Review: Nokia Lumia 520


In the market of low-end smartphones, it’s usually dominated by cheap Android phones that work better as a target practice than a smartphone. These things are cluggy, have horrible cameras and usually have horrible screens to go with it. The Nokia Lumia 520 is in this low-end smartphone price bracket – but does it perform like a low-end smartphone?

Hardware and Windows Phone

The Lumia 520 is clearly targeted at a younger audience, it’s evident through the way it’s advertised, through its price tag and even through the multitude of colours available – cyan, red, white, black and the colour of our device, which was yellow. I quite enjoy Nokia’s use of colours in their phones and as childish as it might sound, it actually makes them feel fun compared to the usual black or white devices on the market.

The actual feel of the device is quite nice, it’s a bit on the thick side but the shape of it makes it fit in your hand perfectly. The case is quite slippery, however, and it would be very easy to drop if you weren’t being careful.

The front of the device looks much the same as any other Nokia Lumia device with the three capacitive Windows Phone buttons down the bottom and the Nokia logo up the top. The screen is a 4-inch 480 x 800 IPS LCD display that looks about on par with most mid-range devices, but a whole lot better than most low-end phones. It also includes a super sensitive touchscreen like on the Lumia 920 which lets you use the phone even with gloves on.

Like all Nokia Lumia devices, the 520 is running Windows Phone 8 and includes all of Nokia’s in-house apps such as Here Maps, Digital Lenses and Nokia Mix Radio. It runs much the same as most Windows Phone, and excels in emailing, the integration of social networks and its Xbox Music app is possible the best music streaming service around. You do suffer from a lack of apps though, with the crucial one being an official Instagram app if you’re a teenager and love to take photos.

Camera, Performance and Battery Life

The 5-megapixel camera on the Lumia 520 wasn’t amazing, but you don’t expect that on a low-end device. It was capable enough to take photos during the day that you could happily upload onto Facebook or Instagram (through an unofficial app, sadly) but the low-light was atrocious and full of noise. But again, compared to most budget phones it actually wasn’t that bad and probably better than most in the category.

Performance on the 520 was fantastic, it didn’t feel like you were using something that costs less than $200 at all, in fact I forgot I wasn’t using my Lumia 920 or not a couple of times. This is all thanks to a combination of the complete optimisation that Windows Phone has with its hardware and the relatively speedy 1Ghz Snapdragon S4 processor. Sadly it only has 512mb of RAM, though, which means that some apps and games aren’t available due to this performance restriction.

Battery life was a bit disappointing. The 1430mAh battery was only able to power the device from 8AM to 5PM before begging for a charger – which is fine if you only use your phone moderately through the day and don’t care if you have to plug it in after work. But for me, it simply wasn’t enough – I need something that will keep going right until I put it on the charger when I got to bed.

Should you buy it?

The Nokia Lumia 520 is a fantastic low-end phone, heck, I’d even nearly put it towards the mid-range but with a low-end price tag. If you’re in the market for a cheap, prepaid phone then this is the phone for you – it runs well, it does all the basics perfectly plus it does a little bit more.

The Nokia Lumia 520 is available for $168 from Harvey Norman, $179 with Telstra or $209.95 from MobiCity.

– Best value phone on the market
– Good performance for a low-end phone
– Solid Windows Phone experience


– Disappointing battery life
– Camera useless in low-light
– Windows Phone still suffers from a lack of apps

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