Review Nokia Lumia 520 Smartphone

Daniel Schuster (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 06/01/2013

Nokia's declaration of price. With an RRP of below 200 Euros (~$262), the Lumia 520 is a very affordable Windows Phone 8 smartphone. The somewhat more expensive Lumia 620 has only been available for a short time. But which entry-level model should the buyer opt for? The variety of choice makes it hard to choose, but notebookcheck.net is here to help.

For the original German review, see here.

The Lumia 520 is to enhance Nokia's to-date successful Windows 8 product line by another affordable entry-level model. We recently had a very satisfactory smartphone from the low-budget sector in our hands with the Lumia 620. Our test device is 0.2 inches bigger and is sold for less money. The SoC (system-on-a-chip) has not been modified seeing that the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 with a clock rate of 1 GHz is installed again. The working memory capacity of 512 MB and the Adreno 305 GPU have not been replaced either. The IPS screen has a resolution of 800x480 pixels and the Lumia 520 can fall back on 8 GB of internal storage. The most striking difference between both Nokia models is the RRP. The price of our test device was reduced by 70 Euros (~$92) to 199 Euros (~$260). We summarized whether Nokia's Lumia 520 features more buying incentives in this review.

Case

Changeable back cover in various colors
Changeable back cover in various colors

Nokia already proved that low prices do not equal inferior build quality with its Lumia 620. The bright yellow test device makes a similar impression. Its quality is of a very high standard. This is seen in the extreme stiffness and pressure resistance. The entire back cover is made of matte polycarbonate and can be completely removed. The physical buttons are implemented in the cover and can also be replaced when the cover is exchanged. A micro-SIM slot and micro-SD slot are underneath the hood.

The display's edge is a bit higher and is to prevent scratches on the touchscreen. With a size of 119.9 x 64 x 9.9 mm (~4.72 x 2.52 x 0.39 inches), the low-budget device is wider and longer than the Lumia 620 (115.4 x 61.1 x 11 mm/~4.54 x 2.41 x 0.43 inches) but roughly on a par with the Windows Phone 8S contender from HTC (120.5 x 63 x 10.3 mm/~4.74 x 2.48 x 0.41 inches). The weight difference to both latter models is also only 3 grams (~0.1 ounces) and thus only noticed when placed on a scale.

Connectivity

Just like most technical specs, the connectivity and interfaces of the Lumia 520 barely differ from the Lumia 620. The internal storage capacity is 8 GB and can easily be expanded via a micro-SD card.

Three physical buttons are distributed around the smartphone and three soft keys are implemented below the touchscreen. One of the hardware buttons is the volume rocker on the casing's right. The standby button is right below that and thus easy to reach. The compulsory camera shutter release is located another centimeter toward the bottom. The casing's left does not sport any buttons and only the 3.5 mm jack is on the top. We find the micro USB port for recharging and connecting to a computer on the bottom's center.

Right: Volume rocker, power button, camera shutter release
Right: Volume rocker, power button, camera shutter release
Top: 3.5 mm jack
Top: 3.5 mm jack
The ports are underneath the cover on the left
The ports are underneath the cover on the left
Bottom: Micro USB port
Bottom: Micro USB port

Software

Windows' latest operating system is also used here. We exhaustively reported about the available features and control concept of Windows Phone 8 in the reviews of Nokia's Lumia 620, 820, 920 and HTC's Windows Phone 8X. Since our test device does not have any new features, we would refer to the named test devices for more information.

"HERE Maps" is the counterpart to Google's version
"HERE Maps" is the counterpart to Google's version

Communication and GPS

Buyers expecting the newest wireless technologies, such as an NFC module, should keep in mind that the Lumia 520's street price is currently below 200 Euros (~$262). Despite that, the Wi-Fi module supports 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth version 3.0. The transmission and reception performance of both modules is satisfactory and stable. The device is UMTS-ready for mobile Internet on the go. The downstream rate is as much as 21.1 Mbit/s and an upstream of 5.76 Mbit/s is possible providing that the network load in the cell allows this.

The installed aGPS receiver is available for Nokia's "Here Maps" or "Here Drive Beta" software. The Satfix even works indoors and exhibits a high grade of stability. The connections remain stable and supply a satisfactory navigation result.

Cameras & Multimedia

The front-facing camera still found in the Lumia 620 has been omitted in our test device. Considering the awful pictures that the small camera shot, Nokia's decision is easy to understand. Consequently, the Lumia 520 only has a camera on its back. It has a resolution of 5 MP and an aperture of f2.4 at a sensor size of 0.25 inches. There is no LED flash. The fixed focal length is 28 mm and thus only a digital zoom is available. The lens can supply a focused picture at a minimum object distance of 10 cm (~3.9 inches).

Outside, no image noise is noticed using the primary camera. However, the camera cannot display both object zones with homogeneous brightness. Thus, the overall picture is too dark, particularly when compared with the reference camera. The sensor struggles with the same issue indoors. A visible noise starts to develop in the upper third of the picture. On a positive note, objects are usually sharp. An additional flash could improve the result in poorly lit rooms.

Primary camera: 5 MP
Primary camera: 5 MP
Reference: Canon EOS 600D, 18 MP, automatic
Reference: Canon EOS 600D, 18 MP, automatic
Primary camera: 5 MP
Primary camera: 5 MP
Reference: Canon EOS 600D, 18 MP, automatic
Reference: Canon EOS 600D, 18 MP, automatic

Accessories and Warranty

In contrast to the Lumia 620, our test device does not include an in-ear headset, but an on-ear headphone. The difference is not only an issue of wearing comfort. The on-ear model is more difficult to secure and it does not supply a good sound due to its open design. We also found a power supply unit, a USB cable and a quick start guide in the box.

24-month warranty is included for the primary device. A shorter warranty period of 12 months is given on the accessories and power supply unit. The battery is covered for only 6 months.

Input Devices and Controls

Accurate touchscreen with quick implementation of inputs
Accurate touchscreen with quick implementation of inputs

The capacitive touchscreen responds to inputs accurately and with an adequate speed. Compared with the Lumia 620, the screen is 0.2 inches bigger (5 mm in the diagonal) and thus offers a bit more room on the screen although the resolution has not changed. We did not notice a significant difference in the virtual keyboard's use compared to other Lumia devices.

Display

4 inch IPS screen
4 inch IPS screen

The 4-inch screen has a resolution of 800x480 pixels (WVGA) and uses IPS technology. The screen can reproduce 16.7 million colors and a color depth of 24-bits. The combination of resolution and screen size results in a pixel density of 233 dpi. The Lumia 620 manages 245 dpi due to its small screen. Apple's iPhone 5 accomplishes 343 dpi in this point with the same screen size.

The very bright screen in the Lumia 620 is obviously better than the 520’s, which achieved an average brightness of 287.1 cd/m². The screen in HTC's contender is also approximately 40 cd/m² brighter but has a 4% poorer illumination (test device's illumination: 92%)

286
cd/m²
293
cd/m²
276
cd/m²
280
cd/m²
300
cd/m²
280
cd/m²
288
cd/m²
299
cd/m²
282
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 300 cd/m²
Average: 287.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 92 %
Center on Battery: 300 cd/m²
Black: 0.52 cd/m²
Contrast: 577:1

The black value of 0.52 cd/ m² is on a par with the Lumia 620. The device achieves a contrast of 577:1 due to the lower illumination. Consequently, the screen in the Lumia 620 excels with superior rates, which is another difference between the two, allegedly identical, devices.

We were pleased with the grayscale curve. It is consistently on the level of the ideal line. The Delta E 2000 rates of blue and magenta were not as pleasant since they were far from an acceptable result. The color saturation also shows that red and blue are too prominent.

Color accuracy
Color accuracy
Grayscale
Grayscale
Color saturation
Color saturation

Outdoor Use

The contrast is middling and the average brightness could be higher because the content is only legible to a moderate extent alongside the reflective surface. We also had the impression that the touchscreen was even more susceptible to fingerprints than other smartphones.

Viewing Angles

For technological reasons, the test device's viewing angles are the same as in the older model.

Viewing angles: Lumia 520
Viewing angles: Lumia 520
Middling results in sunlight
Middling results in sunlight

Performance

Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 in use
Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 iin use

Following the motto "never change a winning team", Nokia decided to use the successful Lumia 620 as a standard and not to replace the main hardware components. Thus, Qualcomm's SoC dubbed Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 does the job. The two-processor cores clock with 1 GHz and use a working memory of 512 MB.

We have often observed that Windows' Phone 8 does not need as powerful hardware as Android-based devices in order to run smoothly on the systemThe Lumia 520 again confirms this impression. All applications open immediately and the entire experience is agreeably smooth.

We performed browser-based benchmarks in order to compare the performance with other devices. The results were very sobering. In the past, we often discovered that Windows Phone 8 devices supply poorer performance rates in the tests but nevertheless work efficiently.

Google V8 Ver. 7 - Google V8 Ver. 7 Score (sort by value)
Nokia Lumia 520
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
446 Points ∼2%
Nokia Lumia 620
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
460 Points ∼3% +3%
HTC Windows Phone 8S
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 4 GB Flash
477 Points ∼3% +7%
HTC One SV
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8930, 8 GB SSD
1174 Points ∼6% +163%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
1457 Points ∼8% +227%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
1899 Points ∼10% +326%
Browsermark - --- (sort by value)
Nokia Lumia 520
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
1351 points ∼19%
Nokia Lumia 620
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
1516 points ∼21% +12%
HTC Windows Phone 8S
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 4 GB Flash
1543 points ∼21% +14%
HTC One SV
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8930, 8 GB SSD
1366 points ∼19% +1%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
2383 points ∼33% +76%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
2152 points ∼30% +59%
Sunspider - --- (sort by value)
Nokia Lumia 520
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
2179.6 ms * ∼21%
Nokia Lumia 620
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
1435 ms * ∼14% +34%
HTC Windows Phone 8S
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 4 GB Flash
1410 ms * ∼13% +35%
HTC One SV
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8930, 8 GB SSD
1473.8 ms * ∼14% +32%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
935.4 ms * ∼9% +57%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
1138.1 ms * ∼11% +48%
Mozilla Kraken 1.0 - Total Score (sort by value)
Nokia Lumia 520
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
72771.3 ms * ∼42%
HTC Windows Phone 8S
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 4 GB Flash
68616 ms * ∼40% +6%
HTC One SV
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8930, 8 GB SSD
30154 ms * ∼18% +59%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
20380.2 ms * ∼12% +72%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
13058.6 ms * ∼8% +82%
Octane V1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Nokia Lumia 520
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 8 GB SSD
374 Points ∼2%
HTC Windows Phone 8S
Adreno 305, S4 Plus MSM8227, 4 GB Flash
380 Points ∼2% +2%
Apple iPhone 5
SGX543MP3, A6, 32 GB SSD
1663 Points ∼8% +345%
HTC One
Adreno 320, 600 APQ8064T, 32 GB SSD
1986 Points ∼9% +431%

* ... smaller is better

The Lumia 520 scored lower than the competing products in all browser tests. We used cross-platform comparisons for analysis. HTC's One SV is based on the Android operating system and sports the same SoC and HTC's One is the flagship in the Android division. Apple's iPhone 5 represents the iOS devices.

The low-budget smartphone naturally does not have much of a chance hereHTC's 8S and the Lumia 620 were used for a direct comparison based on Windows' platform. The performance difference dropped to a minimum although both devices scored marginally better.

Videos & Games

We ventured to directly compare the Lumia 520 with Sony's Xperia J, which is an Android device. Both SoCs are virtually identical although the Xperia J only sports the Adreno 200. Playing videos on the Android contender is only inconveniently possible and delivers a poor result. We used the same trailers on the Lumia 520 and everything worked perfectly right away. There were no problems with the MKC container files that were rendered with a data speed of up to 6100 kBit/s.

A similar result is seen in the gaming performance. The action track "Dredd vs. Zombies" did not produce any failures or loading delays. The SoC apparently has enough performance reserves for multimedia applications.

Action game "Dredd vs Zombies"
Action game "Dredd vs Zombies"
Trailer: "Transformers III"
Trailer: "Transformers III"

Speech Quality

We do not have many complaints in this test segment. The result is very positive. The called party sounded clear and was clearly understood and there was no trace of noise interference. However, considering replacing the included on-ear headset with a higher quality headset might be worthwhile if value is placed on high quality and good sound.

Emissions

Temperature

The technical evolution was on Nokia's side in the thermal design of the Lumia 520. The test device reached lower temperatures than the Lumia 620 in every scenario. We measured an average of just 34.2°C (93.56 °F) during load on the front in our test course (Lumia 620: 37.6°C / 99.68 °F). This is repeated in idle mode. On the back we measured an average of 26°C (78.8 °F). The power supply reached a load temperature of up to 40.1°C (104.18 °F) and idle temperature of only 29.2 °C (84.56 °F). All ascertained temperatures were within an absolutely safe range.

Max. Load
 37.1 °C33.7 °C33.1 °C 
 37.1 °C32.9 °C34.4 °C 
 34.1 °C32.2 °C32.9 °C 
Maximum: 37.1 °C
Average: 34.2 °C
32.2 °C34.5 °C41.6 °C
31.9 °C32.5 °C40.8 °C
31.4 °C32.4 °C38.1 °C
Maximum: 41.6 °C
Average: 35 °C
Power Supply (max.)  40.1 °C | Room Temperature 22 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speakers

The mono-speaker is not covered when the smartphone is placed on an even surface due to the device's rounded design. Although the speaker's opening on the back cover is smaller than the component, it supplies a surprisingly loud sound. Playback is good at 50% of the maximum volume. The sound is clear but an audible, tinny sound starts to develop. It becomes very audible with increasing volume and affects the sound massively. External speakers should consequently be used at higher volumes.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

We looked closer at the Lumia 520's power consumption using the Voltcraft VC 940. Its low power consumption is quickly noticed when compared with HTC's 8S and Lumia 620. All three devices are based on the same SoC and feature a screen diagonal from 3.8 to 4 inches. The varying power consumption is presumably due to the screens' different brightness rates. The Lumia 520 is satisfied with rates between 0.8 and 2.2 Watts in idleHTC's 8S and the Lumia 620 already consume 1.2 Watts in maximum energy-saving mode. The difference becomes even more obvious when the SoC is fully loaded. HTC device's power consumption ranges from 3.0 and 4.1 Watts. Nokia's device tops that and consumes up to 4.4 Watts. Our test device is very energy-efficient in this test with 2.6 Watts during load. The following part is even more interesting because it reveals the relationship with the battery capacity and whether a time advantage can be achieved.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.0 / 0.1 Watt
Idle 0.8 / 1.5 / 2.2 Watt
Load 2.4 / 2.6 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

Compared with the Lumia 620, Nokia has increased the battery capacity by 130 mAh (0.5 Wh). This adds up to 1430 mAhFull load was simulated using the "WP Bench Free" app. All wireless modules were enabled and the screen remained on over the test period. The low-budget device was drained after 2 hours and 42 minutes. The Lumia 520 was recharged in 2 hours and 30 minutes and could face the next test. We ascertained a runtime of 12 hours and 56 minutes in the practical Wi-Fi test, which is approximately 2.5 hours longer than from the Lumia 620. An equally positive result was recorded in the idle test scenario. The device lasted for a great 17 hours and 5 minutes until it shut down. Although it sports a stronger battery, HTC's 8S cannot quite compete with the Lumia 520 due to its higher power consumption.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
17h 05min
WiFi Surfing
12h 56min
Load (maximum brightness)
2h 42min

Verdict

The colorful Lumia devices give a good show
The colorful Lumia devices give a good show

The Lumia 520 seamlessly fits itself into the lower end of Nokia's portfolio and supplies a great result in all tests. This is however always considering the retail price. It naturally cannot compete with the performance and equipment of a Lumia 920 or HTC One. The 0.2-inch smaller Lumia 620 currently is a bit more expensive but the buyer gets a brighter screen with a higher contrast. This however does not mean that the Lumia 520 is bad. The screen is its biggest distinctive feature because there are barely any noticeable differences in build or other hardware components. The hardware in both devices is ideal for everyday use and is also made for multimedia applications. Nokia also beefed up the battery runtime a bit and installed a stronger battery in the Lumia 520.

Our yellow test device is currently available for just under 190 Euros (~$249) in online stores. The low-budget device will certainly serve those well who want to try out the Windows Phone 8 segment for the first time.

Comment this article:

In Review at notebookcheck.net: Nokia Lumia 520; test device courtesy of Nokia
In Review at notebookcheck.net: Nokia Lumia 520; test device courtesy of Nokia

Specifications

Nokia Lumia 520

:: Processor
:: Memory
512 MB
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
4.0 inch 3:5, 800x480 pixel, capacitive, WVGA, IPS-LCD, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
8 GB SSD, 8 GB , 7.23 GB free
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm jack, Card Reader: micro SD slot, Sensors: brightness sensor, position sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor, aGPS,
:: Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b g n ), 3.0 Bluetooth, UMTS
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 9.9 x 64 x 119.9
:: Weight
0.124 kg Power Supply: 0.065 kg
:: Battery
9.7 Wh , 1430 mAh, 3.7 V
Talk time 2G (according to manufacturer): 14 h, Talk time 3G (according to manufacturer): 9 h, Standby 3G (according to manufacturer): 360 h
:: Price
199 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows Phone 8
:: Additional features
Webcam: 5 MP camera, Speakers: mono-speaker, Keyboard: virtual, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Nokia's yellow Lumia 520 features a high-end build and
Nokia's yellow Lumia 520 features a high-end build and
its rounded sides make it nice to hold.
its rounded sides make it nice to hold.
All buttons are easy to reach, even for left-handed users.
All buttons are easy to reach, even for left-handed users.
The device's performance alongside
The device's performance alongside
Windows Phone 8 is appropriate for the price.
Windows Phone 8 is appropriate for the price.
The internal storage is 8 GB and can
The internal storage is 8 GB and can
be expanded via a micro SD card.
be expanded via a micro SD card.
The back cover can be exchanged for another color and is easy to remove.
The back cover can be exchanged for another color and is easy to remove.
The removable battery is underneath that and
The removable battery is underneath that and
the mono-speaker as well as
the mono-speaker as well as
the 5 MP primary camera are visible. Nokia however omits
the 5 MP primary camera are visible. Nokia however omits
a front-facing camera for cost reasons.
a front-facing camera for cost reasons.
The positioning of the navigation soft keys has not been altered.
The positioning of the navigation soft keys has not been altered.
The ratio between retail price and the given, overall bundle is fair.
The ratio between retail price and the given, overall bundle is fair.
Consequently, Nokia's Lumia 520 convinces us.
Consequently, Nokia's Lumia 520 convinces us.

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Devices with the same GPU

» Sony Xperia T3 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8928, 5.3", 0.148 kg
» Sony Xperia M2 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8926, 4.8", 0.149 kg
» Huawei Ascend G6 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8226, 4.5", 0.115 kg
» HTC Desire 816 Smartphone Review
Snapdragon 400 MSM8928, 5.5", 0.165 kg

Links

Compare Prices

Pro

+Retail price
+IPS screen
+Micro SD slot
+Satisfactory multimedia performance
+Good battery runtime
+High-quality build
 

Cons

-Screen's legibility in outdoor use
-Camera quality
-Moderate scope of delivery

Shortcut

What we like

The battery runtime has increased compared to the precursor.

What we'd like to see

The device would be better to use outdoors if the screen's maximum brightness were a bit higher. The app store also does not yet have much choice.

What surprises us

The extremely low-priced device has a fully sufficient performance for routine applications and its build is also high standard.

The competition

Nokia Lumia 620

HTC Windows Phone 8S

Sony Xperia J

Rating

Nokia Lumia 520
08/05/2013 v3
Daniel Schuster

Chassis
86%
Keyboard
46%
Pointing Device
90%
Connectivity
40%
Weight
100%
Battery
97%
Display
83%
Games Performance
26%
Application Performance
48%
Temperature
86%
Noise
100%
Add Points
80%
Average
74%
87%
Smartphone *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Nokia Lumia 520 Smartphone
Author: Daniel Schuster, 2013-06- 1 (Update: 2013-06- 6)