Note 3 size is my upper limit, but I realise that if you have smaller or larger hands, your mileage may vary. In any case, Nokia should have at least done a better job in the screen size to phone size ratio.

The Huawei Ascend W1 has a 4" screen and the Lumia 1520 a 6" screen. The Note 3 maximises the screen size vs its body size.
The Huawei Ascend W1 has a 4″ screen and the Lumia 1520 a 6″ screen. The Note 3 maximises the screen size (5,7″) vs its body size.

Besides screen quality and phone size, I can only say good things about the remaining hardware aspects. The camera performs as expected, the speaker quality is nice, and wireless radios work fine. It is the hardware quality that I have come to expect from Nokia.

Lastly, I really liked the headphones that shipped with the Lumia 1520 (Nokia WH-208). Not great sounding bass, but very comfortable. I even picked up a pair on Amazon for 12€.

Performance

Windows Phone 8 (update 3) runs fast and responsive on the Snapdragon 800 processor + 2Gb RAM inside. Absolutely no complaints running 3D games, HD videos or switching between apps. The truth is, though, that I also never had complaints on the Lumia 1020 or 920 (with slower processors and less RAM), which is a testament to the optimisations done to Windows Phone by Microsoft.

The large battery allowed me to enjoy all that performance and large screen goodness without having to doubt whether I would get through the day. If there is one additional advantage to every large screened phone, it is that they stick a lot of battery underneath that screen. With the Nokia Lumia 1520 that is no different.

Software

As I said before, Windows Phone 8 performs very nicely on this phone. However, I have WP 8.1 on my Huawei Ascend W1 and really feel that it is a nice upgrade that should arrive for the Lumia 1520 sooner rather than later. The big advantages of Windows Phone 8.1 are Noticification Centre, Action Centre, better SD Card support, swipe keyboard, a much better app store, and nicer extensibility of the Share menu, to name a few.

Even with Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone does not yet have the level of maturity as Android on the Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 3 is much more feature rich, including an excellent S-Pen, and makes more use of the larger screen (particularly with regards to multi-tasking). On the Lumia 8.1 it is mostly larger text, and sometimes a line or two of additional content. Not bad, but could be better.

The app ecosystem is unfortunately as I remembered it from 6 months ago. It is OK, but definitely not a selling point. I feel it is adequate for 70% of the population, but if you want to play with the latest or niche apps, Windows Phone is not the OS for you yet.

On the other hand, if you use a lot of Microsoft services and/or your company is an Microsoft environment company, there is quite a bit to like here. The phone performs admirably as a work phone, with great battery life, call quality, data speeds, ample storage, email and office document support.

Summary

If you can handle the size of the Lumia 1520, are not looking for niche/latest apps and want to use it quite a lot for work (Microsoft environment), I think the phone is a very good option. However, this is only a small part of the population, I realise. For the rest, it has to compete with the likes of the Galaxy Note 3 and I feel that it simply can’t. The Note 3 is better value mainly due to the size, OS, Galaxy Note enhancements and app ecosystem.
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