The Nokia Lumia 520 is the fifth Windows Phone 8 handset to emerge out of Finnish giants Nokia’s basket and its another low budget entry-level model that competes with the likes of Huawei Ascend W1, ZTE Blade Q Mini, and the Motorola Moto G. Nokia itself has quite a few models in the low budget range, ones that appear quite similar in appearance like the Lumia 620.
Despite similarity in appearances, the Lumia 520 is a variant that ranks slightly below the Lumia 620. And there’s plenty of reasons why. The Lumia 520 continues to offer consumers the choice of its bright bold colors, cyan, red, black, yellow and white, but the plastic back misses out on the glossy look of its counterpart. That could be an advantage as it grips nicely and sits comfortably in the hand.
There is a 3.5mm headphone port on the top left, a micro-USB port at the bottom, and the volume and power buttons on the right. The speaker and the camera lens sit on the back. Below the back panel lie the slots for the microSD memory card and SIM. The Lumia 520 supports up to 64GB cards, which should come in very handy, since the internal storage is basic at 8GB of memory.
The Lumia 520 is lighter than the Lumia 620, at 119.9x64mm and 124g despite having a slightly larger 4 inch display of resolution 480 x 800 with a pixel density of 233ppi. Despite the bigger screen, the display quality isn’t the best. A reddish tint shows up on the screen and the absence of a reflection layer means that using it outdoors is a complete pain. Text and images are sharp and fairly readable although you’d do well to avoid desktop sites as it would require too much zooming.
Other specs of the Lumia 520 include the 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor backed by 512MB of RAM, which you can find on the more expensive Lumia 720. The internal speakers of the Lumia 520 offer a good volume level for a budget phone, but at higher volumes, the audio sounds a little tinny and harsh. The call quality on the Lumia 520 is good and the second microphone does its job in removing ambient noise from the call signal.
The device is fitted with a 5 MP camera at the rear with no front facing camera. So you won’t be taking comfortable selfies or doing video chats with this one. That said, when it comes to photo performance, the Lumia 520 performs well in good lighting conditions. However, the absence of a flash makes the camera pretty useless in low light conditions and photos can be quite grainy.
The presence of a physical shutter button on the Lumia 520 isn’t a value addition either. The button doesn’t give the feel of a “real” camera shutter, but rather works like a power button and taking in-focus shots can be quite tricky. As far as the Camera app is concerned there are only two built-in features; the face-detecting Smart Shoot and the barcode-scanning Bing Vision. Users looking for more features like the HDR and panorama mode will have to download them from the Windows Store and they don’t come free either. The video camera on the Nokia Lumia 520 is also quite basic, shooting at 720p at 30fps.
The Lumia 520 does not come with NFC, compass or front facing camera, but it has got a slightly bigger battery 1430 mAh, which is more than the Lumia 620’s 1300 mAh battery. This could be to compensate for the larger display, but the bigger battery definitely translates to longer usage. You will effortlessly get through the whole day doing light-weight tasks like browsing and email checking without heading for the charger.
It is in the software department that the Lumia 520 really shines. With Windows 8 on board, you get a quick, slick and consistent experience on the device. Windows 8 offers an integrated social media experience with the People app bringing social media updates from Facebook and Twitter along with its email and SMS features. Microsoft Office and OneNote apps also offer value to users who wish to create, edit and view documents, spreadsheets and notes on the go. The Windows 8 tiles are live tiles and you can move, resize or unpin and organize them into folders on the Start screen.
However, if you are an app aficionado, this phone is not for you. The collection of apps for the Lumia 520 is extremely limited, with basic features and updates happening few and far between.
Should You Buy the Nokia Lumia 520?
If you’re reading this review, I’m presuming you are looking for a budget level, low entry device. That means you are ready to make compromises on the features you want to see in your phone. Therefore you cannot complain that the Lumia 520 has no front facing camera, no flash, or NFC. The compromise that will hurt you the most is probably the reflective screen, which makes it very tricky to use outdoors. The lack of apps is another thing you’ll have to consider, but that goes for just about any Windows Phone. If you hate seeing smudges and fingerprints on your phone screen, you’ll be disappointed with the 520 as well.
The big selling point for the Lumia 520 though is the price. For less than a hundred bucks, you get a decent screen size and a device that is great for making phone calls and for messaging. If you hate Android and want a basic phone that’s ideal as a backup option, the Nokia Lumia 520 may be a model well worth considering.