Nokia Lumia 520 review

A good phone for the price, but we'd save up for the posher Lumia 630

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Our Rating 
4/5
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT
Buy it now for 

Specifications

Processor: Dual-core 1.0GHz Snapdragon S4, Screen size: 4in, Screen resolution: 800x480, Rear camera: 5-megapixel, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, Size: 120x75x9.9mm, Weight: 124g, Operating system: Windows Phone 8

The Nokia Lumia 520 has been around for a while now. While it was one of Nokia's great success stories, it's since been replaced by both the Lumia 530 and Microsoft's newly announced Lumia 535 - the first Lumia Windows phone to ditch the Nokia branding. However, the Lumia 520 is by no means out of date, as it's still due to get an upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 and it's now cheaper than ever if you shop around. 

There aren't many places still selling the Lumia 520, but the cheapest price we could find was £55 SIM-free from Argos (a £10 top-up's required on top of that, too). This is a great bargain compared to the Lumia 520's original price of £150, but contracts are now quite scarce, so you're better off buying it SIM-free if you still want an ultra-cheap Windows phone. 

The Lumia 520 definitely feels cheaper than the Lumia 620 and 630; the plastic on its rear is less soft-touch than the 620's cover, for example, and we much prefer the 630's rounded edges to the 520's sharper corners. Its screen has the same 480x800 resolution as the 620, but the 520's display has significantly less contrast and much less saturated colours. Like the 620's screen, the 520's is extremely sensitive, and can be operated with your fingernail or when wearing gloves.

Nokia Lumia 520

Nonetheless, the 520 still feels like a well-made phone for the price, and the bright snap-on covers add a dose of personality sadly missing from many cheap Android smartphones. It also has all the performance we’ve come to expect from Windows Phone 8. The dual-core 1GHz processor is certainly powerful enough to run the operating system smoothly, and a score of 1,473ms in the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark shows the Lumia 520 to be as quick as both the Lumia 530 and the Lumia 630 for web browsing and up there with all but the quickest Android handsets.

Nokia Lumia 520

One area where you do miss out is battery life. The Lumia 520's 1,430mAh battery only gave it 6 hours and 36 minutes of continuous video playback, which while better than the 6 hours and 16 minutes we saw from the Lumia 620, is still on the mediocre side compared to the eight-hours-plus we’ve become used to seeing from the newest generation of Lumia phones.

Being a Nokia Windows Phone 8 device, you also get Nokia's built-in navigation apps, now renamed HERE Maps for general mapping and HERE Drive for turn-by-turn navigation. A huge advantage of both is their support for offline mapping. In Maps, for example, you just need to go to Offline Maps in the menu and select the maps you want to download to the phone's internal storage, which will save you any worry about getting lost in low signal areas or racking up huge data costs when abroad. You'll probably want to supplement the phone's internal 8GB storage with a microSD card if you want to cover a great deal of the world, though.

Nokia Lumia 520

Free professional-grade offline maps are a definite bonus, especially on a cheap handset, but the Lumia 520's big disadvantage over other Lumia handsets is its lack of a built-in compass, which may make orientating yourself a bit trickier.

The Lumia 520 has a five-megapixel camera, and it's impressive for such an inexpensive handset. Shots taken outside showed plenty of detail and well-judged exposure, with none of the bleaching-out of the sky we often see from phones, even expensive models such as the Samsung Galaxy S3. When compared side-by-side with the more expensive Lumia 620 we saw similar levels of detail in outdoor shots, but the Lumia 620 had slightly more saturated and marginally more accurate colours.

Lumia 520 outdoor test shot

^ High-quality outdoor shots are possible with the Lumia 520 - click to enlarge

Lumia 620 outdoor test shot

^ We just prefer the Lumia 620's colour reproduction, but there's not much in it - click to enlarge

We saw more of a difference between the phones in our indoor test shots. Under moderate indoor lighting the Lumia 520's shots showed considerably more noise than the 620's, and far less punchy colours.

Lumia 520 indoor test shot

^ Indoor shots with the Lumia 520 show plenty of noise, though - click to enlarge

Considering its price, the Lumia 520 is an impressive handset. Like all Nokia phones it feels well made, and it's a much more interesting design than the boring Android slabs you tend to get at this price point. We have no complaints about performance, and the camera is superb for a budget phone, at least in daylight. However, given that the Lumia 530 is almost the same price at £60 SIM-free, we'd say the 530 is a much better buy, as it has a better battery life, a slightly higher resolution screen and Windows Phone 8.1 straight out of the box.

If you can stretch your budget a little further, though, the Lumia 630 is much better value, as you not only get an awful lot more for your money, including a more pleasing design, but a much better screen and an even better battery life. At £87 SIM-free or £60 on O2 Pay & Go, we think it's worth the extra expense.

Details

Price £150
Rating ****
Award Budget Buy

Hardware

Main display size 4.0in
Native resolution 800x480
CCD effective megapixels 5-megapixel
GPS yes
Internal memory 8192MB
Memory card support microSD
Memory card included 0MB
Operating frequencies GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 900/2100
Wireless data GPRS, EDGE, 3G
Size 120x64x10mm
Weight 124g

Features

Operating system Windows Phone 8
Microsoft Office compatibility Word, Excel, PowerPoint
FM Radio no
Accessories headphones, data cable, charger
Talk time 15 hours
Standby time 15 days

Buying Information

SIM-free price £150
Price on contract 0
Prepay price £110
SIM-free supplier www.carphonewarehouse.com
Contract/prepay supplier www.carphonewarehouse.com
Details www.nokia.co.uk

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