The Lumia 520 is another budget Windows Phone 8 smartphone from Nokia, introduced at Mobile World Congress alongside the Lumia 720, and following on from the also-cheap Lumia 620.
This Lumia 520 has all the features most people will need and, although performance isn't the best we've seen, it's certainly adequate. So you don't get 4G LTE support, wireless charging, near-field communication, City Lens augmented reality or the latest Bluetooth connectivity standard (the Lumia 520 ships with Bluetooth 3.0) but, until these technologies really take off.
Design & Build quality
What's more important, then, is that the Nokia Lumia 520 is a pleasant phone in use. It's a comfortable fit for our hands, just 64x9.9x119.99mm and with a usable, not-too-large 4in screen. Its rounded corners and sides help you to easily operate it in a single hand. The Lumia 520 is no heavyweight, at around 124g, yet it feels solid. Even with a removable rear panel it doesn't creak or flex under pressure, although the build is a touch plasticky and you'll be constantly wiping away greasy fingerprints.
In common with its Lumia siblings you can quickly and easily snap off the 520's colourful rear cover and swap in another: yellow, cyan, red, white and black fascias are available. All fit neatly over the handset's various hardware buttons and ports: there's a 3.5mm audio jack on top, a volume rocker, power switch and dedicated camera button on the right side, and a Micro-USB port on the bottom. On the rear is a 5Mp camera and a small slot for the speaker. Our sample came in red, giving it a fresh, playful look that's miles apart from the multiple boring black Androids dominating the market.
Concealed behind this rear panel is a removable 5.3Wh (1,430mAh) battery, which Nokia claims is good for 360 hours standby, 9.6 hours talk time, or 61 hours music playback, plus Micro-SIM and microSDXC slots, the latter allowing you to add up to 64GB to the handset's 8GB internal capacity. You also get 7GB free online storage via SkyDrive, which may come in handy for backups. None of these features is a given with recent smartphones: a massive plus point.
Screen & Graphics
The Lumia 520's display is pretty decent for a cheap smartphone. It has a 4in panel with a 800x480-pixel resolution, which equates to 235ppi. That's not even close to some of the best handset's you can buy, which offer twice the number of pixels per inch, but you can hardly expect a 5in full-HD screen at this price, and the resolution matches that of the Lumia 620, 720 and 820.
The 520's IPS panel has Windows Phone 8 written all over it. To support the operating system's bold tiles and punchy colours, it delivers rich, vibrant images and cleanly defined text.
We installed the Netflix app and found streaming movies over Wi-Fi a genuinely enjoyable experience, with no stutter or lag, suggesting the handset's Adreno 305 graphics are more than up to the job. The Lumia 520's strong viewing angles allow someone to watch over your shoulder, too, although the small display means they probably won't. Note that there's no HDMI port for hooking up the handset to a large-screen TV.
Nokia claims the Lumia 520's touchscreen display is 'super-sensitive', able to respond even when the user is wearing gloves or has long fingernails. It was certainly very quick to respond in our tests, although the processor sometimes struggled to keep up.
Core Specifications & Performance
Nokia has fitted its Lumia 520 with a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. This dual-core chip is paired with 512MB of RAM, which might sound stingy when compared to the competition, but it's all you need for browsing the relatively lightweight Windows Phone 8 OS. Indeed, there's no sign of the Lumia 520's lack of pace when navigating Windows Phone's various menus and built-in features; it's only when you try to launch the camera or a third-party app that you'll endure a few-second wait.
As with browsing the phone itself, surfing the web feels fluid, and the Lumia 520's built-in Internet Explorer browser gave us no headaches in use.
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