Lumia 520 Review, Nokia’s Entry level Windows phone

Nokia Lumia 520

Lumia 520 is Nokia’s entry level Windows phone device, and that naturally makes it Nokia’s answer to Huawei’s Ascend W1.
The device has specs similar to the higher priced Lumia 620 with even a larger screen but minus some design specifics that are unique to the Lumia 620.

Announced in February at Mobile World Congress, the Lumia 520 is selling to most markets where it was gonna sell to. Having spent some weeks with the device, I am bound to have an opinion on it’s functions. See below the Lumia 520 specifications before we delve deep into the useability and to find out whether it’s value for money.

  • 4 inch WVGA IPS Clear Black display with 800 x 480 pixels, 235 ppi
  • Windows phone 8, upgradable to Amber update
  • 1GHz Dual-Core Snapdragon S 4 processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage, expandable to 64GB via micro-SD +7GB Skydrive (don’t know how long this name sticks though)
  • 5MP camera, no flash, no front camera
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 21MBps HSDPA
  • 1430 mAh battery
  • 64 x 119.9 x 9.9 mm
  • 124 grams
  • Available in 5 colours, Red, White, Cyan, Yellow and Black (essentially you can change colours as the removable shells bear the colour)


Usually, at the low end, you don’t get much resources spent in design, the Lumia 520 does though come with a good curvy design. The front is that usual slab that you get with all windows phone devices on the screen, all black. But the removable shell is well done polycarbonate that even on whichever colour, feels and looks matte, so no finger-print fetishes like on the Lumia 920 (advise from me: when buying a Nokia, always pick bright colours, black is boring). With the Lumia 520 you can buy one phone and several cases, so you can be redeemed if you make wrong colour choices.

The case is removed just like the Lumia 820, by snapping off the top right corner of the phone with your fingers, feels like a violation to the phone, but you will get used to it with time. There is no camera to press onto when doing that since the camera is quite tiny on this one, can’t fit a finger.

Inside the back you will see the two slots for micro-SD and micro-SIM (Nokia decided to go all out with micro-SIM, they put it even in the Asha 501. Other than that, nothing fancy in there, it’s all black. Oh, and the speaker is right there at the bottom right.

The back cover contains all the buttons, they are all on one side, the volume rocker, power and camera buttons. The camera button is down there on it’s own though. Down there we have the micro-USB slot while the earphone slot is up at the top. Behind there we have the camera and the bold Nokia logo aligned at the center.

The front has a Nokia logo below the ear piece and at the bottom we have the usual capacitive Windows Phone controls, back, home and search.

Features and Performance

8GB ROM was the best thing Nokia put in the Lumia 520, this is actually the strongest point against rival Huawei Ascend W1 which has 4GB. You know windows phone has this situation where the system files hog something in the upwards of 2.6 GB. This means that if you have 4GB you will be uninstalling a lot of apps one in a while and having to chose wisely. Been there done that.

512MB RAM works quite well for the Lumia 520 and you will rarely find an app available for you in the store if it will strain that. So essentially, you won’t miss a lot. And in any case, you paid for that, you know!

There is no doubt that Nokia does work hard to make the experience of the phone quite great and memorable, only that Windows Phone as an OS remains behind iOS and Android in terms of user experience. The little things.

Sound on the phone is quite good, you will enjoy music. If you are coming from Windows Phone 7.5, you will feel the huge difference since you will be able to sync music directly from your Windows media player to your playlist. Too bad in my region you don’t get nice things like Nokia Music+.

It’s good that Nokia put internet sharing on this device, something that they completely left out in the Lumia 510 before it.


The curve on the back shell could just be the main compromise on the camera. You cannot take shots comfortably with one hand. The dedicated camera button is meant to enable one do that, just like the average point and shoot, but you will find yourself holding it awkwardly, or just yield and use both hands. Fortunately, you can hold the phone like that button doesn’t exist and use the thumb to takes photos by touching the screen when you are in focus.

On the camera UI, we have a switch for lenses and you can play around with different lenses there are available, both from Nokia and other independent developers on the Windows Store. One of them is smart shoot that allows you to take several shots, and will allow you to pick the best one among them.

The phone has no flash, one angle the Ascend W1 beats it, so you will depend on the camera’s ability to take low light photos, Nokia put in very amazing camera software, so 5MP doesn’t mean 5MP on any other camera like it would on a Nokia. During day, you will be surprised at the great detail that the camera is able to pick out in the photos. Even with distance.


The Lumia 520 won’t do two days like the Ascend W1 on a single charge, but it will sure take you through the day and some. Of-course this goes down if you decide to take photos, do Bluetooth things, tether internet. Overall Nokia put in a battery that supports the phone optimally, no complaining.


At the price point the Lumia 520 comes with (Kshs 16,000 / $183) you will get a good device. This is not the fancy coloured Lumia 620 but you do get some nice colours. Like I said earlier, you don’t get a chance for nice bright colours and waste it on black, get bold, go for red or cyan. It’s something that gets you noticed, unless of-course you scorn at this.

When you have the Lumia 520, utilize it to the max, take photos, you will love it, get all those lenses and get creative. Of-course you won’t need a reminder that you have the advantage of Office apps pre-installed that present a better experience than what you would get on Android (this would have made sense a few weeks ago before Microsoft availed Office Mobile on iOS and Android, this is still limited to the US though).

As a day to day phone, this is quite a good bet. Of-course Android brings the game to a lower price for quite amazing offerings, but for one who loves Windows Phone, you will get a great experience.