Nokia Lumia 520 - Does Nokia Really Need Another Budget Windows Phone? (Part 2)

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8/10/2013 9:22:37 AM

Performance and Battery Life

The Lumia 520 handled Windows Phone 8 quite well, with its top-notch cellular components offering decent HSPA+ speeds (often up to 21Mbps download), on par with the other smartphones we tested on the Vodafone network in London. In some places, it received an extra signal bar over fancier phones, so reception is definitely on the strong side.

In terms of computing performance, the Lumia 520 behaves identically to the 720 and 620 in every respect, except one - it's lack of stamina, especially for a low-performance device.

The 520's removable battery

The 520's removable battery

Despite the fact that the 520's removable battery has a higher capacity than the 620's (1,430 vs. 1,350mAh), the 520’s is worse. This is certainly due to less-efficient components - with the most likely culprit is definitely the cheap display. In any case, the 520 only lasted two-thirds as long as the 620 in the WPBench rundown test, and it has struggled to survive 12 hours of moderate to heavy use. Keeping high brightness make everything worse, whether reflective screen will usually do what you want to do. If we use the phone primarily for making calls all morning, then do something more taxing in the afternoon - such as 30 minutes of playing around with Cinemagraph - the phone would die by 10pm.

Although some high-spec Windows Phones have similar run-down ratings, they are not as bad as this in terms of battery life in real life - and it's easier to be forgiving when you have premium features out of faster CPUs. It's in comparison to the other budget offerings that the Lumia 520 really suffers.

Lumia 920

·         WPBench: 227

·         Battery life: 2:36

·         SunSpider (ms, lower numbers are better): 914

·         AnTuTu (*GFX test off): 10,957*

Lumia 920

Lumia 920

Lumia 820

·         WPBench: 224

·         Battery life: 2:07

·         SunSpider (ms, lower numbers are better): 909

·         AnTuTu (*GFX test off): 11,506

Lumia 820

Lumia 820

Lumia 720

·         WPBench: 179

·         Battery life: 4:36

·         SunSpider (ms, lower numbers are better): 1440

·         AnTuTu (*GFX test off): 7,348

Lumia 720

Lumia 720

Lumia 620

·         WPBench: 180

·         Battery life: 3:41

·         SunSpider (ms, lower numbers are better): 1,443

·         AnTuTu (*GFX test off): 7,479

Lumia 620

Lumia 620

Lumia 520

·         WPBench: 178

·         Battery life: 2:41

·         SunSpider (ms, lower numbers are better): 1,400

·         AnTuTu (*GFX test off): 7,350

Lumia 520

Lumia 520


·         WPBench: 180

·         Battery life: 3:30

·         SunSpider (ms, lower numbers are better): 1,415

·         AnTuTu (*GFX test off): 7,333




At this point, we really have to distinguish between the two types of buyers who might be interested in this phone. If we come up with the 520 as a smartphone beginner, or as someone who used a budget Android phone in a short time, then this Nokia phone is everything we need. It provides access to the Windows Store, which, these days, has enough first-party apps (or good third-party ones) to cover most common needs and situations that may occur. There is OneNote, Evernote, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Spotify, Kindle, WhatsApp, Skype - which is useful for video chat if both parties see each other - and so on.

We also have access to Nokia's services and the Lumia's exclusive services

We also have access to Nokia's services and the Lumia's exclusive services

We also have access to Nokia's services and the Lumia's exclusive services. Mostly these applications have counterparts in different ecosystems, but on the whole, they have real value. This is especially true with Nokia's so-called Here apps for location services and navigation. Cityscape is still fairly new, but Maps and Drive is the real heavyweight opponents. In fact, Drive is almost good enough to become a substitute for the TomTom app on other platforms, which is priced at $50 - unless you rely on traffic updates and re-routing or speed camera alerts, which Drive doesn't yet offer in the UK (even though Here Maps does show traffic congestion).

Now, consider the Lumia 520 software from a different vision - a vision of an experienced smartphone coming from other platforms, such as Android. From this vision, we have to give the same old boring warning we always do with Windows Phone handsets: don’t expect to participate in everything, or have all the apps that you used to know.

This UK-based author uses Google+ for social stuff, Amazon Cloud Player for music, Kobo and Google Books for reading, Zinio for magazines, Springpad for notes and iPlayer for TV. None of those apps are yet available on Windows Phone in the UK - although some are coming - and this constitutes a major barrier for me to use Windows Phone as the main equipment in 2013. The general situation is improving, but do not expect things to move as fast as you want.

Remember that the Lumia has only 512MB RAM, so few applications and games available in the Windows Store can reject you. No big deal, but it is the exclusive feeling - which certainly would not have a problem with an Android device with similar specs, same price as Huawei G510. In contrast, the Huawei's Android skin just doesn't have any of the welcoming feel or flair of Microsoft and Nokia's combined efforts, so that's the choice you make.


It says much about the strength of Nokia's Lumia smartphones that it is often their worst enemy. The Lumia 520 offers full smartphone experience, smooth and friendly, but it lies in the shadow of the 620, like the 920 makes life harder for the 720 and 820. It’s a sibling rivalry of the worst kind, because for once, it actually results in us loving one more than the other - and in this case, we still like the 620's design and extra features that we just can't recommend the 520 to a mainstream budget audience. Moreover, considering the 620 has been provided under the contract for $200, we would suggest grabbing this bargain as soon as it appears rather than spending money for the moderate savings offered by the 520.

If the Lumia 620 is removed for some reason - maybe because of the tight budget or available for local - we will definitely look more kindly on the 520. After all, it still contains all the essentials of the modern Lumia offering, with lots of personality and a welcoming OS. But even in this scenario, we will have problems about battery life - which is a spec that rival budget Windows Phones do much better on, not to mention Ashas and probably other future barebones options that will cost half of the 520's price. The advanced smartphone users can see the familiar red pin icon at the end of the day, but with this model, which will be bought by people who are making moves from one basic phone, it is not good enough.


·         Price: $172.5 - unlocked version


·         Inexpensive

·         Useful Nokia apps

·         Components and structures are mostly good


·         Short battery life for a budget phone

·         Bad screen

·         Feeling superfluous beside Lumia 620


·         This phone can’t compete with the Lumia 620, and we don’t think the modest savings are deserved.


·         Dimensions 119.9x64x9.9mm (4.72x2.52x0.39inch)

·         Weight: 124g (4.37 ounce)

·         Screen size: 4 inches

·         Screen resolution: 800x480 (235ppi)

·         Screen type: IPS LCD, Sensitive Touch

·         Battery: 1430mAh Li-Polymer (removable)

·         Internal storage: 8GB

·         External storage: microSD (up to 64GB)

·         rear-facing camera: 5MP, f/2.4, no flash

·         front-facing camera: none

·         Recording video: 720p

·         NFC: none

·         Radio: GSM (850/900/1800/1900); WCDMA (900/2100), DL speed up to 21.1Mbps HSPA+

·         Bluetooth: V3.0 with A2DP

·         SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4

·         CPU: dual core 1GHz

·         GPU: Adreno 305

·         RAM: 512MB

·         WiFi: dual band, 802.11b/g/n

·         wireless charger: none

·         Operating system: Windows Phone 8


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