Phablets demand a certain level of commitment from their users. Straddling the line between a smartphone and a tablet also means having to deal with inherent trade-offs that come with these larger-screened devices — things like reduced pocketability and the general awkwardness of using them as phones. If those compromises seem minor to you, then the Nokia Lumia 1520 should definitely be on your shortlist.
The first Finnish phablet also happens to be the biggest Windows Phone ever. Visually, the 1520 resembles previous Lumia smartphones like the 925 and 1020. Thankfully, it also comes with the same high-end specs. Stuffed inside the polycarbonate unibody you’ll find the latest Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.2 GHz along with 2 GB RAM, both of which make multitasking smooth and lag-free. You’ll also get 32 GB of internal storage, which is expandable up to 64 GB (plus it comes with 7 more gigs of Cloud storage for free on SkyDrive).
The gorgeous ClearBlack 6-inch display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and packs 368 pixels per inch — which makes it great for outdoor use. Also, it’s ridiculously big. Bigger than the Galaxy Note 3. But still, I quickly got used to its dimensions and weight (6.41 x 3.36 x 0.34 inches, 7.37 ounces).
The Lumia 1520 features a wide-angle front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera, enough for decent selfies (as you can see in the gallery above), particularly if taken in bright light. But it’s the rear camera that’s the real star. The stunning 20-megapixel PureView camera features 6-element Zeiss lens, f/2.4 aperture, 2x lossless zoom, optical image stabilization, and a dual-LED flash. It can capture 1080p 30fps videos with incredibly rich audio recording, thanks to its four omnidirectional stereo microphones. I asked some friends to record their band practicing to test it out and the result was a crisp and clear audio track. The iPhone 5s, which we also tested, produced a heavily distorted audio track. It wasn’t even close.
To sweeten the smartphone camera experience, Nokia has been developing several interesting dedicated apps as well. The new Nokia Camera combines functionality from the old Pro Cam and the Smart Cam, including basic and advanced options in the same app. Now, you won’t need to decide in advance which feature you’ll need before you actually need it.
Like on the Lumia 1020, Nokia introduced RAW image file support on the 1520. Images are captured in low-definition 5-megapixel JPEGs and simultaneously in 16-megapixel “totally natural” DNG (Digital Negative) files. That means that you can edit the images again and again without ruining your photos.
With the Lumia 1520 Nokia has also released a couple of cool photo apps: Cinemagraph and Refocus. The former is just like the iOS/Android app Cinemagram (a GIF maker with just an animated portion of the image), while the latter is a Lytro-like app that lets you snap a shot and then decide afterwards where to focus it before sharing it. Both apps work with all of Nokia’s PureView Windows Phones.
Since you can’t judge a phone (or phablet) without considering its operating system, you have to factor in the Windows Phone Store too. Lately, Microsoft and Nokia have done a great job encouraging developers to applications: Vine, Instagram, and Waze have finally debuted in the Store. And a few more big-name apps, like Mint, are also coming this week.
With the added support of larger screens, you can now populate the Home Screen with up to three columns of Live Tiles, now available in four different dimensions. Of course Windows Phone 8 still lacks a notifications center and some real multitasking, but Microsoft has said an update is coming in January to fix these omissions.
The Lumia 1520 comes with 4G LTE, GSM, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. An AT&T exclusive, you can choose from four different colors: matte white, yellow, glossy red,and glossy black.